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Pale is the new tanned...or is it?

04-Aug-2009
Last updated on 04-Aug-2009 at 18:56 GMT

The announcement that sunbeds are as carcinogenic as cigarettes was seen by many as proof that the fashion for a tan is fading, but preparations for a revolutionary rush on very high SPF factors may not be necessary.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a daughter of the World Health Organisation, upgraded the risk of sunbeds from ‘probably carcinogenic’ to ‘carcinogenic to humans’ last week.

Resulting articles in the mainstream press this week have forecast the revival of the pale beauties of centuries past and championed the mantra ‘the only safe tan is a fake tan’. According to one British newspaper, the tan is no longer fashionable.

Although this official recognition of the risks of UV emitting tanning devices is likely to be bad news for sun bed owners, it is unlikely to lead to the revolution in consumer behaviour that has been predicted.

Being tanned still remains a beauty goal for many consumers regardless of widespread recognition of the risks associated with UV exposure, and it is unclear when, or even if, this is going to change.

In addition, consumers are increasingly voicing concerns over the role sun exposure plays in vitamin D production and how extensive, all over sunscreen use could lead to its deficiency.

According to a recent survey from skin and sun care brand Neutrogena, a third of Americans are ‘somewhat concerned’ that sunblocks will lead to vitamin D deficiency.

Earlier this week Environmental Working Group (EWG) placed the blame for vitamin D deficient children at the door of FDA and the fact the regulator is dragging its feet over sunscreen regulations.

According to EWG, FDA currently advises against sun exposure between 10am and 4pm, rather than proposing a ten minute exposure like the American Medical Association.

In addition, EWG said the FDA has failed to finalise the UVA standards and allows sunscreens that block only UVB rays which according to the consumer group is the radiation needed to produce vitamin D.

Although the link between the FDA’s behavior over sunscreens and vitamin D deficiency in children seems tenuous, the EWG’s statements will do little to promote the use of sunscreens and are likely to fuel fears that thorough application of sunscreens on all exposed skin will lead to vitamin D deficiency.

Industry should not ignore consumer concerns of this kind.

Guidelines about the length of time in the sun needed to produce the necessary vitamin D, as well as education over its presence in food and supplements may help negate some of the fears.

And, above all, industry should not assume that further recognition of the dangers of UV exposure will lead to a new breed of pale consumers hungry for the high SPF factors.

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