The Sunbed (Regulation) Act 2010

The Sunbed (Regulation) Act 2010 came into force in England on the 8th April 2011. The most noticable change for members of the public is that it is now illegal for a sunbed business to let anyone under the age of 18 use or even be offered the use of a sunbed in England. But there are other changes.

There is also now a restricted zone around the sunbed which under 18’s are not permitted to enter (unless in a sunbed shop, they are an employee cleaning the room or unit – they can not turn the sunbed on to check its opperation). The restricted zone is defined as the area or room where the sunbed is located. If the sunbed is located in a gym changing room and is not partitioned off, then the whole of the changing room is designated as the resticted zone and can not be used by under 18’s. Puting a screen or partition around the sunbed high enough to obscure it will create a restricted zone within the room and allow under 18’s to use the changing area without committing an offence. A vertical sunbed with an integrated changing pod could be interpreted as the resricted zone, but this has yet to be tested by enforcement officers and there are bound to be anomalies from one area of the country to another.

Failure to implement this new law could lead to a fine of up to £20,000 for the business operators.


As with exposure to natural sunlight, too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning equipment can damage your skin.

Short Term Damaging Effects

The short-term damaging effects of excessive exposure to UV radiation include:

  • sunburnt skin, which becomes painful, red and may blister and peel
  • skin dryness and itching
  • bumpy itchy rash
  • eye irritation or conjunctivitis, (if suitable goggles are NOT worn)

Long Term Health Risks

  • premature ageing of the skin which will then look coarse, leathery and wrinkled
  • skin cancer – the more exposures, the greater the risks
  • increased risk of cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) later in life,(if suitable goggles are NOT worn)
  • Don’t use cosmetic tanning equipment if your skin is particularly sensitive
  • Some people are more prone to skin damage caused by UV radiation than others

You are advised not to use cosmetic tanning equipment if:

  • you are under 18
  • you have fair sensitive skin that burns easily or tans slowly or poorly
  • you have a history of sunburn, especially in childhood
  • you have a large number of freckles and/or red hair
  • you have a large number of moles
  • you are taking medicines or using creams which may sensitise the skin to sunlight
  • you have a medical condition that is worsened by sunlight
  • you or anyone in your family have had a skin cancer in the past.


Do not use cosmetics before tanning

Some cosmetics, deodorants and moisturisers can increase sensitivity to UV radiation. It is best not to use them immediately before a tanning session and to wash off any that are on the skin, before using the equipment.

Tan Gently

As a general guide it is best not to exceed 20 sessions per year; make a note of your number of sessions so you will not forget.

If using a commercial salon, tell the staff about your normal skin reaction to sunlight, bearing in mind that you may be exposing parts of your body not normally exposed to the sun. The operator of the equipment should then advise you on how long to use it; don’t exceed this time.

Don’t try to get a quick tan by….

  • exceeding the recommended times
  • having too many tanning sessions
  • having more than one session a day
  • sunbathing on the same day

….because it can be dangerous or damaging to you.

Seek advice about any problems

If you notice any abnormal skin reactions developing during the tanning session, stop the exposure at once and do not use tanning equipment again before consulting a doctor.

If you develop any abnormal skin reaction after a tanning session, do not use the equipment again before consulting a doctor.


Protect your eyes

Make sure you use the goggles provided before using the equipment. These should be worn ALL the time the equipment is switched on. If no eye protection is used, DO NOT use the equipment.

Understand the equipment

Make sure you know how to:

  • use the equipment properly and set BOTH timers
  • switch it off
  • call for help in an emergency

Don’t rely on your tan for protection

The tan obtained from cosmetic tanning equipment can give some mild protection from burning when you go into the sun, BUT IT NEVER GIVES COMPLETE PROTECTION. It does not provide protection against long-term health risks. You should still follow sensible advice on safety in the sun such as that published by the Health Education Authority and cancer charities (eg Cancer Research Campaign, Imperial Cancer Research Fund).

Know your skin

No matter whether you get your tan from the sun or tanning equipment, you should learn to recognise the early warning signs of serious damage. Most skin cancers are completely curable if detected in the early stages. Look for progressively changing moles or other skin discolourations. If you have any doubts, consult your doctor. DON’T DELAY.

Useful Information

Sites discussing the health risks of overexposure to UV light with specific reference to sunbed use:

Additional information on Vitamin D can be found at: