Does going on a sunbed make you want a tattoo?

Sunbathers are more likely to get tattoos and piercing than tanners who use sprays and lotions, a study claims.

Those who seek bronze skin the natural way are also more likely to try risky weight-loss diets, including self-induced vomiting.

And they often fall into the temptation of having Botox, being waxed, getting gel nails and undergoing cosmetic surgery, scientists found.

The study, authored by Dr Jay Yoo and his team of researchers at Baylor University, Texas, involved data from 395 female college students.

Sunbathers are more likely to get tattoos and piercing than tanners who use sprays and lotions, a study claims

They were all quizzed about their tanning methods and their intentions to engage in risky appearance-related behaviours, such as getting a tattoo.

The researchers then labelled them as either a frequent or infrequent tanner – depending on how often they topped up.

They were also classed as safe or unsafe, depending on whether they sunbathed or used creams.  

The scientists discovered only frequent tanners – whether they are sunbathers, sunbed users or rely on creams – are more likely to modify their appearance.

However, the study found safer tanners, who use lotions, creams and bronzers, are more concerned about the ‘stigma’ surrounding piercings, tattoos and Botox.

He also believes that excessive tanning and exposure to damaging UV rays could be a sign of ‘overt concern over body image’.  

Tanning: The facts

Tanning has gone in and out of fashion, Dr Yoo noted, with many now choosing to tan because it makes them look thinner and fitter. 

More than a century ago, however, many women used parasols to protect their skin and to make them look pale and refined.

But fashion designer Coco Chanel started a fad after accidentally getting sunburned while visiting the French Riviera in the 1920s.


The days of spending hours on the beach in the sun or in a tanning booth in a quest for golden-coloured skin could soon be a thing of the past.

Scientists developed a new treatment that can tan skin without exposure to harmful UV rays – and it means even those with the lightest of skins will be able to get a tan.

The team has now tested the treatment on human skin, and hopes it could drastically decrease the incidence of skin cancer.

Applied as a cream to the skin, the drug allowed red-haired mice to develop a deep tan, scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital claimed in June.

In animal tests, red-haired mice became ‘almost jet black in a day or two with a strong enough dose,’ the researchers observed. 

Tanning remained popular, with high-fashion models often sporting tans, whether from UV exposure or sprays and bronzers.

However, dermatologists have desperately tried to discourage people from using them due to their substantial links to skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation states adults who use a tanning bed before turning 35 increase their risk of melanoma – the most dangerous form – by 75 percent. 

How to discourage tanners? 

Using images of tanned people who are tattooed or have piercings would help to encourage people to avoid seeking bronzed skin, Dr Yoo noted.

He said: ‘One way to change the appeal of tanning would be to make it un-cool. If I tan and people look at me funny, I’m not going to tan anymore.

‘A negative stigma attached to UV exposure can create ambivalence in our society about achieving a tanned appearance.’

Dr Yoo added that this would decrease the popularity of tanning in ‘much the same way’ as smoking, a habit now frowned upon due to the various warnings surrounding cigarettes.

He noted in the 1940s and 1950s, smoking was idealized, especially in Hollywood movies, but there has since been a ‘cultural shift’.

He also suggested emphasizing the long-term effects of tanning, including having ‘leathery skin’, to try and discourage teenagers from seeking bronzed skin.