What Cost Beauty?

Fashion trends come and go, but some beauty ideals are costlier than others. In the case of the suntan, the price of achieving a deep, dark glow can be deadly. Prolonged exposure to the sun and its damaging ultraviolet rays has been linked to skin cancer, yet the idea of attaining a “healthy glow” persists. Here is a brief history of how the popularity of tanning has waxed and waned in the U.S.
June 1, 2010

Timeline: A History of Tanning

1892
Physician and corn-flake inventor John Harvey Kellogg creates the electric-light bath—an early precursor of sun lamps—as part of a holistic wellness protocol.

1923
Coco Chanel returns to Paris from a vacation in Cannes with a bronzed glow, igniting a fashion trend for tans. In the nineteenth century, and at other times in history, pale skin was the ideal because it signaled that the person was wealthy enough to avoid working outdoors—coal miners and housemaids notwithstanding.

1946
Engineer Louis Réard introduces the body-baring bikini.

1959
Grant Advertising agency artist Joyce Brand sketches the Coppertone Girl, using her three-year-old daughter as a model. The image—accompanied by the tagline “Don’t Be a Paleface”—shows a puppy pulling down a little girl’s swimsuit bottom to reveal a distinct tan line.

1960
Coppertone introduces QT, a quick-tanning lotion that can be used “any time, rain or shine.”

1978
German scientist Friedrich Wolff, dubbed the “father of indoor tanning,” introduces to the U.S. light technology that will evolve into today’s tanning beds.

1979
The Food and Drug Administration recommends wearing sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer.

1988
The American Academy of Dermatology declares that “there is no safe way to tan.”

2006
A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology reports a strong positive correlation between a medium tan and adolescent perceptions of health and beauty.

2007
Various fashion and style publications celebrate the pale beauty of sun-avoiding actresses such as Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, and Scarlett Johansson.

2008
First film installment of Twilight book series hits the movie screens, celebrating the brooding sex appeal of pallid vampires.

2009
Jersey Shore debuts on MTV, introducing the acronym GTL—gym, tanning, laundry—to describe the male cast members’ (nonsexual) daily activities.