Sunbed Tube 'Buying Guide'


Canopy sunbed, Laydown sunbed, Stand-up Sunbed

What type of sunbed are you re-tubing?

Canopy, Lay-Down, or Stand-up? A Canopy tanning bed requires RUVA. A Lay-Down tanning bed requires UVA and RUVA. A Stand-up tanning bed requires RUVA



How long do you intend to stay under the tanning bed? 

Choose between the super quick cleo ADVANTAGE tanning tubes (5-7 min tanning session), the cleo SWIFT tanning tubes (8-11 min tanning session) or the cleo PERFORMANCE tanning tubes (27-30 mins tanning session).

What Wattage Sunbed Tube?

Can I increase my wattage? - No! If your bed has 100w sunbed tubes, then you must stick to 100w, but if you want a faster performing tube, then you move across the range depending on how quick/slow you want the tanning time. Why? Because the tube is controlled by the sunbed ballast (control gear) in the sunbed, therefore if your sunbed has a 100w rated ballast and you put in 160w tubes - the output will still only be 100w. So you will end up spending more money on a higher wattage (160w) sunbed tubes that will only give out 100w pointless! 



What is RUVA and UVA?

UVA is a standard sunbed tube. RUVA is a sunbed tube with a built in reflector, this is a quicker tanning tube. For this reason, RUVA tubes are used on the top of the canopy (lay down) sunbeds and UVA on the bottom due to them being less powerful and in a close proximity to the user. The reflector (darker side of the tube) should be positioned to back of the machine.

cross section of a RUVA sunbed tube


Which way around do I put the RUVA tube? 

Hold the tube up to the window you will see half the tube is dark, this is the reflector, (the R in RUVA). This should be put towards the back of the sunbed, so the dark side against the back wall and the lighter side facing towards the tanning area. The Philips/Isolde Cleo logo should be facing you.



Sunbed Tubes with black ends

It is important to understand that the dark deposits at the ends of the lamps do not reduce the tanning power of the lamp. This is because they occur at the lamp ends in an area where little UV radiation is produced. Even when the lamp becomes very dark at the ends - there is virtually no influence on tanning effectiveness. Salon operators can greatly reduce “end darkening” by changing their lamp starters at regular, prescribed intervals.

Sunbed Tube Black ends

Why do I have to replace my sunbed tubes if they still light up? 

Tanning lamps reach the end of their 'usable life' (when UV output has declined to a point where an effective tan cannot be obtained) much sooner than they reach the end of their physical life (when they stop lighting up). In other words, the lamp still lights, but it has lost its tanning effectiveness. All gas discharge lamps and this includes general lighting as well as tanning lamps, depreciate in output as they are operated.



Do I need to replace the sunbed tube starters as well?

Honestly, it's up to you! The job of the Sunbed Tube Starter is to offer fast and safe ignition to power up the sunbed tube, once the tube is alight it offers no further help. So if the old sunbed tube starters are powering up the old tubes they will probably continue to do so on the new set. However, old starters do cause sunbed tubes (new and old) to turn black at each end, this will not impact the tanning output as very little UV is produced near the lamp ends, but it might look unsightly. Sunbed Tube Starters are relatively cheap so it's just as well to install new when re-tubing.

How do I know when to replace my sunbed tubes?

This is a common question we get asked and the answer is straightforward - when they don’t tan you anymore!

Let us explain. Sunbed Tubes have a life expectancy measured in hours, often 500 or 800 hours depending on brand, maybe less for unbranded tubes but thats not something we sell so we won’t comment.

As an example, a new sunbed tube with a 500-hour life will need replacing once it has hit the 450-500 hours mark. The tanning performance will dramatically fall off once it gets to this point. At 500 hours (or once it has passed it useful life) the tube will remain alight and continue to fire up, the UV output, however, will be zero. From this point on the sunbed tube will act very much like a normal fluorescent tube, lighting up but not offering any UV performance. At some point, it will eventually die and go out. So just because a sunbed tube is still lighting up, does not mean the tube is still performing! If you have had the tubes since new then it should be obvious when they need replacing, as the tanning session (time spent under the sunbed) will extend and you will receive no tanning benefit.

If you have bought an old sunbed the common yet incorrect thought is to replace the 'faulty' tubes that do not light up. It seems like the logical thing to do - logical if they were normal fluorescent tubes. As read above, it is incorrect as the sunbed tubes have already passed their useful life. Re-tubing only a few at a time will result in an uneven bed with some sunbed tubes stronger than others.. and you might end up looking like a zebra!!

For this reason, sunbeds must be re-tubed as a whole so all tubes have the same life expectancy, offering an even tanning output across the sunbed.



