Research Tracks

A publication of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Baylor University

Baylor faculty member’s research sheds light on consumer attitudes toward sunless tanning products


For many people, having tanned skin is as much a part of springtime fashion as wearing shorts and tank tops. While new sunless tanning products promise a darker skin tone without exposure to damaging ultraviolet rays, a new Baylor study suggests that unless these bronzing creams, sprays and wipes can deliver an even, natural-looking tan, young women may not choose them over sunbathing or tanning beds.

Dr. Jay Yoo, an assistant professor in Baylor’s department of family and consumer sciences, surveyed 182 Caucasian female college students on their attitudes toward tanning, health and beauty. The study, published in Household and Personal Care Today, found that personal appearance is the primary motivation for tanning among young women, the most frequent users of tanning products. Survey participants expressed reservations about using sunless products because of concerns about streakiness or an unnatural color.

“The study confirms that targeting appearance-conscious consumers, in particular young women, will be successful, as long as the quality of the tan is promising,” said Yoo, adding that women are often not concerned about skin cancer unless they see it in themselves, a family member or someone else they know.

Yoo believes that understanding consumer attitudes toward tanning and body image is important for promoting public health. Results from his research will help manufacturers develop audience-appropriate messages about safer tanning options.

“In order to increase the use of the products as a safer alternative, it’s important for manufacturers to find what will actually trigger use,” he said.

For some consumers, that might mean a campaign focused on the product’s ability to improve the user’s appearance, Yoo said.  For others, a more effective strategy might emphasize the role of sunless tanning products as a lifestyle choice that plays an important role in their favorite outdoor activities.

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