Sunburn Art Is Now Apparently a Thing (Yikes)

Sunburn art is in! Don’t do it. Photo: @bbear430/Instagram

In high school, girls used to stick a Playboy bunny sticker, or a piece of paper in the shape of a heart, on their hip bone before tucking into the tanning booth. They’d emerge golden (and fried) with a perfectly white spot where the artificial rays couldn’t reach. This short-lived trend disappeared for many reasons — until now. Sunburn art is back baby — no tanning booth necessary. The Today Show covered the trend today, with an appropriate amount of shock of horror.

Sunburn art’s practitioners use sunscreen as their medium, applying it in artistic patterns while leaving the rest of their skin unprotected to achieve just the right pattern of artistic damage on their body. Others use strategically cut-out garments or temporary tattoos for the same effect. Several hours of sun exposure later, and you have your own unique artwork on your skin — not to mention an increased risk of skin cancer.

Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist and the co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C., recommends not trying this at home (or the beach or the pool or anywhere actually) — just in case you were considering it. “This is such a bad idea! If someone suggested using temporary tattoo ink that was known to cause cancer, would anyone use it?” she asks. “Getting a sunburn in a specific shape is the same thing!”

In case that wasn’t clear. Dr. David Bank, a dermatologist in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., agrees. “While sunburn art may be a growing fad among some young people, hopefully it will be a short-lived one,” he says. “Intentionally exposing the skin to sunlight with all that we know about skin cancer is cavalier at best and self-destructive at worst.”

Luckily, it’s not trending quite enough on Twitter and Instagram to make me think a new skin cancer epidemic is imminent. In fact, many are actually disparaging the trend, like this completely reasonable person:

If you are determined to treat your body like a canvas, there are so many safer ways to do it. For example, you can try a self-tanning mist (like this one) and spray it over a temporary tattoo or sticker to leave a white design on your skin. You can jump on the Flash tat bandwagon (have you seen Hillary’s?), you can try Tattly’s cute temporary tattoos. Or, you know, just go ahead and get a real tattoo. It’s much, much safer.

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