A tan-line to die for?

Sunburn Art | The Harley Medical Group

We’ve seen our fair share of unhealthy social media trends over the past few years – the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge and Thigh Gap are two that immediately spring to mind – but there’s a worrying new craze that’s got Dermatologists cringing in their boots: Sunburn Art.


What is Sunburn Art?

We’ve all been caught out by an unsightly strap mark after a day in the sun, or had to nurse a sore, pink patch when we’ve missed a bit with the factor 30 – Sunburn Art takes this idea a painful step further.

The craze sees people strategically covering a small amount of their skin with sun cream, or applying plasters and temporary tattoos, to deliberately burn or tan around.

Patterned tanning isn’t a new phenomenon but, as is the power of social media, #sunburnart has gained momentum in the past few weeks, cropping up all over Instagram and it’s seriously worrying Skin Care Experts.


Why is the trend so dangerous?
Sunburn Art | The Harley Medical Group

Sunburn has serious consequences. Burning as little as once every two years:

  • dramatically increases your chances of melanoma skin cancer
  • accelerates the ageing process
  • permanently damages your DNA

And that’s not to mention the immediate pain!

One Dermatologist commented on the trend: “This is where popular culture is clashing with medical advice. It’s really obvious that sunburn does two things to you: it gives you lines, freckles and wrinkles and it also causes skin cancer, especially melanoma.

Then there’s the motivation for getting a good burn. (To achieve pronounced lines) the practice is tempting people to burn even worse.”

UV rays damage the skin in two different ways. UVB rays cause sunburn. Whereas UVA rays penetrate much deeper into the skin, damaging your DNA, increasing signs of ageing and greatly increasing your risk of melanoma skin cancer – a disease which will affect 73,000 people this year.


Bernadette Harte, Nurse at the Harley Medical Group said

I am absolutely shocked to think people would over expose their skin in this way. This prolonged sun expose can lead to sun damage which can eventually cause skin cancer. The sun also ages the skin pre maturely which people often ignore when they are younger . The skin looses its dewy appearance and fine lines and wrinkles appear as well as pigmented lesions which can be difficult to remove.

Sunburn Art | The Harley Medical Group

Here at The Harley Medical Group we are constantly educating our patients with regard to skin health by advising them to regular use SPF to protect their skin from sun damage. On a dull day we get 70% of UV light shining through.

Having viewed the photograph these individuals appear to have painful sun burn art  on their skin and in my opinion are poor role models in terms of educating others. I would hope that this is a craze that will be short lived. Perhaps skin art could be a more popular trend by these individuals using a spray tan.


The hashtag has gained enough traction for The Skin Care Foundation to release an official statement about the risky new phenomenon.

Sunburn Art | The Harley Medical Group“The Skin Cancer Foundation strongly advises the public to avoid sunburns at all costs. A sunburn is not only painful – it’s dangerous, and comes with consequences. Sunburns cause DNA damage to the skin, accelerate skin ageing, and increase your lifetime skin cancer risk. In fact, sustaining five or more sunburns in youth increases lifetime melanoma risk by 80%. On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends adopting a complete sun protection regime that includes seeking shade, covering up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use.”



The long and short of all sensible advice is to steer clear of this dangerous social media fad. Sunburn never looks good! And deliberately exposing skin to harmful UV rays seriously puts your health at risk. So if you really must create patterns on your skin – please stick to fake tan!