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Sunbed users are twice as likely to use anti-ageing products as non sunbed users

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by Cancer Research UK | News

21 February 2013

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Survey shows impact of sunbed use on the fight against skin ageing

Over two fifths (43 per cent) of people in the UK who have used sunbeds – which are proven to prematurely age the skin – are using anti-ageing products.  This compares with only a fifth (20 per cent) of those who have not used a sunbed, according to a new Cancer Research UK survey.

The research from the charity has been released during its sunbed awareness campaign R UV UGLY. The campaign highlights the cosmetic damage lurking beneath the skin’s surface, such as pigmentation caused by overexposure to UV from sunbeds or the sun. As well as making people look old before their time, UV rays can also damage the DNA in skin cells. This DNA damage can build up over time and lead to skin cancer.

The results also show that more than two thirds (68 per cent) of sunbed users are concerned about sunbeds ageing their skin.  A fifth (19 per cent) start to use anti-ageing products by the time they are 25, compared with just five per cent of people who don’t use sunbeds.

And when it comes to how much money people spend on anti-ageing products, sunbed users are more likely to splash the cash.  Of those that use anti-ageing products, 30 per cent of sunbed users spend over £20 a month, compared with just 8 per cent of non sunbed users.

The research also sheds some light on why people continue to use sunbeds, despite the warnings about how much they damage your skin.  It shows that:

  • two fifths (41 per cent) claim to use sunbeds to get a base tan ahead of a holiday
  • almost a quarter (24 per cent) said they used sunbeds to ‘look more attractive’
  • around 11 per cent use them to stay tanned over winter
  • eight per cent said it was ‘what all my friends did’
  • seven per cent claimed using a sunbed helped them feel younger
  • eight per cent of sunbed users are paying over £30 a month on sunbeds in an attempt to stay brown

Rates of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, have more than quadrupled in Britain over the last 30 years, and it is the second most common cancer amongst 15-34 year olds.*

Experts have warned that using a sunbed just once a month or more could increase the chance of developing melanoma by more than 50 per cent, whilst also contributing to premature wrinkles and pigmentation.

This is why Cancer Research UK’s R UV UGLY campaign is calling on people to face some of the cosmetic damage being inflicted on their skin in pursuit of a tan, by offering free skin assessments at sk:n clinics across the UK.

The campaign is being backed by a host of celebrities including Made in Chelsea model Rosie Fortescue, who talked candidly about how sunbed use has damaged her friends’ skin from an early age.

Rosie said: “I have seen the effects of sunbeds and the ageing they do to the skin. A lot of my friends used sunbeds when they were young thinking it would make them look more attractive, but they have soon realised that they were just making them look older and no one wants to look older than they are. They have had to use cream to help cover up the signs of ageing from a young age. I would never go on a sunbed because, as they have learnt, what feels like a cheap, quick fix… is anything but.

“I hope all young people realise that beauty comes from within and they embrace Cancer Research UK’s R UV UGLY campaign by ditching sunbeds for good. Your skin will benefit and you will be better off too!”

Caroline Cerny, senior health campaigns manager at Cancer Research UK said:

“We live in an image obsessed culture, and know many sunbed users continue to use them because they think they look better with a tan. But actually they are making their skin look worse. Sunbeds can result in premature ageing and wrinkles, as well as increased pigmentation on the skin. And these results show interestingly, that sunbeds users are spending more on anti-ageing products than those who don’t use sunbeds – perhaps in an attempt to cover up the damage.  

“No one wants to look older before their time and crucially using sunbeds also increases the risk of skin cancer, so we hope having an R UV UGLY skin scan will really help to change people’s minds about using sunbeds.”

To highlight the cosmetic damage from sunbeds, Cancer Research UK and sk:n clinics will be taking R UV UGLY on tour this February at major shopping centres. It will offer the public the opportunity to see some of the damage lying beneath the skin’s surface with a bespoke photo booth that is equipped with the latest high-tech facial skin scanner.

In addition sk:n is offering free skin assessments at sk:n clinics. Claim yours by calling 0800 028 7222 quoting R UV UGLY SKIN SCAN or visit


For media enquiries contact the press office on 020 3469 8315 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

*This refers to trends in malignant melanoma incidence rates in Great Britain since the mid 1970’s: