Sun tanning is a fairly recent phenomenon in modern society. In the past 100 years, it has become incredibly trendy to be sunkissed in the Western side of the world. But it was not always so, and nor is it always healthy.

We can’t deny we love the sunshine, whether it’s a trip to catch the rays on a crowded beach, or a hike to capture it as it sinks behind a South Wales mountain.


Before the 1920s, having pale skin indicated wealth and the higher classes. Tanning was associated with poverty, manual labour and spending too much time in the sun. Men who had ‘leather’ skin would often be at the bottom of the food chain within society’s hierarchy, as the colour and consistency of their skin was considered to be a sign of being part of the working class. These were the people that spent most of their time outside with the sun beating down on them as they worked.

Meanwhile, women would “powder their nose” with white makeup in order to make themselves look pale and therefore prettier. Nowadays, whiteness as a beauty aesthetic is still present as a world trend, with many Asian women wearing pale makeup, for instance, and walking around with sunlight blocking umbrellas in the summer. But in Western countries, preferences have switched to the opposite.

Times have changed and now many holiday makers visit hot countries for the sunshine, constantly sunbathing and working on darkening their skin colour. For those unable to reach natural sunlight, sun tanning has become one of the biggest cosmetics treatments within the beauty industry. From sun beds to bottled fake tan and bronzer, having a tan, real or not, is now the norm.


Sunbeds have been around since 1890, when a “Finsen’s light”, a lamp that produced ultraviolet radiation, was invented to treat skin conditions. This led to ultraviolet radiation being used as a treatment for many conditions such as depression and infection, and when tanning came into fashion in the mid-20th century, the device to self-tan was already invented.

Spray tans or the Do-It-Yourself fake tan was popularised in the 2000s, with the explosion of reality television programmes bringing a huge amount of attention to the beauty industry. From fake eyelashes to acrylic nails, bottled tan was incorporated in many reality stars’ beauty routines. Fake tan is available to buy in nearly every pharmacy across South Wales, with many retailers selling several different shades of tan, depending on which skin tone you desire.

Of course, you only have to mention spray tans and you instantly remember the classic scene in Friends when Ross had more than his fair share.


We all know that sunburn is terrible for the skin, as it can lead to skin cancer. So, with products being scrubbed into the surface of the skin, and many people often abusing the sunbeds before a holiday or a social event, it is important to take a moment to wonder whether these self-tanning remedies are doing the same level of damage to the body.

The purpose of sunbeds is to emit strong UV radiation in a short amount of time, and often the UV rays are stronger than actual sunlight. Sunbeds have been known to cause users to develop damage to the skin, skin ageing or yes, sometimes, skin cancer. Although there are some benefits of sunbeds such as treatment for skin conditions like psoriasis, they are generally a lot stronger than the sunlight and should be used responsibly and with care.

Fake tan from a bottle, if applied properly, can do little damage. The main concern dermatologists have is the possibility of lung damage from the chemicals within the bottle. With companies more aware of the positives of natural and organic ingredients within their products, tan from a bottle definitely has fewer risks than sunbeds or sunbathing under UV radiation.