We investigated whether appearance motive for sun exposure, which strongly predicts exposure behaviour, would predict reactions to safe sun messages. In a survey with an embedded experiment, 245 individuals completed measures of motives, read a safe sun message framed by incentive (appearance/health), tone (directive/nondirective) and valence (gain/loss), then completed measures of reactions. For participants high in appearance motive, an appearance-nondirective message was most persuasive. Regardless of individual’s appearance motive, appearance messages produced lower reactance if phrased using nondirective language. To maximise persuasion and minimise reactance in individuals most motivated to sun expose, safe sun messages should focus on appearance using nondirective language.