Swap that tanning oil for sunscreen — tanning isn't cool anymore, according to beauty influencers

Swap that tanning oil for sunscreen — tanning isn't cool anymore, according to beauty influencers
A young woman applies tanning lotion by the pool in 1968.Harold M. Lambert / Getty Images
  • Gone are the days of burning to a crisp with tanning oil and aluminum reflectors.
  • Today's social media influencers tout sunscreen as a vital step in their skin care.

Dr. Mamina Turegano, a dermatologist and social media influencer with more than 900K TikTok followers, has spent her medical career begging people to wear sunscreen.

But now she says many of her younger patients already are applying SPF regularly before they even walk through her door.

It's a stark difference from older generations, who tried to "get as tan as possible" in their 20s and 30s, and are now facing skin cancer scares in their 50s, she said. Despite increasing awareness surrounding the risks of sun exposure, the pattern is a hard one to break — more than half of those over 65, don't protect their skin from the sun when outside for an hour or more, according to CDC data.

"People always associated sunscreen with this obligatory, nasty feeling," Turegano said during an interview with Insider. "It was never considered to be this glamorous, sexy thing."

But today, SPF products are a must-have among Gen Zers and Millenials as beauty gurus tout sunscreen as a vital step in their skin care regimes across social media.


These influencer-approved sunscreens should not be confused with your grandma's cakey white Coppertone. There's hydrating sunscreen mist, powder sunscreen for your scalp, tinted SPF moisturizer, and sheer mineral lotions designed for acne-prone skin — all of which have been tested and tried by some of the biggest names on TikTok.

@dr.mamina Can we eliminate “base tan” from our vocabulary except when used ironically? #skincancer #sunspots #dermatologist #sunscreen ♬ original sound - Gary Vaynerchuk

According to Spate's 2022 sun-care trend report, Google searches for sun protection are exploding — even beyond the typical seasonal peaks. Compared to last year, searches including the keywords "mineral sunscreen" and "tinted sunscreen" have increased by over 33%. At the same time, searches for more niche products like "sunscreen mist" and "scalp sunscreen" have shot up 75% and 43% respectively.

The global sunscreen market size is estimated to reach more than $10.7 billion by 2024, up from $8.5 billion in 2019, as "sunscreens are being increasingly used in beauty products," Statista reports.

One of the companies linked to the industry's boom is Supergoop!, the cult-favorite brand behind "unseen sunscreen" and "glowscreen." The company was founded by former teacher Holly Thaggard in 2007 after her close friend was diagnosed with skin cancer. Her goal: to help end the skin cancer epidemic by reinventing sunscreen as a product people look forward to using every day.

"People weren't wearing daily sunscreen for a number of reasons — they didn't like the texture, feeling or scent," Thaggard said in a 2020 interview with Sephora. Many consumers also were concerned about products that included oxybenzone, she said, one of several potentially harmful chemicals used in sunscreen that remain under FDA scrutiny.


So far, Supergoop!'s product innovation and "wear sunscreen" marketing campaigns are working. The company has seen 20x growth over the past five years, Britany LeBlanc, Supergoop!'s SVP of marketing, told Insider.

Eliminating the greasy white cast traditional sunscreens often leave behind has been crucial to getting people to incorporate SPF into their daily skin care, Turegano said.

"When people ask what the best sunscreen is, our answer is whatever you're willing to use on a regular daily basis," she said. "Because what we've seen is that consistent and regular use of sunscreen is what makes the biggest impact on cancer prevention."

How our obsession with anti-aging propelled SPF to the forefront

Swap that tanning oil for sunscreen — tanning isn't cool anymore, according to beauty influencers
A quick search for "sunscreen" on TikTok results in hundreds of videos with millions of views.TikTok

Sun-care products began climbing in popularity around at the height of the pandemic, Turegano told Insider. The risks of COVID-19 led many people to pay closer attention to their health and overall wellness, leading to a "skin care boom" in 2020.

Since then, some American influencers and celebrities have become skin care-obsessed, sharing multi-step routines first popularized by Korean brands across TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram.


While doctors push sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, its biggest hook might be wrinkle- and dark spot-prevention.

"The massive story with sunscreen is anti-aging," Tai Adaya, the founder and CEO of the luxury sunscreen mist company Habit said last year in an interview with Fortune. "It's proven preventative skin care, not magical ingredients or gimmicks."

From preventive Botox to Kim Kardashian's new $360 skin-care line, "everyone's always looking for the silver bullet," when it comes to looking forever young, Turegano said. "But if you're not wearing sunscreen, then there's no point in doing anything else."

As with all trends, the question remains if sunscreen will disappear alongside dozens of other skin-care fads, or permanently shift the behavior of an entire generation. If the latter persists, Turegano believes it will impact skin cancer rates for Gen Z and millenials.

"The culture of tanning is still so pervasive," she said. "But with these young people being aware, I think that we're gonna potentially see less skin cancer in the future."