If I order sunbed tubes will GB Bulbs fit them? 

No sorry, just supply.

I've just bought a second hand sunbed on eBay and I don't know if it needs new tubes?

99% of the time the sunbed tubes will need to be replaced. The sunbed has been sold cheaply because the sunbed tubes are ineffective, and the most expensive part of a domestic sunbed is often the sunbed tubes themselves. So yes they probably need renewing, but the only way to tell would be to use the sunbed - common sense must prevail when using a second-hand sunbed, start will a 5 min sessions and slowly increase.



The Sun Is Good For Us! 

The soothing effect of sunbathing stems not only from the warmth and relaxation experienced but also from the energising effect of bright light; everyone knows the good mood that only a sunny summer's day can bring. In addition, small doses of UVB promote metabolic processes and stimulate the formation of Vitamin D3.

The sun thus gives rise to a wealth of positive effects:

  • + a boost in physical vitality
  • + the reinforcement of the body’s own defences
  • + an improvement in blood flow properties
  • + an improvement in oxygen supply to the body’s tissue
  • + advantageous mineral metabolism through improved supply of calcium the prevention of bone disease (e.g. osteoporosis, osteomalacia)

Tanning Without Burning – How Does That Work? 

The rays of the sun can, in addition to the desired tanning effect, also cause undesirable reddening of the skin, erythema – in its worse form, sunburn. For one-off sunbathing, the time required for tanning is actually longer than that required for skin reddening. Despite this, it is also possible to achieve a nice tan, without burning – quite simply by means of regular sunbathing. The reason for this is that the body reduces the preliminary stages of skin reddening relatively quickly, while the tan constantly builds itself up through repeated exposure. On the sunbed, the exact intensity of the UV light is known. Consequently, the tanning plan can be adjusted to ensure that the individual stops before burning starts and then that a good tan is built up through repeated exposure.



Pre-Holiday Tanning

It’s the summer time and you may be planning to spend a lot of time outdoors on your summer holiday.  Remember that it’s important to develop a base tan and schedule enough time to develop it gradually. Moderate exposure to ultraviolet light helps develop a natural barrier in the skin to protect the body from future exposures to UV light; it increases your tolerance to UV.  Ultraviolet light stimulates the production of melanin which then surrounds the core of cells to protect the DNA.  This melanin substance absorbs and/or scatters radiation.  In addition, exposure to ultraviolet light thickens the epidermis (the top skin layer), thereby limiting the amount of UV which could penetrate the lower skin layers.  If this photoprotection (base tan) is not developed or a sunscreen is not used, sunburn can occur and the DNA of the skin cells may become damaged.  Repeated sunburn can result in damaged cells. Therefore, it’s wise to use a broadband sunscreen while exposed over a prolonged period of time or in sun-intensive regions. Skin damage may occur if a person overexposes the skin to UV or combines exposure indoors with too much exposure to the natural sun. One should always be mindful of the dangers of overexposure, as it may lead to chronic skin damage. Your tan will disappear or fade over time without repeated exposure to UV light. This is because the pigmentation process occurs in the epidermis, the top skin layer.  The epidermis replaces all its skin cells every 28 – 30 days.  Cells in the inner portion of the top skin layer divide themselves, migrate to the surface, gradually die and slough off.  Skin cells contain melanin which is darkened as a result of UV exposure.  If a person stops tanning for an extended period of time, they will probably have to start at the beginning using the recommended exposure schedule for their skin type. Subsequent session times may be gradually increased, leaving at least 48 hours between each exposure. This schedule assumes, however, that no unusual reaction or sunburn occurs. If you decide to use a spray booth or self-bronzer for that “immediate” tanned look, remember that these sources do not provide a natural barrier, or photoprotection, and will leave you susceptible to obtaining a sunburn when going outside or are otherwise exposed to UV light.  Moderation is the key and always use an SPF when outside for extended periods of time. 

Here are a few basic tanning tips before heading outside:

