Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Not So Healthy Glow

To the class of 99’ Baz Lurhman bestowed a precious piece of advice, “Everybody is free to wear sunscreen”. So why still after extensive research and findings on skin damage do people choose not to? Worshippers of the sun insist on jetting off to exotic locations to sizzle their skin and apply oils, lotions and concoctions to ensure that their bodies become suitably singed and scorched, blistered and burnt.

In an article published by Pharma Times it was revealed that skin cancer referrals are up by 41% in just five years causing the annual treatment bill to inflate up to over £95 million. Figures like these should logically instigate a change in people’s attitudes to UV tanning. Yet, the costs and consequences shown in such studies seems to have little effect and a disparity between the knowledge of skin cancer and the effect on the self still exists. The behavioural theory that people, “choose to experience rewards now and pain later” (Ainslie & Haslam, 1992; Read & Loewenstein, 2000), suggests that the instant results provided by tanning cause the choice to look good and be socially accepted to override health concerns. Therefore, people still continue to expose themselves to harmful UV rays despite the rise in skin cancer cases.

Great increases in skin cancer cases are catalysing the production of new and advanced treatments. With the market for melanoma treatments set to grow Pharma companies are racing to get their drugs on to the market. For example, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s success with their immunotherapy drug, Yervoy, is now facing challenges from new and competitive brands. Recent approval and availability of drugs like Merck and Co. Inc.’s, Keytrunda, has caused choices to be revaluated and market trends to shift. The recent allegations from Bristol Myers Squibb against Merck and Co. for supposed infringement really highlights the intensity of the competition between emerging immunotherapy melanoma therapies. Therefore, essential insight into consumer markets can be said to be crucial as brands need to develop methods that allow them to become the first choice drug. Set apart from the rest of the market with a unique image that is upheld and preserved.

Bronzed hasn’t always denoted beauty. Up until the early twentieth century, western culture associated fair and light complexions with wealth and affluence. However, in 1923 design icon Coco Chanel’s sun-kissed glow definitively altered perceptions on skin tone. Tanned skin became a fashion fuelled concept. By being incorporated into an industry with such immense social and commercial power, the image of the healthy tan continued to infiltrate into the public consciousness and still remains prevalent today.

The link between solar exposure and health is a complex one. Despite the levels of incurred skin damage, scientists have outlined the beneficial effects of the sun in boosting Vitamin D levels. Outdoor work has also been linked to treating depression. The Severn Project in Bristol, which rehabilitates recovering drug and alcohol addicts by engaging them in horticultural work, provides evidence that working out in the sun does have a positive impact on well-being.

Of course it is possible to make a conscious effort to protect our skin by wearing sun screens and blocks. To what extent are sunscreen brands providing “protection” for our skin though? After all, we wouldn’t put harmful chemicals into our bodies so why would we put them onto our skin? When the FDA brought in new regulations for sunscreens in 2012 Lydia Valazquez stated that, “we want consumers to understand that not all sunscreens are created equal”. Valazquez’s statement clearly outlines that we must be thoughtful about our choices. Nevertheless, factors in our everyday lifestyles throw our choices into conflict. Reassurance and safety are inextricably connected with the brands that we use day to day. Sunscreens are picked not just to look after our skin, but to protect our bank balances too. That’s why market research is so important. Unique and distinctive characteristics are revealed which give brands the insights they need so that they can give their customers exactly what they want. The results of purchases are often based on SPF factors but also on a whole range of other factors too. Segmentation research distinguishes between the water bound jet skier, the sensitive skinned child, the oiled up teenager and the beach bound mum which means that products can market themselves to their full potential.

So, it can be said that the brands that we pick play an important role in our lives but that, fundamentally, importance lies with the need to look after our skin. Lurhman was right to highlight how it is imperative that we should, “wear sunscreen”. Now it’s just up to us to choose which product.

The author: Libby Roberts

Beasley, Deena. "U.S. approves Merck immune-stimulating drug for melanoma" Reuters, 4 Sept 2014. Web. 8 Sept 2014.
Lurhman, Baz. "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen Youtube, 2007. Web. Septmeber 2014.
Mckee, Selina. "Skin cancer referrals leap 41% in just five years" PharmaTimes, 2 Sept 2014. Web. 2 Sept 2014.
Pronin, Emily, Christopher Y. Olivola, Kathleen A. Kennedy. Doing Unto Future Selves As You Would Do Unto Others: Psychological Distance and Decision Making.. Princeton University.