Tanners who use sprays and lotions less prone to get tattoos and piercings than sunbathers

December 4, 2017, Baylor University

People who often sunbathe or use tanning beds are more likely to try risky weight-loss methods and have cosmetic surgery, as well as get tattoos and piercings. But while people who seldom tan also may try unsafe diets and cosmetic surgery, they rarely opt for tattoos or piercings, according to a Baylor University study.

"When compared to infrequent tanners, frequent body-tanners—regardless of whether they are tanned by from the sun, ultraviolet light from a tanning bed or methods such as tanning sprays that do not involve UV light—showed significantly higher behavioral intentions to engage in risky appearance-related behaviors overall," said Jay Yoo, Ph.D., associate professor of family and in Baylor's College of Health and Human Sciences.

"Safer tanners, on the other hand, are more concerned about modifying their bodies in ways such as tattoos and piercing that may carry a stigma," Yoo said.

Most campaigns have emphasized avoidance of getting sunburned, reducing UV exposure and applying sunscreen, but they have neglected the individual's experience with social and appearance concerns, he said.

But "Excessive tanning can serve as a possible sign of overt concern over body image, with vulnerability to greater health risks," Yoo said.

His research article—"A Study of the Relationships between Tanning Methods and the Intention to Engage in Risky Appearance-Related Behaviors"—is published in Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal. Data for the study was collected from an online survey of 395 female college students in the southern United States. (Read this story online at Tanning and Tattoos.)

The major contributor to skin cancer is frequent exposure to ultraviolet rays, with skin cancer the most common—and one of the most preventable—types of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Ironically, previous research has found that many people choose to tan because they believe a tan makes them look thinner and more fit, Yoo said.

Tanning has gone in and out of fashion, Yoo noted. Tans at one time were associated with lower classes who worked outdoors—in contrast with the Southern belles of more than a century ago, who used parasols to protect their skin and to look pale and refined.

In the 1920s, fashion designer Coco Chanel started a fad after accidentally getting sunburned while visiting the French Riviera, Yoo said. Tanning remained popular, with high-fashion models often sporting tans, whether from UV exposure or sprays and bronzers. And these days, some people sport tattoos along with their tans, he said.

The study found that:

  • Frequent tanners who expose themselves to UV rays through sunbathing or tanning beds have the strongest intentions to engage in a wider range of risky appearance-related behaviors when compared to infrequent tanners or spray tanners. Such behaviors include extreme weight control methods, such as diet pills, self-induced vomiting, laxatives and diuretics; and Botox injections; spa treatments, such as hair removal by waxing (which has been associated with rashes and infections) and gel nail polish (done with UV curing and associated with DNA damage to the skin that can result in premature aging and possibly cancer; and tattoos or piercings.
  • Infrequent tanners, as well as "safe" tanners who seek to achieve an ideal tan without ultraviolet methods (sprays, lotions or bronzers) are much less likely to engage in behaviors that may convey certain stereotypes, such as tattoos or piercings with visual symbols or messages. But they are willing to try other risky appearance-related behaviors.

Yoo suggested that intervention strategies adapted for healthcare providers to reduce UV exposure and could use stigmatization—perhaps through images of tattooed or pierced individuals who also are tanned.

"A negative stigma attached to UV exposure can create ambivalence in our society about achieving a tanned appearance," Yoo said. "This could decrease the popularity of tanning in much the same way the negative stereotyping of smoking and education about its health risks have reduced the number of people who smoke."

He noted that in the 1940s and 1950s, smoking was idealized, especially in Hollywood movies, but "there has been a cultural shift," he said.

"One way to change the appeal of tanning would be to make it un-cool," Yoo said. "If I tan and people look at me funny, I'm not going to tan anymore."

While another way to stigmatize tanning would be to stress the health consequences, "for young people it may be more effective to emphasize the appearance," Yoo said. "The tanning that makes me attractive now may be counteracted for the long haul because at 50 or 60, I may have leathery skin.

"Given that tanning emerged as a fashion trend, gradual attitudes toward dangerous can be made possible in a similar fashion," he said.

Explore further: Tanning beds and risky behavior linked—in men

Related Stories

Tanning beds and risky behavior linked—in men

November 2, 2017
Even though men use tanning beds at lower rates than women, men who tan tend to do it in riskier ways, according to a study by researchers at the University of Connecticut. The findings should help public health officials ...

Indoor tanning dependency common in young women, especially in those with depression

October 19, 2017
A survey of young, white women who have used indoor tanning at least once in the past year showed that more than one in five of them have signs of being addicted to the high dose of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning ...

What do we know about adults who indoor tan in private homes?

September 22, 2016
A small percentage of individuals who indoor tan, a pastime associated with skin cancer, do so in private homes. Why do they do it? A research letter published online by JAMA Dermatology attempts to answer that question.

Study shows risk of skin cancer doesn't deter most college students who tan indoors

January 10, 2017
White female college students in Indiana who tan indoors know they are placing themselves at risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging, but most continue to tan indoors anyway, according to a study conducted by researchers ...

Young women hold the key to success of 'sunless tanning' products, researcher finds

May 10, 2013
Sunless tanning—whether with lotions, bronzers or tanning pills—has been promoted as an effective substitute to dodge the health risks of ultraviolet rays, but if the products don't provide the perfect tan, young women ...

Recommended for you

Self-lubricating latex could boost condom use: study

October 17, 2018
A perpetually unctuous, self-lubricating latex developed by a team of scientists in Boston could boost the use of condoms, they reported Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

How healthy will we be in 2040?

October 17, 2018
A new scientific study of forecasts and alternative scenarios for life expectancy and major causes of death in 2040 shows all countries are likely to experience at least a slight increase in lifespans. In contrast, one scenario ...

Study finds evidence of intergenerational transmission of trauma among ex-POWs from the Civil War

October 16, 2018
A trio of researchers affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research has found evidence that suggests men who were traumatized while POWs during the U.S. Civil War transmitted that trauma to their offspring—many ...

Father's nicotine use can cause cognitive problems in children and grandchildren

October 16, 2018
A father's exposure to nicotine may cause cognitive deficits in his children and even grandchildren, according to a study in mice publishing on October 16 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Pradeep Bhide of Florida ...

Many supplements contain unapproved, dangerous ingredients: study

October 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—U.S. health officials have issued more than 700 warnings during the last decade about the sale of dietary supplements that contain unapproved and potentially dangerous drug ingredients, new research reveals.

Age at which women experience their first period is linked to their sons' age at puberty

October 12, 2018
The age at which young women experience their first menstrual bleeding is linked to the age at which their sons start puberty, according to the largest study to investigate this association in both sons and daughters.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.