Gen Z’s Passion for Skincare Falls Short on Sun Protection, AAD Study Finds


In a recent American Academy of Dermatology survey, it was revealed that 52% of Gen Z adults ages 18 to 26 are unaware of key sunburn risks, such as increased skin cancer risk and premature aging.

Gen Z is "obsessed" with skincare, according to Seattle-based board-certified dermatologist Heather D. Rogers, MD, FAAD. In an American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) press release she shared their enthusiasm and avid use, however, it’s this generation that is most at risk for skin cancer due to increasing rates of tanning and burning.

In a recent AAD survey, it was revealed that 52% of Gen Z adults ages 18 to 26 are unaware of key sunburn risks, such as increased skin cancer risk and premature aging.

While over 50% of Americans earned an "A" or "B" in sun protection knowledge, data found 32% of Gen Z adults receive a failing grade of "D" or "F.”

Despite Gen Z's enthusiasm for skincare, sunscreen hasn't been embraced with the same passion.

“We’ve seen tremendous advancement in sunscreen options over the past 10 years that can and should be easily incorporated into a routine,” Rogers said in the release. “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.”

In the survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults, concerning trends on sun protection habits among Gen Z were revealed.

For example, 25% of Gen Z adults already report skin damage from sun exposure.

Approximately 37% of Gen Z adults also use sunscreen only when reminded by others, compared to 27% of the general population.

Additionally, 28% of Gen Z respondents prioritize getting a tan over preventing skin cancer, with 70% reporting tanned or darker skin in 2023.

It’s known that outdoor UV exposure and indoor tanning cause sun burn and skin damage, which accelerates skin aging and increasing the risk of skin cancers, including melanoma, the deadliest type.

To prevent these risks, the FDA recommends these safety measures:

  • Limit sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when UV rays are most intense.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats.
  • Regularly use broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and more frequently if sweating or swimming.

Many people are unaware of sun safety measures, making it easy to believe myths about sunscreen.

Kendall Egan, MD, a dermatologist from Las Vegas, debunks some of those sunscreen myths.

In an article by Medical Daily, she shared insight on the myth that sunscreen isn’t necessary on cloudy days. According to Egan, sunscreen is needed on cloudy days as UV radiation isn't fully blocked by clouds.

She also disagreed with the myth that people with dark skin tones don’t need sunscreen to protect against UV exposure and prevent skin cancer.

"People with darker skin can get skin cancer,” she responded.

Another misconception about sunscreen includes makeup that contains SPF.

Dustin Portela, DO, a board-certified dermatologist at Treasure Valley Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center, addressed the concern if makeup with SPF provides enough protection from the sun with beauty and wellness magazine, Byrdie.

Portela said it does not.

"Theoretically makeup with an SPF should provide adequate protection, but we know that sunscreen ratings are achieved based on a standard (and quite heavy) application of 2mg/cm2 of sunscreen standardize the rating system," he told the publication.

It was then explained that one would need over 6 to 7 times the required amount of traditional sunscreen when entirely relying on just makeup for your sun protection.

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