In 2019, roughly twice as many men died from melanoma in the US as women. Why? One reason is that sunscreen use is more integrated into women’s daily lives. Women are more likely to use skincare products, which often contain SPF (sun protection factor). Many men are reluctant to use such products, viewing these as “unmasculine”. Some men also note that applying sunscreen on each other violates norms for appropriate male-to-male body contact, especially in all-male company. Yet another example of the harmful effects of masculinity norms.
Women, by contrast, are motivated to use sunscreen because they worry about premature ageing, wrinkles and sunspots resulting from unprotected exposure to sunlight. Sunscreen ads, mostly targeted at women, endorse mainstream beauty standards and fuel these worries. On a more positive note: for once, beauty standards for women have positive consequences insofar as they encourage sunscreen use. It should be noted though that the same beauty standards also cause women to use tanning beds more frequently than men, which obviously increases their risk of skin cancer.
The solution? We should get rid of gendered skincare products (which would mean getting rid of the pink tax as well!) and normalise the use of gender-neutral skincare amongst both men and women. Advertisements targeting men or women specifically will then also belong to the past.