Sun Tanning - But First, Some Sun History
solar systemIt was over 400 years ago that Copernicus declared that the sun was the center of our universe. Throughout history, the human race has had a special relationship with the sun. Primitive societies in every continent have worshiped the sun as the god that provided warmth and made the crops grow.
Cultures changed over hundreds of years and class systems developed and the sun became a symbol of a different kind, one that clearly defined who you were. Skin color became that visible definer - one that separated working classes from the ruling classes, and separated the master from his servants. Pale skin belonged to the leisure upper classes, while darker skin indicated a life of outdoor labor. The paler one's skin the higher the class, and men and women went to great (and sometimes unhealthy) lengths to be pale.
Women of ancient Greece and Rome used lead paints and chalks to whiten their faces. Unfortunately this beauty treatment could cause death through slow lead poisoning.
sunny sunBy the mid-10th century, arsenic became the preferred skin whitener, once again with sometimes deadly results. Other methods of making the skin white were less poisonous -- during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, women painted thin blue lines of their foreheads to give their skin a translucent look, and carried parasols or wore masks whenever they ventured outdoors.
These class distinctions found their way to America, where no Southern belle or Northern society debutante dare go out in the sun without her parasol to protect her delicate pallor. It wasn't until the 20th century that society began accepting bronzed skin.
Blame It On The French
eiffel towerTwo French celebrities can be credited (or blamed) with the transformation from pale to tan. In the 1920s, as fashions were freeing women from confining clothes, thanks in part to designer Coco Chanel, she inadvertently gave the fashion world another new trend: while cruising from Paris to Cannes, she obtained a suntan, probably by accident.
At the same time fashions were changing, so were lifestyles. Women came out of the house to enjoy outdoor life, with hiking, picnics, lawn tennis and other "acceptable" yet still "feminine" activities. Soon, fashionable women everywhere threw away years of tradition to be tanned.
beach ball tossingOn beaches throughout Europe, women sunbathed, wearing decorative sun hats and shawls not for protection but as fashion statements. Brown and beige-tinted powders and creams were created to be brushed on the places the sun had missed. The fashion world featured clothes for women who wanted to flaunt their new tans; shoes were worn without stockings and sleeveless dresses became stylish. Bathing costumes that had covered women's legs with bloomers, now bared the leg, and swimming became an acceptable sport for women. The suntan had arrived...as the symbol of wealth and leisure. A tan in the winter meant the bearer had enough money and status to afford a vacation to an exotic, warm climate.
By the 1970s, an entire generation had baked their bodies in the sun, totally oblivious to the fact that the sunburns they had acquired in their youth would develop into skin cancers 10 to 20 years later.
Recognizing The Dangers Of The Sun
sun bather It wasn't until 1979 that the FDA concluded that sunscreens could help prevent skin cancer, and developed the first rating system for SPFs. In 1985, alarmed at the growing incidence of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) became the first medical society to start a public education skin cancer campaign, warning the public about the dangers of overexposure to the sun. In 1988, the AAD held a consensus conference on photo aging and photo damage. The conclusion from that conference was that "there is no safe way to tan."
The indoor tanning industry first became popular in the 1970s and by the 1980s had taken hold in the United States. Today between 20,000 and 24,000 salons are listed in the Yellow Pages, claiming 22 million plus clients each year.
In a survey in Seventeen magazine, 2/3 of the teens say they look better with a tan and feel healthier, more sophisticated, and 50% say they looked more athletic. sun waving
A report from the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science questions the value of sunscreens, leading to national publicity. Some products promising UVA and UVB protection do not protect adequately against UVA and may give sunbathers a false sense of protection, the report says. sun waving
The AAD continues to urge Americans to use sunscreens, avoid sunbathing and cover up. It is estimated that more than one million Americans will developed skin cancer in 1999, with 9,800 dying from the disease, 7,800 of them from malignant melanoma. Yet despite these alarming figures, men and women still enjoy the tanned look. Just look around you on any warm summer day - you'll see them, the seekers of the sun. sun waving
The skin cancer rates were still growing, but the sun-worshipers are still out there or still tanning at the tanning salon all year round. Today the effects of sun exposure are becoming an increasing concern due to the decline in the earth's ozone layer. The ozone layer screens out the most harmful of the ultraviolet rays, but is becoming thinner all over the world, and holes that fluctuate in size have developed in various places. This situation increases the risk of skin cancer and of sunburn. sun waving
Ditto from 2000, some people will never learn. I live in Florida where there are skin cancer treatment centers almost on every corner (it seems that way). Students here are taught to use sunscreens and to wear caps. The rest of the world comes here to tan. Florida's number one industry is tourism, and our sunshine is one of the reasons that people come to visit. I can always spot a tourist, they are the ones with the sunburns, the rest of us have learned the hard way. I had my first precancerous spot removed from my face this month (April 2002), my dermatologist said it was from all the years of tanning as a teenager. I had skin cancer removed from the same area in 2003; again from years of tanning. (Darn).
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, every two hours when outdoors! SPF of 15 or 20 -- even better! 30... that works too! If it is raining, okay none needed
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