Tanning Bed Rash – Cause, Prevention and Treatment

Tanning beds are a very popular way of getting a great tan without having to go outside in the sun. However, if you’re not an experienced tanner, you might have to deal with tanning bed rash. Most of us at one time or another may have felt itchy after tanning for your first time and if you don’t properly treat these rashes they could cause serious skin problems.

If you live in hotter areas, getting a natural tan is not such a good idea and if you live where it’s cold all year round, a tanning bed is a great option. Although using a tanning bed is great, you should remember that excess use of tanning beds can result in a tanning bed rash. These bumpy, itchy, red rash may appear after a few hours or days after your tanning session in the tanning bed. Such a rash can appear all over sudden and can be hard to treat. It causes your skin to be extremely dry and you must seek medical treatment.

What is a Tanning Bed Rash?

If a few days after using the tanning bed you notice rashes or itchy scars on your skin, you most likely have a tanning rash. A tanning bed rash is one or several red or darker bumps or spots on your skin which are very common with tanning bed users. You could also develop a tanning rash because of overexposure to the sun if you live in a hotter region. A tanning bed rash can be treated with the help of a few home remedies which will help your skin heal more naturally. You can also opt to use medicine from the drugstore but they might have side effects that aren’t good for your body.

What Causes a Tanning Bed Rash?

Tanning bed rashes mostly occur when there is an overuse of the tanning bed without proper guidance. It develops slowly that’s why it’s not easy to identify the type of rash you’re having. However, some factors can trigger these reactions.

Overexposure to UV rays

This is the most common cause of the tanning rash. Although using a tanning bed is quick and effective in giving you a bronze look, it comes with its risks. Your body can only take a certain amount of exposure to UV rays, but a tanning bed can produce more and these rays are harmful. These rays can give you a tan and also cause your skin to dry out which causes mild or moderate rashes and itchiness depending on the sensitivity of your skin. When you tan for too long your skin stops absorbing all the UV rays the bed is emitting and this irritates your skin causing a rash to develop.

Having dry skin

If you notice flaky rashes on your skin, you most likely have a dry skin rash and people with dry skin tend to develop tanning bed rash after tanning. If you don’t keep your skin well moisturized when tanning, you will notice some rashes on your skin. A tanning bed will not only give you a great tan, but it will also suck up all the moisture in your skin. That’s why it’s important to always moisturize your skin during and after tanning to avoid feeling dehydrated and developing a bad skin rash.

Sweat build-up on your skin

Sometimes tanning beds can affect the natural flow of sweat. This causes the sweat to be trapped between your skin layers and this causes an excess build-up that irritates your skin and the result is a heat rash.

Unhygienic Tanning Beds

A tanning bed rash can also be caused by sub-standard cleaning of the tanning beds in the tanning salon. Most people tan nude and as they lie on the bed they sweat and this perspiration drips to the surface of the bed. So if the bed isn’t cleaned properly, you will lie on the dry sweat which will irritate your skin and cause a rash. This type of rash is usually found on your back, back of your legs, and shoulders, the skin in contact with the surface of the bed.


It may be unlikely, but not impossible that you could have an allergic reaction to the tanning be. It could just be that your skin doesn’t agree with the tanning bed or it could be due to poor hygiene that you develop rashes on your skin. If the beds aren’t regularly cleaned, the sweat can accumulate and dry out so when you lie on the bed it can irritate your skin. You could also have an allergic reaction to the tanning lotion you’re using.

How to Treat a Tanning Bed Rash

Relaxing on a tanning bed can be quite enjoyable, but it can also lead to some not so good side effects like tanning bed rashes that are very common. So if you’re a regular at a tanning salon, you will encounter these at one point or another in your tanning journey. If you discover you have these rashes there are certain things you can do to treat them, but if you don’t see any improvement you should visit a doctor.

Stop tanning and use cold water

This is the first thing you need to do immediately you notice a rash on your body. If you continue to tan, it can make the rash worse and even cause it to spread to other parts of your body. Wash the area with warm water and a mild antibacterial soap for sensitive skin and pat dry gently. Avoid rubbing. Also, avoid using hot water as it will cause further irritation or putting the rash under running water. Don’t tan until the rash disappears completely.

Use a cold compressor

Apply a cold compressor on the area with the rash for about 20 minutes as many times as you think it’s necessary throughout the healing process. This will help calm down your skin and in healing the rashes. You can make a cold compress by dipping a soft cloth in cold water and holding it over the affected area. Avoid using a cloth with fibers as the fibers can cause your skin to be dry and flaky causing further irritation.

