Tanning Bed Rash: How To Get Rid Of It (+ Prevention Tips)

Tanning beds, also called sun beds, are machines that use ultraviolet radiation to produce a tan. It is a popular way to get beautiful and even skin tone, but it can lead to negative consequences, which should be kept in mind.

How to understand the nature of rashes? What are the first signs? How to ward off and treat? Read on to learn the answers to your tanning bed rash questions.

What is tanning bed rash?

Rashes are considered a common negative consequence of visiting a tanning bed. It is a skin irritation that can develop from spending too much time in a solarium that's been turned up too high. The heat from the tanning lamp can cause your skin to become red, blistery, and itchy. 

Rashes can be very different: small and massive, white and red, pimples and burns. They look and behave differently. Any irritation after solarium means that you have not followed all the existing rules and recommendations.

What causes a tanning bed rash?

There are many possible causes of rash that appeared after using a solarium.

  • UVA radiation

Contact dermatitis may be caused by excessive UVA radiation, light components invisible to the eye. Ultraviolet in moderate doses is beneficial for humans. However, the abuse of tanning causes serious pathological changes in the body and premature aging. Especially, people with fair skin should be careful.

  • Blocked sweat ducts

A rash can appear when sweating is interrupted and moisture is trapped between the layers of the skin.

  • Allergic reactions

The skin may be sensitive to chemicals used to clean tanning beds or ingredients in cosmetics or lotions.

  • Lack of proper hygiene

Perfect and timely disinfection of the bed kills most bacteria that can be transmitted by contact. Its absence is a risk not only for the skin, but also for health in general.

Other unrelated causes: vitamin deficiency, decreased immunity, pathologies in the body, taking hormonal drugs, the use of antibiotics, hormonal disruption, and pregnancy.

If you have a history of skin cancer or are susceptible to developing this condition, it is critical to avoid tanning beds.

Symptoms of rash

Manifestation of tanning bed rash may include redness, swelling, itching, and pain. It may also look like a burn, and some people can have a rash that looks like a second-degree scorch.

The rash can be very itchy and uncomfortable, and it can be difficult to treat. The skin may peel or develop open sores.

Please note that symptoms may appear both immediately and in a few days. Alarming signals may include fever, weakness in the body, and dizziness.

What does tanning bed rash look like on the skin?

Indirect rays of the solarium usually causes skin rashes on the body that resemble sunburn or herpes infection.

bed rash
Tanning bed rash
bed rash
Tanning bed rash

Tanning bed rashes can look different on everyone. They may be small and mostly located around the ankles or wrists, or they may be larger and more widespread. The rash usually appears on the face, neck, chest, back, stomach, armpits, and genitals

Skin irritation typically looks like red and inflamed patches. It may also blister and feel hot to the touch and may last for several days. Spots on the skin after tanning bed can be itchy and scaly.

After the rash heals, scars may remain.

When to see a doctor?

If you are using a tanning bed and get a rash, stop doing it.

If you notice serious signs of a sunbed rash, such as massive redness, swelling, and pain, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Tanning beds can cause skin irritation and even more serious problems if not properly treated. 

The most common local complication is infection. Even with small rashes, the body's defense mechanisms are disrupted, which increases the penetration and reproduction of bacteria. The infectious process makes the irritation larger and deeper, and therefore the scars will be deformed and not flexible — the skin in this area becomes denser in structure and this affects its mobility.

Make sure to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and how best to treat them.

How to prevent tanning bed rash?

If you're looking to keep your skin safe from the potentially harmful effects of solarium, there are a few things you can do to avoid getting tanning bed rash.

Preventing tanning bed rash is easy. Here are some tips to keep you safe:

  • Always use sunscreen when going outdoors, even if you're just going for a quick walk on the beach.
  • Wear loose clothing that covers your whole body after using the tanning bed. Bedsheets and towels can also cause skin irritation and burns. Therefore, pay attention to their quality and cleanliness.
  • If you experience any burning or redness during using the tanning bed, stop doing that immediately and consult with your doctor. There may be an underlying medical condition causing your skin to react this way, so it's important to get checked out.
  • Before using the tanning bed, be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them. 
  • Tanning beds are not recommended for children under the age of 18 because the child's organism is only forming and is more sensitive to irritants in this lifetime.

