Use of solarium


Published 02.07.2014, updated 31.12.2018 12:30

Keywords: Sun beds

There are some essential differences between sunbathing and the use of solariums. The UV radiation from solariums is more intense than the radiation from the sun in Norway. Measurements have shown large differences in output from one solarium to another. The radiation from solariums is different from the radiation from the sun.

The radiation from a solarium is much stronger than from the sun in Norway. Photo DSA

The radiation from a solarium is much stronger than from the sun in Norway. Photo DSA

The radiation from a solarium is much stronger than from the sun in Norway.

Norwegian solariums give about six times as much UVA as the summer sun in Oslo and twice as much UVB. UVA causes a rapid tan but does not contribute to skin thickening or protect the skin against further UV exposure. The skin thickening that helps to increase tolerance is caused by UVB. In a solarium, you expose the whole body at the same time, while sunbathing outdoors only exposes a maximum of half the body at a time.

18-year age limit and age control

From 1 July 2012, no solarium for cosmetic purposes may be offered to persons under the age of 18. The 18-year age limit was introduced because the use of tanning equipment increases the risk of skin cancer, and the risk is greatest if you start at a young age and use such equipment frequently.

From 1 January 2017, all companies and organisations offering solarium must have a satisfactory age control system which ensures that only those above the age of 18 years may access the solariums. This must be done by staff, electronic access control or a combination of the two if not all opening hours are staffed.

New requirement for customer information

From 1 January 2015 there is a new requirement in the Radiation Protection Regulations, Section 38, that the company/organisation offering solarium must inform each customer about relevant risk factors regarding the use of solarium. For this purpose, the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (DSA) has prepared some information material, i.e. an information brochure (in Norwegian only), where the solarium customer determines his/her own skin type by answering some simple questions and then reads about relevant risk factors regarding solarium use for his/her skin type. The customer answer these questions by ticking off the right answer, the company/organisation will not have access to the customer’s answers.

As a solarium customer, you will therefore receive this information from your tanning facility, on paper or electronically. The tanning facility may also give the information through another medium, e.g. video or interactive film, as long as the information is readily available to each customer.

Skin cancer

Norway is among the countries in the world with the highest incidence of the most serious type of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. In 2015, 2,001 new cases of melanoma and 1,884 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma, which is a less serious type, were recorded. In addition, it is estimated that there were about 20,000 new cases of the less dangerous basal cell carcinoma (not registered by the Cancer Registry of Norway). One of the challenges in Norway is that when spring finally comes people want as much sun as possible, and in addition they may be using a solarium.

It is estimated that approximately 95% of all cases of melanoma are caused by the sun, based on numbers from the Nordic cancer registries.

Recommendations regarding use of solariums

It is internationally agreed that some people should be advised against the use of solariums. This applies to persons who:

  • are not able to tan at all or are not able to tan without burning when exposed to the sun
  • are suffering from sunburn
  • are suffering from or have previously been suffering from skin cancer, or who have a close relative with a history of melanoma
  • tend to freckle
  • have atypical moles or discoloured patches on the skin, or more than 16 moles (2 mm or more in diameter) on the body. Atypical moles are defined as asymmetrical moles larger than 5 mm in diameter with variable pigmentation and irregular borders
  • have a natural red hair colour
  • have a history of frequent severe sunburn during childhood
  • are taking photosensitising medicines

If you still want to use a solarium, we recommend that you:

  • always follow the recommendations concerning exposure durations, exposure intervals and distances from the lamp. Always start with a short exposure (approx. 5 min)
  • check to see if the solarium is of UV type 3
  • always wear protective goggles
  • remove cosmetics well in advance of exposure
  • choose a shorter exposure rather than using a sunscreen
  • allow at least 48 hours between the first two exposures
  • do not sunbathe and use the appliance on the same day
  • protect sensitive skin parts such as scars, tattoos and genitals from exposure
  • seek medical advice if persistent lumps or sores appear on the skin or if there are changes in pigmented moles

Warning poster against sunbed use  (PDF, in Norwegian only)


Do not use a solarium right before a holiday in the sun

Using a solarium mainly contributes to skin tanning from the large amount of UVA radiation and to a much smaller extent to the skin thickening that many people experience during a summer of sunbathing. UVB is the main contributor to the thickening of fair skin, and this prosess takes some time. For fair skin types, it is the thickening and not the tanning of the skin that protects the skin from further UV exposure. Thus the use of a sunbed shortly before going on a sun holiday is not recommended. The use of a sunbed exposes your body to a large amount of strong radiation, which increases the risk of damage. In addition, in a sunbed the whole body is exposed at the same time, while during outdoor sunbathing only half or less of your body is usually exposed at the same time.

Permitted solariums and lamps

Only UV type 3 classified solarium models are allowed for cosmetic use in Norway, and the models must be published on NRPA’s solarium list.

It is the combination of the solarium model and the UV lamps in use that decides the classification as UV type 3. Thus it is of great importance that the solarium is equipped with UV lamps as specified for the model.