Young Aussie influencers called out for promoting ‘toxic tanning culture’


Aussie influencers have been called out for ‘extreme tanning’ and ‘promoting unhealthy habits’ after documenting their sunbaking sessions on social media. 

Stars like Rozalia Russian, Mia Fevola, Tayla Damir and Gabby Epstein are among those who have caused concern by showing off very dark natural tans, with a skin cancer charity warning against followers doing the same.

Popular influencer watchdog account Influencer Updates AU also called out TikTok star Sophia Begg, 19, who claimed she was lying on the beach with tanning oil for days on end in a quest to become a bronze goddess.

Aussie influencers have been called out for ‘extreme tanning’ and ‘promoting unhealthy habits’ after documenting their sunbaking sessions on social media. Rozalia Russian is pictured

Many were quick to comment on the situation after the account called out the extremely dark tans.

‘This is so upsetting. Not a good example to set at all,’ wrote one. ‘Jesus, in our hemisphere? Under our ozone hole??’ said another.

‘Tanning is trending on TikTok driven by Aussie influencers. Very sad. If only they understood how bad it is,’ wrote another.

‘As disappointing as these posts are, it’s nice to see there’s a strong commentary from the public that tanning is wrong. A big step in the right direction,’ said one.

Mia Fevola (right, with two friends) sparked chatter on Instagram after debuting an ultra-tanned look, with one fan warning her of the dangers of melanoma

Mia Fevola (right, with two friends) sparked chatter on Instagram after debuting an ultra-tanned look, with one fan warning her of the dangers of melanoma 

The stepdaughter of AFL great Brendan Fevola sported very bronzed skin in a gallery of holiday photos posted on Sunday. She flaunts her tan lines in a bikini while snapping a mirror selfie

The stepdaughter of AFL great Brendan Fevola sported very bronzed skin in a gallery of holiday photos posted on Sunday. She flaunts her tan lines in a bikini while snapping a mirror selfie

The topic has also been brought up on the Outspoken podcast with Sophie Taeuber slamming Australian tanning culture.

Speaking about recent pictures of Mia Fevola, 22, who raised concerns of fans with her extreme sunbaking, Sophie explained: ‘I was quite taken aback because there was a conversation in our Facebook group about this post.

‘And when I clicked on it to read the commentary, I assumed it would be like minded people discussing the importance of sun safety but a lot of people are pushing this incorrect information.

Popular influencer watchdog account Influencer Updates AU also called out TikTok star Sophia Begg, 19, who claimed she was lying on the beach with tanning oil for days on end

Popular influencer watchdog account Influencer Updates AU also called out TikTok star Sophia Begg, 19, who claimed she was lying on the beach with tanning oil for days on end

Sophia, who often talks about sun safety, said she as trying to become a 'bronze goddess'

Sophia, who often talks about sun safety, said she as trying to become a ‘bronze goddess’

‘And that’s why I thought it was really important to discuss because while it may look like oh, she’s not doing anything wrong, she didn’t say what she was doing,’ Taeuber explained. 

‘It’s not like she said, “I’d be sitting in the sun for six hours and oil on my body.’

‘But the thing is, it buys into this tanning culture as a whole because it may not be saying this is how you do it, but she’s showing the result.’

Rozalia Russian (pictured) has also been called out for showing off an extreme tan

Rozalia Russian (pictured) has also been called out for showing off an extreme tan

Sophie, who hosts the podcast with her sisters Kate and Amy, also pointed out Mia was deliberately showing off her tan lines in a throwback to toxic culture of the early noughties.

‘It really reminded me of being back in the early 2000s when everyone wore their tan lines like a badge of honour.

‘I don’t think we should hold one person individually responsible for this tanning culture, but I think it was a little bit worrying because what she’s putting out there is sort of subliminal, so lots of young girls will see that and be like, “hey, that looks cool”. 

Love Island's Taylor Damir also came under fire for saying she 'wouldn't swim in the sewage they call a beach' in Melbourne but would happily tan in it

Love Island’s Taylor Damir also came under fire for saying she ‘wouldn’t swim in the sewage they call a beach’ in Melbourne but would happily tan in it

‘But she’s got those tan lines where she’s sitting on a yacht, directly in the sunlight. It all adds up and while she might not have chosen to be a influence to young girls, that’s definitely what she is having this following.

‘My issue with me is that she does have a huge platform and whether she likes it or not, she is an influence to young women. And those posts were glamorising a tan.’

She went on to say there was ‘nothing incidental’ about Mia’s tan, because she’s a ‘young rich influencer’ and ‘glamorising the saturation by being on  a yacht’. 

Mia, pictured, was slammed because she's a 'young rich influencer' and 'glamorising the saturation by being on a yacht

Mia, pictured, was slammed because she’s a ‘young rich influencer’ and ‘glamorising the saturation by being on a yacht

The sisters also called Sophia Begg, who goes by Sopha Dopha on social media, for promoting tanning when she’s previously preached about sun safety.

