Skin Cancer: Means to a Perfect Sun Tan

History of the Sun Tan

Let's face it, these days the majority of us love having a sun tan. Not only do we think we look good but it makes us feel good. But attitudes towards sun bronzed skin have changed dramatically over the centuries - so let's take a look at the history of the sun tan.

In the past, a tan has been a sign both of poverty and of wealth, while fashion has revered and reviled it. These days people are generally more careful about the sun than they were 20 years ago but it's still worshipped on the beaches. Nothing new there - sun worship has been going on for centuries. For many ancient religions it was a god, providing warmth and wellbeing while nurturing harvests.

But a sun tan in bygone centuries was confined to the poor and those working as servants or on the fields.

Back in the days of Ancient Rome and Greece a tan was a complete "no no". Women used lead paint to whiten their faces - unfortunately they didn't realise they were killing themselves through lead poisoning and premature death was quite common! Then there was the use of arsenic as a whitener in the early 10 th century which also produced a deathly pallor - literally.

This trend continued for several hundred years. In the days of Queen Elizabeth I, women slapped copious amounts of powder on their faces. This had a dual purpose - to cover the smell because they didn't wash very often and to make them whiter. They even used to paint very thin blue lines on their foreheads to make their skin look translucent.

Victorian ladies and Southern belles never went outside without hats and parasols to protect their delicate features.

It was only in the 1920s that being bronzed became fashionable. Style icon Coco Chanel came back from holidaying in the south of France with a - TAN!

By accident or design a sun tan suddenly became a "must have" fashion accessory. Hats became fashion statements instead of protective clothing. Holidays abroad became de rigueur for the upper classes and it was the poorer classes that ended up pale and pasty.

It wasn't really until the 1940s that suntan lotion became popular and this was only because of its bronzing effect. Some of the sun lotions in those days only just fell short of basting oil which wasn't good news at a time when swimming costumes were becoming ever skimpier. By the 50s the bikini was the most talked about fashion accessory.

Suddenly a sun tan became a symbol of having money and leisure time. Certainly a bronzed face in winter showed that you could afford to have a break at a time of year when less monied mortals were confined to their offices.

By the late 1970s a whole generation began to bake themselves in the sun. Alluring advertising campaigns featuring bronzed and beautiful bodies soaked in sun tan lotion drove millions to the beaches and on foreign holidays.

Little did people know in the 70s that, 30 years later, they would become the generation in which the incidence of skin cancer was at an all time high.

Nowadays, everyone is far more aware of the dangers of the sun. Children are being taught sun safety at school and every summer adults are confronted by skin cancer warnings in TV and newspaper health campaigns. In some countries, ardent skin cancer campaigners even take to the beaches to dole out dire warnings and sun protection advice.

A tan is not a healthy sign; it's a sign of skin damage. Skin experts know that to avoid the sun altogether would be completely impractical but a bit of sun know-how could save your life in a few years - although pale skin has yet to make a comeback.



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