Phuket@photographer.net,  girl in thong at Flickr

Once, women used arsenic to look pale. But these days many women are willing to risk death in sunbed salons to achieve a tan. And who‘s to blame? Celebrities who’ve made orange skin seem a short-cut to glamour.

We all love a tan – but there‘s nothing that will age you quicker than the sun. Considering the risks, why are so many women still choosing to sunbathe? These days a golden tan seems to be the ultimate fashion accessory – but that wasn’t always the case.

Ken Hudson, Coco Chanel, 1935, Flickr.

Queen Elizabeth lightened her face with a potentially poisonous lead-based powder to help to hide the damage caused by smallpox. Later, the white faces of Venetian courtesans were also achieved with lead-based potions. Although she was famous for her perfumes, Coco Chanel was the first person to publicly flaunt a deep tan.

After cruising from Paris to Cannes in the summer of 1923, Chanel stepped off the Duke of Wellington‘s yacht with a startling suntan. Chanel had apparently gotten too much sun by accident, but the press and fashion world assumed the immensely influential Frenchwoman was making a fashion statement.

Interesthing Wallpaper, Sunbathing, Flickr

After that one moment, a tanned complexion was no longer the sign of a peasant – it had become the hallmark of the rich and glamorous. Where once it was considered as ‘common‘ to be tanned, now it‘s a fixation for millions of young women who try to emulate the tanned skin of celebrities such as: Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz.

These are the ‘tan icons‘ for a generation that places image above well-being – and if that means going on a sunbed, then so be it. Our unhealthy addiction to sunbeds and their obsession with looking brown has very dangerous implications.

Approximately 5,600 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Ireland every year – but that has not put off the legions of women willing to risk their health for that elusive mahogany glow.

1950s Johnson’s Sun Tan Oil advert. Flickr

Recently the stark facts about sunbeds were laid bare in a damning World Health Organisation report, which classed sunbeds as ‘probably carcinogenic to human’. The report has now implicated them as a high cancer risk, on a par with cigarettes, asbestos and alcohol. But with such dire warnings, why are people continuing to ignore the advice?

Women who use sunbeds will argue that being brown makes them feel more glamorous – they associate a tan with looking youthful, healthy and slim.

But in the world of high fashion, the suntan has been practically banished from the catwalks of New York, Paris and Milan with fashion editors and style pundits declaring it dead. Now that the orange glow, and fake mahogany tans, is truly dead in the water, living in your own skin is the biggest fashion trend of all. 

Jana Beamer, Taylor Swift 2013 RED tour, Flickr

If you are still slathering on fake tan or cremating your body under a sun-bed, then you have not only missed the plot, but the very real fashion trend to be natural.

Gone is the sunbed and spray tan babe style and instead, the complexion to covet is a creamy pallor and stars such as Taylor Swift, Alexa Chung and Keira Knightley are all proof that you can be beautiful – and successful – with pale skin.Perhaps it is the time you did too – your skin will love you for it.

Photocredit: Dollytopia,  Vintage Malibu Barbie 197, Flickr

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