Just when you thought people were hip to the dangers of sun damage and skin cancer, you hear a social media trend sure to leave doctors and parents horrified. The idea of deliberately applying sunscreen in specific patterns to create doodles or “art” on your skin is something we have seen before but for some reason “sunburn art” has taken social media by storm in recent weeks.
The Twitter trend dubbed #SunburnArt, shows off the tattoos many have created with a little sunblock and a lot of serious sun damage to their skin. From little flowers to full-back tribal designs, followers of the trend look like lobsters who visited a tattoo parlor. But unfortunately for them they are exposing their bodies to known carcinogens in the form of UV rays rather than tattoo ink.
New York City-based dermatologist Elizabeth Hale is quoted in a recent People report admitting that she was not surprised by the trend but doesn’t think people understand the damage they are doing to their skin by taking part in sunburn art. She explains, “What's so scary about this sunburn art is they're often being done on areas that are usually protected. Areas that are exposed everyday – like the face, the neck, the back of the hand – get a low level of sun exposure daily. But people are exposing areas of their body that have been covered year round. It's as if more virginal skin is getting this intense sun exposure, which all of the data show is much more dangerous than chronic sun exposure.”
Those who have taken part in the trend probably feel that just one or two sunburns won’t cause too much damage. But Dr. Hale cites research that has proven, “either two blistering sunburns as a child or five sunburns at any time in your life, both of those double your chance for melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer.”
And if you think that less direct or extreme exposure to the sun in order to create “suntan art” will be better for your skin, think again. Dr. Hale explains how tans are just as bad as burns when it comes to skin damage and cancer risk. She says, “I wouldn't recommend that someone do tan art in the place of sunburn art. A tan represents DNA damage. That's what a tan is. It's basically like our body trying to mount a response to the damage that it's taking in. There's nothing good about a tan.”
What do you think of the recent trend of #SunburnArt?
Would you ever give yourself a sun tattoo?