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When you tan using a tanning bed or booth, your skin tans the same way it does when you lie out in the sun: through ultraviolet (UV) rays. There is a big difference, however, between being in a tanning bed and being out in the sun. When you are outside getting a tan, the atmosphere affects the UV rays. There is no real way to tell how much UV light you are getting.
Indoor tanning is one way to regulate the amount of UV light you are exposed to, because it is a controlled environment. You increase your exposure time to make sure you won't get harmful sunburns on your skin. This controlled environment helps in getting an even tan on your body in less than a half an hour a day.