What is it about a summer tan that we love so much? It is actually quite interesting where the popularity of tanning began.
Tanning is a fairly recent trend in our society. Throughout history, tanned skin has not been considered as universally desired as it is today. Historically, pale skin indicated high social status. If you had a tan, it meant you worked outdoors as a manual laborer, while pale skin showed that you could afford to stay out of the sun and spend time and money on your physical appearance.
The idea of a suntan meant your skin looked healthy did not begin until 1855. This is when Arnold Rikli, known as the sun doctor, first used light therapy to treat tuberculosis. Sunlight also became a treatment for depression and madness. In the 1920s, Coco Chanel popularized the idea of tanning and the sun began representing pleasure, relaxation, and health. Once tans became more popular, so did the inevitable sun burn. Naturally, tanning oils that promised to soften and tan the skin with no sun burn were introduced. As we all know now, this is where our society went terribly wrong. But, it got worse before it got better. In the 1960s, pale skin which once was considered a sign of high social status, was considered the opposite. A tan showed that you had the leisure to bronze your skin and the money to travel to tropical places where one could be acquired. But, since everyone did not have time or money for a tropical vacation, the development of the artificial tanning market began. The first self tanner was introduced in 1959 and UV tanning beds started popping up in the US in 1978 leading to a national phenomenon that is commonplace in our society today.
The truth behind the tan
Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from either the sun or artificial tanning lamps. So, a tan actually means you have skin cell damage. Hardly sounds healthy, right? UV damage can lead to premature aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots) and even worse, skin cancer. In fact, indoor UV tanners are 74% more likely to develop melanoma, 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than people who have never tanned indoors. The tanning machines emit dangerous levels of UV radiation. Frequent tanners using high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA radiation they would receive from regular sun exposure.
So, if that isnt enough to keep you out of the tanning salon, I dont know what is!
Reinventing the meaning of healthy glow
Thank goodness there is now wide-spread education regarding the long-term risks and results of sun tanning and using artificial UV tanning beds. A healthy glow no longer means a tan, but glowing with your own natural skin tones. But for those of us that like to look a little bronze year-round, there are healthy alternatives to indoor tanning.
Sunless Tanning Lotions
- These come in a variety of shades and prices. Added benefit: moisturized skin.
- Also, known as spray tan, airbrushing gives you an even tan that lasts about a week.
- Although natural sunlight emits UV rays, it is 10 times less the amount than a tanning bed. Just be sure to use sunscreen. Yes, this method will take longer than the previous methods, but it is also the most natural.
- This method is the less-messy method of self-tanners.
- Bronzer can provide you with a sun-kissed look for your face. Since the last thing we want is premature aging to our face due to the sun, this is a great alternative.
Regardless of how you choose to give yourself that glow, remember the importance of sun protection in the prevention of premature aging and cancer. This is the only true way of making your glow a healthy one.
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