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FAQs About Red Light Therapy Beds vs. UV Tanning Beds

Posted January 06, 2023

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Tanning salons first opened in the United States during the late 1970s. Back then, generally, only one type of sunbed was available. Today, there are two distinct types of light beds on the market: ultraviolet (UV) tanning beds and red light beds, both of which are available for home and commercial use. Let's discuss their differences and determine which of the two is best for your specific needs.

What is a UV bed?

When thinking about sunbeds, UV beds are what usually come to mind. These are tanning beds that emit ultraviolet light, including both UVA (with an approximate 320-400 nm wavelength) and UVB (with an approximate 280-320 nm wavelength).

Exposure to UVA and UVB lights contributes to the development of a tan. UVA produces an immediate result, while UVB exposure causes delayed tanning, where the effects develop slowly over a number of days. In addition to tanning the skin, when UVB rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, it provides the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur, which has numerous benefits for the mind and body. UV sunbeds produce more UVA than UVB, allowing it to provide an instantaneous glow, according to Harvard Health.


What is a red light therapy bed?

Having a similar concept to tanning beds, red light beds are full-body LED devices designed for you to lay on. The typical places to find red light therapy beds are high-end spas, wellness centers, and gyms. Recently Mito Red launched our one-of-a-kind full-body, immersive red light therapy experience: the Mito Red Light Bed.

Red light therapy (RLT) provides beneficial wavelengths that are also in sunlight but without UV rays. In addition to being UV-light-free, red light therapy is a wellness approach that uses different wavelengths of light for health and cosmetic purposes, including healing cells under oxidative stress. Although some people refer to this procedure as "red light tanning," red light therapy beds do not stimulate melanin production to darken the skin. Instead, the red and near-infrared wavelengths penetrate deep into the skin, giving energy to the mitochondria. Known as the cell's powerhouse, the mitochondria help repair and heal cells. Clinical research suggests that low-level laser therapy can help with muscle recovery, inflammation, wound healing and scar removal, skin rejuvenation, and may even reverse hair loss, among several other benefits. If you are unfamiliar with how a red light therapy bed benefits you, this Healthline article and our own red light therapy overview article offer a comprehensive summary.

Does red light therapy tan the skin?

If you want gorgeous bronzed skin, you may be disappointed to know that red light therapy beds alone cannot tan your skin. The bright side, however, is that red light beds do not damage your skin like UV lights from tanning beds can.

As you may already know, tanning beds or sun lamps can be harmful compared to other tanning methods. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), UV light from tanning beds can lead to melanoma and increase the chances of a benign (noncancerous) mole progressing to a form of skin cancer. Specifically, indoor tanning raises your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma by 24 percent and squamous cell carcinoma by 58 percent. Furthermore, excessive exposure to UV radiation can cause premature skin aging, immune suppression, and ocular melanoma, warns the World Health Organization (WHO).

What are the different wavelengths of red light therapy vs. tanning beds?

In some cases, red light therapy systems and tanning machines may look similar. However, they serve completely different purposes and use light from different aspects of the electromagnetic spectrum. Red and near-infrared light beds use wavelengths of light in the 600-900nm range, while ultraviolet light is at 100-400 nm. Red light delivers a myriad of therapeutic effects, while UV light from sunbeds mostly tans the skin and stimulates Vitamin D synthesis.


Is it safe to use a tanning bed with red light therapy?

Despite having different functions, indoor tanning systems and red light therapy work in perfect harmony. Allow us to explain.

Yes, bronzed skin is associated with beauty and an active lifestyle in the US, but maintaining your tan 24/7/365 can come with a price. If you achieve your sun-kissed, glowing skin by tanning under direct sunlight or using a UV sunbed, remember that ultraviolet exposure can cause skin damage. Moreover, premature aging, leathery skin, or worse, can occur as a result of excessive tanning.

On the other hand, red light or low-level laser therapy beds do the opposite. While developing a tan is not something it can provide, this innovative system repairs and rejuvenates the skin for a healthier and more youthful appearance. Red light therapy works by improving blood circulation or transporting nutrients to the different cells of the body, including the skin.

Combining natural or indoor tanning with red light therapy can be a knockout solution if you want to maintain a tan but still keep your skin as healthy as possible. When you use UV lights for tanning, red light therapy may improve your tan since RLT brings blood to the surface of your skin and produces a better tan through increased oxidation of melanin.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology also found that red and near-infrared light protects against high-energy light, therefore, allowing people to expose themselves to UV lights for longer without worrying excessively about skin damage.

As such, if you are wondering, "Should I receive red light therapy before or after tanning?" – most would recommend using a red light therapy device before tanning. As an added benefit, doing so may even boost your vitamin D levels.

Mito Red Light Bed
Mito Red Light Bed (2 Piece)
Mito Red Light Therapy - Full Body Mat
Mito Red Light Therapy - Full Body Mat
Mito Red Commercial Premiere
Mito Red Commercial Premiere



Some people may assume that red light therapy tans the skin because it uses light energy, plus the term "red light tanning" can cause confusion. Red light tanning simply means exposing your skin to red or near-infrared light. While some hybrid tanning systems have the capacity to darken the skin and provide therapeutic effects, a red light therapy bed alone cannot tan the skin since it emits zero UV, while UV beds and sun lamps are unable to deliver the mitochondrial boosting wellness benefits of red and near-infrared light.

Red light therapy only uses light at the infrared or near-infrared wavelength. By providing energy to the mitochondria, the cells function and regenerate better. Using red light therapy and tanning beds together does not create an impenetrable shield against skin damage, but research has shown that preconditioning the skin with red/near-infrared light could help to reduce the damage from UV and improve your tan.

In our humble opinion, every tanning salon in America should have a Mito Red Light Bed or a Mito Red Light Room so that frequent tanners can enjoy the benefits of red light therapy before their UV bed sessions.  

Can you experience red light therapy at home?

If your local tanning salon does not have a red light therapy bed, Mito Red Light offers different devices that you can use whenever, wherever. From travel-friendly portable red light systems to full-body LED devices, investing in RLT equipment allows you to enjoy sessions on a more regular basis and at a more effective cost. Review our collections here. If you need help choosing the perfect device for your needs, check out our red light therapy buyer's guide or call us at +1 866-861-6486.


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