It started in the 1920s with Mademoiselle Chanel, who decided to soak up the rays while in Deauville, in northern France. It caused an outcry, because at the time being lily white was the height of fashion. But dear Coco couldn't have cared less and bronzed her body, even if it meant getting burnt. It wasn't until 1935 that EugÉne Schueller (founder of the future L'Oréal group) launched the first sun tan cream.
With the advent of paid holiday leave, the trend gained ground. In the 1950s, Brigitte Bardot's cult film 'And God created woman' showed off the starlet's tanned limbs and gingham bikini. Women flocked to buy themselves a bikini and began to tan like fury. Petroleum jelly, olive oil and even reflective aluminium boxes were all the rage to accelerate a tan.
Come the 1980s, and adverts began to feature beautifully tanned models. Tanning salons were booked up to the hilt. Having a tan all year round became synonymous with success. In less than a decade, bikinis were replaced by topless monokinis, followed by tangas that could be adjusted to avoid unsightly tan lines. Women started to diet, remove body hair and show off their bodies.
In the 2000s, statistics became a cause for concern: the number of melanoma cases had tripled between 1980 and 2005, reaching several thousand in 2012. Excessive exposure to the sun without a sunscreen, caused an explosion of skin cancer. The words 'sunblock', 'SPF' and 'waterproof' became part of everyday use and sunscreens entered the world of cosmetic technology. Two trends are now emerging: those who smother themselves in a protective armour and those who prefer sun-tanning pills and food supplements. No doubt the sun has yet to throw more light on the subject!
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