What Kind of Light Makes You Tan?

If you are a veteran in the tanning industry, you may be thinking why write an entire blog post about this, everyone knows the answer… wrong. This is one of the most googled questions on the internet. As an industry we need to do a better job at educating the public on how the tanning process works so, we decided why not blog about it!

Not all light is created equal

Your body’s response to specific light does different things. Though they may look similar the Florissant lights in your ceiling do not induce a tanning response from the body. There are many types of light energy in the world however the specific light energy that produces a tan is Ultraviolet Light (often referred to as UV Light). Of all the light energy produced by the sun UV light makes up only 5%.

Let’s take a closer look at that 5% shall we? UV light consists of 3 types, UVA, UVB, and UVC. Each of these does very different things. Let’s start with UVC “the germicidal ray” which is sometimes used to kill germs. This ray is filtered out by the earth's ozone layer and is harmful to humans. UVC light is not in tanning equipment. This type of light is filtered by either the phosphor coating of the tanning lamp or by filters in the tanning equipment.

The two types of UV that do play a role in the tanning process are UVA and UVB. UVA makes up approximately 95% of the light emitted by tanning lamps. UVA has a longer frequency, so it can penetrate deeper into the skin without causing significant damage. The job of UVA is to cause the melanin in your skin to turn brown (tan) and in turn, help provide protection from overexposure. UVA is also known as the “bronzing ray” for this reason. You’re probably thinking, “great, we can stop here”, but there is importance to the introduction of UVB to this mix.

UVB is sometimes referred to as the “reddening ray”, who would want that right? YOU! It’s common that people hear this and think “I should only put my experienced tanners in a bed with more UVB” wrong. Chances are your regular tanners have plenty of melanin in the skin to tan and would do well with a high-pressure bed or something with smaller amounts of UVB simply because they don’t need it. You see the reddening effect people see is due to the UVB stimulating melanin production in the skin. Think of your skin type 1’s or 2’s. Do they have freckles? That is disproportionate melanin. They are fair-skinned? Lack of melanin. These are the individuals that NEED UVB light so that the UVA light has something to do.

We’ve covered a lot today, are you ok? It may seem like a ton of information to take in, and it is only the tip of the iceberg. However, once you understand how everything works together it is easy to explain to your customers- without blowing their minds. Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to see more on this subject? Let us know. Until then Happy Tanning!