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As TikTok bans videos encouraging sunburn and tanning, experts share how they damage the skin

"Sunburn increases the blood flow of the skin pertaining towards permanent skin damage. Getting prone to sunburns can also lead to cause melanoma – a kind of skin cancer," said Dr Abhishek Pilani, a dermatologist

Blistering, swelling, rash and peeling skin are some of the common symptoms of sunburn. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Video-sharing app TikTok has announced that it will soon ban videos that encourage tanning, and instead spread awareness about skin cancer after Australian doctors raised an alarm over the “#sunburnchallenge” trending on the social media platform. In September this year, Prof Georgina Long and Prof Richard Scolyer, co-medical directors, Melanoma Institute Australia took issue with the app for its popular hashtag while speaking at the National Press Club.

Prof Long criticised social media influencers for glamorising tanning with hashtags like “sunburnt tanlines”, which has more than 200m views. She asked platforms, television stations and influencers to “change the cultural narrative around sunburn and tanning” in Australia which has one of the highest skin cancer incidences and mortality in the world.

Following the medical experts’ concerns, TikTok Australia has announced the permanent ban of the #sunburnchallenge hashtag which has many young people showing their worst sunburns. Further, the app has announced a widespread education campaign that will impose a pop-up banner saying, ‘Tanning. That’s Cooked.’ on all searches related to summer, sun, tanning and sunburn.

“We’ll actively promote the creator content related to the campaign, which means everyone aged between 20 and 39 will see the message. And everyone who searches for a hashtag related to summer sun, tanning and many other summertime phrases will see the … banner and will be provided with information that outlines the dangers of tanning,” said Lee Hunter, General Manager, TikTok Australia and New Zealand.

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According to dermatologists, there are several short-term and long-term risks that our skin deals with due to sunburn and tanning. “Sunburn increases the blood flow of the skin pertaining towards permanent skin damage. Getting prone to sunburns can also lead to cause melanoma – a kind of skin cancer,” said Dr Abhishek Pilani, Dermatologist and Founder – Assure Clinics. “Tanning harms our skin by causing premature skin ageing, dullness and skin cancer. It also harms our eyesight and can be a reason for several eye diseases such as corneal damage, losing eyesight and cataracts.”

Suntan happens due to the increase in melanin production, when skin is exposed to UV radiation (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Why does it happen?

Dr Chandni Jain Gupta, Dermatology, Venereology and Cosmetology, Elantis Healthcare, New Delhi said that when UV rays reach our skin, they damage the cells in the epidermis. “In response, your immune system increases blood flow to the affected areas. The increased blood flow is what gives sunburn its characteristic redness and makes the skin feel warm to the touch. At the same time, the damaged skin cells release chemicals that send messages through the body until they are translated as a painful burning sensation by the brain,” she said.


White blood cells, which help protect you from infection and disease, attack and remove these damaged skin cells. “It is this process of removing damaged cells that can cause sunburned skin to itch and peel,” Dr Gupta explained.

Suntan, on the other hand, happens due to the increase in melanin production, when skin is exposed to UV radiation, in an attempt to protect the skin from further damage. “Melanin is the same pigment that colours your hair, eyes, and skin. The increase in melanin may cause your skin tone to darken over the next 48 hours,” the expert said.

How to prevent sunburn and sun tan?

The dermatologists listed the following ways to prevent getting tanned or sunburnt.


*Applying SPF every four hours helps protect your skin.
*After a long time of sun exposure, one must wash their face with cold water and apply sunscreen for damage repair.
*Increasing the elastin and collagen intake will help in preventing skin dullness and ageing.
*Do not use sunscreen that is past its expiration date.
*While outdoors, wear sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim (about 4 in) all the way around it.
*Wear protective clothing (tightly woven long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts offer the most protection).
*Limit your time in the sun and seek shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm.
*Do not use tanning beds.
*Remember that skin damage from the sun can occur on cloudy days.

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First published on: 01-12-2022 at 19:00 IST
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