In December, Sophia posted an Instagram story of herself sunbaking and wrote: ‘I’ve laid in the sun of no joke every single day for two to three hours with tanning oil. Why am I not a bronze goddess?’

What are the signs of a skin cancer? 

There are three main types of skin cancer: melanoma (including nodular melanoma), basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma: Most deadly form of skin cancer and if left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. Appears as a new spot or an existing spot that changes in colour, size or shape.

Basal cell carcinoma: Most common, least dangerous form of skin cancer. Red, pale or pearly in colour, appears as a lump or dry, scaly area. Grows slowly, usually on areas that are often exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma: A thickened, red scaly spot that may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate. Grows over some months, usually on areas often exposed to the sun. More likely to occur in people over 50 years of age.

Describing Sophia as a ‘barometer for Gen Z’, Sophie said she was shocked as the influencer says she ‘wears suncream as primer every day’.     

‘For her to promote herself tanning just seemed really left field and in the photo, it’s also quite concerning because her cheeks are really bright red colour.

‘There’s this new trend on TikTok where young people are using sunscreen on their face, but not the places that you would contour. So that’s in order to try and get a natural looking contour. It’s actually disturbing that the sun safety message isn’t getting through to Gen Z.’

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia,  Professor Tanya Buchanan, Cancer Council Australia CEO explained against the dangers of the trend.

‘A suntan is a sign of skin damage. When skin is exposed to UV radiation, more melanin is produced causing the skin to darken. This is what we know as a ‘suntan’. There is no such thing as a safe suntan,’ she said.

‘Concerningly, nationally representative data in 2019 showed that two in five adults (40%) reported they like to get a suntan, and 62% of respondents reported having tanned skin.

‘Sun damage accumulates over time, so even if you’re seeking a suntan but not burning, you’re still increasing your risk of skin cancer.

‘That’s why we encourage Australians to embrace their natural skin tone and protect their skin from the sun.

‘Whenever the UV is three or above, it’s important to Slip on sun protective clothing, Slop on SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, Slap on a broad brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on sunglasses.’

Love Island’s Taylor Damir also came under fire for saying she ‘wouldn’t swim in the sewage they call a beach’ in Melbourne but would happily tan in it. 

‘We’re trying to solely put blame on these three young women because they really are just the cog in the machine that is tanning culture that has been so deeply ingrained in the Australian psyche for decades now,’ Sophie added.

‘But to me, I just found it so weird because these posts just seem so uncool. It reminded me so much of the early 2000s and of all the s**  that we used to do when we were younger.

Sharing a photo of the burn to Instagram, she wrote: 'Oh for f**k's sake. I forgot to put sunscreen on the back of my legs'

Sharing a photo of the burn to Instagram, she wrote: ‘Oh for f**k’s sake. I forgot to put sunscreen on the back of my legs’

Gabby's sister Maddy responded to her Instagram posts, writing: 'Omg Gab?! You have literally been here for like two hours, WTF'

Gabby’s sister Maddy responded to her Instagram posts, writing: ‘Omg Gab?! You have literally been here for like two hours, WTF’

Top tips for applying sunscreen 

* Put it on clean, dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before you go out in the sun to allow it time to interact with your skin. Re-apply it just before you go out – you’ll increase the amount applied and be more likely to get the stated SPF benefit.

* Cover all parts of the body not protected by clothing (don’t forget your ears, the back of your neck, the backs of your hands and the tops of your feet).

* Apply it evenly, and don’t rub it in excessively – most sunscreens will absorb into the outer layer of skin and don’t need to be rubbed in vigorously.

* Re-apply at least once every two hours and after swimming or exercise.

* Think beyond the beach and pool – use sunscreen whenever you go outdoors for a significant amount of time, such as to the park, a lunchtime walk to the shops, playing sports or gardening.

‘It surprises me because I assume that suntanning was thought of as really naff and something that you just didn’t do in 2023’.

Gabby Epstein has also been called out for her tanning.

This week, Gabby suffered a nasty sunburn after touching down on the Gold Coast for the first time since 2019. 

The Playboy cover girl was at the beach without any sunscreen and suffered a major burn because of it.

Sharing a photo of the burn to Instagram, she wrote: ‘Oh for f**k’s sake. I forgot to put sunscreen on the back of my legs.’

She added: ‘My pasty-a** legs haven’t seen the Australian summer since 2019.’

Gabby’s sister Maddy responded to her Instagram posts, writing: ‘Omg Gab?! You have literally been here for like two hours, WTF.’

Mia Fevola has also been called out by fans, with many urging her to educate herself on sun safety.

‘Omg how are you so brown?’ one asked on the comments of a recent post.

Another wrote: ‘You girls should watch Deb Hutton’s story and stop baking yourselves into a melanoma.’

