We Are Sunshine


Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Smart Tan Concepts Promote Sun Care Most Effectively

Smart Tan coined the term “sun scare” in 1996 to define the practice of overstating the easily manageable risks of UV exposure in an attempt to market products or change behavior. An important caveat to this discussion is the fact that Smart Tan supports intelligent efforts to help people use many of these same products and services to prevent sunburn. But sun scare messages go beyond the facts in attempts to frighten people about any sun exposure.

  • Since the mid 1980s there has been increased emphasis worldwide on the importance of teaching proper sun care habits. While the core message behind teaching sun care is legitimate and necessary, much of recent public discussion about sun care falls in the category of over-stated hyperbole that Smart Tan refers to as “sun scare.”


  • Whereas the correct spirit of sun care means teaching people to minimize the risks of overexposure to sunlight while still allowing them to take advantage of the benefits of regular exposure to the sun, “sun scare” stretches the science beyond the data, creating an all-out marketing blitz to unnecessarily scare people about any sun exposure.
  • The science of photobiology suggests that sunburn is the significant UV-related risk factor in skin damage. There is a lack of data to strongly support the position that UV exposure in a non-burning fashion significantly increases the risk of permanent skin damage.
  • Products and services designed to protect people from excessive sun exposure are a multi-billion-dollar business group controlled by a small number of large players. There is more money made scaring people out of the sun than there is getting people to enjoy sunshine responsibly. Sun care products and services are legitimate when the public is properly educated about their correct usage. Unfortunately, marketing has driven the science in recent years, overstating the risks of regular sun exposure and ignoring or denying that there are any benefits. This combination results in fear-based marketing initiatives to scare people about sun exposure, or “sun scare.”

Sun scare purveyors, many of whom have the right intentions, often say the wrong thing the wrong way for the right reasons. The fact that the intention – to reduce skin damage – is right does not give them a free pass to obscure the facts and ignore conflicting data, as they often do. For example:

  1. Since the mid-1990s, dermatology industry leaders have maintained that there were no known health benefits of regular sun exposure. This position is totally non-defendable and ignores volumes of research to the contrary. There is plenty of well-researched material documenting the positive physiological and psychological effects of UV exposure, and this research is growing in stature.
  2. Dermatology industry leaders, in efforts to increase awarenes about sun care, have clearly overstated the risks associated with UV exposure. For example, dermatology industry leaders have gone on record advocating daily use of sunscreen 365 days a year in all climates. This is clearly misbranding the product in seasons and climates where sunburn is not a possibility. Further, this over-use of sunscreen completely prevents the body from naturally manufacturing vitamin D.
  3. Dermatology industry leaders have maintained that an indoor tan does not protect against sunburn outdoors. This contention is also non-defendable. A tan is the body’s natural protection against sunburn and indoor tanners are proven to sunburn less often outdoors than non-tanners. Further, there are millions of individuals who every year tan indoors prior to sunny vacations or summertime activities to develop protective base tans. Combined with the proper use of sunscreen outdoors, these base tans help to prevent sunburn. Denying this is ignoring millions of case studies.
  4. Dermatology industry leaders, in attempts to scare people out of the sun, often have compared tanning to smoking cigarettes, making the statement that indoor tanning is like a cigarette for your skin. This hyperbole is fear-based marketing that is fundamentally flawed. On one level, comparing the numbers is ridiculous. Smoking is related to 20 percent of all deaths in the United States and 30 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. What’s more, lung cancer rates are 22 times higher for current male smokers and 12 times higher for current female smokers. In contrast, 18 of 22 studies ever conducted on indoor tanning and melanoma have shown no connection at all, and the four that have alleged small increases in risk have all contained unexplained statistical anomalies.
  5. On another level, smoking introduces substances into your body that your body is not designed to process. In contrast, your body IS designed to process UV light, and in fact is reliant on UV exposure for natural body functions. To compare tanning to smoking ignores this fundamental difference: One is a vice, and one is a natural body process.

For more information, visit – Smart Tan’s consumer information web site.