Determining an Exposure Schedule
· Exposure time
· Skin typing
Accurate control of exposure times is necessary to decrease the risk
of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. Another factor involved in
optimal tanning sessions is being able to accurately identify the various
skin types of those clients that frequent indoor tanning facilities.
Determining Exposure Time:
Where To Look
FDA standards require that the manufacturer provide an exposure schedule with the
product warning label. The exposure schedule allows a user to gradually build up a tan and
maintain it while controlling the risk of acute injury and delayed adverse effects. Because
the UV dose that causes a barely discernible pink coloration of the skin (MED or minimal
erythema dose) is not the same for everyone, the exposure schedule for the first time user
will depend on the skin type of the user. Sub-erythema doses of UV received at 24-hour
intervals initially lead to a reduction of the erythema thresholds. Therefore, the exposure
schedule and maximum recommended exposure time limits the potential for erythema and
monitors the dose of radiation necessary to achieve and maintain a tan.
The amount of UV required to achieve a tan is different for each person. The exposure
schedule is designed to allow a client to gradually build a tan, while minimizing the risk of
erythema. The schedule is based on the skin type of the individual client and the output of
lamps in the tanning unit. It takes into account a client’s recent exposure, then increases the
session time gradually.
Maximum timer intervals depend upon the intensity and spectral distribution of ultraviolet
emission from the equipment and must not exceed the maximum recommended exposure
time provided on the manufacturer’s label. Equipment manufacturers are required to develop
an exposure schedule and to establish the recommended exposure time. Therefore, the
maximum timer interval based on the characteristics of their particular products.
According to the FDA, the purpose of a sunlamp product timer is to provide for reliable
control of exposures and to limit acute (and delayed) damage from unintentionally long
It is the tanning salon operator’s responsibility to determine the amount of time a client can
tan. This time is determined by referring to the manufacturer’s printed label for suggested
tanning time. In order to properly utilize the label the operator must accurately determine
the client’s skin type and skin sensitivity (see below). Also, a thorough evaluation must
done to determine factors that could eliminate or reduce tanning time (checking for
photosensitizing substances and unit past the maximum conditions). Regardless of skin type,
a client should never be allowed to exceed the time allowed on the manufacturer’s label.
The most important factor involved in determining a client’s tanning time is his or her
skin type. In order to understand and implement exposure schedules, salon operators
consistently must be able to skin type clients with accuracy.
In some states, salon operators are required to use a state-approved skin typing form. The
most common skin typing charts used today are based on the Fitzpatrick system, which
evolved from Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick’s earlier biological work. The system originally was
developed to determine appropriate exposure schedules for patients with psoriasis who
were being treated with PUVA therapy. It takes into account an individual’s reaction to
sunlight exposure lasting 45 to 60 minutes with unexposed (untanned) skin, as well as his
or her coloring: hair, eyes, skin (phenotype).
Charts based on the Fitzpatrick system categorize humans into six different skin types,
arranged from lightest to darkest coloring. Below is a typical skin typing chart. Skin type is
determined by a person’s initial response to sun exposure after a long period of no exposure
(winter). It remains the same, regardless of tan developing due to further exposures.
Skin Type 1 tans little or not at all; burns easily and severely; then peels. Skin reaction
samples include most often fair skin, blue eyes, freckles, and white, unexposed skin. The
skin of Type 1 individuals does not have the ability to create natural protection from
ultraviolet exposure, and it is particularly susceptible to burning and damage from UV rays.
These people should avoid UV exposure, and must not be allowed to go into a tanning bed.
Skin typing should eliminate the possibility of a Skin Type 1 individual tanning in a bed.
Sunless tanning options would be a good solution for these clients.
Skin Type 2 usually burns easily and severely (painful burn); tans minimally and lightly.
Skin reaction samples include: fair skin, blue or hazel eyes, blonde or red hair, and white,
Skin Type 3 burns moderately; gains average tan. Skin reaction samples include: average
Caucasian, with white unexposed skin.
