Tan is the New Pale – Why and when did tan skin become beautiful?

In the 1700 and 1800s pale skin was considered beautiful. Only people who could afford to not work in the sun would have fair skin. Thick white face powder accented the already light skin tones and rouge was heavily applied to cheeks to indicate health. This trend in France and England carried over to the states, though not quite as dramatically. (Van Cleave, 2003)  Nineteenth century women still avoided the sun to keep their complexions pale, whether by use of parasols or large hats. (Sarnoff, 2009) In the 1920s this trend was switched, pale was no longer an element of beauty, but the opposite. Tan became beautiful. This change is directly related to the actions of one fashion icon, Coco Chanel. While on a holiday in the French Riviera in 1923, Chanel accidentally got a sun burn. When the burn faded to a  tan,  a new fashion trend was born. (Brinson, 2008) coco

A tan now represented the luxury of being able to afford going on vacation to tropical paradises or fancy resorts. While pale was an indication of status in 18th century, a tan has come to symbolize wealth and leisure in the 20th and 21st centuries. Not only can a tan imply affluence, it can also indicate a healthy and active lifestyle.

Since Chanel’s accidental founding of a social phenomenon, the tanning industry has thrived. Whether it’s self-tanning creams, tanning bed, or facial cosmetics, the creators of these products are in the business to make profits, in order to do so, they advertise heavily. With this constant barrage of subtle images and messages promoting tan skin, Americans are encouraged by the marketing industry to think that tan is beautiful. The self-tanning products(including self-tanning lotions, and sprays, bronzing cosmetics and indigestible tanning accelerators) make up a 516 million dollar industry(Self Tanning, 2011). With this much money on the line it’s no wonder we are constantly surrounded but images of tan people. Not only do companies of tanning products reinforce the need of consumers to be tan, all sorts of companies encourage it. For example the following Dolce and Gabbana ad for perfume uses two deeply tanned models to sell their product.dolce

Works Cited

Brinson, Linda. “The History of Tanning, Going for the Gold.” Discovery Fit and Health. Discovery Communications. 2008. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/sun-care/spray-tanning1.htm

Sarnoff, Deborah S., MD. “Skin Cancer Foundation.” The Tale of Tanning. The Skin Cancer Foundation, Sarnoff, Deborah S. 2009. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning/tale-of-tanning

Self-Tanning Product Manufacturing in the US: Market Research Report.” Self-Tanning Product Manufacturing in the US Market Research. IBISWorld, Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/self-tanning-product-manufacturing.html

Van Cleave, Kendra. “Women’s Hairstyles & Cosmetics of the 18th Century: France & England, 1750-1790.” Dmod RSS. Kendra Van Cleave, 2003. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. <http://demodecouture.com/hairstyles-cosmetics-18th-century


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