Dr. Jay Yoo of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, says the study also shows boys ages 12-17 focused more on how their skin appears to others -- tone, texture and color -- than on other aspects of their appearance, including body shape, when they were influenced by peers.
Yoo studied 155 boys, with an average age of 14.3 years, in seven schools in the eastern United States.
"I studied what kids are teased about," Yoo says in a statement. "If anyone looks different, people tease you. Probably boys who have acne would become really self-conscious. There are cultural differences, but smooth skin is highly desired, and that may translate into other parts of the body."
Skin tone also can represent the class of a person, Yoo says.
"Skin that is dark brown or bronze is more ideal than pale, Yoo says.
"Tanning as a fashion trend is a relatively new phenomenon," he says.
While tanned skin once was associated with being blue collar, a tan is considered a sign of the leisure class, Yoo says.
The findings are scheduled to be published in Adolescence next year.