Skin Type 4 burns minimally; tans easily and above average with each exposure; exhibits
IPD. Skin reaction samples include: people with light or brown skin, dark-brown hair,
and dark eyes, and whose unexposed skin is white or light brown (Asians, Hispanics and
SKIN TYPE SKIN REACTION EXAMPLES
Tans little or not at all, always burns easily and
severely, then peels
People most often with fair skin, blue eyes,
freckles; white unexposed skin
Usually burns easily and severely (painful burn);
tans minimally and lightly; also peels
People with fair skin; blue or hazel eyes blonde
or red hair; white unexposed skin
Burns moderately gains average tan
Average Caucasian; white unexposed skin
Burns minimally, tans easily and above average with
each exposure; exhibits IPD (immediate pigment darkening) reaction
People with light or brown skin; dark brown hair,
dark eyes; unexposed skin is white or light brown (Orientals, Hispanics
Rarely burns, tans easily and substantially; always
exhibits IPD reaction
Brown skinned persons; unexposed skin is brown (East
Indians, Hispanics etc.)
Tans profusely and never burns; exhibits IPD reaction
Persons with black skin (e.g. African & American
Blacks, Australian & South Indian Aborigines)
Skin Type 5 rarely burns; tans easily and substantially; always exhibits IPD. Skin reaction
samples include: brown-skinned persons whose unexposed skin is brown (East Indians,
The last category, Skin Type 6, tans profusely, never burns; exhibits IPD. Skin reaction
samples include: persons with black skin (Africans and African Americans, Austrlians and
South Indian Aborigines).
Because people with higher skin types have more pigmentation, thus more natural
protection, their exposure schedules can progress more rapidly than those with lower skin
types. It is extremely important to note that regardless of skin type, the maximum exposure
time in a tanning unit should never be exceeded.
Although it is much harder for a person of Skin Type 4, 5 or 6 to burn, it is possible. It is a
common belief that indoor-tanning equipment is designed to produce a quick tan without
burning, and that tanning for longer periods will bring quicker results. This is not correct.
Following the maximum recommended exposure time of the tanning unit will produce the
When determining the appropriate exposure schedule for a client, it is important to note
that a salon operator can’t base skin type simply by what he or she sees. Because of the
prevalence of hair dyes, colored contacts and sunless tanners, it is nearly impossible to
accurately determine a client’s natural coloring and a salon operator easily could incorrectly
skin type the client. Also, a client can walk in with what appears to be an all-over tan but
is only tanned on the arms, legs and face. If operators use the exposure schedule based
on what they see, a client easily could incur a burn on previously unexposed skin. It is
important for the operator to have an open dialogue with the client.
In addition to skin typing and looking at recent tanning history, other factors should be
used to properly utilize the exposure schedule. A salon operator needs to ask a clients
about possible photosensitizing medications and medical conditions that could affect
recommended tanning times. A questionnaire inquiring about sun sensitivity, natural
coloring, recent tanning history, medications and medical history should be used, and is
required by certain states. (A questionnaire of this type is listed on the next page. Each
response is given a numerical value, after the tanning operator reviews the questions with
the client the answers are tallied up and an individual’s sun sensitivity is determined. This
level of sun sensitivity can then be used when utilizing the manufacturer’s printed label for
suggested tanning time.)
Tanning Takes Time
Clients need to be educated on the tanning process and made aware that it takes some
time. It takes six to 10 sessions following the exposure schedule for a previously unexposed
individual to develop a base tan. Because we live in a society that is used to immediate
gratification, it would be a smart idea for salons to carry self tanners and bronzers for clients
who want immediate color while beginning their tanning regime.
The tanning process occurs in two phases. The color seen immediately after getting out of
a tanning unit is due to immediate pigment darkening (IPD). IPD results from the rapid
darkening of already existing melanin and is induced mainly by UVA. It is most obvious in
skin where high levels of pigmentation already exist. IPD can fade within minutes or last up
to several days after longer exposures and blend into the delayed tanning phase.
The delayed tanning phase first becomes visible 72 hours after exposure. It is induced
mainly by UVB and is the result of increased melanin. By creating an excited condition in
the melanocytes which then release more melanin, both UVA and UVB contribute to the
delayed tanning phase.
Because the length of IPD is primarily determined by skin type, certain individuals will
experience IPD for only a few minutes. It is important to educate these clients on the
tanning process, otherwise they may incorrectly perceive that they did not receive adequate
color from their tanning session and try to tan again within a 24-hour period. This could
lead to unintentional overexposure. Supplementing sunless tanning options along with UV
tanning will allow these clients to have immediate color while they develop their base tans.
Clients rely on salon operators to maximize their tanning processes while reducing their
risks for overexposure. By appropriately determining exposure schedules based on skin
type, salon operators can ensure continued business success. Clients who achieve beautiful,
golden tans without incurring sunburn will be satisfied, repeat clientele.