Tanning – Consumer Information

Public health experts and medical professionals have issued warnings about the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps.  Two types of ultraviolet radiation are Ultra­violet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB).  UVB has long been associated with sunburn while UVA has been recognized as a deeper penetrating radiation.  For this reason, tanning bed and sunlamp manufacturers have designed lamps with different proportions of UVA and UVB.  The US Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture of tanning beds and sun lamps.  The FDA specifies the amount of time on the timer for particular lamps.  Users of tanning beds should not ignore the timer or exceed the time for their skin type.  More information is available on the FDA’s Tanning web page and their consumer information page at Indoor Tanning: The Risk of Ultraviolet Rays.

Although it’s been known for some time that too much UV radiation can be harmful, new information may now make these warnings even more important.  Some scientists have suggested that there may be an association between UVA radiation and malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.  In addition to the possibility of skin burns and skin cancer that could occur from excessive tanning, consumers should be aware that certain medications may cause one to become over sensitive to light and result in death.  See FDA’s publication entitled “Medications that Increase Sensitivity to Light: A 1990 Listing.

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.

Some of the most common questions that we receive from consumers are:

Question: Is there a law that prohibits my child using a tanning bed without my knowledge?

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: I am uncomfortable using a tanning bed after someone else.  Suppose they have a communicable disease?

Answer: The tanning law only addresses sanitization of protective eye wear.  Most tanning facilities have a sanitizer that the consumer may use if they have any doubts about the cleanliness of the tanning bed after another customer’s use.  Commonly available cleaners/sanitizers should kill any bacteria from previous use.  Speak to the facility’s operator if you have any concerns regarding the cleanliness of the facility’s equipment. An operator must be available at all times during the operation of the tanning bed.

Question: I am uncomfortable using a tanning bed after some one tanned in the nude.  Is their a prohibition on tanning in the nude?

Answer: There is no prohibition on tanning in the nude. The law assumes the consumer is assured of privacy while using a tanning bed or booth.  Consumers of tanning facilities are specifically protected  by law from:  peeping toms (§ 18.2-130. Peeping or spying into dwelling or enclosure.), or illegal vide taping (§ 18.2-386.1. Unlawful filming, videotaping or photographing of another; penalty.)


Office of Radiological Health | 109 Governor Street, 7th Floor | Richmond, VA 23219

Telephone (804) 864-8150 | Fax: (804) 864-8155