Is Tanned Skin Still 'In?'

True or false: A tan makes people look better and healthier. More men than women agreed with that in a national survey, says the American Academy of Dermatology.

The survey also showed that women do a better job of protecting their skin from the sun and that more men than women got sunburned last summer.

The telephone survey included 505 men and 508 women aged 18 or older. They were asked about their beliefs and practices about tans and sun protection.

The Sun-Kissed Look

More than half of all men and women said people look better with a tan. That included 69 percent of the men and 61 percent of the women.

Likewise, most people said they thought people look healthier with a tan. Slightly more men than women said so in the survey (60 percent of men and 54 percent of women).

"Despite the fact that we know that there is no such thing as a safe tan, people still associate bronzed skin with beauty and health," says New York University Medical Center dermatologist Darrell Rigel, MD, in a news release.

Then again, those questions were about aesthetics. If golden skin appeals, self-tanners, bronzers, and cosmetics are available (but don't provide sun protection unless SPF is noted).

Sun Protection Savvy

As for sun protection, 77 percent of the women said they were "very" or "somewhat" careful to protect their skin from sun exposure, compared with 62 percent of the men.

More women than men said they used sunscreen often or always when they were going to be out in the sun (66 percent compared with 43 percent). More women also said they often or always tried to stay in the shade when outside for a long period of time (74 percent of the women vs. 64 percent of the men).

However, more men (65 percent) said they wore hats while outside in the sun, compared with 36 percent of women. More men also said they always dressed for sun protection when they planned to be outside for a long time (32 percent vs. 26 percent for women).

Clothes For Sun Protection

Men tend to wear baseball caps, but wide-brimmed hats are better for screening out the sun, notes Rigel.

"When it comes to protecting themselves with clothing and accessories, both genders are missing an opportunity to significantly reduce their exposure to the sun," he says in the news release.