Many people find that when their skin has a tan to it, whether using a tanning bed, a lotion or plain sunshine, they feel better about themselves. Their self-esteem is increased and they feel more comfortable wearing fashionable clothing and showing a little more skin. The sun tan look has been in and out of fashion over the years but currently from movie stars and celebrities to people on the street often favor the sun-kissed look.
Early ideas around tanning
Prior to the 1920s, tanned skin was seen as a sign of the lower classes who worked outdoors and were exposed to the sun. During that period, women went to great lengths to keep their skin pale and untouched by the skin and clothes fashioned were tailored to protect them. Sleeves were long, sunbonnets and parasols were used as well as hats and headscarves. Some event went so far as to used cosmetics to make their skin whiter but this could have a terrible side effect as many used lead and could leave people with lead poisoning. Another frightening ingredient in the make-up of the time was arsenic!
However, with the turn of the 20th century, there came to be an awareness of the benefits of sunlight. Nobel Prize winner Niels Finsen was given his prize in 1903 for his Finsen light Therapy, a cure for diseases including lupus vulgaris and rickets. This tied in with the understanding that rickets was caused by a vitamin D deficiency. By 1913, sunbathing was a desirable activity for the leisured classes.
In the early 1920s, fashion designer Coco Chanel was sunburned by accident when on the French Rivera and when she appeared with her suntanned skin, fans immediately began to adopt the look. Tanned skin was instantly fashionable because of her status and celebrity.
Around the same time, a ‘caramel-skinned’ woman named Josephine Baker because the favourite singer in Paris and her fans were imitating her tanned skin. This saw the complete reversal of the tanned skin from low class to high fashion and Jean Patou launched the first suntan oil in 1927.
By the 1930s-40s, sunshine was being subscribed as a cure for a whole range of conditions from simply being too tired right up to tuberculosis. Magazines began to advertise the benefits of women sunbathing for health purposes.
In 1946, the bikini made its first appearance and quickly began to see favour over the traditional bathing costume. In the 1950s, baby oil was used to boost tans and the first self-tanner came about, though had a rather undesirable orange tinge to it – a long way from the best self-tanning lotions available today!
Sun protection factor, or SPF, was launched in 1962 though didn’t become a standardised figure until 1978. Mattel introduced the first Barbie, Malibu Barbie, that had tanned skin in 1971 and she even had her own bottle of sunscreen. The first tanning beds were launched in 1978 and today there is said to be around 50,000 outlets for tanning, making it a business worth $5bn in the US alone.
So from a shameful sign of the ‘lower’ classes, the suntanned look has changed to be the height of high fashion for a number of decades and with the growth of self-tanning products and tanning lotions, looks set to continue