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Tanning - Bed Operators


Tanning bed owners and operators are regulated at both the state and federal level. There are no state tanning regulations. The State Tanning Law is specific enough that there is no need for more detailed regulations.  There is no state agency assigned to enforce the tanning law, so it is enforced at the local level by the Commonwealth's Attorney for the jurisdiction that the violation is alleged to have occurred. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) share responsibilities in the regulation of sunlamps and tanning devices. The FDA enforces regulations that deal with labels on the devices; the FTC investigates false, misleading, and deceptive advertising claims about the devices. When these agencies determine that device labels don’t comply with the regulations or that advertisements are not truthful, they may take corrective action. The FDA also can remove products from the marketplace.

The FDA considers tanning bed owners to be assemblers according to their definition in their regulations.  This means that FDA will ensure that the timers are operational, and accurate, and that the lamps are matched with the timer according to the manufacture's specifications.

The most common questions that tanning facility operators have asked VDH are:

Question: Do I need a license to operate a tanning facility?

Answer: The state does not license tanning bed operators, such as is the case with hair dressers/barbers etc.  Nor does the State have a registration program for the possession of a tanning bed.  Check with your locality's requirements for obtaining a business license.

Question: Can a minor use my tanning facility?

Answer: Effective July 1, 2007, the owner or his designee shall obtain, every six months, the signature of the parent or legal guardian of a prospective customer who is under the age of 15 and is not emancipated under Virginia law. With respect to minors 15 and older, the tanning law mentions informed consent regarding contract for use of the facility.  In the case where there is a contract with a minor without the parent/guardian's consent, the contract usually is not valid.  Check with your lawyer. On a related issue, there is a law regarding minors and body piercing/tattooing, see State Code § 18.2-371.3. Tattooing or body piercing of minors

Question: Will the FDA inspect my tanning device?

Answer: The FDA has the right to inspect a commercial tanning device.  Given their staffing levels, it is unlikely.  However, if the FDA receives a consumer complaint, particularly if there is an injury involved, it is almost a certainty that an FDA inspector will want to evaluate the operation of the tanning device.

Question: What will the FDA inspector look for during his inspection?

Answer: The FDA inspector will check the timer to determine whether it is operable, that is the machine will turn off after the time has elapsed, and ensure that it is accurate according to manufacturer's specification; the lamp matches the manufacture's specifications. In other words the ratio of the UVB to UVA for the lamp matches the timer limits for that ratio. Also the tanning bed is inspected to ensure there are no modifications of the tanning bed not authorized by the manufacturer.

Question:  May I allow my clients to come into my facility to use the tanning bed/booth whenever they want to?

Answer: No, you must have an operator available at all times when the tanning bed is in use.  See State Law Section 59.1-310.5 paragraph A.


Radiological Health Program | James Madison Building, 7th Floor | 109 Governor Street,  Room 730 | Richmond, VA  23219 | Telephone (804) 864-8150 | Fax: (804) 864-8155


Last Updated: 07-30-2011

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