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22-12-2011 | Article

Sunbathing outmoded as fake tanning gains popularity


Free abstract

MedWire News: The use of sunless tanning products results in less exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from natural sunshine or tanning beds, a survey of female university students shows.

The findings are "encouraging" and suggest that while the women's desire for tanned skin remains strong, they are seeking safer alternatives to UV-radiation tanning methods, comment the researchers.

"As the appearance of sunless tanning product tans continues to be improved, sunless tanning products carry the potential to further decrease intentional UV radiation exposure and, subsequently, the risk of UV radiation-related skin cancer," write Dr Suephy Chen (Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia) and fellow researchers.

Dr Chen's team undertook a survey of 415 women attending Emory University to evaluate the use of sunless tanning products ("fake tan" lotions and creams) and tanning behaviors.

They found that nearly half of the women had used fake tan at least once in the past year. Most women had self-applied the products while just one in 10 had them professionally applied.

Women of all ages reported using fake tan but the products were more popular in those aged 18-25 years than in older women. Women who were naturally paler in complexion and those who had been diagnosed with skin cancer were also more likely to use sunless tanning products.

Seven out of 10 women also reported sunbathing, one-quarter said they used sunbeds, and one-quarter tanned with both natural and artificial UV rays.

Encouragingly, however, more than one-third of women who used fake tan said they had reduced their exposure to sunlight and how often they used sunbeds, report the researchers.

Finally, almost all of the women surveyed said they thought that tanned skin was more attractive than untanned skin and eight out of 10 said they felt better about themselves when they were tanned.

Dr Chen and colleagues conclude that the desire for tanned skin remains strong despite growing awareness of the dangers of UV radiation exposure. Nevertheless, their survey offers reassurance that women are increasingly turning to the use of sunless tanning products and at the same time decreasing their exposure to more harmful UV radiation.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford