Iowa City Stories

May 6, 2010

A History of the Tan

Filed under: IC Stories: Huff, Tanning — Aubrey @ 4:54 pm

Tanning was not always as popular as it is today. Throughout history, tanning has gone from wildly unpopular or medicinal to a sign of wealth and everywhere in between.

4th and 5th Centuries B.C.

During this time, tan skin was a sign of health. Also, sun and air were key elements of Hippocrates’ theories.

1800s

Tanning has not been in style for centuries. It was seen as a sign of poverty, as only the poor had to spend their days toiling in the fields.

Delicate, porcelain skin was “in.” People would even use make-up to make their skin appear lighter, much like “Goths” today. Arsenic was a popular skin whitener.

Tanning did exist during this time, however. It was practiced sparingly and for medical purposes. It was believed that “sunbaths” could cure anything from tuberculosis to aggressive eczema.

1900s

In 1903, Dr. Auguste Rollier opened the world’s first sun clinic in the Swiss Alps. The clinic treated diseases by gradually introducing patients to the sun, by first starting them with bed rest. Then, they were exposed to the mountain air. Finally, they were allowed brief sunbaths.

1920s

It was not until the 1920s that tanning gained popularity. Coco Chanel is largely credited for starting the tan craze in 1923 when she returned from a vacation in the French Riviera deeply bronzed.

Also during this time, poor workers left the fields for sunless factories and mines. Now, tan skin was a sign of wealth and leisure.

Still in the 20s, the health benefits of sun exposure turned tanning into a health craze in Britain.

“I think there still are health benefits, but there are risks too. People emphasize the bad more than the good,” said Courtney Steffen, an employee at Planet Beach Tanning Spa.

1930s

Nudists were the first to tan themselves out of pleasure rather than medical necessity. In fact, the term “sunbather” originally meant “nudist.” In 1931, a number of nudist clubs opened, and nudity became standard beachwear.

1950s

The first bikinis emerged in the 1950s, making an all-over tan more popular. Brown creams and skin dyes also entered the market to help people fake an all-over tan.

1970s

Tanning was still very popular, as the danger of tanning were not yet prominent concerns.

“When I was in high school and into my 20s, tanning was a big deal. You would use suntan lotions to get a tan. The products would brag about how quickly and darkly you would tan using them. There was no SPF stuff. We would also lie on foil blankets and use baby oil so that we would burn and tan quicker. I cannot tell you how many sunburns I have had, many of them on purpose,” said Cheryl Huff, 48.

In 1979, the FDA confirmed that sunscreen could protect against skin cancer and developed a rating system for SPFs.

1980s and 90s

Tanning salons and studios emerged. These studios have gained in popularity, and indoor tanning is now a $2 billion industry in the U.S.

In 1985, the American Academy of Dermatology became the first medical group to expose the risks of skin cancer and start an anti-tanning campaign.

By the 90s, tanning salons had the technology to significantly cut down on tanning time. Also, spray tanning was greatly improved and popular with those who did not want to expose themselves to ultraviolet light.

2000-Present

Today about 24,000 tanning salons can be found in the Yellow Pages, and despite the known risks, the popularity of tanning continues to grow.

Tanning salons are more strictly regulated now, however.

“Anyone under 18 teens their parents present to give written consent,” Steffen said.

Warnings are also posted in each tanning booth.

The government even regulates how often a person can tan in a salon. In Iowa, there must be a minimum of 24 hours between each tanning session.

“I still feel like I look better with a tan. It’s hard to get rid of something you have believed for so long,” Huff said.

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3 Comments »

  1. […] Stolberg no longer has cancer, he is now very conscious of covering his skin while outside. He frequently reapplies sunscreen and checks his body for […]

    Pingback by Colts vs. Cancer: Mitch’s Fight « Iowa City Stories — May 6, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  2. […] the risks, the popularity of tanning is growing. Thirty million people tan indoors in the U.S. annually; 2.3 million of those people are […]

    Pingback by Ultraviolet Exposure « Iowa City Stories — May 6, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  3. […] Stolberg no longer has cancer, he is now very conscious of covering his skin while outside. He frequently reapplies sunscreen and checks his body for moles. Despite his brush […]

    Pingback by Colts vs. Cancer: Mitch’s Fight « Iowa City Stories — May 7, 2010 @ 1:23 pm


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