“To be pale, or not to be pale?” That seemed to be the question on everyone’s minds a little over 500 years ago, while lightening their complexions with skin-burning white lead that brings a whole new urgency to “Please pass the aloe vera.”
Today it’s an entirely different story, with “where did you get your tan?” being the more common lingo. Because just about everyone looks better with a tan, it’s here to stay, and as people get used to sunless tanners, they have become more creative in product use and application techniques. Did you know there’s a trend toward spray tan tattoos? Yup. And that you can contour your body to make your natural definition stand out? It’s all true. And to think, back in the day, the only option to get some bronze was to lay in the sun like a raisin and bake. Ugh.
Also changing is the value of sun safety, and being as good to your skin as possible, while still reaping the benefits of a glowing bronze. Imagine, tanning lotions that improve your skin’s appearance, while also gently tanning you in a way that won’t cause premature aging to the skin! Meaning: you can lay out in the sun, wearing your highest-SPF sunscreen, and still rock an even tan using sunless tanners!
Here’s what the history books have to say about the evolution of paleness, compliments of the Guardian:
1500s Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth whitened her skin, as was the vogue in Tudor times, with a mixture of egg, powdered eggshells, poppy seeds, white lead and alum. The white lead ate into her skin, but she wasn’t deterred – she applied more to cover the scars.
1920s Clara Bow
Bow used pancake make-up, invented in 1914, to enhance paper-white skin. On top she applied rice powder to create, as described by a writer at the time, “the pallor usually associated with innate vice”.
1930s Mae West
West avoided sunlight to preserve the condition of her alabaster skin, never drank alcohol and banned anyone from smoking in her presence. Her tip for having silky white skin was a daily oil massage: “It’s gotta be warm, and you’ve gotta have a man put it on – all over.”
1950s Elizabeth Taylor
With her porcelain skin and violet eyes, Taylor defined beauty in the 1950s. It was only in the 1970s that she became a fan of sun tanning, and in 2002 was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, on her cheek, which was successfully treated with radiotherapy.
1960s Brigitte Bardot
Bardot spent her youth on the beaches of St Tropez to achieve an amber tan. She has chosen not to have plastic surgery, unlike many of her peers, saying: “I prefer to be alive, to say what I have to say, than be a mask of reinforced concrete.”
1980s George Hamilton
In 1989 the Dynasty actor launched the George Hamilton Sun Care System and tanning salons across the US. At 70 he’s still true to his tan: “I love it when doctors tell you, ‘You may have a pre-cancerous lesion.’ I say: ‘Pre-cancerous – you mean like pre-dead? You’re either dead or you’re not dead.’”
1990s Pamela Anderson
As CJ Parker in Baywatch, her light golden tan was achieved through a combination of lazing on California beaches and TV make-up. Anderson later launched her own line of suntan lotions, and, nearly 20 years later, is still as brown as ever.
The fashion designer admits to occasionally overtanning his Mediterranean skin, but insists that he looks better brown: “I am Italian; my face is much nicer suntanned. I am never pale. I ski a lot in winter — I adore it – so I have the tan all seasons.”
2006 Katie Price
A pioneer of the fake tan, Price recently demanded a Lancashire tanning salon be closed while she was in their £5 booth. In her book Standing Out, the model admits that regular sunbeds are her top tip for looking good. Shrugging off the risk of skin cancer, she says: “We’ve all got to die of something.”
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What sunless tanner tricks have you learned over the years? And what made you finally decide to stop laying out, and start bronzing the healthier way? We want to know!