The first high-pressure tanning beds incorporating more than a single high-pressure lamp were manufactured in the mid to late 1970s by companies such as Ultrabronz and JK Ergoline and in the 1980s the first high-pressure units were exported to the United States. Although tanning beds were initially brought to America by Friedrich Wolff in 1978, he soon patented his particular blend of phosphors and began licensing the technology to other companies. Wolff Systems has since devoted all their resources into lamp technology and development. Some of the early adopters of the Wolff technology include ETS, Inc.
, SCA, Sun Industries, Inc. , Montego Bay, Sunal. Later, Friedrich sold Wolff Systems to his brother Jorg Wolff, who was the founder of Cosmedico, Ltd. , another pioneer in the tanning industry. A sun tanning bed is a device emitting ultraviolet radiation used to produce a cosmetic tan. Regular tanning beds use several fluorescent lamps that have phosphor blends designed to emit UV in a spectrum that is somewhat similar to the sun. Smaller, home tanning beds usually have 12 to 28 100 watt lamps while systems found in salons can run from 24 to 60 lamps each consuming 100 to 200 watts.
In many ways, tanning beds are simply light fixtures that you lie under to tan. Most tanning beds use choke ballasts, a technology that has been around for about 100 years, consisting of a simple inductor which limits amount of current passing through, and requires a lamp starter to preheat the ends of the lamp briefly at start. Newer ballast systems include magnetic ballasts, electronic ballasts and more recently high frequency ballasts that induce tanning and other fluorescent lamps to work using less wattage, by using higher frequencies. In general, newer ballast designs produce less heat and are more energy efficient.
The ballasts regulate the power that is sent to the lamps, so that if you install a 160W lamp in a tanning bed that has 100W ballasts, only 100W will be delivered to the lamp and may actually create less UV and shorter lamp life since the bulb is designed for higher current. The lamp starter part of the bed is used only on beds with choke ballasts and is a simple plasma starting switch. It has no bearing on how powerful the bed is. Like all fluorescent lamps, low pressure tanning lamps work when the ballast directs enough energy to the lamp that a plasma is generated inside the lamp.
The lamps are coated on the inside with special phosphors and contain a small amount of mercury (20 mg typical). Unlike high pressure lamps, the glass that is used in low pressure lamps automatically filters out all UVC. Once the plasma is fully flowing it strips away the outer electrons from the mercury, sending them into the phosphor, which produces photons in the proper spectrum for tanning. The electrons, now in a lower energy state, will jump back into place onto the first mercury atom they find with an electron missing.
The surfaces on which the tanner lies and which shields the user by physical separation from the lamps on the bench and canopy are typically referred to as the acrylics. Acrylics are manufactured from a base material of Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA), type UVT (UV-transmitting), which has been formulated to have a spectral transmittance in the wavelength region 290-400 nm. This should not be confused with a standard acrylic, or plexiglass, which would not transmit within this spectral range, effectively inhibiting the tanning properties of the unit.
Base resins are typically cell-cast or extruded into sheet and then thermoformed to manufacture the acrylics. On occasion, depending on the complexity of the part, the resin will be injection molded. It is due to the expense of the specially formulated resin, handling considerations and manufacturing processes which drive the cost of acrylic parts, which can be high when compared to standard grade acrylic which can be purchased at your local home improvement store.
These acrylic materials should never be cleaned with any agent containing alcohol (i. e. glass cleaner), as this will adversely affect the material surface causing a phenomenon known as crazing. This will present itself as small fissures resembling spiderwebs forming where stresses are most concentrated on the part and in the region which was subjected to the chemical attack. These shields break down over time as they are exposed to UV and oxygen and must be reconditioned every few years.
Failure to do so will reduce the transparency of the acrylic to UV rays, although to the eye it will still appear perfectly clear. The reconditioning is most commonly done with a compound called Novus #2, which is a slightly gritty cleaning compound that removes a microlayer of the acrylic, restoring to near new condition and is used in many other industries. This being said, a better practice is to replace the acrylic as the oxidation described above affects the physical properties of the material rendering it less impact resistant.
