Tan skin has become a sign of youth and sex appeal. Some people spend hours in the sun to get their skin tanned; others go to tanning salons to achieve their bronze glow. Despite the desire to be darker, exposure to the UV rays from the sun or tanning bed can cause skin cancer and premature aging.
Tanning has gone in and out of style over the years. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the shade of your skin determined your social class. Those who were tan were seen as manual laborers and of low class, while soft white skin signified wealth and a higher class.
In the 1920’s fashion designer Coco Chanel got a sun burn while visiting the French Riviera. She liked the look and chose to maintain the darker color of her skin by sunbathing. The look caught on, and more people began basking in the sun to acquire the coveted tan.
By the 1940’s bathing suite styles exposed more bare skin, which also allowed more skin to tan. People began using tanning oils to aid the darkening process.
While avid tanners are hardly far and few between in this day and age, people have become more aware of the damaging effects of extensive sun exposure. Sunless tanning options have also emerged, allowing for alternative tanning regimes.
To reduce the risk of skin cancer brought on by sun exposure, slather on a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. The higher the SPF number, the more ultraviolet radiation the lotion blocks. Look for a formula that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, apply 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every 30 minutes (especially if you are swimming or sweating) for the best results.