It’s that time of year again when many of us spend time outdoors, in the pool, at the beach or even entertaining in the back yard. These days, many people are generally more careful about the sun than they were 20 years ago, but some of us still like having a suntan, especially in summer. But it wasn’t always this way.
For centuries, tanned skin was considered unattractive, especially among women. Back in the days of Ancient Rome and Greece a tan was a complete “no no”. Women would paint their faces white with lead paint and in the early 10th century, arsenic was used as a whitener to produce a white and often deathly pallor!
A tan was not golden or glowing, but brown and weathered – proof that someone laboured outdoors. Well-bred ladies protected themselves with hats, parasols and long sleeves. Coco Chanel, the fashion design icon is widely credited – or blamed - with changing this attitude.
In 1923, Chanel accidentally spent too much time in the sun while she was sailing aboard a yacht to Cannes. When she returned from The Riviera golden brown, before she knew it, she had started a new trend. By accident or design a suntan suddenly became a must have fashion accessory. Holidays abroad became de rigour for the upper classes, and it was the poorer classes that ended up pale and washed-out.
It wasn’t until the 1940s that suntan lotion became popular. but most of them were designed to baste the skin, not protect it. By the late 1970s, the bikini became a must have fashion accessory and a whole generation began to bake themselves in the sun. Fashion magazines, television programs and Hollywood promoted tanning; celebrities with ‘sun-kissed’ skin were glorified and the overall message was that a healthy glow – aka a tan – is attractive and healthy.
This is far from true; a tan is anything but healthy, and there is a common misapprehension that if you tan rather than burn, you are at less risk of developing skin cancer. However, a tan is a sign of skin damage and is a physical representation of the change in cell pigment as the body tries to protect itself from further damage.
So even if you are implementing sun safe practises now, it is important to get your skin checked regularly, especially if you were part of the 1970s generation that spent a lot of time in the sun without adequate protection. This is the generation in which the incidence of skin cancer is at an all time high - according to the Skin Cancer Council, two thirds of Australians be diagnosed with skin cancer diagnosis by age 70.
Be assured that skin cancer can be treated if it’s detected early. So call SunDoctors today on 13SKIN (137546), or head online to the sundoctors.com.au to book an appointment today!