Artificial tanning is obtained by either using a tanning bed or booth, or through the application of an artificial tanning or sunless tanning lotion. Tanning artificially has relatively recently grown to become one of the most popular ways to get a natural-looking tan without spending hours under the actual sun. Possibly this popularity has been fuelled by the anti-sun message driven by agents of skin cancer doom. Not that this anti-skin cancer message should be discarded completely, but the sun's rays should not necessarily be branded as bad as they have been in the past.
UVB rays are used by our bodies to create Vitamin D, which is fast becoming the new hero vitamin with all sorts of qualities for aiding good health. Vitamin D, now acknowledged as more of a hormone than a vitamin, is a very important health result you can obtain from properly managed sun exposure. You can get this same Vitamin D benefit from tanning beds, but it is important to make sure the quality of the tanning bed or booth is high. Make sure not to get exposed to X-Rays in the process. These rays, emitted by the ends of the bulbs, are another form of radiation, and can be potentially hazardous.
Using tanning beds responsibly can produce 10,000 IU's of vitamin D in only 10 minutes. Skin types and length of time under the tanning bed lights are the key aspects to manage so as not to get sun burnt. Tanning beds also need to contain the right balance of UVA and UVB rays. i.e. 95-97% UVA and 3-5% UVB. If this is the case, a tanning booth's UVB lamps will provide good Vitamin D while you acquire a tan. Note that it is ONLY UVB radiation, as in the UV light between 290-315 nm, that will promote the conversion of "provitamin D" into "previtamin D3". So, tanning in beds that produce UVA radiation exclusively, will produce NO vitamin D.
The downside to this method of artificial tanning is that it is not any safer than exposing your skin to the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays and can contribute to the signs of premature aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, and leathery textured skin as well as skin cancers. With that being said, being managed properly, exposure to UVB rays from the sun or an artificial tanning system can have many benefits for you. With no exposure at all, you deprive yourself of the incredible solar nourishment being offered through Vitamin D creation.
The alternative to this form of tanning, is using sunless tanning products, such as a lotion or spray. These types of products can give you the tanned complexion you've been looking for in a way that many consider to be much safer than artificial tanning using a tanning bed. This is mainly due to the fact that sunless tanning products do not require any form of ultraviolet light in order to work and you can maintain your desired shade for as long as you use the product. When you want to go back to your original skin tone, you simply discontinue use of them and the tan will gradually fade away.
However, the chemical used in artificial tanning lotions is usually dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the active ingredient, or erythrulose combined with DHA. DHA does not physically dye, stain or paint the skin, but instead causes a chemical reaction with the amino acids in the dead layer on the skin surface. As this is not a natural body function, the more healthy option for artificial tanning would be to use a tanning bed in a responsible manner.