how Much Does Tanning Cost?

Last Updated on March 3, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

With the sunny days of spring and summer approaching, millions of people start diligently working on their tan. Getting that sun-kissed bronze glow is a rite of passage this time of year.

But before heading out to tan, it’s important to understand the costs associated with different tanning methods. This in-depth article provides a breakdown of various tanning options along with pricing, so you can find the right fit for your budget.

How Much Does Tanning Cost at The Salon?

Using professional tanning beds, booths, and spray tanning at salons is popular for good reason – these methods produce quick, noticeable bronzing with minimal effort. However, frequent tanning salon visits do come at a significant price over time. Here’s what to expect:

Breakdown of Salon Tanning Prices

Most tanning salons offer tiered pricing packages based on the number of sessions purchased. The more you buy at once, the lower the cost per session. Here are some average costs:

  • Single session: $10-$20 per visit
  • 5-session package: $50-$100 total
  • 10-session package: $100-$200 total
  • Unlimited monthly package: $40-$100 per month

Many salons classify these according to levels like “bronze”, “silver”, and “gold” packages. The term “unlimited” for multi-session packages can be misleading – most salons limit you to 20-50 tanning sessions within a 30-day period.

Going beyond tanning beds and booths, spray tanning and other “sunless” treatments cost extra:

  • Airbrushed spray tan session: $15-$50
  • Facial tanning treatment: $10-$30
  • Full body exfoliation: $20-$60

These services enhance the tanning results but aren’t required. Be cautious of the upsells, and know what’s included in any packages upfront.

Membership vs. Pay-Per-Session Pricing

Buying a membership package offers a lower per-session cost compared to paying a la carte each visit. Unlimited monthly memberships providing 2-3 weekly sessions average $50-$100 per month at most salons. Paying per session without any membership can cost $15-$25 per individual use of a tanning bed or booth.

When calculated over the course of a year of regular tanning, the membership package deals generally provide a 30-60% discount versus paying single visit rates each time. However, “unlimited” deals are a volume discount to encourage more visits – you don’t necessarily have to max out the allowed sessions to get value from the membership.

Be cautious about overusing unlimited tanning privileges. Dermatologists recommend no more than 30-50 indoor tanning sessions per year, as overexposure increases skin cancer risks. Stick to a reasonable schedule to avoid burning. You want just enough sessions to gradually build color over time.

Pre-Paying for Multiple Months in Advance

Some salons additionally offer discounted pricing for paying 3, 6, or even 12 months of membership fees upfront. This may earn 10-20% off the total cost. However, think carefully before committing to an extended contract. Consider starting with just 1 month of sessions first to confirm you like the salon’s beds, customer service, and results before locking in a long-term package.

You might also like our articles about the cost of manicures and pedicures, gel nails, and spray tanning.

Make sure to read the fine print too. Even with a 12-month prepaid plan, most contracts allow the salon to increase the monthly fee after the first 6 months. Pre-paying for the whole year also eliminates the flexibility to change plans if your tanning frequency needs to decrease. Make sure to fully understand pricing terms and cancellation policies.

Home Tanning Equipment Costs

Investing in tanning beds or booths for personal in-home use cuts out the continual expense of salon visits. But the systems require major up-front expenditure, ongoing maintenance, professional installation, and higher electric bills. Here are the home tanning equipment costs to understand:

Purchasing Tanning Beds and Booths

Home tanning systems range drastically in price from budget basic to luxury. Here are typical costs:

  • Entry-level tanning bed system: $2,000 – $5,000
  • High-end tanning booth: $10,000 – $15,000
  • Luxury tanning capsule: $15,000+

This covers the main tanning enclosure. Additional accessories like timers, facial tanners, and eye protection cost a few hundred dollars more. You’ll also need proper electrical work and often structural reinforcement of the room for a large tanning system, which can add $500-$2,000+ to initial costs.

As with most electronics, paying more upfront typically provides longer-lasting quality and advanced features like Bluetooth music syncing or built-in fans. But start reasonably priced until you confirm home tanning is right for you. Don’t overspend on elaborate systems you may not use frequently enough to justify the cost.

Consider buying used equipment too from salons going out of business, if you’re comfortable with older refurbished systems. This can save 50% or more over new retail prices. Just ensure older beds won’t need expensive repairs down the line.

Cost of Maintenance and Utilities

Owning a tanning system inevitably comes with ongoing operating costs each month, like:

  • Bulb replacement: $50 – $300 per year
  • Electricity costs: $100 – $500+ per year depending on usage
  • Cleaning supplies: $50 – $200 per year
  • System repairs: $200+ as needed

Bulbs progressively lose UV output over time and require replacement every 1-2 years. More frequent bed use necessitates changing bulbs more often. And electrical costs can add up quickly for a high-voltage tanning system. Proper cleaning between uses is also imperative.

