Why Isn’t Sunscreen Marketed to Men?


“There is every reason sunscreen can be promoted on what it does in its ability to reduce your risk of skin cancers over its cosmetic application to prevent the signs of aging,” writes a melanoma survivor.

The American Cancer Society states on its website that in 2021 the U.S. will see approximately 62,260 men and 43,850 women diagnosed with melanoma. Additionally, there are expected deaths of 4,600 men and 2,580 women to melanoma. So why are the majority of ads for sunscreen targeted towards women?

A Boston University dermatology researcher conducted a study and found 77% of sun care product ads targeted women’s magazines. They found in outdoor-recreation magazines, typically read by men, fewer than one out of every six issues contained ads for sunscreen products.

Where are the male role models who could help promote a product that would influence the mortality rate for everyone? Sports stars, movie stars and other masculine icons are more than happy to promote alcohol, clothing lines or automobiles. Most of the ads for sunscreen I personally see focus on the beauty aspect of sunscreen rather than its medical necessity and proven ability to reduce cancer. Why have they not been using the fact that sunscreen can make a real difference in a family’s life for the promotion of a product? Safety is now a major selling point when it comes to vehicles, so we know safety is an important selling point to the consumer.

Now here is the crazy part. Outside the U.S., sunscreen is categorized as a cosmetic. With that in mind, we would expect it to be sold as a beauty product. In the U.S. it is categorized as an over-the-counter medication (this subject is a whole other article). This means in the U.S. it must not only pass the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing for safety, but labels on packaging are also legally bound to be truthful and not misleading.

There is every reason sunscreen can be promoted on what it does in its ability to reduce your risk of skin cancers over its cosmetic application to prevent the signs of aging. We can all understand the selling point of vanity – images are flooded at us daily. Also, when it comes to protecting our children, that role is stereotypically portrayed in ads as the responsibility of the mother. It is past time that the role of men is portrayed as an important influence in preventing the deadliest of skin cancers and in taking charge with their personal choices and in activities with their children.

Awareness is key to prevention and survival. Advertising is a fantastic tool when used effectively and targeted at the right audience. Presently, the male audience is in most need and is being ignored. We can hope this will begin to change when advertisers become aware of the male role with this important issue.

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