Burning for beauty

By Raven Hearton
On February 23, 2012

Tanning for some people has become a necessity when it comes to looking good. The sun, tanning beds, tanning lotions and oils are giving people everywhere that perfect sun-kissed glow.

According to howstuffworks.com, before having a tan became the norm, people with tanned skin were considered low class because having a tan meant they spent a lot of time outside working in the fields or building things.

Well-to-do young ladies would stay indoors and protect themselves with hats, umbrellas, gloves and long sleeves.

Suntan.com said in ancient Rome and Greece, women used make-up containing lead poisoning to make themselves look lighter. Unfortunately, this led to many deaths.

Early in the 10th century, arsenic was used to whiten a woman's skin and later during Queen Elizabeth's era, women used heavy white powder to brighten their faces. They would then apply a very thin blue line on their foreheads to give a translucent appearance.

But times have changed and women and men are clamoring to get to the tanning bed to avoid looking "pasty."

"I tan to keep a good color throughout the year," said Stephanie Buhler, a freshman physical therapy major of Paragould. "I don't want to look like a ghost all the time. I feel better when I have a little color."

Chelsea Fife, a mental health counseling grad student of Paragould said she tans to avoid being pale and to clear up her skin.

"Sometimes I feel less attractive whenever I have a pale face. When I have a breakout, I'll just go to the tanning bed and it helps dry the pimples right up. It sounds weird, but it works," Fife said.

The believed origin of the tan goes all the way back to 1923, when French fashion designer, Coco Chanel, took a trip to the French Riviera and returned with a sun-kissed glow. A trend and an industry were officially born.

Suddenly, it was everyone's ambition to have that golden flush of color and being pale made you "dull as dishwater."

More and more people began to flock to beaches to lay out and many people suffered severe sunburns. A suntan became a symbol of having money and extra vacation time.

In achieving that "little color," dermatologists and physicians noticed a growing number of people with skin cancer.

It also became known that prolonged exposure to the sun would cause aging and dry skin. To prevent this problem, sunscreens like Coppertone began to pop up everywhere.

In 1953, headlines about sunscreen said "Don't Be a Pale Face" and "Tan Don't Burn."

Despite the warnings, a new way to achieve a tan was developed in the early 1970s by German scientist Friedrich Wolff.

Wolff was using artificially produced indoor tanning UV light to study athletes and how they might benefit from more exposure to sunlight.

During his studies, he noticed a side effect on the athletes-"the golden glow of a healthy tan."

Given the popularity of the tan at that time, Wolff used his scientific knowledge to create the first indoor tanning beds, but even this new invention didn't come without risks.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said tanning lamps may be more dangerous than the natural sun because people can use them at the same intensity year-round, exposing their whole bodies at once.

"I do think about the consequences of tanning so much," Buhler said. "It's scary to think that lying in a tanning bed for like six minutes could cause cancer. It has caused me to reduce the amount of time I spend tanning."

"I think about it sometimes," Fife said. "I have these spots on me that are kind of like moles and I wonder if it's from tanning too much. I once had a large spot on my chest that I was worried about and I had it checked. Luckily it wasn't cancerous."

In addition to the potential health risks, tanning is also very costly when it comes to paying for it.

Both Buhler and Fife said they can pay up to $200 in a year on tanning all in the name of beauty.

"I think it's strictly an appearance thing, and beauty comes at a high price. People want to look good and having a tan is associated with looking good and being pale is associated with looking not so good," Fife said.

With beauty being such a high priority for women and some men, it's no wonder that they would resort to using a tanning bed to look better.

Buhler said she started tanning for pageants and prom because her skin looked prettier against her dress when she had more color.

Fife was also involved in pageants and said tanning was a huge part of it.

"When I was doing pageants, I would tan every day," she said. "Judges would count off if you weren't tan enough. They would never say that was the reason, but you just knew that's why they did it."

As revolutions in tanning continue to emerge, sunless tanning has become very popular.

Today there are several brands that have tanning lotions that when used over a period of time would give all the glow and not the burn.

Spray tanning has also become very popular. According to recent statistics, spray tanning represented about 11 percent of the tanning industry's revenue last year and is projected to grow to 17 percent by the end of this year.

"Everyone who is famous you see in the media is tan, and that's the look people are going for," Fife said. "Thinking a tan is going to make you look better is more of a mind thing than the truth."

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