What Are the Different Causes of a Tanning Bed Rash?

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  • Written By: Rhonda Rivera
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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Some of the most common causes of tanning bed rashes are blocked sweat ducts and allergic reactions. When a person has a blocked sweat duct, sweat cannot escape, eventually causing a heat rash. Allergic reactions can be caused by a person’s own tanning lotion, traces of someone else’s tanning lotion, or chemicals used to clean the tanning bed. Whatever the cause, treatment is usually fairly simple and does not require a doctor’s visit unless the rash lasts longer than two weeks. A tanning bed rash may be confused with a tanning bed sunburn, which is essentially the same as a sunburn and not a rash.

Also known as prickly heat and miliaria, a heat rash occurs when sweat is trapped beneath the skin. Common symptoms include red bumps, a prickly sensation, and blisters. A tanning bad rash caused by blocked sweat ducts is usually mild in nature. It should go away without the help of a health professional. To help the healing along, a person afflicted with a heat rash should keep the skin cool and avoid tanning until the rash completely disappears.


A tanning bed rash can also be caused by a sunscreen lotion. Most people apply a lotion before entering a tanning bed to prevent burns. If allergic to an ingredient in the lotion, a person might develop a rash. The lotion responsible for the tanning bed rash may have been applied directly to the person’s skin. In some cases, the lotion may have been left on the bed by a previous user, and accidentally touched by a person allergic to one of the ingredients.

Like an allergic reaction to tanning lotion, people can have allergic reactions to cleaning chemicals. Many tanning salons have policies to regularly clean the beds. The chemicals left over from this cleaning could potentially cause a customer to develop a tanning bed rash. In this case, the customer can work with the tanning salon to find a safer cleaner.

Treating a tanning bed rash is similar to treating any other rash. It is generally recommended that the person stop applying chemicals or participating in activities that caused the rash. In this case, the person needs to stop using tanning lotions and tanning beds. Continuing to do so can worsen the rash or cause it to spread to other parts of the body. In addition, taking an antihistamine can reduce the itchiness and combat the redness of a tanning bed rash.

A tanning bed sunburn is a burn from being in the tanning bed too long. It can be treated like a regular sunburn. Minor sunburns have symptoms like redness, itchiness, and skin peeling. If the sunburn is particularly severe with symptoms such as fever or chills, emergency medical treatment should be sought.


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