Baylor Researcher Seeks to Understand the Drive for the Perfect TanJuly 21, 20232 min read
Despite being one of the most preventable cancers, the desirability of tanning is often stronger than the dangers of harmful UV exposure.
With summer on the horizon, the quest for the perfect tan has begun. However, there is no such thing as a healthy tan. Despite being one of the most preventable cancers, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with more than 5 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Baylor University researcher Jay Yoo, Ph.D., associate professor of apparel merchandising in Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, found that the social and cultural influences on the desirability of tanning – which has been associated with good health and an active lifestyle since the 1920s – is often stronger than the dangers of harmful UV exposure.
“The appeal of a tan is so strong in U.S. culture, it may be difficult for some people to stop or even reduce the amount of tanning,” Yoo said.
In his 2019 study, “Identifying factors that influence individuals’ intentions to quit body tanning: A sociocultural perspective,”, published in the international journal Social Behavior and Personality, Yoo identified what motivates people to seek the “perfect” tan.
Yoo surveyed 385 college students to understand how society effects their tanning behaviors and intention to quit tanning. His research found that the greatest influence on reducing risky tanning behavior was the perceived attractiveness from tanning, whereas skin-aging concerns positively influence their intention to quit tanning.
Yoo’s findings provide important implications for skin cancer prevention campaigns. Instead of promoting the message of body tanning as an unhealthy behavior, focusing instead on untanned healthy bodies as a positive image can serve as an effective approach to decreasing skin cancer incidence. Using messages that accentuate a healthy body without tanned skin should be promoted to boost a positive body image and to reduce the likelihood of engaging in risky tanning behaviors.
- To protect yourself and look great, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends:
- Avoid tanning entirely: It’s the best way to safeguard against unhealthy, unsightly skin damage.
- Fake, don’t bake: If you want a golden glow, consider sunless tanning products. There are many options, but remember, when in the sun, you still need sun protection.
- Tone, don’t tan: Get radiant skin through exercise. Working out feels good and boosts your mood.
- Hydrate and eat great: Drink lots of water and choose whole, unprocessed foods. You don’t need to tan to look slim and your skin will thank you.
Jay Yoo, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Apparel Merchandising
Fashion merchandising and apparel expert specializing in appearance-related behaviors and individual social well-being.