“For a six billion-year-old star, the sun is certainly in the news a lot…mainly because it is still a source of uncertainty and confusion to many of us.” – skincancer.org, 2013


[Photo courtesy of tv.libertytv.com]

One of the most important parts of any social movement is the facts and information that form its foundations and validate its purpose. So while it’s easy enough to sit here and say, “we all must protect our skin from the sun” and “sunburn and tanning isn’t good for us”, all the non-believers could just as easily turn around as ask, why? So today I will provide my ‘why.’

Essentially, the skin-damaging element of the sun that effects us when we are exposed to it is something called Ultra Violet rays (UV). UV has been idenitfied by the World Health Organisation as being the main cause of nonmelanoma skin cancers, while also significantly contributing to the development of the most deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma. But one of the most interesting things about our knowledge of UV rays is that it is far from complete. In fact, scientists are constantly making new discoveries and developing new health guidelines and forms of protection as new information comes to light (no pun intended).  The Skin Cancer Foundation include a very clear outline of what UV is:

“UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, making it invisible to the naked eye. These wavelengths are classified as UVA, UVB, or UVC.” [skincancer.org, 2013]

Much of the confusion stems from our understanding (or lack of) UVA – which are long-wave ultraviolet rays; and UVB – which are shortwave rays. Initially it was thought that only UVB was of a concern to the health of our skin, however scientists are becoming increasingly convinced that UVA rays, which make up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches earth, is actually doing more damage to our skin despite being less intense than UVB. This is because they are far more prevalent, they are relatively equal in intensity to UVB during the hours of daylight, they penetrate our skin more deeply than UVB, they can penetrate clouds and glass, and they are still able to cause damage to the layer of our skin where most cancers occur. However, both forms of UV are capable of causing serious damage to us, even by suppressing our immune system, which reduces our ability to fight all kinds of disease.

But UVA is of particular interest to us at Shun the Sun because it is UVA that causes us to tan. We have spoken extensively in previous posts how damaging tanning is to our skin and how some people go about achieving that seemingly all important bronzed glow; but if people knew exactly what was going on to their skin when they lay out in the sun then maybe they would think twice about the supposed beauty of being tanned:

A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA.

Tanning literally penetrates our cells, disfiguring our DNA – the stuff that makes up our very being. Scary? We think so.

— Key facts primarily sourced from the Skin Cancer Foundation: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb




SKIN HEALTH: One of our fans – Hannah McDonald – happened across this great excerpt from the August edition of Cosmopolitan magazine: Sugar is a well-known detriment to the health of our skin except, interestingly, in the case of dark chocolate! Wrongly thought to aggravate acne, dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao helps skin stay hydrated and protects it from sun damage. Get munching babes!
— PS: stay tuned for more food related posts regarding skin protection!



“Spring is here! Don’t forget, even if its not hot, if the UV level is 3 or above, you need to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide!”

An awesome tip from Cancer Council Australia – Many people take note of the time of day where the UV is highest in order to maximise the colour they gain to their skin when lying outside. Instead, plan activities where you can enjoy the weather without exposing yourself to the harm of the sun. Anything from lunching at an outdoor restaurant, to climbing the Harbour Bridge! Resist those wrinkles youngsters, there’s way cooler things to do than tan that wont leave you rottenly raisin-ed by 30!

A perfect tip on this sweltering day!


There could be no clearer sign indicative of the prevalence of tanning as an issue in our culture than the admission of the word ‘tanorexia’ into the Oxford dictionary:


[mass noun] informal – blend of ‘tan’ and ‘anorexia’

  • An obsessive desire to acquire and maintain a suntan, by natural or artificial methods: “she is one of a growing number of teenagers thought to be suffering from tanorexia”

And the worst part is, it’s was coined way back in the ’80s.

The condition has drawn much attention as of late thanks to Patricia Krentcil, a mum in the US who last year was “accused of letting her 5-year-old daughter go in a tanning booth.” According to this Huffington Post article, ‘the owner of the tanning salon that Krentcil reportedly frequented said that she ‘tanned about 20 times a month, and about five days a week.’ Excessive tanning can be considered a form of addiction in certain sufferers who may require psychological assistance to overcome it. In fact, a 2010 study in the journal Archives of Dermatology indicated that despite every one of their interviewees (who were college aged tanning bed users) knowing about the risks of skin cancer as a result of tanning, 98% of them said that this knowledge didn’t deter them.

