The adverts – which portray brightly coloured swimwear on a heavily tanned model – have caused consternation in a number of quarters across Switzerland.
“I find this advertising very alarming and borderline,” Dr. Ralph Braun, from the Early Skin Cancer Centre at Zurich University Hospital, told online news site 20 Minuten.
“Many people, especially the young, will try to emulate this and will try to be just as brown, although with some skin types it is just not possible,” Braun said.
Switzerland has the highest rate of skin cancer across Europe and awareness campaigners are furious.
“This completely contradicts our advertising efforts,” Swiss Cancer League spokeswoman Cornelia Egli told the website.
Former Miss Switzerland Amanda Ammann, who has previously suffered from skin cancer, also laments the use of the adverts.
“I think it’s a shame, because such advertising gives the wrong impression. People will try to imitate this unrealistic ideal,” she told 20 Minuten.
H&M have defended the campaign by saying that they had chosen a model with darker skin in order to best show the strong colours on sale this season. Isabeli Fontana, the model featured in the controversial campaign is, they point out, from Brazil, and has naturally dark skin.
However, other pictures featuring the model show that her skin tone is nowhere near as deep as the colour portrayed in the latest H&M campaign, 20 Minuten reports.