Factor in these recurring secondary expenses before deciding to buy equipment. Tanning bed manufacturers quote electricity costs around $1 per use – but actual utility bills may be higher with increasing energy rates. Take into account your current electrical expenses before adding a major new appliance.

TanToday provides rough figures for tanning costs, stating that small beds can cost $0.50 to $1.00 per session, while larger beds can cost $1 to $2 per session. Additionally, the cost of lamps per session can be estimated by dividing.

Sun of a Beach Tan offers UV tanning session packages with prices like 5 sessions for $25, 10 sessions for $35, and 20 sessions for $50 for Bronze Level. Stand-up sessions are priced at 5 sessions for $45, 10 sessions for $75, and 20 sessions for an undisclosed price.

Sol Sisters lists pricing options for unlimited tanning, with Level II at $50.00 monthly, Level III at $65.00 monthly, and Level IV at $67.50 monthly. One-time tans are also available with prices ranging from $10.50 to $22.25 depending on the level.

Delivery, Installation, and Preparation

Once purchased, a professional delivery and installation service is strongly recommended for safe, effective setup. This includes:

  • Assembling and positioning the system
  • Hooking up electrical wiring
  • Leveling and stabilizing on the floor
  • Testing all functionality

Full white glove delivery and installation averages $500 – $2,000 based on equipment size and complexity. DIY assembly is possible for smaller units, but not advisable for electrical requirements of most beds.

You’ll also need to prep the room thoroughly before installation. Work with an electrician to ensure sufficient amperage to the space. Proper ventilation, fans, floor padding, and room darkening may be required too. Don’t underestimate these initial prep costs.

Sunless Tanning and Skin Care

Sunless tanning spray solutions have become hugely popular for achieving bronze color without UV exposure. Along with professional spray tans, self-tanning lotions, mousses, and wipes provide a cost-effective DIY option.

Prices for Professional Spray Tanning

Getting frequent full-body sprays from a professional tanning salon provides flawless, fast color but it comes at a steep price relative to self-tanning. Expect to pay:

  • $25 – $60 per session at the salon
  • $100 – $300+ per month for 2-4 professional sprays weekly

Many salons offer discounted 5 or 10-session spray tan packages at around $20 per session. But you must go consistently to take full advantage of the package pricing.

Spray tans only last about 5-10 days before fading, so maintaining a bronzed glow year-round requires very frequent applications. Individual preferences for depth of color and convenience determine if the cost is justified versus self-tanning options.

Cost Saving Self-Tanners

Tanning LotionSelf-tanning lotions, mousses, and wipes allow you to bronze your skin at home for a fraction of the cost of salon spray tans. Typical prices:

  • Tanning mousses: $25 – $100 per bottle
  • Tanning lotions: $15 – $50 per bottle
  • Single-use tanning wipes: $10 – $30 per package

Lower-end formulas may streak and leave an orange tone. But high-quality self-tanners provide natural-looking color for a few dollars per application. With practice mastering the technique, self-tanning at home can save hundreds per year over professional sprays.

Consider buying self-tanner wholesale or in bulk for the best pricing. Large 16-24 oz bottles of reputable brands like St. Tropez, Tan Luxe, or Australian Gold provide cost-effective color all season long.

Investing in Aftercare and Skin Protection

Using any tanning process – even sunless self-tanning – still necessitates diligent aftercare and daily sunscreen to maintain results without damage. Expect to budget:

  • $15 – $50 per month for body and facial moisturizers
  • $10 – $40 per month for exfoliating scrubs to prevent uneven fading
  • $15 – $50 per month for broad-spectrum sunscreen
  • $20 – $75 per month for skin-soothing creams and serums

Look for sales and bulk pricing to lower costs on these essential products. Proper aftercare reduces the risk of dryness, early fading, and tan mishaps. Don’t try to cut corners by skipping moisturizing entirely.

Weighing the Health Care Costs

No discussion of tanning costs is complete without considering potential long-term health ramifications. While the dangers posed by UV exposure are well-known, many people overlook these risks when obsessing over getting the perfect tan. But understanding the medical expenses associated with tanning damage makes the real costs clear.

UV Exposure Raises Skin Cancer Risks

Research conclusively shows that frequent exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds causes cell damage that significantly raises skin cancer risks over time. Indoor tanning in particular has been proven to increase the incidence of dangerous melanoma.

Some statistics:

  • Frequent tanners are up to 15 times more likely to develop skin cancer than non-tanners
  • Melanoma rates have doubled since the 1980s
  • 10% of all skin cancers are melanoma, but it accounts for 75% of skin cancer deaths
  • Matching your skin’s natural tone and avoiding burns reduces, but does not eliminate, cancer risks

While we all enjoy the beauty benefits of tanning, ignoring associated health dangers may come at a literal cost down the line.

