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Do Tanning Beds Lighten Your Hair? Your Questions Answered

do tanning beds ligthen your hair

Have you ever wondered if tanning beds lighten your hair? Tanning beds are a quick and convenient alternative to getting a nice tan compared to regular sunbathing. Since basking in the sun to get a gorgeous bronze color could take hours, many people opt for a good five to ten minutes in a sunbed.

Unfortunately, many dermatological organizations such as AAD claim that tanning beds are no safer than the sun. Since both options deal with UV rays, it can still increase one’s risk of skin cancer if not executed properly.

Lucky for you, most tanning parlors have trained professionals that know how to give you the results you need safely. After a few sessions in a tanning bed, you should be able to achieve your dream color in a few weeks.

Effects Of Tanning Beds

Aside from its skin-darkening effects, did you know that heavy exposure to UV rays can also lighten your hair? There’s actually an interesting science behind the nature of your hair and skin. Both of them need protection from the sun’s UV rays. 

In tanning, UV rays affect the melanin in our skin. Since melanin is a pigment that gives our skin color, tanning beds are tasked to oxidate this component. Melanin goes through a chemical reaction, which makes it appear darker.

However, it does affect the hair a little differently. While the skin consists of live cells, the hair has dead tissues. Exposure to the UV rays causes the hair shaft to expand and break its pigment molecules. As a result, the hair becomes a few shades lighter than it used to.

Without any type of protection, total UV exposure will oxidize your body’s melanin. While this induces skin-darkening effects in live cells, it leaves a colorless compound on dead tissues in your hair. 

Is It Harmful?

In general, tanning beds have a lot of known risks, especially when it comes to skin cancer. Unfortunately, overexposure is just as harmful to your hair as it is to your skin. According to, it may also cause eye cancer, premature aging, and immune system suppression.

Some people claim that tanning beds cause hair loss. However, this claim is not proven for people with normal scalps. It does speed up hair loss for people already suffering from androgenetic alopecia. 

Overall, tanning beds are still relatively safe methods for getting a tan. You have to follow some safety protocols to avoid sunburn, overexposure, skin damage, eye damage, and other possible side effects.

Tanning Beds Lighten Your Hair

How Can I Protect My Hair?

We have already established that tanning beds do play a role in hair lightening and inducing damage. Luckily, you can still get yourself a nice tan without putting your health at risk. In fact, here are some effective ways to protect your hair during a tanning session.


Of course, sunscreen should be the first one on the list. After all, there is no better way to counter UV ray damage than a good sunscreen with SPF 20 or higher. Make sure you apply it at least thirty minutes to an hour before the tanning so that it prevents sunburn in your scalp.

Make sure that you apply it evenly along with your head and scalp for even tanning. Too much sunscreen lotion in one area can cause your skin to burn, while too little may not give you the protection that you need.

Shower Caps

A shower cap is one of the easiest and convenient ways of protecting your scalp and hair from UV exposure. After all, if you do not already own a personal shower cap, many tanning salons offer a disposable one for free. 

Using reusable shower caps that you can find in almost any store is also a good option. Not to mention, it is environmentally friendly too. However, if you want a shower cap for your regular tanning bed sessions, it won’t hurt to invest in one that offers specialized UV protection.

You can also wear a turban or towel around your head when using a tanning bed. The material should be thick enough to shield your scalp and hair follicles from the UV rays during the session. Unfortunately, some complain that it induces tan lines when improperly worn.

Conditioners And Heat Protectants

If you want to go bare, and wearing a turban or towel on your head does not seem like an advisable option, you can always go for moisturizing conditioners. Do it before your tanning bed and apply a generous amount for hair protection.

Some tanning salons actually offer heat protectants or some products that you can apply to keep your hair safe. However, you can always find these in drug stores or other hair product retailer shops. 

Make sure that you apply them starting from your scalp, roots, and all the way towards the end. Do not leave any parts unprotected, and don’t be afraid to add a generous amount. Also, tie your hair back using a ponytail.

Hair Treatments

In some cases, people come to a tanning salon without knowing the risks that a tanning bed may bring. Sometimes, it results in damaged hair which can seem dry or unhealthy. Fortunately, you can replenish its moisture with a deep-conditioning hair mask. 

If you have colored, dyed hair, permed, or treated hair, make sure to be extra cautious when getting an indoor tan. Treated hair is more porous than untreated hair, so it is more prone to damage from the UV rays.

Luckily, the damage is often irreversible since UV rays only cause dry or brittle hair. Many conditioners and hair treatments specialize in brittle, dry, and limp hair. Adding a daily application of quality hair products to your daily routine can quickly bring it back to life.

Tanning Beds Lighten Your Hair


In summary, while tanning beds cause skin-darkening effects, it creates quite the opposite reaction when it comes to your hair follicles. This is because UV rays oxidize the melanin in our cells which happen to be live tissues in the skin and dead tissues in the hair.

As a result, unprotected hair in regular tanning sessions can cause lightening. It leaves the hair less pigmented than it naturally is. The same happens when you bask in the sun without hair protection, as the natural UV rays can also damage your hair.

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