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Want Your Teen to Use Sunscreen? Skin Aging Info More Effective than Skin Cancer Study Says

by kelly / February, 19 2014 01:30

Teens climbing down rock to jump into water below

Getting teenagers to use sunscreen can be a daunting task. It's not something they (or even most people) come to daily. Plus things like tanning beds and that "healthy glow" are a part of many teen lives. Yet daily sunblock use beginning early in life is the best thing they can do for their skin. It protects against both premature skin aging and skin cancer. So what motivates teens to use sunscreen? A recent study thought to answer just that...

Study Tests Skin Aging Vs. Cancer Prevention

William Tuong, a medical student at the University of California Davis, conducted research where he exposed two groups of teens to separate videos. One video explained how sunscreen can prevent premature aging while the other explained how sunscreen can prevent cancer / melanoma.

Skin Aging Messaging Proves Most Powerful

As for the results, Tuong told Reuters

"Vanity is more of a driving force to use sunscreen, as opposed to the fear factor of developing skin cancer."

Tuong found teenagers were three times as likely to use sunblock if they watched the video discussing the effects of sun exposure and aging issues like spots and wrinkles as opposed to the video about sun exposure and melanoma. Pretty powerful stuff I'd say.

Also, according to the Reuters article on the study, those who saw the skin aging video increased their average use of sunblock from 0.6 times a week to 2.8 times a week. Those who saw the cancer / melanoma focused video increased their usage from 0.7 times to 0.9 times a week.

If you're like me, you may be wondering, what's in these videos? Well, they are up on YouTube. Here is the video that discusses sunscreen and aging and here is the video that discusses sunscreen and melanoma.

Why? Immediate Cosmetic Risks Speak to Teens

Why the difference in response to the videos? Two quotes from the study and Reuters article are enlightening:

"Past research shows that adolescents have difficulty practicing preventive health behavior because they believe themselves less likely to experience disease," the authors of the current study write.

"With younger individuals, messages that resonate with them are messages that speak to them now," Tuong said. "Appearance-based messaging resonates with them because it's more about short-term risk versus long-term risk."

I read this to say consequences that are more immediate, appearance based, and easy to visualize generate higher response even if the consequences are not as dire like death from melanoma. I'd also guess that this is true beyond teenagers.

Psychiatrist Says Emphasize Anti-Aging Benefits When Talking to Your Teen

Back to teenagers, in a Skin Cancer Foundation interview with psychiatrist and dermatologist Dr. Amy Wechsler on how to talk to teens about tanning Dr. Wechsler said:

It depends on the teens and their personal interests. I use the cosmetic argument. I ask, “Ten years from now, do you want to look older than your friends who didn’t tan?” I often show them a photo of a truck driver whose face is vastly aged on the left side from the sun. [People who do a lot of driving are more likely to have sun damage and skin cancers on the left side of the face, which receives more UV (ultraviolet) radiation than the right.] That being said, some teens are not concerned with their looks, and for them, a discussion about the health risks associated with tanning could be effective.

So next time your teen wants to go tanning or simply doesn't want to bother using sunblock, let them know if they use sunscreen daily they'll look a lot younger than their friends. If they are not convinced, try show them the videos too.

More Suncare Knowledge

For more suncare information check out our articles "Sunscreen Prevents Skin Aging New Research Shows" and "New Research Shows Sunscreen Prevents Skin Cancer and Saves Superhero Gene".

Plus we have a our full Suncare Smarts series here.

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