We also learned that the majority of Australian adults still perceive sun-tanned skin as beautiful and many reported that being sun-tanned increased their self-confidence. This was reported mostly by women and people in the younger (21-30 years) age-group. Sun-tanned skin was considered as looking healthier than pale skin by 15% of respondents. Though there is some understanding that experiencing sunburn has a negative effect on our skin in terms of aging and skin cancer risk, there appears to be less understanding about the dangers of sun tanning. A suntan is our skin’s way of trying to protect itself by trying to stop more damaging sunlight getting in. Developing a suntan is your skin’s way of showing that it’s been hurt and preparing to protect itself from further injury. We did not look at the reason underlying these preferences for sun tans in this study, but it’s possible that the strong social “norms” favouring tanning may be promoted by implicit messages from the depiction of sun-tanned models, celebrities and sporting role models in the media. The best way to keep your skin safe is staying out of the sun when the sun’s intensity is greatest (when the UV index is highest), wearing protective clothing including sunglasses, hats and long sleeves and regularly applying broad spectrum high factor (SPF50+) sunscreen to exposed areas.
Dr Charlotte Thomas
Dermatology Research Fellow The Skin Hospital