Youths Use Self-Tanning Products and Tanning Beds


The risk of skin cancer is linked to the exposure to UV radiation (UVR), both outdoor and indoor. Tanned skin is often perceived as more desirable. A safe alternative to UV tanned skin is sunless tanning products.

Sunless tanning product use is increasing

Among US adults, 11-22% report having used sunless tanning products. What about teenagers? A new study published in the Archives of Dermatology sought to answer that question.

Vilma E. Cokkinides, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society, Atlanta, and colleagues conducted The Sun Survey from July 1 through October 30, 2004 using a telephone-based survey and random-digit-dialing methods. A total of 160o youths and 1589 primary caregiver paired interviews using nearly identical questionnaires were done with an overall response rate of 44.0%.

The Sun Survey assessed the use of sunless tanning products by the adolescents in the past year, along with details about demographics, skin type, attitudes and perceptions of sunless tanning and other sun-related behaviors.


Among the teens surveyed, 10.8% reported using sunless tanning products in the past year. Approximated 14% of their parents used them. Self-reporting youth users of these products tended to be older and female, to perceive a tanned appearance as desirable, to have a parent or caregiver who also used these products and to hold positive beliefs or attitudes about them.

Cokkinides and colleagues report the adolescents user of sunless tanning products did not appear to use them to prevent UV exposure, but to give a more tanned appearance. The researchers found these adolescents were just as likely to use indoor tanning beds, have had sunburns in the previous summer, and not routinely use sunscreen.

Cokkinides and colleagues write "Adolescents, therefore, must be educated about these products and the importance of avoiding indoor tanning and practicing sun-protective behaviors."

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"Use of Sunless Tanning Products Among US Adolescents Aged 11 to 18 Years"; Vilma E. Cokkinides, PhD; Priti Bandi, MS; Martin A. Weinstock, MD, PhD; Elizabeth Ward, PhD; Arch Dermatol. 2010;146(9):987-992. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2010.220