Vanity trumps health when it comes to teens.  A new study proves that point.  But it also shows that it's wise to work with that as a strategy when trying to convince kids to do things that will protect their health in the long run.

In a study at the University of California, Davis, researchers found that teens were more likely to use sunscreen if they learned that sun exposure caused premature aging than if they were told it could cause cancer.  

In the study, fifty 11th grade students in Sacramento were shown one of two educational videos about the benefits of using sunscreen.  The same female narrator was used for both videos. In one video, the narrator explained how sun exposure causes melanoma.  In the second video, the narrator talked about how using sunscreen helps to reduce the effects of premature aging.  

We are not trying to look like our grandparents, right?" the narrator says in the second video. "Have you seen what the sun can do to a grape? It gets shriveled and wrinkled. Raisins are not cute," she says.  She continues with, "I don't want to look like a raisin face, and I don't think you want to either.  The sun causes wrinkles, dark spots, uneven skin tones, sagging skin and rough, leathery skin. These are all the things that will make you look older and definitely less sexy."

The tone and language used in the video about skin cancer was more formal and clinical.

Researchers assessed how often students applied sunscreen before watching the videos and again six weeks after. They also evaluated the students' knowledge about sunscreen use and the effects caused by sun exposure.  They found that students from both groups improved their knowledge about the sun's effects and the importance of using sunscreen.  But the high schoolers applied sunblock three times as often if they saw the video showing how it could prevent their skin from wrinkling than if they watched a video explaining how it could prevent melanoma.

Bottom line: If you want teens to use sunscreen, don't lecture.  Just explain how it will effect their looks.  And that will make them more likely to protect their health.

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