The Evolution of Tan - The history of the rise and rise of the fake tan

Heidi Reid

Posted on June 12 2014

It's been over 85 years and the popularity of the fake tan keeps climbing and climbing - so just how did tanning get it's legs and why?

The History of Tan

Early on tans were associated with being lower class.  It was a symbol of poverty of those who worked outdoor in the hot sun.  But Coco Chanel was iconic enough to change an era of fashion led followers.  Coco Chanel spent time out sailing the Riviera on the Duke of Westminister's yacht "Flying Cloud" and came back with a tan and it had instant appeal as modern, luxurious and independent.  At the same time, the medical field went from saying that sun was a dangerous thing to being a cure within a span of 30 years and by the end of the 20’s beauty bible Vogue wrote “the 1929 girl must be tan” and she was.  That was 85 years ago and since their arrival, tans have never gone out of fashion

The Tanning Timeline 

  • 1923 Coco Chanel’s Tan
  • 1929 - Vogue calls for women to be tan and as Harper's Bazaar said in 1929: "If you haven't a tanned look about you, you aren't part of the rage of the moment."
  • 1930s Tanning aides including “Gypsy Sun Tan Oil”

  • In the 1940s during the second world war, women were able to fake their stockings, by painting on tan colour achieved by tea bags and gravy mix.
  • 1946 The World's First Bikini.  The modern bikini was designed by French engineer Louis Réard and separately by fashion designer Jacques Heim. Many western countries declared it illegal and the Vatican declared it sinful. Made even more popular by movie stars like Brigitte Bardot by the mid 1960's they were incredibly popular and helped beach goers achieve a richer glow.

  • 1950 The foil tan reflector blanket

  • During the 1950's researcher Eva Wittgenstein who had been treating children with a rare metabolic disorder, noticed that when the medicine she was using splattered, it stained the patient's bodies but not their clothes. The medicine contained DHA (Dihydroxyacetone) and Eva watched as the splattered areas turned brown.  
  • 1960's Sunless Tan was born with Coppertone QT, which allowed ladies to fake their stockings, and tan while they slept.  Unfortunately the ingredient did send many people orange

  • 2014 - Many developments have been made to the tanning ingredient DHA, and Custom Tan has 3 times been voted Australia's Best Fake Tan.  

  • December 2014, there is a Solarium Ban in NSW however there is still the ongoing desire for bronzed skin

Did you want skin cancer with that?  In Australia it's a likely probability 

  • Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer worldwide
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia
  • Australians are 4 x more likely to develop a skin cancer than any other form of cancer
  • 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70
  • Despite research, young Australians are still risking their skins to achieve a tan 

So the safest way to achieve a tan and to maintain a tan is via a faux glow.  When looking for a tan you really want to steer clear from the orange look.  Orange only looks good on orangutans and not on people - so opt for a high quality tanning ingredient and look for a tan that has been well recommended like the Custom Tan mousse, which has been voted Australia's Best Fake Tan 3 times  by independent review.  

Want to find out how spray tanning works?  Check out this explanation of the science behind it 

or want to see how to spray tan





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