The High Costs of Treating Skin Cancer

If frequent UV exposure results in an actual cancer diagnosis, the financial costs of treatment are significant. Typical estimated costs of treating skin cancers include:

  • Surgical excision of localized melanoma or lesions: $1,000 – $10,000+
  • Radiation or chemotherapy for advanced cancers: $20,000 – $100,000+
  • Extensive melanoma treatment with immunotherapies or full body radiation: $150,000+ per patient

And that’s not even accounting for the indirect costs of missing work and lost income during extended treatment and recovery. Other issues like cosmetic reconstruction or complications can also arise post-treatment.

Of course, no amount of money can put a value on good health. However, understanding the reality of cancer risks and costs associated with excessive tanning might make people think twice about overdoing it.

Tips for Tanning More Responsibly

The key is being smart about tanning – building color gradually, avoiding burns, and supplementing with protective antioxidants. Here are some tips:

  • Always wear strong sunscreen when outdoors
  • Limit UV exposure time in tanning beds to 5-10 minutes per session
  • Space out indoor tanning to every other day for skin recovery
  • Take 3-4 months off tanning completely each year
  • Apply moisturizer and skin supplements before and after tanning
  • Get annual skin checks by a dermatologist

Taking a few minor preventative measures while remaining moderately tanned can let you achieve the look you want while avoiding huge medical expenses down the road. Just be cautious and listen to your dermatologist’s advice.

Final Words

Achieving a healthy bronze glow for summer no longer requires spending hours baking in the direct sun or paying for an endless string of salon visits. With knowledge of the different tanning options and costs, you can find the right solution for your budget and lifestyle.

But equally important is making smart choices to avoid overexposure and reduce cancer risks.

Being informed on pricing now helps avoid getting pressured into overpaying for complicated salon memberships or overkill home tanning systems later. Do your research, understand the pros and cons of each method, and work with skin care professionals to determine the most cost-effective tanning routine.

With reasonable precautions, you can confidently rock sun-kissed skin all season without draining your wallet or endangering your health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is tanning 3 times a week enough?

Tanning 3 times per week is generally sufficient to build a nice tan, especially for those with fairer skin types. However, the ideal frequency depends on a few factors:

  • Skin type – Those with darker complexions may only need 1-2 sessions weekly to build a noticeable tan. People with very fair skin likely need 3-4 sessions for optimal color.
  • Tanning method – Tanning outdoors or in high-intensity beds requires fewer sessions than lower-UV equipment to achieve the same bronzing effect.
  • The desired depth of tan – Expect to tan 3-5 times weekly to achieve a dark or “competition ready” tan, versus 1-3 sessions for a light golden bronze.
  • Time of year – More frequent sessions are needed to maintain a tan in winter than at the height of summer when you get more incidental sun exposure.

Consult a qualified tanning professional for recommendations based on your specific goals and skin type. They can help create a custom tanning schedule tailored to you. Just be sure to take 48-hour rest periods between sessions and build color slowly to avoid overexposure.

How long should I tan for the first time?

For your first-ever tanning session, limit UV exposure to just 2-5 minutes per side. This provides just enough time for the skin to begin adapting without overdoing it too quickly.

Additional tips for tanning newbies:

  • Use the lowest UV intensity and lamp combo available in the particular tanning bed or booth. This varies by machine.
  • Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen to sensitive facial areas like your nose and cheeks.
  • Wear properly fitted UV-blocking protective goggles, not just sunglasses.
  • Exfoliate skin before tanning to maximize exposure and moisturize after to lock in color.
  • Give your skin 12-24 hours to recover before applying any self-tanners on top of the base tan.

After the first gentle session, you can gradually build up tanning time by 1-2 minutes per visit up to a maximum of 10-15 minutes total. Never go beyond 15-20 minutes total in a single session for your safety. With this cautious approach, you can safely develop a gorgeous golden tan over 7-12 careful sessions.

What do you wear in a tanning bed?

Indoor UV tanning requires specialized protective eyewear and minimal opaque clothing to avoid tan lines or suit impressions. Recommended attire includes:

  • Tanning goggles provided by the salon, never sunglasses.
  • For women: Swimsuits, sports bras, or underwear in darker colors that limit the potential for suit outlines. Avoid full-coverage underwear.
  • For men: Swim trunks, athletic shorts, or underwear in dark shades like black.
  • Fitted tops and bottoms that can be adjusted or shifted mid-session to even exposure.
  • The tanning area of the body should get relatively equal UV exposure, while female breasts and genitals must be covered.

Many reputable salons provide sanitary disposable undergarments if you prefer not to wear any of your own clothing. Avoid reflective fabrics, thick waistbands, or jewelry that could cause tan lines or skin irritation. Wear contacts instead of regular glasses if needing vision correction while tanning.

The goal is even exposure of your tanning area for the most consistent color, without any unsightly lines, creases or impressions marring your bronze glow. With proper indoor tanning attire and consistent sessions, you’ll be golden brown in no time!

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