Burnt is out, ‘skinscreen’ is in. How sunscreen got a beauty makeover

Instagram/#Calltimeonmelanoma

Lauren Gurrieri, RMIT University

Under Australia’s harsh sun, we’ve long slapped on sunscreen to protect ourselves from skin damage and cancer.

Now the product, once known for protecting skin against harmful UV rays, is becoming part of beauty routines. Sunscreen products are described as rich, luxe or nourishing.

When did the cultural perception of sunscreen as a health imperative shift towards a lifestyle “must have”? And will this new pitch work to keep us sun safe?

Campaigns of old

Sun safety promotions work to combat dangerous tanning behaviour.

The iconic Slip, Slop, Slap campaign paved the way for how we see sun protection today. In the 1980s, it was instrumental in educating Australians about sun exposure and skin cancer.

Sid the Seagull in full flight.

The campaign’s mascot, Sid the Seagull, sang and danced on our screens, encouraging us to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.

The slogan was extended to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide in 2007, adding two more tips to preventing sun damage: seeking shade and sliding on sunglasses.

These campaigns aimed to refocus Australians’ attitudes to sun protection as a necessity, despite our traditionally sun-drenched lifestyle.

In the 1990s, advertisements shifted their tone from catchy jingles to sexual appeals. The Leave Your Hat On campaign took inspiration from a striptease scene in the film 9/12 Weeks, reversing it with a couple putting on sunscreen, clothes, hats and sunglasses.

Take it all off – no wait, put it back on again!

The campaign targeted young men, as they were most at risk of developing skin cancer. However, the messages of these advertisements did not stick in the minds of Australians. The cultural norm of tanning remained steadfast.

Education through fear

When sex didn’t work to implement sun safety practices, campaigns used scare tactics instead. In the summer of 2003, skin cancer was branded as killer body art and the effects of sunburn, even if only mild, were portrayed as creating a timebomb under the skin.

These “slice of death narratives” – where the advertisement’s focus is on the negative consequences of poor decisions – highlighted the potentially fatal results of sun exposure. In 2007, Clare Oliver, battling end-stage melanoma, shared her story to highlight the dangers of solariums and the cultural ideal of tanning.

The true story of Wes Bonny, told by the relatives of a 26-year-old man who died from melanoma in 2010, spoke volumes about skin cancer affecting an everyday “Aussie guy”.

In 2016, Melbourne mother Belinda shared her story before her death from melanoma.

Melbourne mother Belinda urged others to learn from her story.

The campaigns were created to increase people’s vigilance with sun protection, and sunscreen became a product critical to protecting one’s health.

Evidently, these messages were effective. Research showed lower sunburn rates across the population, and sun protective behaviours improved.

Moreover, research into the investment into such campaigns found every A$1 invested brought a return of A$3.85 by lowering treatment costs and increasing productivity. The campaigns reduced the rates of illness and death and the economic burden of skin cancer.

A new beauty product?

As consumer demand bloomed, the perception and branding of sun protection products changed.

The Australian sunscreen market is expected to tip A$159.3 million this year. By marketing sunscreen as a key step in a daily skincare routine, brands are repositioning sunscreen as a beauty essential.

The new buzzword “skinscreen” has been coined for products that combine skincare and sunscreen. To persuade women to add skinscreens in their beauty regimes, products are marketed with appealing fragrances and textures, and are encouraged to be worn under makeup.

Beauty influencers on social media have jumped on-board the skinscreen craze. It is now marketed to highlight its anti-ageing benefits: preventing age spots, fine lines and wrinkles.

There are pros and cons to luxe skinscreen messaging. It may encourage frequent sunscreen application, but it also suggests women’s beauty and youth are inextricably linked and women’s value lies chiefly in their appearance.

Despite sunscreen’s new home in the beauty aisle, health messaging has not completely disappeared. The social media initiative Call Time on Melanoma aims to spread awareness about skin cancers and protecting skin from harmful rays.

With more than 21,000 Instagram followers, the account encourages people to wear sunscreen everyday, get regular skin checks and debunks myths about sunscreen. The initiative builds awareness by sharing the story of Natalie Fornasier, a woman who was diagnosed with stage III melanoma at age 20.

Not just for the beach. Sunscreen is now being pitched as part of a beauty routine.
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Skincare brand La Roche-Posay was an official sunscreen partner for the 2020 Australian Open. They offered a UV Experience to educate tennis fans about sunscreen protection and ran a campaign to raise awareness of the daily UV index.

Although important questions should be asked about the re-branding of sunscreen creating additional appearance-based pressures and “beauty work” for women, sunscreen appears to be more popular than ever. Sunsmart campaigns may have laid the health messaging groundwork, but today’s skincare brands continue to build awareness. This is a welcome step towards keeping Australians sun safe.The Conversation

Lauren Gurrieri, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

More than skin deep, beauty salons are places of sharing and caring

Salon workers – who are usually women – report clients sharing details of domestic violence, health issues and heartbreak.
Karen Perez/Unsplash, CC BY

Hannah McCann, The University of Melbourne

What happens when people visit beauty and hair salons? Are trips to the salon simply about shaping how one looks on the outside, or can these spaces involve something deeper?

Research shows that beyond “beauty”, salons can be spaces for clients to have intimate conversations with salon workers.

This means beyond technical hair and beauty skills, working in the industry involves listening to and managing the emotions of clients.

In my research and interviews with salon workers between 2017 and 2019, most described themselves as makeshift counsellors. One sign in a Melbourne shopfront even read

Therapy is expensive, get a haircut instead, we’re great listeners.

Beyond the technical

Research conducted in the United States shows salon workers can act as “lay health educators”. Workers have close physical contact with clients and potentially access to different and diverse communities, depending on the salon.

Some US salon workers have even been engaged to assist public health campaigns, educating the general public about health issues such as melanoma, diabetes, and unintended pregnancy.

Salon workers can develop a “commercial friendship” with clients as they maintain close physical proximity with the client over a long period. But they are neutral figures in relation to emotional disclosures.

This relationship means clients may disclose more details about the troubles in their lives than they would to friends or family. UK research also shows salons are spaces where workers often provide clients with emotional support.

It’s appropriate then that initiatives have emerged across the globe to train hairdressers and other salon workers to respond to client disclosures.

In Victoria the Eastern Domestic Violence Service has been running a program called Hair-3R’s (recognise, respond and refer), to train salon workers to safely manage client disclosures of family violence.

In some US states, “cosmetologists” (hairstylists, manicurists and other salon workers) are legally required to do formal training in domestic violence and sexual assault awareness every two years to renew their salon licenses.

Though they are likely to hear distressing client disclosures, salon workers are not often trained how to cope or respond.
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What workers signed up for?

Expecting salon workers to respond to issues such as family violence is asking a lot. Low wages and sometimes dangerous working conditions persist in the beauty industry.

When I interviewed salon workers trained in the Hair-3R’s program, I found they were relieved to be able to have frank discussions about the nature of their work, and grateful to receive support and guidance in negotiating these issues.

Research has shown salon workers are likely to have clients disclose intimate partner violence to them at some point. But workers I spoke with also mentioned a huge array of different issues clients bring up.

Marriage breakdown, mental health, suicidal ideation, gender transition and job loss were among the client issues reported by workers.

While the majority of conversations a worker has in a day or even over the course of a week may not be so “heavy”, they will likely encounter diverse and sometimes distressing stories, given the huge segment of the community they come into contact with over months and years. Many workers suggested the Hair-3Rs training was the first time they’d spoken about the emotional aspects of their work or had it recognised as something they negotiate daily.

Beyond the surface

Feminists writing about beauty have long focused on the gender expectations maintained in these spaces. From this perspective, salons have been seen as reinforcing stereotypes of how women should look and how they should maintain their bodies.

A reframing of this perspective notes the beauty industry is highly feminised, dominated by workers who are working class and often migrant women. Salon workers are represented as low-skilled “bimbos” in popular culture and the media. It is therefore no surprise the emotional nature of this line of work has remained largely hidden and both economically and culturally undervalued.

In Legally Blonde (2001) the salon relationship extends beyond grooming.
IMDB

As the beauty industry continues to boom – a day spa, nail salon or laser hair removal clinic on almost every Australian street corner and dotted throughout our shopping centres – we might speculate people are accessing these services for reasons beyond maintaining appearances.

While some may lay the blame on an increasingly image-soaked world due to the popularity of social media such as Instagram, we might also look to what kind of emotional refuge the salon is providing for a world in crisis.

Further research is needed to identify what can be done to support workers in this industry, who may accidentally find themselves acting as untrained social workers or therapists with little community support or recognition.The Conversation

Hannah McCann, Lecturer in Cultural Studies, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.