can you get a tan from a space heater

Can you get a Tan from a Space Heater?

Can you get a tan from a space heater? I mean, that would be incredibly practical and would save you so much money on tanning products.

“I love the sun but don’t have the time to get a good tan and keep it year-round, so I am a huge fan of tanning products.”

Kim Kardashian

If you’re like the Kardashians and prefer to get your tan at home rather than outdoors, here’s the right place. In this article, we’ll find out whether you can use a space heater to tan your skin.

After reading this, you’ll know exactly how you can build your time at home (I promise).

But first, let’s check the quick answer.
Question: Can you get a tan from a space heater?

Answer: No, you can not get a tan from a space heater. For tanning, you need UV light, which no heater can emit. To produce UV light that would be suitable for tanning you would need to create insane amounts of heat or use a UV indoor tanning lamp.

How do you get a tan?

Before we head on, let’s first cover how tanning actually works.

Tanning is a reaction from your skin that occurs when you expose it to UV radiation. When UV radiation hits your skin, your skin produces melanin – a pigment that protects your skin from radiation and damage.

Fun fact: Tanning is actually a protective reaction and has nothing to do with health.

It’s like working out in a gym: Building muscle is, in fact, only a reaction of your body that protects you from future damage (by lifting weights).

Anyways:

Now that you know how tanning generally works, are there any space heaters that you can use to build a tan?

First, let’s take a look at the types of heaters that we can exclude right away.

Types of space heaters that don’t emit radiation (and can’t get you a tan)

If you want to get a tan, you need to expose your skin to radiation (as you’ve just learned). Here’s a quick and simple list of the heaters that don’t emit any kind of radiation. These will definitely not work for tanning.

  • Ceramic Heaters
  • Electric Heaters
  • Gas Heaters (Propane, Kerosene)
  • Oil-filled heaters
  • Radiators (even though their name suggests they emit radiation)

If you want to be very precise about this: All of the above heaters do emit radiation, but the amounts are so little, they can’t have any tanning effect on your skin. They don’t work by radiating, but by convecting hot air.

Let’s take a look at the types of heaters that do emit radiation. They could be potential candidates.

Types of space heaters that emit radiation

Infrared heaters (also called radiant heaters) are the only type of heater that works by emitting radiation.

The purpose of infrared radiation is that it is directly converted to heat when it hits an object. It’s similar to sun rays. Sunrays don’t really heat the air, but the objects they hit.

So:

Can you use infrared radiation for tanning?

The answer lies in the next section …

Sunlight vs. Infrared Heater for tanning: Comparing the spectrum of light

There’s a significant difference between sunlight and infrared radiation. Take a look at the graphic below.

Light is composed of different colors, called the spectrum. The spectrum basically tells you which colors the light is composed of.

The sun’s spectrum of light ranges from ultraviolet (UV) to infrared light.

Remember: Only UV radiation has a tanning effect.

But how does pure infrared radiation look like?

Infrared radiation is just a very small part of the far right side of the spectrum. It has nothing to do with UV. Infrared radiation has absolutely no effects on tanning – it just heats your skin.

can you get a tan from a space heater? - the spectrum of UV and infrared

By the way: The infrared part of the sunlight keeps you warm, while the UV part causes tans (and sunburns). The visible colors in between make up the colors we can perceive in the world. That’s how each part of the sunlight’s spectrum has its own use.

Can you get a tan from an infrared space heater?

Answer: No, you can not get a tan from an infrared space heater. In fact, you can’t get a tan from any kind of heater.

Infrared heaters only emit infrared radiation, which is the warmth you perceive, but for tanning, you would need UV radiation.

Later on, I’ll show you how you can get a tan indoors anyways.

Why do infrared heaters not emit UV radiation?

The main purpose of an infrared space heater is to heat a room. In theory, it would be possible to build a heater that tans and heats at the same time. The heater would just need to imitate sunlight and emit all parts of the spectrum.

But that’s only possible in theory. Why?

If you heat an object really, really hot it can emit UV radiation. But that heat must be over 10,000 degrees celsius. That’s why the sun emits UV light: Because it’s so incredibly hot.

Additionally, most people are looking for just the heat part when they want to buy a space heater. If you added UV radiation to a space heater, it would just need more energy to run without increasing the heat at all. We don’t perceive UV radiation as heat.

In fact, no common heat source you can think of is suitable for tanning. You can’t use fires for tanning, you can’t use radiators, and ovens are not suitable for tanning as well.

You could sit in front of a space heater for weeks and not get any tan at all. Most likely, a space heater will not even change your skin tan if you sit in front of it for years.

So, if you want to get a tan indoors, you have to look out for something else than a space heater.

can you get a tan from a space heater - tanned hand

How to get a tan indoors

Getting a tan indoors is actually a lot easier than you think. You already have all the knowledge you need: You need some kind of UV light source.

Indoor tanning actually makes a lot of sense. Not only do you get the tan you wish for, but your body also produces vitamin D, a healthy vitamin that protects you from all kinds of sicknesses and improves your health.

Luckily, there are alternative sources of UV light. You don’t always have to go out and sunbathe. That would be impractical during the wintertime anyway.

To get a tan indoors, I’ve found the most practical (and affordable) way is to get an indoor tanning lamp.

Here’s the one I recommend:

These UV tanning lamps work not by generating huge amounts of heat (like the sun), but by electrically exciting mercury atoms in the lamp which in term emits UV light. This is very energy efficient (compared to generating insane sun-like amounts of heat).

Conclusion – Can you get a Tan from a Space Heater?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but space heaters don’t get you tanned, because they don’t emit any UV light. A UV light is the only light that can tan you.

Instead of looking for a heater that can tan you, you should rather look out for UV tanning lamps – the only devices that really work for indoor tanning.

I hope I could help you out with this post! Feel free to share it with your friends, especially with those who use a space heater to get a tan – it doesn’t work!

Attributions: title image by evil erin and tanned hand image by katiebordner

About the Author

Daniel Hirsch

Daniel is an electrical engineer, blogger, and author. He studied electrical engineering and information technology and decided to blog about heaters after working in the temperature sensing industry.