Gen Z would ‘rather die hot than live ugly’ as they revive tanning bed trend

Gen Z youths are bringing back tanning, much to the chagrin of older generations who learned too late of the damages inflicted by sun-beds, UV rays and tanning oils.

Despite the wealth of information available about the health risks of tanning, like premature ageing and skin cancer, the skincare obsessed generation is, ironically, flocking to tanning beds, The New York Post reports. This comes amid a revival of other Y2K trends – just look at cigarettes – reminiscent of the early aughts era of “Gym, Tan, Laundry” and heart-shaped “tan tattoos”.

According to recent data from the American Academy of Dermatology, 20 per cent of Gen Zers believe that being tanned is more important than protecting themselves from skin cancer, and 30 per cent admitted that they would rather look “great” today with a tan, “even if it means looking worse later in life”.

TikTok user Hollie Evelyn once said she would “rather die hot than live ugly”, a sentiment that is echoed by thousands on the platform who hawk tanning tips and tricks under the tag #sun-bed, while the tag #tanning has amassed over four billion views.

Twenty-six-year-old Holly Reardon, who said being tanned makes her feel thinner and prettier, has been inundated with tanning content on her social media feeds, telling The Washington Post that she “wouldn’t care” so much about looking sun-kissed if she “didn’t have social media”.

Sabrina, a 24-year-old New Yorker whose name was changed for anonymity, went in a tanning bed for the first time when she was just 16. She told Nylon that her mum insisted she needed a “base” tan to avoid a sunburn on their tropical vacation – a theory that has been debunked by experts. However, her habit continued in college, where her gym offered free tanning beds with a membership.

For Sabrina, being bronzed – which has long been regarded as a status symbol, linked to the privilege of poolside lounging, holidays and abundant wealth – is tied to beauty.

“If I’m feeling ugly, I will focus more on tanning because I just get more compliments when I’m tan,” she told Nylon.

“Obviously, I’m worried about the health risks, but I smoke cigarettes and I never wear sunscreen.”

Tanning – by either bed or beach – accelerates signs of ageing like wrinkles, spots and lack of elasticity and also increases the risk of skin cancer. Indoor tanning increases the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 58 per cent and basal cell carcinoma by 24 per cent, and can cause melanoma – of which Australia has the highest rates in the world.

“There is no such thing as a healthy tan if your tan is from a tanning bed or exposure to the sun,” Texas-based dermatologist, Dr Jennifer Holman, told Yahoo News.

Unlike the heyday of bronzed complexions 20 years ago, there are more products than ever that provide the same sun-kissed glow without skin damage – no UV rays, no problem.

“Year after year, we continue to see so much innovation in self-tanning and bronzing products,” Penny Coy, an Ulta Beauty executive who works in merchandising, told The Washington Post.

While spray tans are one complexion-conscious option, mists, drops, powders, creams, mousses, oils and sprays – not to mention the mitts, brushes and applicators required to achieve a seamless, streakless glow – line the shelves at chemists, beauty stores and supermarkets for tan addicts to get their fix.

And yet, even with the cutting-edge products on the market, Gen Z still touts sun-beds despite their dangers – even associating tanning with an aesthetic of health.

“I feel like I look healthier, so that makes me happier,” Sara Shammout, a 23-year-old student and founder of the tan-accelerating cream brand Bronzed by Carrot, told The Washington Post.

Some people also believe that tanning booths offer more benefits than a bronze glow. When Kim Kardashian, for one, boasted about her in-office sun-bed in a widely-criticised video posted to social media, her fans speculated that it may be used to treat her psoriasis.

Experts, however, have debunked the belief that tanning beds can quell the symptoms of skin conditions, as it is not the same as medicinal light therapy used by clinicians due to the notable lack of UVB rays emissions, which are necessary for the body to make vitamin D and are more effective at treating certain conditions than the UVA rays in sun-beds.

Beauty writer and critic Jessica DeFino argues that social standards are forcing people to contort themselves for the sake of beauty, and place aesthetics over wellbeing by any means necessary. If they truly cared about leading a healthy lifestyle like their appearance would suggest, she said, they wouldn’t dare enter a tanning booth.

“Projecting the right image is more important to people than living the type of the life that that image suggests,” DeFino said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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