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Is Sunbathing Trendy Again? New Study Says So + How To Get A Safe Tan

Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor By Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Is Sunbathing In Again? New Study Says So + How To Get A Safe Tan
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Sunbathing may produce a bronzy glow for some, but unfortunately, the lingering effects of that tan are not so pretty. You may think this is common knowledge (sunburns, and all), but a recent study from the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) reveals that's not quite the case. 

What the survey showed. 

In a recent survey of more than 1,000 adults in the United States, the AAD declared that Gen-Z adults (aka, individuals between the ages of 18 and 25) lack proper sun protection knowledge and are unaware of the adverse effects of getting a suntan. 

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According to the survey, many of the Gen-Z respondents did not know that tanning is harmful to the skin whatsoever, as 38% thought that a suntan is safe as long as the skin doesn't get burned. Further, the survey showed that 60% of individuals got a tan in 2021, and 27% were under the impression that having a "base tan" (the first tan of the season) decreases the risk of developing skin cancer. 

This could not be more false: "There is no such thing as a safe tan," board-certified dermatologist and YouTube creator Andrea Suarez, M.D., FAAD, once shared with mbg. "Tanning is an injury response to UV rays from the sun. The same rays that tan the skin also lead to permanent skin injury, premature skin aging, and increased skin cancer risk."

The survey also included questions related to sunscreen application, function, and overall sun protection, resulting in the following stats: 

  • 54% believe an SPF 30 offers twice as much protection as SPF 15.
  • 49% didn't know you can get sunburned on a cloudy day.
  • 39% say high SPF can be applied less frequently.
  • 37% didn't know that the sun's UV rays can penetrate clothing.
  • 30% didn't know that shade protects a person from UV rays.
  • 23% didn't know sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours when outdoors.
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How to practice safe sun. 

Some may argue that the only way to practice safe sun is to avoid it entirely, but that's not realistic (or enjoyable) for many people. Let's not forget that the sun influences our circadian rhythms and has the ability to influence mental well-being. That said, you can still enjoy the sun and get a tan without subjecting yourself to excessive damage if you start taking sun care seriously. 

Get the most out of your SPF. 

If you're an avid sunscreen lover, you may be shocked that studies show only 11% of Americans wear sunscreen daily. Wearing SPF on your face and any sun-exposed skin is the best practice to avoid sun damage. 

You'll also want to reapply sunscreen every two hours if you're outdoors: This means walking outside on a sunny day, sitting with the sun on your face through a window, etc. If you're getting in and out of the water, you should reapply more often. 

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Opt for a self-tanner instead. 

One of the main reasons people choose to suntan is to achieve a bronzed, beachy aesthetic. We don't blame you: Sometimes the glow is irresistible. That being said, there are plenty of safer ways to go about achieving that sun-kissed look—like self-tanner. 

There is a growing number of natural self-tanners on the market today that will help you secure a glow, sans sun damage. Better yet, we put together a list with some of our top picks so you don't have to spend time searching high and low for the best clean and natural options.

If you're looking to get started with self-tanning, these five tips will also help your tan look better and last longer, so you can get the most out of your product and master the art of safe tanning. 

The takeaway. 

The AAD's recent study shows that sun care is not necessarily common knowledge, particularly among Gen-Z individuals. If you're looking to spend time in the sun, be sure to get the most out of your sunscreen and be mindful of reapplication throughout the day. If it's the golden glow you're after, opt for natural self-tanners for the same look. And if you want to start practicing safe sun, check out this story for the 101 on all things sun care

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