Take an oatmeal bath

Oatmeal is not only good for breakfast or snack you can also apply it on your skin to heal rashes thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. It normalizes your skin and kills any bacteria on your skin. To make an oatmeal bath you just need to fill a tab with cold water enough to cover your entire body then blend several cups of oatmeal and pour in the tub. Mix properly then soak in the tub for about 30-60 minutes. You can repeat this step once a day, but if you notice further irritation after the bath, discontinue as you may be allergic to oatmeal.

Keep the area clean and don’t rub

When you’re not applying a cold compress or relaxing in an oatmeal bath, ensure that the rash remains clean and avoid rubbing even when it feels itchy. You can do this by covering the rash with a soft bandage or you can wear loose clothes so they don’t touch your skin. Wash the area at least twice a day to keep away bacteria especially if your skin is cracking or any raw skin from flaking. It’s best to use hypoallergenic super soft gauze pads so that you prevent any further irritation.

Apply an antibacterial cream

After cleaning your rash, you should keep it moisturized by applying an anti-bacterial cream on the rash or to the bandage before putting on the bandage. This will keep your rash moisturized while at the same time preventing bacterial growth that can cause an infection.

Take an antihistamine

As your rash heals it will become quite itchy or not depending on the cause of your tanning bed rash. If your rash feels itchy, the best remedy is to take an antihistamine to help relieve the itchy feeling and any other symptoms you will experience if your rash is due to an allergic reaction. If your rash wasn’t caused by an allergic reaction to a tanning product you used or a cleaning chemical used on the tanning bed, you can skip this point.

Apply a natural moisturizer or a hypoallergenic moisturizer for sensitive skin

As your rash starts to heal and there are no cracks on your skin or open pores, you can start applying a natural or hypoallergenic moisturizer for sensitive skin that is targeted at healing your skin. Apply it several times a day depending on how dry your rash is.

Change your tanning products

Once your rash has completely healed you can continue with your tanning sessions. However, you should find out the root cause of the tanning rash so you can avoid it from occurring again. You can change the tanning products you use to ones suitable for sensitive skin. Another option would be to make your tanning lotion and oil using natural productsthat are beneficial to your skin and don’t contain any chemicals.

Use hypoallergenic wipes to wipe your tanning bed

Since it’s difficult to know exactly what caused your tanning rashes, you should be proactive in identifying some of the causes. One of the things you should consider is the cleaning products used to clean the tanning bed might have caused an allergic reaction on your skin. To prevent this from happening again, use hypoallergenic wipes to wipe the tanning bed before lying on it so that you’re sure the bed is clean of any chemical residue that may be on the bed. Make sure that the wipes you’re using don’t damage the tanning bed.

Other home remedies

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a natural ingredient that is very effective in killing bacteria on your skin and healing it without causing any allergic reaction. It has great benefits for your hair and your skin as it helps to soothe the affected area as your skin heals.


This is a common veggie found in your kitchen which you can use to help heal the tanning bed rashes and even on sunburns. Make a potato paste and apply it to the rash to relieve the inflammation and pain.

Olive oil

If your tanning bed rash is due to dry skin, olive oil will ensure your skin stays well hydrated which will help reduce the rash.


This is a very well veggie for its hydrating properties which is the best way of dealing with dry skin rashes. It will keep your skin cool and help in healing your rashes.

Baking soda

You can add a few spoons of baking soda or cornstarch to improve your pH levels in your skin and even help in healing different types of sunburns.


Yogurt is not only good for your digestion, but it also helps to keep your skin cool and soothe any inflammation and sunburn on your skin. It’s also a great cleanser that helps to remove any irritants on your skin.

How to Prevent a Tanning Bed Rash

Now that you know what causes a tanning bed rash and how to treat it, it’s also good that you know how to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

  • Make sure that the tanning salon you visit upholds strict hygienic standards. The tanning beds should be cleaned thoroughly between customers and have a sanitary environment.
  • Carry baby wipes or hypoallergenic wipes to wipe the tanning bed before using it.
  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 to protect your skin from overexposure to UVA and UVB rays. After your tanning session, apply some aloe vera gel to soothe and cool your skin to prevent a rash from forming.


Tanning is a beauty routine that most people find hard to give up and although using a tanning bed will give you a quick tan that doesn’t mean you should overdo it. You can prevent a tanning bed rash and still achieve a beautiful golden tan. If you notice a rash a few days after your tanning session, it’s advisable to visit a skin specialist to rule out anything serious.