Public Interest in a Potentially Harmful, Non–Evidence-Based “Wellness” Practice: Cross-Sectional Analysis of Perineum Sunning

Ryan Ottwell, Micah Hartwell, Tracy Beswick, Taylor Calli Rogers, Heather Ivy, Marcus Goodman, Matt Vassar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Perineum sunning/tanning is a potentially harmful yet popular new health trend cultivated by a viral social media post, famous public figures, and subsequent media coverage. Objective: Our primary objective is to evaluate public interest in perineum sunning/tanning. Methods: Using an observational study design, we extracted data from Google Trends for the terms “perineum sunning,” “perineum tanning,” “Metaphysical Meagan,” and “Josh Brolin”; and Twitter (via SproutSocial) for “perineum sunning” and “perineum tanning” from November 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019. UberSuggest was used to investigate monthly search volumes and user engagement. We used data from Google Trends and Twitter to construct autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) models to forecast public interest in perineum sunning and perineum tanning had the post on social media never occurred. Next, we performed an integral function to calculate the cumulative increase in “perineum tanning” from the day after the post occurred to the end of the year as the area between the forecasted values and the actual values. Using Welch t tests, we compared forecasted and actual values for “perineum sunning” and “perineum tanning” using Twitter and Google Trends data over 1-, 2-, and 4-week periods after the social media post to determine if the increased volumes were statistically significant over time. Lastly, we monitored Google Trends for “perineum sunning” and “perineum tanning” through September 30, 2020, to capture trends during the summer months. Results: Before the Instagram post went viral, there was no search interest in perineum sunning. ARIMA modeling for perineum tanning forecasted no increase in searches (0.00) if the post had not gone viral, while actual interest conveyed a relative cumulative increase of 919.00% from the day the post went viral through December 31, 2020. The term “perineum sunning” was mentioned on average 804 (SD 766.1) times daily for this 7-day period, which was also significantly higher than predicted (P≤.03), totaling 5628 tweets for these 7 days. The increased volume of tweets and relative search interest from Google Trends remained significantly higher for both terms over the 1-, 2-, and 4-week intervals. User engagement showed that nearly 50% of people who searched for “perineum sunning” were likely to click a returned link for more information. Continued observance of search interest in perineum sunning demonstrated interest spikes in the summer months, June and July 2020. Conclusions: Google Trends and Twitter data demonstrated that one social media post claiming non–evidence-based health benefits of regular sun exposure—without the use of sunscreen—generated significant public interest. Medical journals, dermatologists, and other health care professionals are obligated to educate and correct public misperceptions about viral wellness trends such as perineum sunning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere24124
JournalJMIR Dermatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • general dermatology
  • perineum sunning
  • perineum tanning
  • skin neoplasm
  • public health
  • social media
  • infodemiology
  • public interest
  • Google Trends
  • Twitter


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