H&M’s Super-Tan Model Sparks Uproar in Sweden

A recent H&M swimsuit campaign featuring a deeply tanned model ignited a storm of protest in Sweden, prompting the Swedish Cancer Society to accuse the retailer of endorsing cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) tanning—and a potentially life-threatening standard of beauty. The ads, which ran in 43 countries, could “contribute to more  people dying of skin cancer,” the Swedish Cancer Society said in a May newspaper editorial. “Every year more people in Sweden die of skin cancer than in traffic accidents, and the main cause is too much sunning.” 

The other key cause is indoor tanning, which is extremely popular in Sweden—one study suggests that 44 percent of young adults there have tanned indoors. Those who begin tanning before the age of 35 increase their melanoma risk by 87 percent. H&M apologized in an email sent to the global news agency Agence France-Presse, explaining: “It was not our intention to show off a specific ideal or to encourage dangerous behavior.” 

A healthier ideal—to appreciate and nurture your natural skin color, avoiding UV tanning—is the central tenet of The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Go With Your Own Glow™ PSA ad campaign.

Published on December 19, 2012