Bring on the Bronze
Parents have been telling their kids to “say no to drugs” for years, but the latest thing to say no to isn’t a drug. What use to be the simple act of relaxation has turned into a compulsive and addicting act. The new drug is the sun, better known as the tanning bed. The focus on color, or rather shade, of skin has been an issue for centuries. But more recently, western civilization has become obsessed with tanning. Teenage girls are giving into the habit everyday. Unfortunately, this obsession is unhealthy and more importantly addictive.
A golden tan has not always been sought after. In past times, people strived for pale skin. People adapted ways to lighten their face. Greeks and Romans applied substances such as lead paint and arsenic (Sliss). Obviously, this caused a great amount of illness. Many historians believe pale skin was valued because of its significance; if a person spent a lot of time outside performing labor or work, their skin became dark. Therefore, the pale skinned population were generally those of wealth (Jablonski, 45). It was only a matter of time before the tide changed.
It seems that the tanning craze exponentially grew. The trend started out slow. Historians claim the first celebrity to kick off the tan was Co Co Chanel. In 1923, she was seen leaving her yacht with a golden tan. The event caused much attention, and she claimed her tan was an accident from relaxing in the sun. After this accident, tanning took off (Sliss). The wealthy had money to take lavish vacations to sunny locations. Contrary to earlier times, the wealthy were now all out getting tans. Instead of bronzed skin representing countless hours of labor in the sun, it represented countless hours of relaxing. In addition, thanks to the jazz age, clothes covered less letting the suns rays reach more (Sliss). The golden tan was in, it was only a matter of time before the craze grew into obsession.
In the early eighties the tanning bed was introduced. Invented for private use at first, the bed was meant to build a base tan for further outdoor tanning (Sliss). “The idea was to get some color before [vacations]. With a base [tan], people were able to stay out in the real sun longer. People with light pigment were able to prevent burning,” dermatologist, John Stutz states regarding tanning beds. By the nineties, tanning salons were beginning to pop up in every other strip mall. Now almost thirty years since tanning beds were introduced, we are obsessed. Compulsive tanning is defined as about fifteen times a month, or every other day (Christensen). Compulsive tannerss are the crowd that appreciate any color, whether it be a deep bronze or a deep red. In fact, many compulsive tanners appreciate sunburn because they believe it often turns into a tan within a few days (Christensen). For compulsive tanners, visiting the tanning salon is a hobby. The act turns into a routine.
Today tanning salons are a billion dollar industry with over twenty-two million clients (Fake Bake). “Over twenty-three thousand tanning salons are listed in the yellow pages” (Fake Bake). Which brings up the question, who is keeping this industry in business? Tanning salon clientele is composed of 96% females under the age of thirty, and their commitment is of considerable size (Rawe). Tanning beds are relatively expensive compared to the old fashion beach tan. An average unlimited monthly tanning package runs for $30.00 (Christensen). This is comparable to an Internet bill. For an adolescent female this becomes pricy. High-pressure beds can range anywhere form eight to fifteen dollars a visit. The amount of time these young women are putting into tanning beds is considerable as well. While a low pressure tan can range anywhere from eight to twenty minutes, the wait to use a bed is usually longer than the tan itself. “I try as hard as I can to go before [class]. The later in the day, the longer the line. I’ll wait up to thirty minutes....
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