For many of us, spring has sprung and our thoughts are already beginning to turn to summer and the al fresco activities we love to indulge in. Some of your thoughts, I’m sure, are turning to the day when you can finally shake the mothballs from your swimwear and start treating your poor, sun-starved flesh, to a spot of ultra violet therapy.
Sunbathing is something that has gone in and out of fashion throughout history; before the 1920’s, Western countries often associated a tan with the lower classes, those hard-working folk toiling under the sun and becaming exposed to it’s rays. Western women went to great lengths to preserve their porcelain skin, with many even using cosmetics containing lead, to artificially whiten their skin.
Prior to the 1920s, scientists were excitedly researching the benefits of exposure to sunlight, having discovered that diseases like Rickets, in which a vitamin D deficiency was found to be a cause, could be cured by exposing the sufferer to sunlight. A scientific expedition to Tenerife, in 1910, further tested the medical benefits of ‘heliotherapy’ and within a few years, ‘sunbathing’ fast became a highly desirable activity for many in society.
Not long after this, fashion designer Coco Chanel was visiting the French Riviera when she unintentionally achieved a suntan; upon returning home her fans fell in love with Coco’s dark skin, and began emulating her.
Magazine advertisements began to encourage sunbathing and with the creation of the bikini in 1946, it was even easier for pale skinned wretches to turn themselves into bronzed goddesses, and by the late 1950’s, many had taken to dowsing themselves in baby oil to speed up the tanning process.
Today, with all that we now know about the risks and benefits of sunbathing, we can make informed choices about the kind of protection we choose to afford our skin, and the amount of time we spend bathing or artificially tanning ourselves. So what about you, dear reader, is it important for you to come back from your summer holiday with an all over tan, and do you purposely set time aside for sunbathing? Or, like me, do you not only find baking your precious fair flesh to be incredibly boring, but you worry about the risks of skin cancer too?
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