Why the ‘Sunburn Art’ Trend Should Concern You

Why the ‘Sunburn Art’ Trend Should Concern You

Posted by Anita Mehta, M.D. on Jul 18, 2015 9:30:00 AM

The Internet can be a priceless resource. The world can watch together as our space program lands a rover on Mars or passes by Pluto. We can research and learn and crowd source beautiful, thought-provoking things. We can find a sense of community.  

We can also watch videos of people taking the Cinnamon challenge.  

With the Internet, you have to take the good with the bad, which sometimes means sifting through ridiculous, and sometimes harmful, “challenges” like the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge that Dr. Jamal Bullocks has warned against. That being said, there is another harmful trend circulating social media, and while it hasn’t gained a lot of momentum yet, the potential is there: sunburn art. 

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Intentionally Sunburning a Design onto the Skin

Ultimately, what this trend entails is “painting” a design on your skin with sunscreen and leaving the rest of your skin untreated and uncovered. This results in the skin under the painted-on design remaining a lighter shade than the surrounding skin, which is often burned. While this isn’t a wildly popular trend yet, there is enough of it on Instagram and other social media sites to warrant concern.   

Setting a Future Course with Skin Cancer

skin_cancer-522735339What we’re seeing with this developing trend is that it is mostly being done by young people, who seem to believe that this does not put them at risk for health complications later in life. But the truth of the matter is, sunburn damages your cells and puts you at risk for skin cancer that could be deadly. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation released a statement that sustaining five or more sunburns during your younger years can increase the lifetime melanoma risk by 80 percent. That kind of risk just doesn’t seem worth it for a temporary discoloration of your skin, does it? Not only can increased exposure to the sun put you at risk for skin cancer, but it can also open you up to other skin conditions, such as a loss in elasticity, causing wrinkles that prematurely age you. Sunburns can also permanently discolor the skin.

Another problem we see surfacing is the “alternatives” people are suggesting be used for creating a design on the skin instead of sunscreen. One suggestion I read was to use nail polish to paint the design on to the skin and then later use acetone to remove it. Both nail polish and acetone are skin irritants and should not be used on the skin. To be safe, the best thing to do is steer clear of sunburn art completely. 

Practice Good Sun Skincare

The bottom line is that if you’re going to be outside in the sun, you need to use a good sunscreen. Stay in the shade and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Try to cover up your skin with clothing as much as you can to prevent sunburn and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Most importantly, think about this long range – is a temporary sunburn worth skin cancer and premature aging?

Mehta_AnitaDr. Anita Mehta is a board-certified dermatologist who works at Kelsey-Seybold’s Main Campus. Her clinical interests include skin cancer, psoriasis, acne and eczema, among others. 

Topics: skin cancer,, sunburn art, sun damage, skin cancer risk, melanoma, premature aging, sunburn

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