What Is The 24-Hour Tanning Law?

Tanning in the sun or the sunbed to get the golden glow that you desire can come with its challenges. This is because when you expose your skin to UV rays there are a lot of things to consider such as using the correct products while tanning, the amount of UV exposure to your skin and how many hours you leave in-between tanning sessions.

So, what exactly is the 24-hour tanning law and why was it put into place? The reason for the 24-hour tanning law was to try and persuade tanners to avoid long-term exposure to the UV rays that can cause skin cancer.

The 24-hour tanning law emphasizes the importance of taking at least a full 24-hour break between sunbathing or sunbed sessions.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulations that have been put into place for salon owners. One of these regulations does not allow clients to tan in a sunbed more than once in 24 hours.

In this article, we will delve a little deeper into why the 24-tanning law should be adhered to, as well as how to protect yourself against the dangers of UV rays while still getting a golden tan.

Tanning Bed Guideline Facts

These days sunbeds have become extremely popular as they are convenient and do not take up much of your time.

With this being said, here are some tanning bed facts and guidelines that every tanner should be aware of:

  • It normally takes up to 24 hours before pigmentation starts to become visible to the naked eye. It is a good idea to be responsible and check your body after this time to see if you are reacting to the UV rays.

This will also help you to determine how much exposure it will take every week to obtain a good base tan.

  • For a while now sunbeds have been put under the spotlight, quite literally, and the FDA requires that all indoor tanning equipment be labeled with a warning that the machine may not be used by minors under the age of 18.
  • It has also become a requirement of any tanning salon to explain the potential health risks of UV rays to their clients while using a tanning bed. Thereafter an acknowledgment form also needs to be signed by the client to prove that they are aware and were told about the risks.

The 24-hour Tanning Rule Explained

It is quite simple. Do not expose yourself to UV radiation again after tanning in less than 24 hours. You can tan once a day as long as there has been a 24-hour break between the two days that you tan.

When skin is penetrated by ultraviolet light a protein called MITF starts to show its face. This protein can synchronize and coordinate systems that are used to protect the body from the side effects of UV rays.

Once your skin is exposed to UV rays this protein starts to thicken the skin in an attempt to repair the body from damage to the skin’s DNA. This process starts to happen within a few minutes of being in the sun.

The next process starts happening within just a few hours of being exposed to UV rays. The skin starts to produce a dark pigment called melanin. Melanin is what is used to absorb the UV rays of the sun and is also what gives people tanned skin.

Too much exposure to UV rays can cause this process to lessen and increase the risk of skin cancer. This is why the 24-hour tanning rule was introduced.

About UV Radiation

Ultraviolet radiation (UV radiation) is quite simply an energy source that falls within the electromagnetic field of energy sources.

The Different Types of UV Rays

UVA Rays

These are the longest waves when it comes to UV radiation. These rays penetrate through the atmosphere and into your skin. They even can penetrate the middle layer of your skin if you stay in the sun for longer than you should.

UVB Rays

Although these rays do make it through the atmosphere, they are mostly absorbed by the ozone layer and are only able to reach the outer layer of your skin.

Know The Risks

Once you have decided that the tanning bed is the option that you are going to choose to get beautifully tanned skin it is important to know the risks and take responsible and preventative measures to lower the risk when exposing your skin to UV rays.

Irresponsible tanning comes with the following risks:

Premature Aging

Continuous sunburn and long-term exposure to the sun can cause the skin to age prematurely and start to become wrinkled and leathery. It can also cause dark spots on the skin.

The reason for this is that the UV rays emitted from the sun or by the bulbs of a sunbed start to break down the collagen in the skin. Collagen, as many women will know, is what keeps your skin tight.


Sunburn is the most common way to diagnose overexposure to UV rays. When a person is sunburnt their skin turns red and will start to peel.

Although it is only the top layer of skin that peels away after a few days, this is not to say that the UV rays have not caused more damage. This is because the UV rays usually penetrate further than just the first layer of skin.

Why Does The Skin Turn Red When Sunburnt?

Once you have been sunburnt the cells in your epidermis begin to increase blood flow to the areas that have been damaged by the UV rays. This is why your skin turns red. Chemicals from within the skin can also cause the pain that is commonly associated with sunburn.

Once your skin has been sunburnt white blood cells move in to attack and remove the damaged skin cells causing you to itch and then peel.

Eye Damage

Most salons require that their tanners wear eye goggles in the tanning bed to prevent Photokeratitis which is sunburn of the eye cornea.

What is Required of Your Tanning Salon?

If you are a tanning salon owner, then you need to implement the rules that have been implemented by the FDA.

Here are some key items that need to be adhered to if you own a tanning salon:

  • Labeling of tanning equipment must be seen by all who are going to use the tanning machine.
  • Bulbs must be labeled accordingly so that the tanning facility can replace the bulbs correctly.
  • Tanning machines need to have emergency off switch buttons in case of emergency These need to be easily accessible and visible.
  • Visible light seen through tanning goggles needs to be limited to protect the tanner against UV light.
  • Tanning machines and devices need to be recertified by the FDA if any changes are made to the machine.

How To Protect Yourself Against The Unwanted Side Effects of A Tanning Bed

There are always going to be people who prefer to make use of a sunbed as opposed to sunbathing in the sun. This is why the FDA tries to make everyone aware of the risks of using a sunbed and familiarize tanners with the 24-hour rule.

# 1 Protect Yourself From Long Period of UV Exposure

Do not overstay your welcome in a tanning bed. Using a tanning machine for over the maximum time limit is not recommended and can cause extreme sunburn. 

Always follow the guidelines that have been explained to you by your tanning specialist and follow the labels and guidelines that should show on the sunbed machine that you are using.

# 2 Protect Your Eyes

This cannot be emphasized enough. If you do not wear the proper eye protection you will more than likely get short or even long-term eye damage.

Take a look at what different types of UV rays can do to your eyes if you do not wear tanning goggles:

  • UVB rays can cause swelling of the eyes as well as irritation and redness.
  • UVA rays can cause significant problems with the perception of color and can also cause burns to the retina as well as scarring in the cones and rods of your eyes.

If you expose yourself to these UV rays without any sort of protection this could also lead to cataracts that unfortunately cannot be reversed by surgery.

It is important to always wear tanning goggles every time that you are in a sunbed for maximum eye protection.

# 3 Wear Sunscreen Even If It Is A Low-Level SPF

It is important to remember that tanning bed lamps are much stronger than the UV rays emitted from the sun, so it is important to protect your skin while you set out to achieve a golden tan.

Many tanning lotions contain a low-level SPF so there is no excuse not to wear a tanning lotion that has some SPF in it to prevent you from sunburn whilst on a tanning bed.

Always make sure, however, that the tanning lotion used is compatible with a sunbed and not only meant for use outdoors.