How Many Tanning Sessions to Get a Base Tan?

woman in tanning bed

When tanning in a tanning bed if you aren’t experienced you might be wondering how many tanning sessions does it take it get a base tan?

It typically will take around 3-5 tanning sessions to get a base tan.  Usually, it will still take several days or weeks of consistency before the tan appears more defined. This is only a rule of thumb as it highly depends on your skin type and the type of tanning bed used.

Therefore, it is important to first understand which skin type you fit in and what the different types of tanning beds are for. Such information is crucial when it comes to preventing streaks, fading, brown spots, and burns.

Skin Types

The first skin type is very pale, typically has freckles and fair hair, and burns very easily.

Type 2 is also pale but not as white, more like a light beige, and is also susceptible to sunburn.

Type 3 and 4 are light brown and olive skin tones usually with dark hair and can experience sunburn but not often.

Type 5 is a bronzed complexion that requires no effort and does not burn in the sun but tans.

Lastly, skin type 6 has brown skin that rarely ever burns.

The first two skin types find it the most difficult to get a tan, no matter the means it’s tricky business and you need to be more careful. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to go about it that help.

Tanning Bed Types

Tanning beds also come through levels 1-6, similar to skin types. However, this does not mean that they correlate with each other by number.

Levels 1 and 2 are for low pressure sun beds, levels 3 and 4 are medium pressure, and levels 5 and 6 are high pressure beds.

Low pressure beds are recommended as introductory levels for first time tanners, skin types 1 and 2, and those who don’t require much to tan like skin types 4 and 5. The UV rays emitted from these beds are in a spectrum that is similar to natural sunlight.

Don’t let the low leveling fool you though, as they can still produce color quickly and there is still a risk of burning. So, timing is definitely crucial.

The high-pressure beds emit increased amounts of rays which is why they can only be used for short amounts of time as well. Any skin type can use them, as long as a bronzed tan has already been achieved first. They are great when seeking a deeper and darker tan.

How Often & How Long?

Depending on your skin type, you should have a base tan after 3-5 sessions. It would be best to start with one session per week in the first month. After 6 weeks, 2 times per week is more than enough to maintain a tan.

There are special tanning bed lotions made for all skin types that can help with the process, especially when it comes to protecting your skin because if your skin burns you have to start all over again.

Timing can be tricky and confusing since it heavily depends on your skin type.

For more information check our article – how often should you tan in a tanning bed.

Skin Type 1

Your first three sessions should last no longer than 1 minute. Every week or so, you can build the length up in 1-minute increments.

It is even more important to not rush the process since this skin type is so easy to burn. Thus, the moment your skin starts feeling too warm and/or uncomfortable, end the tanning session.  For more advice check our article – tanning tips for pale skin.

Skin Type 2

This one is similar to the first skin type; sessions should only be increased in 1-minute increments. Basically, everything relevant to skin type 1 also applies here, except you can start your sessions at 2 minutes, then session three at 3 minutes, session six at 4 minutes, and so on.  

Skin Type 3

Your first session should last 2 minutes, then 3 minutes for the second and third sessions, 4 minutes until session 6, etc. Also always increasing the time by 1 minute. You should never need to spend more than 6 minutes in any one session.  

Skin Type 4

Start with 3-minute sessions, increasing the time up by 1 minute every 2 sessions. Results won’t take long to become apparent, and there’s no need to spend longer than 7 minutes per session as your tan progresses.  

Skin Type 5

This skin type can also start with 3-minute sessions, increasing by 1 minute each session until you reach 8 minutes. 10 minutes is the maximum for this skin type, but it isn’t usually necessary to stay this long.

For more information on this we recommend you check our page – tanning time chart.

Related Questions

Can I Get a Base Tan After One Session?

The skin needs time to oxidize the melanin, darken its cells, and produce a tan. It’s a bit of a process, which is the reason a tan is never immediately visible regardless of the means be it the sun or a tanning bed.

This is why a minimum of 3, if not 5, sessions are required for a base tan.

How Many Days Does It Take to Get a Base Tan?

It takes about 3-5 sessions to get a base tan, give or take depending on the skin type, and it is necessary to let the skin rest between sessions.

That would take about 3-5 weeks if you start out with 1 session per week. So, at least 21 days to get a base tan.

What is 5 Minutes in a Tanning Bed Equivalent To?

Depending on the type of sunbed used, 5 minutes could be the equivalent of 1 hour in the sun, and 10 minutes could equal four hours.

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