Thanks to mainstream media, tanorexia, like anorexia, has been born out of a culture that relishes in the scrutinising of body image and sets very restrictive guidelines on how people should look in order to appear attractive. The worst part is that many sufferers resort to solariums to try to achieve a ‘natural’ tan, but according to the Skin Cancer Foundation: indoor tanning is particularly dangerous with users being 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.

With Tumblr pages dedicated to showcasing examples, and blogs intended to help answer your question of whether you are a suffer; tanorexia is clearly a real issue born out of a mindset we know dates back centuries. Thankfully though, the likening of a tanning obsession to the serious health condition anorexia, of which many are now well educated on, highlights that at least people are starting to become aware of the severity and implications of tanning, especially as a result of excessive sun exposure. Sites such as these tanorexia tumblr pages are fantastic in that they are sparking a dialogue, particularly young people, about the unattractive side of looking overly tanned.

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While I do not in any way vindicate the ridiculing of anyone, especially if they have a real problem such as an addiction, the particular condition of tanorexia has been born out of a social stigma that is just unnecessary and it needs to be spoken about as a negative health issue. Thankfully, people are starting to take note. The more people are exposed to the unattractive side of tanning, the less likely it is that they will pursue the look.

To set the record straight – ban the tan.

Considering the prevalence of skin cancer and skin related diseases in our country, and the fact that they are mostly a direct result of excessive sun exposure; I would argue that the Australian government does an “okay” job of raising awareness of the issue across the general population. Undeniably, most people are familiar with some of the more prominent campaigns over recent years that sought to educate on the dangers of sun exposure. This includes the infamous  ‘Slip Slop Slap‘ slogan and accompanying television advertisement launched in 1981 – which has now been altered to include ‘Seek’ and ‘Slide’, sadly to the detriment of the “ring” slogan – which came about at a time when knowledge of the link between UV radiation and skin cancer was only just beginning to surface and become widely known. It remains one of the most successful health campaigns in our country’s history; however, since then, there really hasn’t been much in the way of ‘groundbreaking society changing’ campaigns since, most likely because everyone now knows of the dangers and links to sun exposure and cancer. So the job is really only half done.

It is inexplicable and irresponsible that with skin cancer rates continuing to rise, despite this abundance of information and advice available to Australians, that more is not being done to curb the trend. Awareness is clearly not enough, so I say the government is only doing an “okay” job of addressing this issue for the key fact that they seem to be failing to target the real core of the issue, or at least what I perceive it to be. There is a blatantly obvious stigma among Australians, particularly young people (and it is when you are young that you do the most significant and long lasting damage to your skin), that being tanned is more attractive. This is what needs to be changed. It will be hard as it is truly engrained in many Western societies, a remnant of social class categorisation from centuries ago, that is doing so much harm to the health of our society. Admittedly, the more recent ‘The Dark Side of Tanning – There’s nothing healthy about a tan‘ campaign by the NSW government scraped the surface of the issue, at least in identifying its existence. But again, this is not enough. There needs to be a real and proactive push for this change, for us to get amongst young people, through education and involvement, to change this attitude. Fashion magazines/idols/role models could and should all play a part because at the end of the day, they are what help drive superficial trends anyway.

So this is where Shun the Sun comes in. This is what sets it apart from just being a ‘sun protection awareness’ campaign. I want to go deeper, I want to try to change society’s deeply engrained views of tanning, to really achieve a change that will finally see a dip in skin cancer rates.

On this hot day…

On this hot day...

On this scorcher of a spring day in Sydney I bring to you ‘Shun the Sun’. The epitome of this social awareness campaign is to alter the stigma among young people in our sun-drenched country regarding the perceived necessity to be a ‘fan of tan’. Despite skin cancer and melanoma rates skyrocketing across all age groups, we still see hundreds of youths flock to the beach exposing themselves to the harsh sun with little protection and even tanning aids such as oils, in the hope of gaining that ‘all important’ tan. This happens despite countless campaigns by the Australian Cancer Council and other government organisations. Their effectiveness is arguably hindered by the societal trend of aspiring to be a ‘bronzed beauty’ all year round. Shun the Sun is all about promoting the beauty of all skin tones and particularly promoting the beauty of those who are naturally pale (albeit often the butt of ‘pasty’ jokes).