Millennials are not using sunscreen due to narcissism, low self-esteem, OSU study says

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BEND, OR (KPTV) — Millennials are not using sunscreen, at least in part due to low self-esteem and high rates of narcissism that fuel addictive tanning behavior, according to a new study by Oregon State University.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs.

Lead author Amy Watson, an assistant professor of marketing at OSU-Cascades, along with co-authors Gail Zank and Anna M. Turri of Texas State University, found that the motivation for addictive tanning behavior was the perception of improved appearance.

The researchers’ goal with the study was to gauge whether the information on a new label is effective at curbing tanning behavior and if new information is helping to increase consumer knowledge about how and when to use sunscreen and how much to use.

The Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration developed a new “Drug Facts” panel of information now required on all sunscreen bottles. The panel includes directions for sunscreen use and advice on other sun protection measures, among other information.

The study included 250 college students, most between 18 and 23 years old, and measured their sun safety knowledge, including questions about their beliefs regarding sunscreen effectiveness and ultraviolet light exposure danger, questions about tanning motivation and behavior, an assessment of tanning addiction and personality questions relating to self-esteem, narcissism, appearance and addictive behavior.

The researchers found that those with lower self-esteem and higher narcissism rates were more likely to exhibit addictive tanning behavior. They found no evidence that increased knowledge about sun safety leads to lower levels of addictive tanning.

“What we found is that this knowledge doesn’t matter to the consumers,” Watson said. “That tactic to require sunscreen manufacturers to include this information is not effective.”

Watson concluded, “We need to move away from the narrative where tan skin is associated with health and youth. That’s the opposite of reality. Because reality is tan skin is damaged skin.”

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