Although cosmetic tanning and unprotected solar exposure are common, little is known about general attitudes, beliefs and behaviour regarding the use of sunbeds. We sought to determine the frequency of sunbed use in a select sample and to assess the knowledge and beliefs regarding this behaviour. A self-administered anonymous questionnaire was distributed to a sample of 648 employees working for Bradford Hospitals NHS Trust. The questionnaire explored demographic information (including hair and skin type, family history with skin cancer), frequency of sunbed use, knowledge about the risks of UV exposure and motivations for practising this behaviour. Four hundred and eighteen women and 52 men completed the questionnaire, making a response rate of 73%. Nearly half of respondents (207; 44%) reported using sunbeds to some extent; of these 12% reported frequent use. Appearance (‘to look better’) was the most popular reason given by respondents for using sunbeds, followed by ‘feel healthy’. Frequency of using sunbeds was found to be negatively correlated with the age of respondents and the existence of family experience with skin cancer, and strongly associated with the opinion that it is safer to use a sunbed than sunbathing outdoors, the female sex and smoking. It is clear from this study that the psychological factors that influence sunbed use are complex and that so far public education campaigns have had little impact on it. This study highlights some of these psychological factors.