If you’ve spent any time on social media this week, you might have noticed a disturbing new trend – people who deliberately get sunburns in ornate and visually interesting patterns. A quick internet search of the term “sunburn art” would have you thinking that hundreds of people are risking dangerous sun exposure every day. However, when you really start to examine #sunburnart on Twitter and Instagram, it turns out that many of the pictures are photoshopped, accidents, or jokes. There only seems to be about 10-15 real examples of sunburn art – hardly a “sensational” trend. In fact, one of the most shared pictures is a clearly photoshopped image from an 11-year-old Onion article. But while sunburn art is not as big a problem as some media outlets may have you believe, it’s at least helping to spread the word about the dangers of sun exposure. Put simply, every time you get a sunburn, you increase you risk of skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Rates on the Rise
According to a Skin Cancer Foundation press release related to sunburn art, getting five or more sunburns in your youth will increase your lifetime melanoma risk by 80 percent. In fact, getting more than five sunburns at any time throughout your life will double your risk of developing melanoma. Not to mention, too much sun exposure can do DNA damage to your skin and accelerate skin aging.
Unfortunately, cases of skin cancer continue to rise in the U.S. despite warnings about tanning. Around 5 million people receive skin cancer treatment in the U.S. every year, and more people have had skin cancer in the last 30 years than all other types of cancer combined. Every year, as many as 3,000 people die from advanced basal cell carcinoma in the U.S.
Protecting Your Skin This Summer
On the bright side, protecting your skin from the sun is relatively simple and can go a long way towards preventing skin cancer. There are four main ways to avoid overexposure to the sun:
- Seek Shade – It seems obvious, but it’s the most essential way to prevent a sunburn. If you need to be outside during the sunniest hours of the day, get some shade as often as possible. Bring an umbrella with you if needed.
- Wear Sunscreen – Apply sunscreen throughout the day to avoid a sunburn. The CDC recommends SPF 15 or higher.
- Cover Up – It’s natural to want to wear less clothing in hot weather, but covering your skin is easily one of the best ways to protect it from the sun. Tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing that covers your legs and arms is best. There are even some clothes designed specifically to be worn in the sun. Also, a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses with UV ray protection are essential for protecting your face.
- Stay Indoors During Midday – Everybody wants to get outdoors and enjoy summer, but waiting to do so at specific times will help keep your skin healthy. The hours between 10 am and 4 pm present the most risk to your skin.
Remember that sunburns can occur even on overcast days, so it’s important to take some of these precautions whenever you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period of time.
Sunburn Art: The Bottom Line
Making sunburn art is definitely a risky behavior, but not nearly as many people are doing it as you might be led to believe. Nevertheless, lots of people do spend too much time in the sun and end up getting sunburned unintentionally. Taking a few easy steps whenever you leave the house can prevent serious health issues caused by getting too much sun.