How Old Do You Have To Be To Go Tanning?

modern tanning bed in a beauty salon

If you’re fresh into your teen years, or maybe you’re a parent of a teen, you may be wondering—how old do you have to be to go tanning?

You’ll be surprised to know, unlike alcohol or cigarettes, the age restrictions for tanning beds aren’t as cut and dry. Each state has its own laws and legislation when it comes to basking in those fake UV rays. 

An incredible amount of research has shown that exposure to UV rays before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma (the deadliest and most aggressive form of skin cancer) by a whopping 59%.

Due to skin sensitivity and the general risk of developing skin cancer, restrictions were put in place in many different states, banning minors from using tanning equipment. To tan indoors, within the four walls of a tanning salon, you may have to be 18.

However, in some states, you may only  have to be 16. In others, you may tan as a minor, if you have a medical exemption. Still, in others, you are legally allowed to tan as a teen with your parent’s consent.

The age restrictions may seem incredibly confusing, and while each state seemingly does its own thing, these laws are in place for a reason. So, how old DO you have to be to go tanning? Let’s dive right in, shall we?

How Old Do You Have To Be To Tan Indoors?

You may be surprised to find out countries like Brazil and Australia have banned the practice of indoor tanning entirely, due to hundreds of thousands of cases of skin cancer every year.

America has yet to follow suit, however, they did make an effort to slow these rates, as state by state slowly stepped up to enact regulations for tanning equipment. 

In total, 19 states have banned anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed. These include states such as Delaware, California, Minnesota, and Texas. Still, the remaining 31 states have each placed restrictions ranging in severity for minors and the use of indoor tanning equipment.

In states such as Indiana, minors under 16 are completely banned, while those between the ages of 16-18 are required to have a parent’s consent on file.

Since it would be a long, boring list to name each state and its regulations, I’ve included a graph below to give a better visual representation of state restrictions. 

You can find the entire list here, state by state, of specific regulations in place for indoor tanning. 

How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Fake Tan?

When it comes to ‘fake tanning’ (aka, spray tanning), there are virtually no restrictions, as the risks associated with indoor tanning don’t apply in this situation. Without the UV rays, there is minimal to no risk involved, providing a safer option for teens who lust after that bronzed look.

However, for some states, if a minor is under 16 a parent must remain present for the entire appointment. While many businesses simply ask you to be old enough to follow directions, others may have their own rules and regulations so it’s always best to call ahead to clarify. 

Can Teens Use Self Tanner?

Self-tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a chemical that stains the outermost layer of your skin for a short period of time. DHA reacts with your skin’s amino acids to produce a dark brown color. Because the color is superficial, it can wear off in a few days.

While teens can certainly purchase and use self-tanner without a parent’s consent from most drugstores, I should add a disclaimer that the FDA did issue a statement in regards to DHA seeping through the skin’s outer layer and potentially into the bloodstream. 

However, research has failed to produce any findings that this statement is valid. While many doctors advise avoiding the eye area or any other sensitive spots, any danger of topical self-tanner is merely a myth at the moment. 

Can A 15 Year Old Go In A Tanning Bed?

Currently, 14 states do allow a 15 year old to go in a tanning bed. However, individual rules and consent are required in some states, while doctor’s prescriptions are required in others. 

As of today, March 11th, 2022, the following states allow minors under 18 to use a tanning bed with a parent’s consent: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming. 

In addition, the following states allow minors under 18 to use a tanning bed with a physician’s prescription: Idaho, Washington, Utah, and Oregon. All other states ban the use of tanning equipment for any minor under 18. 

Can A 13 Year Old Spray Tan?

Of course, when it comes down to it, most tanning salons are privately owned, so they are allowed to establish their own rules and regulations when it comes to age restrictions, however, in general, yes a 13-year-old is allowed to spray tan. 

The reason for age restrictions in tanning salons, to begin with, is the potential to develop aggressive skin cancer in adulthood, due to the harmful UV rays emitted. However, since spray tans don’t utilize UV rays, there is essentially no potential for harm. 

Tanning For Teenagers: Final Thoughts

With an astonishing half a million Americans developing skin cancer every year, it’s a surprise the practice of using indoor tanning beds even still exists.

In many European countries, this practice was banned years ago. However, there are always other reasons people may use tanning equipment such as seasonal depression or acne.

As a teen, all you want is to look and feel good. So, turning to a tanning bed may be where you feel your answer lies. However, with all the different age restrictions in place across the country, your best bet to avoid making an unnecessary trip is to call ahead to ensure you’ll be able to go. 

Spray tans are a much safer alternative for minors, as they don’t expose a teen’s skin to cancerous UV rays. Remember, your skin is with you for the rest of your life, take care of it and it will take care of you. Bottom line, if you’re going get to a tan, be safe and smart about it.

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By Emma Eliason

Emma Eliason is a beauty writer at Kintegra Research. She has a passion for makeup and both skin and haircare. She is also a mom to a little girl whom shares the same love for beauty as Emma does. Emma is regularly trying out new products and always looking for the best!