  • + UVB irradiance is greatest between 10:00am and 2:00pm.  UVA continues throughout the day and can exceed that of UVB by 10 to 1,000 fold.  In the northern hemisphere, UVB is most intense in summer months, but UVA is more consistent throughout the year.
  • + SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor” (maybe it should stand for Sunburn Protection Factor) and is the standard means of expressing a sunscreen’s effectiveness in protecting the skin.  It represents a ratio of the minimal erythemal dose (MED) to the Med on unprotected skin.  The SPF value is the length of time a person can be exposed to UV without burning when a sunscreen is applied compared to when it is not.  For example, an SPF of 15 means one can be exposed 15 times longer with a sunscreen than without it.  Your skin alone has SPF 1.
  • + Sunscreen chemical agents are divided up into three groups: those which absorb UVA, those which primarily absorb UVB and those which absorb both wavelengths.  It is preferable to select broadband or full-spectrum sunscreens, as they protect against both UVB and UVA penetration.  They also will help prevent the cumulative damage of photoaging (wrinkling) and can minimize photosensitivity reactions, both of which can be caused by UVA.
  • + Sunblocks are opaque formulations which absorb, reflect and scatter up to 99% of both UV and visible light.  They are often used on localized, sun-sensitive areas such as the nose, lips, ears and shoulders.  Because they are often messy and may stain clothing, sunblocks may not be practical for application over large areas.  An example of a sunblock is zinc oxide.
  • + On the other hand, sunscreens absorb specific wavelengths and are classified as drugs by the FDA.  Sunscreens are considered more cosmetically refined due to their pleasing consistency and are, therefore, typically used for effective photoprotection.
  • + So remember, when outdoors, the sun is the strongest between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.  It is wise to use a broadband sunscreen while exposed over a prolonged period of time or in sun intensive regions.  One should always be mindful of the dangers of overexposure, as it may lead to skin damage.   And don’t forget to visit your local tanning salon to work on your base tan before hitting the beach - have a great holiday!

Are Sunbeds Safe?

Sunbeds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause skin cancer. Many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than the midday Mediterranean sun.

The risks are greater for young people. Evidence shows that:

  • + people who have excessive exposure to UV rays before the age of 20 have a greater risk of melanoma later in life
  • + sunburn in childhood can greatly increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in life

It is now illegal for under-18s to use sunbeds. The Sunbeds (Regulation) Act, which came into force in April 2011, prevents those under 18 from:

  • + being allowed to use tanning salons and sunbeds at premises including beauty salons, leisure centres, gyms and hotels
  • + being offered the use of a sunbed
  • + being allowed to be in an area that is reserved for sunbed users

UV rays from sunbeds. Sunbeds, sunlamps and tanning booths give out the same type of harmful radiation as sunlight:

  • + UVA rays make up about 95% of sunlight. They can cause your skin to age early, making it look coarse, leathery and wrinkled.
  • + UVB rays make up about 5% and cause your skin to burn.

A tan is your body's attempt to protect itself from the damaging effect of UV rays. Getting a tan using a sunbed is not safer than tanning in the sun. In some cases, it may be more harmful, depending on, for example:

  • + the strength (dose) of UV rays from the sunbed
  • + how many times or how often you use a sunbed
  • + how long your sessions are
  • + what type of skin you have, such as fair or dark
  • + your age

Currently, there is no regulation that governs the type or strength of UV rays that sunbeds give out. 

Damage from UV rays. Prolonged exposure to UV rays increases your risk of developing malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. You cannot always see the damage that UV rays cause. The symptoms of skin damage can take up to 20 years to appear. UV rays can also damage your eyes, by causing problems such as irritation, conjunctivitis or cataracts, particularly if you don’t wear goggles.



Advice about using sunbeds

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has isssed advice on the health risks linked to UV tanning equipment, such as sunbeds, sunlamps and tanning booths. They recommend that you should not use UV tanning equipment if:

  • + you have fair, sensitive skin that burns easily, or tans slowly or poorly
  • + you have a history of sunburn, particularly in childhood
  • + you have lots of freckles and/or red hair
  • + you have lots of moles
  • + you are taking medicines or using creams that make your skin sensitive to sunlight
  • + you have a medical condition that is made worse by sunlight
  • + you have had skin cancer, or someone in your family has had skin cancer
  • + sunlight has already badly damaged your skin

The HSE advice also includes important points to consider before you decide to use a sunbed. For example, if you do use a sunbed, the operator should advise you on your skin type and on how many minutes you should limit your session.

'Are Sunbeds Safe' information from the NHS website

Skin Types For Sunbed Tubes

Reddish hair
Light coloured eyes
Very light complexion
Often with freckles
Extremely sensitive
Immediate sunburn
2% of central Europeans
Tans very slowly
(if at all)
5 - 10 minutes
Blonde to brown hair
Blue, green or grey eyes
Light complexion
Often with freckles
Almost always sunburn
12% of central Europeans
Light tan
10 - 20minutes
Dark blonde to chestnut hair
Grey or brown eyes
Medium complexion
Very few or no freckles
Normal sensitivity
Sometimes sunburn
78% of central Europeans
Good tan provided skin
is exposed to the sun
step by step
20 - 25 minutes
Dark brown to black hair
Dark coloured eyes
Brown or olive complexion
No freckles
Very resistant
Always Brown
seldom burn
Approx 45 minutes 













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