Television presenter Hutton, 61, underwent life-saving surgery to remove two skin cancers from her face in mid-2020, and has since used her public platform to promote sun safety.

'You girls should watch Deb Hutton's story and stop baking yourselves into a melanoma,' one fan said. TV presenter Hutton (pictured) underwent life-saving surgery to remove two skin cancers from her face in mid-2020, and has since used her platform to promote sun safety

‘You girls should watch Deb Hutton’s story and stop baking yourselves into a melanoma,’ one fan said. TV presenter Hutton (pictured) underwent life-saving surgery to remove two skin cancers from her face in mid-2020, and has since used her platform to promote sun safety 

Mia's followers wasted no time sounding off about her tanned complexion in the comments section. 'Omg how are you so brown?' one asked

Mia’s followers wasted no time sounding off about her tanned complexion in the comments section. ‘Omg how are you so brown?’ one asked

'You girls should watch Deb Hutton's story and stop baking yourselves into a melanoma,' another commented

‘You girls should watch Deb Hutton’s story and stop baking yourselves into a melanoma,’ another commented

Hutton was initially worried the cancer would affect her career, but now sees it as a ‘gift’ because she is able to spread the word about melanoma.

Hutton isn’t the only famous face to speak publicly about skin cancer – and urge people to take the sun seriously.

Braith Anasta’s ex-fiancée, Rachael Lee, revealed her skin cancer battle in 2020.

 Rachael first shared a photo of herself tanning in the sun in a skimpy bikini, writing: ‘I kick myself now – baking myself year after year.’

Before: Rachael's skin check reminder comes after comes she posted photos of her melanoma after it was surgically removed. She circled her melanoma, which looked like a tiny freckle in the 'before' photo

After: She then explained how she had to get 14 stitches to remove it. Pictured: her stomach post-surgery

Ouch! Rachael circled her melanoma, which looked like a tiny freckle in the before photo (left), then explained how she had to get 14 stitches to remove it (right, her stomach post-surgery)

Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumours.  

Causes

  • Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
  • Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma 
  • Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
  • Hair colour: Red heads are more at risk than others
  • Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
  • Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk

Treatment 

This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary. 

The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent. 

  • Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy: 

This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body. 

Prevention

  • Use sunscreen and do not burn
  • Avoid tanning outside and in beds 
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
  • Keep newborns out of the sun
  • Examine your skin every month
  • See your physician every year for a skin exam 

 Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society

The former WAG and personal trainer said she would use ‘little sunscreen’ or none at all during her time in the sun until her skin turned ‘so dark’.

‘I would always go dark – and being so naïve and stupid I thought because I did, didn’t need to worry! Well! Here I am,’ she added. 

Rachael circled her melanoma – which looked like a tiny freckle in the ‘before’ photo – then explained how she had to get 14 stitches, internally and externally, to remove it. 

Phoebe Burgess, 32, sported a sunburnt chest in a gallery of selfies shared to Instagram. She looked less burnt here while spending the day at the beach, but her chest became redder later

Phoebe Burgess, 32, sported a sunburnt chest in a gallery of selfies shared to Instagram. She looked less burnt here while spending the day at the beach, but her chest became redder later

‘That was my melanoma that was cut out – just a little black freckle nothing big or nasty just a freckle,’ she wrote, adding: ‘Get your skin checked!’

She concluded: ’14 stitches internal and external and I was lucky to catch it at earlier stages. If I’d waited even a few months, it would have been a whole different story!’

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, stage-one melanomas are localised but invasive, meaning it has penetrated beneath the top layer into the next layer of skin.

'More burnt than mum's turkey at Christmas!' Her Instagram followers pointed out the redness, encouraging her to be more liberal with the sunscreen

‘More burnt than mum’s turkey at Christmas!’ Her Instagram followers pointed out the redness, encouraging her to be more liberal with the sunscreen 

Phoebe Burgess has also displayed a sunburned state of late.

The former rugby league WAG and mother of two, 32, sported a sunburnt chest in a gallery of selfies shared to Instagram this week. 

 It’s not the first time Phoebe has looked sunburnt on social media, as she had a rather panful-looking burn in another set of photos last month.

Her Instagram followers pointed out the redness, encouraging her to be more liberal with the sunscreen.  

‘Ouch – sunscreen next time,’ one fan wrote, while another added: ‘I love this burnt or not burnt, it’s about doing you.’ 

‘More burnt than mum’s turkey at Christmas!’ a third commented.

Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world accoridng to the World Cancer Fund.

Anyone can be at risk of developing skin cancer, though the risk increases as you get older.

It's not the first time Phoebe has looked sunburnt on social media, as she had a rather panful-looking burn in another set of photos last month

It’s not the first time Phoebe has looked sunburnt on social media, as she had a rather panful-looking burn in another set of photos last month 



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