Why You Shouldn’t Partake in TikTok’s UV Index Tanning Trend

A TikTok trend encourages people to chase a tan by taking advantage of high UV indexes, but an expert says it’s a dangerous habit that should be avoided.

TikTok trends often encourage dangerous behaviors without regard for health consequences, and the latest tanning fad is a prime example.

The trend, which has been posted about thousands of times, involves chasing high UV indexes to get a good tan.

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On the app, creators share tips about what UV index will produce the best tan, sometimes encouraging individuals to forego SPF and expose themselves to the sun’s harmful rays without any protection.

In some cases, creators encourage tanning when the UV index is dangerously high.

@lit_hauls_vlogsss Replying to @keira ♬ original sound - 💖🍒✨🫧‼️

“Trends that encourage minimal SPF use should be avoided as they have dangerous repercussions,” says Eric D Whitman, MD, medical director of Atlantic Health System's oncology service line. “UV rays cause long-term effects and severe conditions, such as melanoma, which might not manifest for years or decades.”

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the UV index scale is intended to help people avoid harmful exposure to UV radiation — not get a better tan.

A UV index of 1-2 is considered low and requires no protection, while an index of 3-7 is considered moderate to high and requires protection from the sun.

When the UV index is in this range, the EPA recommends generously applying broad-spectrum sunscreen on exposed skin, and wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

@lenapiia gotta keep the tan up brian #sun #uvindex #summer #sunday #tan ♬ original sound - user
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A UV index of 8 or higher is meanwhile considered very high to extreme, and extra protection needed. In this range, the EPA says to be careful outside, especially during late morning through mid-afternoon. If your shadow is shorter than you, the EPA recommends seeking shade and wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, and generously applying broad-spectrum sunscreen on exposed skin.

“UV radiation, even on cloudy days, can increase the risk of skin damage,” Whitman says. “Cloud cover does not fully block UV rays.”

Unprotected UV exposure can still penetrate the skin, he explains, causing sunburns and increasing the long-term risk of skin cancer. He says it’s also important to note that individuals with lighter complexions are more vulnerable to these effects.

To minimize harm to the skin when spending time outside, Whitman recommends applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, wearing protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses, and staying in the shade — especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. And definitely avoid tanning beds as well as social media trends that encourage you to put your skin health at risk.

“Remember to reapply sunscreen every few hours, after swimming, or sweating,” he says. “Especially during summertime, it’s important to pay closer attention to kids to ensure they are properly protected against the sun.”

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