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Gen Z Gets Failing Grades for Sun Protection: AAD

New survey reveals 70% reported tanned or darker skin in 2023 and 37% only use sunscreen when nagged by others.

A new survey from the American Academy of Dermatology (ADD) revealed that Generation Z adults, ages 18-25, are at risk for skin cancer due to increasing rates of tanning and burning.  According to the national survey of more than 1,000 US adults, 52% of Gen Z adults were unaware of one or more sunburn risks, such as increased risk of developing skin cancer or premature skin aging.  In fact, while more than 50% of Americans get a grade of “A” or “B” for sun protection knowledge, 32% of Gen Z adults receive a failing grade of “D” or “F,” according to AAD.

In spite of their generation’s enthusiasm for skin care—evidenced by their deep dive into beauty TikTok —one in four Gen Z adults are already reporting skin damage from the sun. What’s more, while 27% of Americans say they use sunscreen only when nagged by other people, that percentage increases in the Gen Z crowd to 37%, said AAD.

“Gen Z is obsessed with and avidly consumes skincare,” said Seattle-based board-certified dermatologist Heather D. Rogers, MD, FAAD,s. “Despite sunscreen being in this category, it hasn’t been embraced with the same fervor. We’ve seen tremendous advancement in sunscreen options over the past 10 years that can and should be easily incorporated into a routine. However, we are not seeing its use at the level we would expect considering the evidence showing regular use of sunscreen slows the aging process and decreases risk of skin cancer.”  

Another area of concern? Tanning. According to AAD, 28% of Gen Z survey respondents said getting a tan was more important to them than preventing skin cancer, with 70% reporting tanned or darker skin in 2023.

“Image is so important to this age group,” said Dr. Rogers. “This is a generation incredibly focused on beauty with a significant fear of aging. Tanned skin seems to have visual appeal, and projects the image of good times, however what people don’t realize is that tan skin is a sign your skin has been injured.”

And Dr. Rogers dispensed some sound advice for Gen Z: “Nothing looks better in your 50s than sun safe habits in your 20s. The earlier you learn to protect your skin from the sun, the longer your skin will look and feel healthy.”

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