We Are Sunshine

TODAY’S HEADLINE STORY: Beauty magazine’s most recent attack on indoor tanning includes outright lies

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Cosmopolitan Magazine — propped up by millions of dollars of anti-sun-driven advertising — lied in its September magazine about vitamin D science in a desperate attempt to slow down increasing public awareness of how regular UV exposure is related to natural vitamin D levels.

2008-08-13-more-cosmo-lies-copy1.jpg“The magazine said it was ‘outraged’ that the indoor tanning community could suggest that UV light is natural,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “How ironic: It’s outrageous that they could lie and misrepresent science, omit confounding information and mislead readers in order to prop up their ridiculous position that people should wear sunscreen 365 days a year — overusing all their advertiser’s products. Their off-base attack takes on an air of desperation.”

Cosmo was responding to the Indoor Tanning Association’s 2008 publicity campaign. The magazine’s lies and mis-statements:

  • Lie 1: You don’t need sunlight to get the vitamin D you need. “In fact, it doesn’t require ANY UV exposure at all,” Cosmo wrote. Trouble is: That isn’t accurate. Humans make 90 percent of their vitamin D from sun exposure, and vitamin D scientists are now pointing to much higher vitamin D levels that, research has shown, cannot be maintained naturally by diet alone. “Cosmo is misleading people into thinking that supplements are the natural way to make vitamin D, when in fact they are just that: supplements,” Levy said. “Vitamin D is called ‘the sunshine vitamin’ for a reason.”
  • Lie 2: If you don’t want to swallow your vitamin D, you can get it from 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure three times a week.
    Trouble is: That sort of one-size-fits-all recommendation – no matter how many dermatologists may be uttering it these days — isn’t grounded in any science and has many confounding variables. People with dark skin may need 10 times more UV to make the same amount of vitamin D as a light-skinned person. Skin also becomes less-efficient at making vitamin D as you age. And, depending on where you live, the sun can be more- or less-intense. And “Vitamin D Winter” — the time in which sunlight is too weak to spur vitamin D production at all — lasts four to six months in northern climates.
  • Lie 3: One cup of fortified milk has 25 percent of your daily vitamin D recommendation.
    Trouble is: Vitamin D researchers are now calling for much higher daily vitamin D recommendations and studies have shown that many samples of non-fat milk don’t actually contain any vitamin D by the time it reaches the consumer (vitamin D is fat-soluble.) The key that Cosmo downplays: the word “fortified”. Vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in milk. Milk is irradiated with UV light to get its vitamin D.
  • Lie 4: Cosmo conveniently misrepresents what is known about melanoma, suggesting that it “can be found on” body parts that aren’t regularly exposed to the sun.
    Trouble is: What they SHOULD say is that it is “most common” on body parts that don’t get regular UV exposure.
  • Lie 5: Cosmo says a base tan will not protect you from sun damage.
    Trouble is: A tan is nature’s sunscreen — it is something your body is designed to do. Cosmo’s advertisers all benefit from misrepresenting this fact. “There is no evidence that tanning in a non-burning fashion is a significant risk factor for anything,” Levy said. “No study has ever isolated non-burning exposure as a significant risk factor.”
  • Lie 6: Cosmo says people who first used tanning beds in their teens and 20s have a 75 percent higher risk of getting melanoma later in life, citing an analysis by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
    Trouble is: Further analysis of that IARC paper shows that — if you remove Skin Type I people from this study, the data do not show an elevated risk for tanners verses non-tanners.