The History of Tanning

Tanned skin has been a sign of leisure and beauty for many years, but before the early 1900s, it was a sign of the working class. If you had pale skin, you likely spent your time indoors, a sign that you were able to spend your time inside leisurely and without any need to work outdoors in the sun. Dark skin was “associated with serfdom and toiling in fields all day,” and pale skin was sought after in the Roman and Elizabethan eras, even to the point of using whiteners to create an even paler version of skin—despite the fact that most whiteners were poisonous and harmful to the wearer, according to

But after small advances in the medicinal field, like phototherapy and the incandescent light bath used by King Edward VII, using sunlight as therapy became more and more accepted. 20 years later however, Coco Chanel went on a Mediterranean cruise and ended up spending too much time in the sun. After she returned, she sparked a new trend—and a new era of skin beauty began. When, according to, “photographs of her disembarking in Cannes set a new precedent of beauty. Later, a friend of Chanel commented that “I think she may have invented sunbathing. At that time, she invented everything.’”

After that time, tanning took off. Sun lamps became extremely popular, as well as using tea bags to mimic a natural looking tan. After WWII, the first fake tan product hit the market, called the “Man Tan,” which used a chemical derived from sugar cane to cause a browning effect, similar to the effect of a cut apple browning. With the invention of commercial air travel in the 1960s, more people were able to take vacations, and sun tanning opened many new commercial endeavors, like the beginning versions of spray tanning, and eventually started a cosmetic industry: tanning. In the 1970s, the ingredient, DHA, was approved by the FDA, and many self-tanners still use the ingredient, though a derived form of DHA. Though there are many different options today for spray tanning, many still use a form of DHA, though a more natural version. Though many older spray tans gave off a more orange tint, there are many today that give a more natural tint and are not as likely to streak or hurt your skin.

Though spray tanning or self-tanners are a great option, there were also tanning beds introduced in 1978. Though these tanning beds have become less popular in the recent years, they still remain a hallmark of tanning salons in Lawrence, KS, especially because they help create a base tan for those who don’t wish to sunburn on a vacation. With many tanning salons offering both options, each having its pros and cons, you can decide for yourself which type of tan will look the best and make you feel the best. And that’s what HD Tanning  truly wants to achieve: to make you feel your very best! Call today for an appointment, or come in today to discuss our tanning options.

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