Do not use tanning beds:

If you have any questions or concerns, please consult your doctor or the manufacturer’s guide to find out all the details of using their device.

How to treat a tanning bed rash?

If you are experiencing a tanning bed rash, there are some things you can do to help treat the condition. Tanning lotions and creams can help soothe the skin, but you may also want to consider using sunscreens. A cream with SPF 30+ can help reduce the amount of UV radiation that reaches your skin, which could help decrease the severity of your tanning bed rash.

If you have a tanning bed rash, you should treat it as soon as possible. The sooner the rash heals, the better the chance of recovery. Here are some tips on how to treat it:

  • Carefully, with light movements, clean the area with soap and water.
  • Cover the area with a sterile adhesive bandage or wrap.
  • Keep the area dry and warm.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to the area as needed for relief from redness, swelling, itchiness, or pain. Also, in consultation with your doctor, you can use hormonal drugs: corticosteroids or hydrocortisone cream.

Other simple home remedies for a tanning rash

There are a few simple home remedies that can help treat a tanning bed rash and ease discomfort. This medicament includes applying cool compresses to the skin.

To relieve the symptoms, you can use the following products:

  • Cucumber or potato. These vegetables are refreshing, cooling, and moisturizing. You can cut or mash any of these vegetables and apply to the rashes.
  • Yogurt. You can use yogurt as a cream, but make sure it is natural.
  • Aloe vera. Aloe vera gel has an antibacterial function and does not cause allergies.


If you’re looking for a little summer fun, try sunbathing. But if you’ve been using a solarium, be aware of the risks — including potential tanning bed rash.

If you experience any of the following symptoms after using a tanning bed, see your doctor as soon as possible: intense redness, blistering, peeling, or crusting. To help prevent tanning bed rash, use sunscreen and stay out of the sun after using the solarium. Read the instructions and follow the rules. It does not hurt to be careful and attentive, to monitor personal hygiene and cleanliness of the solarium.

In conclusion, tanning beds can be a great way to get a healthy skin tone, but be sure to take the time to educate yourself about the dangers of using them before jumping in.


🔍 Why do I get a rash from a tanning bed?

There are many causes of tanning bed rash. The most common causes are contact dermatitis due to ultraviolet radiation, skin allergies, reactions to the steam or heat of the solarium, sweating disorders, and reactions to the composition of cosmetics.

🧐 What does a tanning rash look like?

Tanning bed rash typically appears as red and inflamed patches on the skin. It may also blister and feel hot to the touch and may last for several days. Spots on the skin after tanning bed can be scaly. The rash usually appears on the face, neck, chest, back, stomach, armpits, and genitals.

❓ How long does tanning rash last?

It depends on the severity of the injury. If you have red spots and minor tanning bed rashes and received first aid in time, skin injuries will heal within two days. If you got massive painful rashes and burns, the treatment will last about a week.

🤓 How do you know if you are allergic to tanning beds?

You have allergies to tanning beds if after it the skin becomes dry, unwanted pigmentation, rashes, and burns appear. Your doctor will help you to analyze the reaction of your body in detail.

Jose Diego Mier

Dermatology Expert

Dr. Jose Diego Mier is a board-certified dermatologist with over a decade of experience in light therapy, dermatology, and skin care. As the founder of the Heliotherapy Research Institute, Dr. Mier has dedicated his career to the study and application of light-based therapies for various skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, eczema, and skin aging. He is renowned for his extensive research contributions, numerous publications in leading dermatology journals, and his work has been recognized with awards for excellence in research and innovation. He has been invited to speak at national and international conferences, sharing his expertise and insights on light therapy and skin care.

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