Tanning, which has been associated with skin cancer in previous studies, may have an advantage after all. It makes women look sexier, says a new study.
Researchers at Emory University found that doctoring photos of women to make them appear tanner increased how attractive they were rated on a popular attractiveness-rating site HotorNot.com, reports ABC News.
They used the website to gauge whether 'hotness' scores would change when the same woman was shown with her natural complexion and then with a tan.
Using Photoshop, 45 photos of women aged 21 to 35 were doctored to look tan. The original photos and the doctored versions were posted to the site at different times.
The researchers found that the darker version was twice as likely to be rated as more attractive.
Meanwhile, campaigns by health organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology to warn the public about the skin cancer risks of tanning with have had limited success.
"People think that tanned individuals are more attractive, healthier looking, and it's incredibly difficult to get someone not to do something that perceive as providing them with a positive perception. It was the same thing with smoking. Especially younger people have a hard time seeing themselves as getting older and having to deal with these risks," said dermatologist Dr. Audrey Kunin.
While sun exposure does help the body produce necessary vitamin D, supplements and natural sources of the vitamin in one's diet, such as cheese and eggs, do the job just as well, she said.
So there is not really a medical basis for tanner people looking healthier, she added.
Numerous studies have linked overexposure to UV light with skin cancer, especially through the use of tanning beds, but controlling Americans' desire to bronze has proved difficult, said dermatologists.
"All of my younger melanoma patients, girls in their early twenties, have been tanning bed users," said Kunin.
People spending 20 minutes in a tanning bed is the same as an entire day on the beach with no sun block, but until they have skin cancer, it's hard to convince them about the risk, she added.