Most mainstream tanning beds built today use similar electronics, with the primary differences being in the design and quality of the frame and shell of the bed, as well as the number and type of lamps used. The newer electronics are very promising because of their lower power usage, cooler running temperature, and more environmentally friendly components. Tanning beds have about 3-8 times greater UVA than sunlight, while the warning signs of overexposure, such as sunburn, do not appear at the same rate indoors as out.
Furthermore, the radiation levels are more intense, requiring individuals to limit their exposure to very brief periods. The carcinogenic mutations in some skin cancers have been linked to UVA radiation more than UVB, suggesting that beds have different risks than natural light. The UVA light is also more strongly associated with skin aging than UVB, and with genetic damage. Natural sunlight exposure has made studies of artificial tanning difficult, since many people are exposed to both. There are indisputable values to moderate sunlight exposure.
UVB light induces the body to synthesize Vitamin D. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption, and improves development and reduces cancer risk. The amount of sunlight required, however, is estimated to be less than a single tanning session provides (10 minutes of strong sunlight for many people). The benefits of artificial tanning are generally related to enjoyment and speed. Tanning makes most people feel good. A more useful benefit of tanning indoors rather than tanning outside is the amount of control the tanner has.
If a person decides to get a suntan and wants to minimize the risk of getting a sunburn, a tanning bed offers an environment that delivers the same amount of UV in a given period of time, day after day. Tanning beds also offer time savings when compared to tanning outdoors. Most tanning beds offer a maximum session time of 20 minutes and a person can maintain a tan with 1 to 2 sessions per week. For individuals living in urban areas, or who work extended hours, a tanning bed may be the only opportunity for tanning or UV exposure of any kind.
A frequently mentioned benefit of artificial tanning is the increased production of Vitamin D. It is believed that indoor tanning beds are useful for the treatment of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), though this is disputed at present. Some people with psoriasis or eczema are treated with UVB light therapy. This is typically in the 310 nm to 315 nm portion of the UVB spectrum. Virtually all fluorescent tanning lamps have one spectral peak within this region of the UVB spectrum, making them an effective tool in mild to moderate cases. UVA light therapy is also used in dermatology.
This is often combined with either an oral or topical medication called Psoralen. This combined therapy is referred to as PUVA. Artificial tanning from UV exposure is known to cause cancer, make skin grow old and wrinkle faster, mutate DNA, and reduce the immune system, as well as other possible effects. These problems are believed to be worse from tanning in a tanning bed or sunbed than from the sun, due to the different intensity and spectrum of the artificial light. UVA light specifically, (sometimes called bronzing light) is clearly associated with increased skin aging and wrinkle production.
This is because UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, and therefore causes damage on a deeper level. Most aging of skin is due to UVA rays destroying collagen and connective tissue beneath the superficial layer of the skin. The US Public Health Service states that UV radiation, including the use of sun lamps and sun beds are known to be a human carcinogen (cancer causing agent). It further states that the risk of developing cancer in the years after exposure is greatest in people under 30 years old.
There is persuasive evidence that each of the three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma, is caused by sun exposure. Women who visited a tanning parlor at least once a month were 55% more likely to later develop melanoma than women who didnt artificially suntan. Young women who used sun lamps for tanning while in their 20s had the largest increase in subsequent cancer risk ” about 150% higher than similar women who did not use tanning beds.
A growing trend is the home tanning bed. Many people are now opting to own their own tanning system instead of going to the salon. The primary reasons are sanitation concerns and convenience. The average home system has 16 to 24 lamps, and costs $2000 to $3000, making its price competitive (over a number of years) for tanners who frequent salons regularly. This has led to an explosion of retailers that feature smaller, home style tanning beds both on the internet and in traditional retail stores.
Another trend is spray on tanning (a form of sunless tanning), using either special booths or a hand held setup similar to an airbrush. Many people who try spray on tanning often still go to the tanning salon, and use the spray on as a way to jump start the appearance of a tan, while others use it as a way to look tan while avoiding UV exposure of any kind. This is also demonstrated by the large number of indoor tanning lotions that have bronzers included, which is similar to the chemicals used for spray on tans, DHA.