There is no cure for a tanning bed sunburn, but you can treat the burning sensation and dryness of the skin. Applying a moisturizer, drinking water to stay hydrated, and refraining from picking at the peeling skin helps. The type of moisturizing lotion you choose does not matter much as long as it is soothing to the skin rather than irritating. Hydration is a highly debated topic, but it is believed that being hydrated helps improve blood flow to your skin. In addition, do not pull off your skin when it starts to peel, because ripping it off before it is ready can lead to infections.
The heat of the tanning bed removes moisture from your skin until the skin burns from the lack of it. It helps to replace this moisture by applying lotions and avoiding harsh beauty products like exfoliaters. As topical treatments go, this is about all you can do. Only time can heal sunburns and, depending on the severity, it can take several weeks for your body to peel dead skin and regrow healthy skin. Give your sunburn a chance to heal before sunbathing again.
Staying hydrated might help return your skin to normal faster than being dehydrated. How much faster is not known, but some researchers believe the difference in recovery time is insignificant unless you are very dehydrated. Basically, drink water whenever you feel thirsty. Try to limit drinks like soda pop and beer that seem to quench thirst but are nowhere near as satisfying as water.
Your tanning bed sunburn will start to peel after about one week. As tempting as it may be, picking off scabs or dead skin is usually frowned upon by health professionals. There is often nothing wrong with taking off dead skin. The problem arises when the dead skin is still firmly attached to still-living skin, which gets pulled off too, or the skin underneath is still raw and new. Let the skin fall off naturally and, if some of it accidentally gets pulled off, apply an antibacterial ointment to prevent infections.
To prevent a tanning bed sunburn in the future, apply sunscreen before entering the bed. Stay in the bed for the shortest recommended time. Know that tanning beds damage your skin even when you are wearing sunscreen, just like the sun. If you wish to avoid the possibility of another tanning bed sunburn altogether, try self-tanning products in the form of creams. Many self-tanning products can give natural-looking results similar to tanning beds, especially when lightly applied over several sessions.