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Women's use of self-tanners may cut down on UV radiation exposure

December 20, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Using self-tanners may compel women to not seek out the sun or tanning beds as much, a study finds.
Using self-tanners may compel women to not seek out the sun or tanning beds… (Lionel Cironneau / Associated…)

Self-tanning products might be keeping women from hitting the beach and tanning beds and courting dangerous UV radiation exposure, a study finds.

A study released online Monday in the Archives of Dermatology surveyed 415 women about their use of self-tanners and how often they tanned under the sun or in tanning beds in the previous year, plus their attitudes toward tanned skin.

While some health experts hail self-tanners as a safer alternative than tanning via the sun and beds, others worry that using the product compels people to seek out those conventional and harmful methods more often.

Among the women surveyed, 48.4% used self-tanning products at least once in the previous year. In addition, 70.6% tanned in the sun, 26% used tanning beds and 25.3% did both.

But among women who used tanning products and sunned themselves, 36.8% said they had cut back on tanning in the sun because they were using self-tanners. Among those who used the products along with tanning beds, 38% said they reduced their use of the devices.

Tanned skin was highly prized among the study participants -- 92.7% of them felt that bronzed skin is more attractive than pale and 79.2% of them said they felt better when they had some color.

What compelled them to use self-tanners in the first place? Women viewed them as safer than getting tan via the sun or tanning beds, and they were afraid of getting wrinkles.

The study authors noted that a history of skin cancer, regular use of tanning beds or sun tanning, and feeling better about oneself after tanning were among the predictors of self-tanning product use.

The percentage of self-tanning product users was higher in this study than in previous ones, the authors said, but they added it may be because almost half of the participants were sorority members at a university.

The authors were encouraged by the drop in actual tanning among women who used self-tanning products. "If we can persuade them to use STPs periodically or before special occasions, when they may otherwise choose to visit a tanning bed or a sunny beach," they wrote, "we may be able to significantly alter UV [radiation] tanning behaviors."

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