Women who used sunless tanning products at least five times in the previous year spent 52 percent less time sunbathing, while women who used these products less often reduced sun exposure by 18 percent, the study found.
Tanning bed use was reduced more than 50 percent among women who used tanning products frequently, compared with about 24 percent among women who used the tanning products less often, the researchers said.
Most women surveyed (about 93 percent) believe tanned skin is more attractive than pale skin, and more than 79 percent said they felt better about themselves when tan, the researchers found.
The dangers of UV exposure are well-documented, and skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the United States. Two years ago, the World Health Organization put UV tanning beds in its top cancer risk category, saying they are "carcinogenic to humans." On Jan. 1, California will become the first state to ban anyone younger than 18 from tanning beds.
To increase use of sunless tanning products, manufacturers must improve them, the study authors said. Existing products can streak and cause an unnatural orange tinge.
Dr. Jonette Keri, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that "we would prefer that people were nicely pale and pasty, but it's just not the way it is -- people want to be tan." Women of college age are especially avid tanners, she noted.
"We need to get away from the idea that a tan is healthy," Keri added. "But if you want a tan, sunless tanning products are not a bad way to go."
For more information on healthy skin and cancer prevention, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation.
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