A Brief History of the Fake Tan
We wear our skin like the current trends in fashion. Our skin tells a story and portrays an image to society like a tiny snapshot into who we are and how we spend our time. Are we wealthy or poor? Healthy or sick? Do we have time to spend outside or are we stuck inside all day?
Before 1920, pale skin was the coveted look. It was seen as a sign of wealth and being part of high society. Fair skin was esteemed, and women strived to protect it by wearing ankle length, long sleeved dresses that kept them safe from the sun’s skin darkening rays. Some women even went to extreme lengths to create this sought after hue by using lead based cosmetics as well as arsenic to lighten their skin.
Then one summer, the trend began to shift. Coco Chanel, who had been vacationing in the French Rivera, came home with a bronzed glow attained from spending long days in the sun. At the same time, a well known Parisian singer, Josephine Baker, was gaining attention and admiration for her smooth caramel complexion. The popularity of these women started a buzz heard around the world. Women now craved what was being seen as the new look of luxury and sophistication. At the same time, the sun was also being recognised for its ability to help the body produce Vitamin D and cure certain health ailments. So not only was tan skin fashionable, but it was also seen as healthy.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. It was soon discovered that the same UV rays that helped to provide the much coveted skin tone was also the leading cause of skin cancer. This realisation not only increased awareness of the harmful effects of too much sun exposure, but also led to an increase in demand for self tanning products. While self tanners had been on the market for some time already using DHA to darken the top layer of the skin, it wasn’t until the fear of cancer became a reality that the sunless tanning industry began to boom. With tan skin still the sought-after look, people now needed a safe alternative.
Sunless tanning products have come a long way since their debut into popular culture. They now allow people to have a safe and natural looking tan year round without any of the worry.