Spray Tan vs Tanning Bed: Is Either Safe?

So, you’ve booked a beach vacation in the middle of winter. Lucky you! The only problem is, your winter body looks paler than the slopes you hit last weekend. Should you do something before your trip?

If you’re looking for a beach-worthy glow, you have some options, two of the most popular you might be considering are spray tan vs tanning bed. But which one should you choose?

Spray tans are generally safer than tanning beds because you aren’t exposed to UV rays. However, spray tan solution may also include harmful ingredients, so consider the pros and cons of each before making a decision to do either one.

tanning bed open with lights on

Pros and Cons of Tanning Beds

While we don’t recommend tanning beds, but some people prefer them, and these are some reasons why: 

If you want something that will last longer than spray tans, then tanning beds may be your best option. Tanning beds emit ultraviolet light which stimulates melanin production in the body – this is what gives us our natural suntan coloration.

Compared to a one-time spray tanning, going with a tanning bed means purchasing multiple sessions, and assessing on a per-session basis before achieving a desirable coloration level (of course depending on how dark you want it).

There’s also less mess involved than a spray tan since the UV rays don’t require physical contact with your body like spray tans do. 

On the other hand, tanning beds come with their own set of risks—namely skin cancer! Ultraviolet light exposure is known to cause DNA damage which can lead to cancerous growth on your skin. This sun tanning damage is cumulative and also causes premature aging.

The statistics are clear that exposure to UV radiation – from the sun or tanning beds – increases your risk of getting some form of skin cancer, and the Skin Cancer Foundation emphasizes a 75% increased risk of melanoma with only one use of tanning bed before age 35!

You should always use sunscreen when spending time out in direct sunlight and if you choose to go to a tanning salon.

Additionally, some people find lying down in enclosed spaces uncomfortable or claustrophobic – not to mention the weird goggles; if this applies to you then stick with spray tans instead!  

Pros and Cons of Spray Tans

Spray tans are increasingly popular alternatives to traditional tanning beds. One bonus is convenience—you can usually get your desired color in just 10 minutes.

The risk of developing skin cancer isn’t prevalent since there is no exposure to UV rays (though some people may be allergic). Plus, you can customize color to your preference if it’s with a professional air brusher with great  spray tanning technique. 

The cons include potential reactions due to ingredients in the solution; limited range of colors in a booth (spray tans can come out darker or more orange than desired).

Uneven coverage is a hazard due to improper application techniques; and messiness—the solution can sometimes get on clothes or furniture if not applied correctly. 

Also, spray tans tend not to last very long – usually only about 7 days or so. However, if you’re going on a vacation and will be in the sun anyway, this might not be a big deal.

Spray Tan Ingredients

Spray tan is a convenient way to get a sun-kissed look without damaging your skin by laying out in the sun. However, it is important to know what is in the spray tan mixture and be aware of any potential health risks.

Generally, ingredients included in spray tans are an active ingredient like dihydroxyacetone (DHA), moisturizers, conditioning agents, preservatives, and fragrances. While many of these ingredients are technically safe to use on your skin, they can still cause irritation, especially on those with skin conditions.

You should also check for any potentially harmful components such as para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), propylene glycol or parabens and avoid using spray tans containing them if possible.

There are different formulas available, some better than others. Discussing your sensitivities or allergies with your tanning artist or the booth owner can also help you make an informed choice about safe sprays for your skin.


When choosing between spray tans and tanning beds, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration such as time, budget, health risks, desired color, etc.

For those looking for a convenient way to get a beachy color without putting their health at risk, spray tans are a good option.  However, if you have sensitive skin, you might want to embrace your lighter side and avoid both. 

Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference, but we think it’s best to avoid the added exposure to UV light in a tanning bed. Check out our recommendations if you’re looking to add a professional spray tan machine to your business or home.