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Dermatologists Give Young Adults Something to Tweet About:
Tanning is Out

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (May 14, 2012) – Despite the fact that young adults are generally in constant communication via social media and texting, a new survey finds many in this age group are not getting the message that there is no such thing as a safe tan.

The survey, conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), determined that young adults are not aware of the dangers of tanning beds and how to properly protect their skin from sun damage.


  • Nearly one-half (45 percent) of young adult respondents agreed with the statement ‘I prefer to enjoy sunshine and not worry about what I should do to protect myself from it.’ compared with one-third of overall respondents.
  • Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of young adults were either unaware or unsure that tanning beds are not safer than the sun.
  • Only 35 percent of young adult respondents 18-29 knew that a base tan is not a healthy way to protect skin from sun damage.
  • Three in 10 (31 percent) young adults were either unsure or did not know that sun exposure can cause wrinkles.

“It’s troubling that so many young adults do not fully understand the consequences of tanning – whether from tanning beds or natural sunlight – particularly in light of the trend of more young people developing skin cancer,” said board-certified dermatologist Amanda Friedrichs, MD, FAAD. “Our survey confirmed that age was highly associated with use of tanning beds, as respondents ages 18-29 years old were much more likely as those over age 30 to report using a tanning bed.”

For young adults who insist on looking tan, Dr. Friedrichs recommends using a self-tanner rather than exposing one’s skin to harmful ultraviolet radiation. While in the past self-tanners had a reputation of turning skin orange, streaking and splotching, Dr. Friedrichs offered these basic tips for applying a self-tanner to get even coverage and longer-lasting results:

  • Exfoliate. Prior to applying a self-tanner, use a washcloth to exfoliate the skin. Using an exfoliating product also will help remove the dead skin cells. Spend a little more time exfoliating where the skin is thickest, such as the ankles, knees and elbows.
  • Dry the skin. Drying your skin before you apply a self-tanner helps it go on evenly.
  • Apply in sections. Apply the self-tanner in sections, such as the arms, legs and torso. Massage the sunless tanner into the skin with a uniform circular motion. Lightly extend the tanner from the wrists to the hands and from the ankles to the feet, taking care not to treat the entire hands and feet, such as the palms and soles. Wash and dry your hands after applying self-tanner to each body part to avoid tanning your palms.
  • Dilute tanner on joints. Dilute the self-tanner on the knees, ankles and elbows since these areas tend to absorb more self-tanner than the rest of the skin. To dilute, lightly rub these areas with a damp towel or apply a lotion.
  • Allow time to dry. Wait at least 10 minutes before getting dressed. It is best to wear loose clothing and try to avoid sweating for the next three hours.

“While self-tanning products will make you tan, it is important to remember that you still need to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when you are outdoors,” said Dr. Friedrichs. “While self-tanners are a safe alternative to tanning, people need to be vigilant about protecting the skin from sun exposure and avoid indoor tanning to reduce their risk of skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.” 

Dr. Friedrichs’ tips are demonstrated in Self-Tanner: How to Apply, a video posted to the Academy website and the Academy’s YouTube channel. This video is the first in the Dermatology A to Z: Video Series, which offers relatable videos that demonstrate tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series will be posted to the Academy website and the YouTube channel each month, beginning in May 2012.


  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for teens and young adults 15-29 years old.
  • Melanoma is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than males in the same age group.
  • It is estimated that there will be about 131,810 new cases of melanoma in 2012 – 55,560 noninvasive (in situ) and 76,250 invasive (44,250 men and 32,000 women).
  • Exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma, especially in women aged 45 years or younger.
    • In females 15-29 years old, the torso/trunk is the most common location for developing melanoma, which may be due to high-risk tanning behaviors.

In an effort to increase the public’s understanding of skin cancer and motivate people to change their behavior to prevent and detect skin cancer, the Academy launched the new SPOT Skin Cancer™ public awareness initiative this May. The campaign’s simple tagline – “Prevent. Detect. Live.” – focuses on the positive actions people can take to protect themselves from skin cancer, including seeing a dermatologist when appropriate.

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month®. Also debuting on Melanoma Monday® is the SPOT Skin Cancer™ program’s new website – – where visitors can learn how to perform a skin self-exam, download a body mole map for tracking changes in your skin, and find free skin cancer screenings in their area. Those affected by skin cancer also can share their story via the website and download free materials to educate others in their community.

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Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 17,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or Follow the Academy on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology) or Twitter (@AADskin).

About the Academy’s Survey
The survey was conducted by Relevant Research, Inc. of Chicago from December 29, 2011, to January 4, 2012. A total of 1,151 adults age 18 and older completed the online survey. Data were weighted by sex, age, race/ethnicity and education level based on the US Census Current Population Survey (released December 2011).