Teenagers have high knowledge about sun exposure risks and adequate photoprotection, but show poor adherence (7, 9). This is shown by multiple sunburns and less application of sunscreen than other age groups (1). Interventions targeting sun protection behavior within this age group consistently show improved knowledge post intervention, yet few improvements in behavior (9).

It is a fact of life that teenagers are under pressure to look a certain way. Despite often knowing the dangers of tanning, many young adults still seek a tan in order to conform. This paradox is visualized by Australia's youth, in which melanoma is the most common cancer, but still nearly half of the teenagers report a desire to tan (9).

Sadly, this pressure leads some teenagers to resort to using sunbeds, exposing them to harmful UV radiation, which can be 15 times more intensive than UV rays from the sun. Sunbed emission spectra are similar to the sun spectrum in the UVB (280 - 320 nm) range but reach values 10 to 15 times higher in the UVA (320 - 400 nm) range (10). A first exposure to indoor tanning before the age of 30 increases the risk of developing a melanoma by 75 % (11). 

Skin damage due to sun exposure can be seen in a large proportion of teenagers and depends on the individual sun exposure habits as well as the geographical location of the individual (12).



3 reasons to protect your skin


  • Sun promotes acne flare-ups. Your acne may get better on holidays but will start to flare up again at once sun exposure is over. This is because the sun promotes skin thickening. This thickening will block the pilosebaceous follicles and prevents the evacuation of sebum. The result: the formation of blackheads and microcysts that can develop into inflammatory lesions.


  • Sun promotes photoaging. Chronic exposure causes aging, wrinkles, sunspots and destruction of the skin’s elastic fibers. 
  • 90 % of all skin cancers are caused by UV rays from the sun or sunbeds.


3 myths about sun protection


  • Sunscreen is not necessary on a cloudy day or in the car
    False Ultraviolet (UV) radiation (especially UVA) can penetrate clouds and glass and may even be more intense on an overcast day due to reflection by the clouds.

  • If you get a tan without burning, you don't need sunscreen
    False Tanning of the skin is always a sign of damage, even if there is no redness or peeling. The skin tries to protect its cells against the UV rays by tanning. Even without burning this leads to premature skin ageing and cancer.

  • High SPF allows you to stay in the sun longer
    False A sunscreen with SPF 30 absorbs 96.7 % while SPF 50 correlates with 98 % UVB absorption. The SPF has no big impact on the length of time sunscreen will protect you. No sunscreen should be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.




(1) Blázquez-Sánchez et al. 2021 - Photoprotection habits, attitudes and knowledge among school communities in the Costa del sol (Spain)
(7) Reinau et al 2012 - Sun protective behavior of primary and secondary school students in North-Western Switzerland
(9) McLoone et al. 2014 - Perceptions of melanoma risk among Australian adolescents: barriers to sun protection and recommendations for improvement
(10) Gerber et al 2002 - Ultraviolet emission spectra of sunbeds
(11) Gandini et al. 2011 - Reviews on sun exposure and artificial light and melanoma
(12) Fritschi et al 1995 - Sun damage in teenagers' skin