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Tanning in a professional facility today minimizes risk of getting sunburns. This is because the government regulates commercial tanning salons in the United States and in most Canadian provinces.
In the United States, exposure times for every tanning session are derived from a schedule present on every piece of equipment that takes into account the tanner's skin type and the intensity of the equipment. An attendant is always available with knowledge about tanning and how to use the tanning bed.
Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the schedule also takes into account how long an individual has been tanning, increasing exposure times gradually to minimize the possibility of burning. That kind of control is impossible outdoors, where variables including seasonality, time of day, weather conditions, reflective surfaces and altitude. Those factors make outdoor tanning a random act and sunburn prevention more difficult.
To truly regulate a tan, short regular intervals in a tanning bed works best.