Results of a survey by the charity Cancer Research UK show that more than two thirds (68%) of people who use sunbeds are concerned that the practice is aging their skin.

The research, which polled 2,500 UK adults in January, was released to coincide with the charity’s R UV UGLY sunbed awareness campaign.

The results also reveal that over two-fifths (43%) of UK’s sunbed users are using anti-aging products compared with only one-fifth (20%) of non-users.

Plus, nearly a fifth (19%) of people who use sunbeds are already using anti-aging products by their 25th birthday, while among non-users this figure is just 5%.

In a statement to the press, Caroline Cerny, senior health campaigns manager at Cancer Research UK, blames our “image obsessed culture”, and says many people continue to use subeds because they think they looked better with a tan.

A survey done in Germany that was published in October 2012 also found that one of the main reasons people use sunbeds was because they thought they looked more attractive with a tan. Another reason was because they found it relaxing.

“But actually they are making their skin look worse,” says Cerny, “Sunbeds can result in premature ageing and wrinkles, as well as increased pigmentation on the skin.”

“And these results show interestingly, that sunbeds users are spending more on anti-ageing products than those who don’t use sunbeds – perhaps in an attempt to cover up the damage.”

The aim of the R UV UGLY campaign is to increase people’s awareness of the cosmetic damage caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunbeds and the sun.

As well as increasing skin pigmentation and making people look old before their time, too much UV exposure also damages DNA in skin cells. The more DNA damage that accumulates, the greater the risk of skin cancer.

Made in Chelsea model Rosie Fortescue is one of many celebrities backing the charity’s campaign. She says:

“A lot of my friends used sunbeds when they were young thinking it would make them look more attractive, but they have soon realised that they were just making them look older.”

The survey also uncovered some of the main reasons people gave for continuing to use sunbeds, despite being warned about the damage they cause.

Two-fifths (41%) of sunbed users said they used sunbeds to get a base tan before going on holiday, while nearly a quarter (24%) claimed to use them to make themselves “look more attractive”.

Just over one in ten (11%) said they used sunbeds to keep their tan during the winter months, while 8% said they used sunbeds because their friends did, and 7% said it made them feel younger.

The survey also asked sunbed users about how much they spent on sunbeds and anti-aging products. 8% said they are paying over £30 a month on sunbeds, and of those users who also use anti-aging products, 30% spend upwards of £20 a month on them, compared with just 8% of non-sunbed users.

Experts suggest using a sunbed just once a month not only increases pigmentation and wrinkles, but more alarmingly, it increases a person’s chance of developing melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, by over 50%.

Rates of malignant melanoma have more than quadrupled in the UK in the last three decades. It is now the second most common cancer in young people aged 15 to 34.

To raise awareness of the effect of sunbeds on the skin, Cancer Research UK and skin treatment company Sk:n Clinics are currently touring major UK shopping centres and offering members of the public the chance to examine their skin in a special photo booth that uses the latest high-tech facial skin scanner to show the damage that lies under surface of the skin.

Cerny says:

“No one wants to look older before their time and crucially using sunbeds also increases the risk of skin cancer, so we hope having an R UV UGLY skin scan will really help to change people’s minds about using sunbeds.”

Click here for Skin Cancer Information and Sun Protection Advice from Cancer Research UK.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD