How to Protect Eyes in Tanning Bed

How To Protect Eyes In Tanning Bed featured image

Everyone wants tanned, glowing skin after a beach vacation. While not everyone has naturally tan skin, tanning beds are a popular quick fix to glow up before the beach. While it’s not recommended for multiple reasons, learn how to protect your eyes in a tanning bed. 

Never go inside tanning beds without protective tanning goggles. Tan for as long as it’s recommended and don’t extend. After tanning, use eye drops and sunglasses to further protect your eyes. Have your eyes regularly checked as well. And if you’re serious about eye protection, don’t use tanning beds altogether and opt for other alternatives.

Depending on your regular tanning salon, these guidelines might change and a few more could be added. Ask your tanning salon for more protective tips whenever you come in for your session.

Below, we’ll go over everything there is to know about tanning beds and their effects on the eyes. Then, we’ll cover how you can protect your eyes while tanning.

Indoor Tanning, Tanning Beds, and UV Exposure

Tanned skin is what’s in, especially in the summers when people hit the beach or go on vacation somewhere warm and sunny.

Getting yourself and your skin summer-ready means finding ways to give your skin a glowing and beautiful tan. There’s the option of tanning naturally outdoors under the sun, tanning beds or sun lamps, spray tans, and tanning lotions or self-tanners.

Many people are willing to go out of their way to achieve that beautiful summer tan and glow.

Before we talk about anything else, let’s talk about tanning and UV radiation. Tanning results from the skin reacting to exposure to UV rays – natural or not.

Getting a darker tan is quite literally the skin’s defense mechanism from UV exposure. The more UV is exposed to the skin, the more melanin it produces. Melanin is what gives the skin a tan and a darker complexion.

There are two types of UV rays that penetrate and affect the skin:

UVA rays have a longer wavelength. It is UV radiation that penetrates deeply into skin and is associated with premature skin aging due to excessive sun exposure.

UVB rays are shorter wavelengths than those of UVA rays. It affects only the top layers of the skin and is associated with sunburns.

Tanning beds and UV rays

Tanning beds and sun lamps emit both UVA and UVB rays. Both of these types of UV radiation cause damage to the skin and excess exposure can lead to skin cancer.

Outdoor vs Indoor Tanning

When we see promotions for tanning beds or tanning bed salons, we often see them marketing these outdoor tanning alternatives as the safer option for that sweet, glowing tan.

But the truth is, it’s not and there is absolutely no truth to this claim. Tanning beds are not safer than sun exposure.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO), tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times more than what you would get from the sun.

So no, an indoor tanning bed is not a safer alternative to outdoor tanning under the sun.

What are the Effects of High UV Exposure on the Eyes

High levels of UV exposure don’t just affect the skin but also the eyes and eyelids. Here’s how UV exposure can affect your eyes:

  • Cataracts

Though most common in the elderly, cataracts can develop due to the eyes’ overexposure to harmful UV rays.

UV rays and lights can damage the internal structures and proteins of the eyes, accelerating the development of cataracts.

This causes cloudy lenses, blurry vision, poor night vision, and faded colors. If not taken out, cataracts lead to blindness.

  • Photokeratitis

Photokeratitis is a type of sunburn that affects the conjunctiva (the white part of the eye) and cornea (the clear tissue that covers the pupil and iris) of the eye.

This is temporary but is painful and feels like a burning sensation in the eyes. Other symptoms include redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to lights, and headaches.

  • Melanoma

Overexposure to UV lights from tanning beds could not only lead to severe sunburns but could also increase your risk of developing melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Overuse of tanning beds will also increase the risk of developing melanoma around the sensitive area of your eyes.

  • Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is the primary cause of permanent vision loss in adults over 60 in the United States.

The cause is exposure to harmful UV rays that leads to damage to the center of your retina, causing vision loss or total blindness.

  • Pytergium

Pytergium is an abnormal growth that may form on your eyes and the surrounding area. This blocks eyesight.

Other symptoms could include pain, itching, redness, and a burning sensation in the affected area.

How to Protect Eyes in a Tanning Bed

Now that you know the effects of excess UV light on the eyes, here’s everything you can do to protect them in the tanning bed:

  • Always use tanning goggles

Never attempt to tan inside tanning beds without wearing protective eye goggles. Tanning goggles are widely available in stores – online and physical – and even in tanning salons.

It’s also a good idea to always have an extra pair in your car or purse so you’re always ready when you’re planning to get a tan.

Make sure your tanning goggles fit you just fine so no UV light leaks into your eyes.

  • Follow recommended exposure times

Follow professional advice when it comes to how long you should stay inside the tanning bed. Never stay inside longer than recommended.

  • Use sunglasses after indoor tanning

After indoor tanning in a tanning bed, your eyes are a little more vulnerable and sensitive. After getting your tan and before stepping back out into the world, protect your eyes further by putting on a pair of sunglasses.

This will protect your eyes from the sun’s natural UV rays this time.

  • Use eye drops

Staying in a tanning bed for a specified amount of time might dry out your eyes. Use eye drops to counter this effect and to keep your eyes moisturized.

  • Have your eyes checked regularly

If you’re someone who gets regular tans in tanning beds, it would be best to regularly visit an eye care professional to have your eyes checked.

They will check your eyes and let you know if there is significant damage to them.

  • Forget about tanning beds altogether

If your heart is not set out on using tanning beds to achieve that tan and glow, forget about them altogether.

There are other options to get your tan. You can try spray tanning, tanning lotions, or self-tanners. These are much safer alternatives than exposing yourself to tanning bed UV lights or the sun’s natural UV rays.

Can I Just Close My Eyes in the Tanning Bed?

No! Closing your eyes inside the tanning bed simply isn’t enough protection. Your eyelids can only block about 25% of UV rays. That means the rest is bypassing your lids and leaking straight into your eyes.

Moreover, the eyelids and the skin around the eyes are very sensitive and fragile. They need protection too.

Are Sunglasses Enough Protection in Tanning Beds?

No, sunglasses aren’t made and designed to protect your eyes and the surrounding area from damaging UV rays from a tanning bed.

While they can protect your eyes from the sun, UV rays from tanning beds are much more harmful and they simply won’t do.

What About Tan Lines and Raccoon Eyes?

Any tanning aficionado knows about raccoon eyes and tan lines across the eyes.

Now you may be worried that your first line of defense – tanning goggles – may leave tan lines and the dreaded raccoon eyes.

The only way you can avoid this is to align the goggles on your eyes right. The bottom of the goggles should sit right at the bottom of your eyelids. The corners should also align with the corners of your eyes.

If you must tan, also read about the best sunscreens to use.


Everyone wants that glow from a tan complexion. While not everyone is gifted with naturally tan skin, there are several ways to achieve it. One of the more popular options is tanning beds.

Tanning beds utilize UV rays so protecting the eyes is a must. You can do so by always using tanning goggles and following recommended exposure times. Use eye drops and sunglasses after your tanning session. Get your eyes regularly checked to cross out possible damages. And if you’re concerned about how tanning beds affect your eyes, forget about them altogether and try other tanning alternatives.

And that has been our guide on how to protect eyes in tanning bed. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us below!

Michelle Jackson
Michelle Jackson