Tanning Bed Time Chart – Beginners Advice

woman in tanning bed

When it comes to using a tanning bed it’s important to first understand how long you should be using it for.

Of course, not all skin types are the same and therefore it’s important to know what’s the right amount of time spent in a tanning bed before you get started, skin type considered.

This is where a tanning bed time chart is very helpful. Typically, the point of this kind of chart is to offer a starting amount of time and then gradually build up. More pale skin should start with a lower amount of time whereas people with darker skin can start with slightly longer.

Below we will get into this in more detail and how to figure out your own skin tone and properly our tanning bed time chart.

Understanding your Skin Type

Before we show you the chart it’s important to first figure out and understand which skin tone you are, so you know which level is the closest match to your skin.

As I briefly mentioned above someone with more fair skin will need to start with a shorter session whereas someone with a darker tone can start out with a longer session in comparison.

Though typically the first session should also be on the short side. This is too be on the safe side of things and to make sure your skin can tolerate the tanning bed process; this is particularly important for people with more fair skin as they are more prone to tanning bed burn.

To help you properly use our chart we have broken down the skin types into different categories from type 1 to type 5. Take a quick read of the different types to firstly know which one you fall under.

If you are not sure between 2 options simply opt for the lower one to be on the safe side when starting out. Check them out below –

pale woman with freckles

Type 1

This is people with very fair skin, think pale skin with blue or green eyes. People with red hair or freckles often fall into this category.

It’s important to keep in mind that a good portion of people with this skin may not be able to tan at all. That’s why it’s important to only start with a short time to see if it’s possible to tan your skin while keeping the chance of burning to a minimum.


woman with fair skin

Type 2

This kind of skin is light skinned, often will a little more complexion than type 1 skin. People in this category often have blue eyes or lighter brown or blonde hair. Like type 1, peoples skin here can burn relatively easily, though the chance of being able to tan safely without burning is more likely than people in type 1.


woman with medium skin tone

Type 3

This skin tone is people with light brown skin or more toned white color. Skin here is much less likely to have freckles. People here often have brown eyes and brown hair. People in this category can usually tan relatively well but must be careful to not overdo it as their skin can still burn.


tanned woman

Type 4

This kind of skin is a more toned brown kind of skin. People here usually have darker brown hair and brown eyes too. People with this kind of skin usually tan quite easily, without as much concern of burning.


brown skinned woman

Type 5

This type is for people with brown skin. They usually had darker brown or black hair and dark colored eyes. This kind of skin tans very easily with a very low chance of burning.

Tanning Bed Time Chart

Skin TypeSkin Sensitivity (1-10)
Higher is more sensitive
First Session (Week 1) Week 2 Week 3 & 4 Week 5 Onwards
181-2 minutes2 minutes3-4 minutes5 minutes
272-3 minutes3 minutes5-6 minutes8-10 minutes
353-4 minutes4 minutes6-8 minutes10-12 minutes
433-4 minutes4 minutes8-10 minutes12-16 minutes
523-4 minutes4 minutes8-10 minutes12-16 minutes

This chart has been created to help answer the common questions like “how long should I tan in a tanning bed”. And also, to help you know where to start and how many tanning bed minutes you really need to begin with.

Firstly, it’s always a good idea to start a short time for the first time you use a tanning bed regardless of skin type. This is to start slow. This greatly reduces any chance of burning to the skin.

If you do go for your first session or during your first month of tanning and you notice any skin irritation or burning this may be better to consider an alternative form of tanning such as spray tanning or self-tanning instead.

This is why we slowly work the time up until we get to a typical level where you will stay at. This is a great way to see if your skin can tolerate the strong UV lights that tanning bed bulbs emit and also to build up a base tan color over the first few weeks.

It also allows you to get to the right tan level gradually without the concern of your tanning darker than you would like.

As you can probably tell from our tanning chart we recommend 1 session per week for the first month at least. This allows you to see how your skin feels during this time and also to see tanning color you get as you go along too. If after 6 weeks and everything is going well you can proceed to try tanning 2 times per week, we find this is the best balance to maintain a tanned look. On that note we do not recommend tanning in subsequent days or even worse on same say, as the FDA recommends against (24-hour tanning rule). It’s best to space out the timing so if you do it 2 times per week then every 3-4 days is ideal.

It’s also important to note the skin sensitivity and risk of burning depending on the skin type as is displayed on the table. This is to just simply highlight if you spend too much time in the tanning bed before you have tried it there is a greater risk of burning, rashes, or skin irritation in general with the more fair skin types.

Keep in mind that not everyone’s skin will be able to tan. In you are skype type 1 or 2 it’s definitely possible that your skin will not tan and instead burn. Therefore, if that’s your case then you should opt for a sunless tanning alternative such as spray tanning.

If you aren’t sure when to stop trying, opt for doing our tanning bed times as suggested above for 1 month.

If you don’t notice any tan and haven’t experienced any skin irritation you can try the week 5 onwards levels for 2 additional weeks. If you notice any skin irritation it’s best to stop usage and if after 6 weeks and you notice no tan it’s also a good idea to try an alternative tanning method as we talked about above.

For more advice don’t forget to check our article – tanning bed tips for beginners.

Related Questions

How Long is 5 minutes in a Tanning Bed? (Equivalent to in the Sun)

When comparing the time in a tanning bed 5 minutes is equivalent to about 1 hour spent in the sun.

How Many Minutes Should I Start with in a Tanning Bed?

Typically, when starting out in a tanning bed it’s a good idea to start slow and only for a little time. Generally, if you have more fair skin go for 1-2 minutes on your first session and if you have more toned skin go for 3-4 minutes.

What is a Good Tanning Bed Schedule?

Typically, a good tanning bed schedule when starting out is 1 time per week to make sure your skin can tolerate the sun bed.

If you already know your skin is okay with the tanning bed, then 2 times per week is usually a good amount to maintain a tan. Some professionals recommend up to 3 times per week though we find 2 is often enough to develop and maintain a tan as well.

Can You See Results After One Tanning Bed Session?

Usually, it will take more than 1 tanning bed session to develop a deep and consistent tan. Though you should be able to notice a gradual improvement after each session.

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