Sunburn art leaves a lasting mark

Sunburn art leaves a lasting mark

Dermatologists are concerned about a new trend known as “sunburn art,” which leaves individuals with burned skin now and may lead to health problems down the road.

Sunbathers are using sunscreen to either stencil or freehand designs onto their skin. They then lay out until their skin turns brown or red, leaving them with a temporary “tattoo.”

The practice is trending right now on social media using #sunburnart, but dermatologists have seen this type of imprinting before.

“I remember when people used to place stickers on their body before going into tanning booths,” says Dr. Amy Derick, a dermatologist on staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “What’s new is the degree in which someone is burning themselves just for fun.”

While the skin designs will eventually fade, the damage will not.

“If you do that to your skin, you run the risk of having long-term discoloration in that pattern and wrinkles that are difficult to reverse once the damage has been done,” says Dr. Derick.

She advises that people not engage in suburn art at all and to take all necessary precautions to prevent themselves from burning from the sun.

“Every time you burn your skin to create a pattern, you increase your risk of skin cancer. Studies have suggested that one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles your chance for developing melanoma later in life. Also, your risk for melanoma doubles if you have had more than five sunburns at any age,” says Dr. Derick.


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  1. Judith A Carlson July 21, 2015 at 11:36 am · Reply

    Two of my granddaughters are doing this but, IMO, much more safely. They’re using waterproof tape to make the designs and using sunscreen, but not a really strong one, and getting a gradual tan instead of a burn. It takes longer and my granddaughters tell me that they have to be really careful when reapplying the tape to make sure it’s all in the same place to keep the design neat. It’s been working and the designs look beautiful.

  2. Lisa Parro

    I used to do this with stickers in my tanning bed days, as the doctor mentions. Sunburns are so painful and damaging! Let’s hope this trend goes out of style soon.

  3. Just to ask/point out something. I have never seen or heard of someone getting blisters while out in the sun. Has anyone one else? Very red skin painful to the touch, yes. Peeling skin after a day or two, yes. Actual blisters, not one person. That’s a second degree burn like the one after skin is exposed to steam or a hot pan momentarily. If any person is out in the sun enough to get real blisters, then we should really let natural selection take its course from there on out because that’s just crazy (Exceptions here should be survival situations in the desert and on the open ocean, or albinos, or babies).

    • In response to the previous posted comment. When I was in my very early teens, I received 2nd degree burns to my shoulders. I had applied sunscreen initially, but being a kid and having fun playing in the lake for an extended amount of time, I did not reapply sunscreen. I learned a very painful lesson that day. The skin burned to literally a brown crisp. You could not touch it. The blisters showed soon after. The most painful sunburn I had ever had. After everything eventually healed, lots of freckles replaced that once pristine skin. It’s a daily reminder to me to put on sunscreen. I am worried about my increased chances of skin cancer now in that area, but make it a point to visit my dermatologist and watch for abnormal spots.

  4. Pamela Preissler July 29, 2015 at 9:01 am · Reply

    Yes, I had 2nd degree burns also as a teen. Was out at the beach all day in a string bikini. I had to lay in bed under a sheet for days. I could not be touched. Not thinking it could hapen, but it does. Please be careful. It’s not a joke.

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health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.