“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



As OLAY advertisements have drilled into us all, we must love the skin we have and with that love comes a real sense of respect and desire to protect it from exposure and damage. This is an issue, however, that a lot of people grapple with, who don’t embrace their natural skin colour and go to great lengths to modify it in reflection of certain trends often (as we’ve heard a million times) fuelled by the media and its representation of ‘beautiful people.’ And I’m not just talking about the Western perception of tanned being more beautiful because the opposite exists in many Asian cultures where young girls in particular take drastic measures to bleach their skin paler (as this is considered a sign of wealth there).

I want to look at one of the government’s more recent skin protection campaigns ‘The Dark Side of Tanning.’ Rather than just spruiking the importance of sun protection, for first time the issue of tanning as a culturally accepted and almost glorified act of beauty therapy is acknowledged in the various advertisements put out to the Australian public; including:

But, at the end of the day, this was still is a scare campaign and admittedly, it hasn’t drilled into me its message as much as OLAY’s ‘Love the skin you’re in’ ad did, which actively promoted a more positive outlook on the benefits of natural, healthy looking skin. Despite addressing an undoubtedly serious issue regarding our health that can realistically lead to death,  just recognising this acceptance of tanning habits in our culture isn’t enough. We need to change how people view tanning not just for health benefits but for beauty reasons – because that’s what a lot of people sadly care about more. But it IS beautiful to be pale or freckly or latino or dark skinned, whatever you are born with is likely to suit you best. And this is why I love Olay’s message, even if they are really just trying to sell me their face creams.



With lots going on in the sporting world and on Sydney’s social scene, I’m wondering, has anyone woken up on this lovely Monday looking like this as the result of a botch spray tan job from the weekend past?? I’m feeling healthy, fresh, and ready to take on the week after making sure I lathered up on the suncream while enjoying the warm weather out on the beach these last few days 🙂

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!

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!

Spring is here! Another 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!

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.