Tanning – Real or Fake it

Funnily enough, a badly done Real Tan used to bear the same resemblance to a badly done Fake Tan – only the colours were different. Badly done Real Tans from sitting out in sunny weather, offered red splashes with great big peeling areas of skin. Badly done Fake Tans offered orange splashes with horrid streaks at ankles and between the toes. Neither looked particularly good, and the only key difference is that fake tan wouldn’t kill you. It might shame you, embarrass you or stain your clothes, but it never threatened to kill you.


At the end of July, The Irish Cancer Society launched its now annual SunSmart Campaign. Posters went up all the country and advertisements appeared in all the main papers of a sore looking map of Ireland posing as a burnt mole/tattoo/burn on skin. The skin almost looks sizzled and if smell-a-print had been invented by now, I dread to think of the waft when passing a poster.


The Cancer Society has backed up this year’s campaign with some shocking research from Lansdowne Market Research. One in ten people are now regular users of sun beds. Of the 1200 people interviewed, some 9 percent use a sun bed on near daily basis. Of those 42 percent are women aged between 15 and 34, with a corresponding 15 percent of men in the same category.


‘Tanorexics’ is the new term coined for these regular sun bed users. With scant regard for the UV radiation dished out by the machines, they are happy to disregard the official classification of UV radiation as a known carcinogenic agent (as defined by the International Agency for Cancer Research).


Somewhere along the line where we learnt that burning was bad, we also assimilated the message that brown was still okay. Bad to Burn but Good to Brown. As a pale-skinned nation, we were believed the myth that to get a base tan prior to heading out to sunny climes was a careful, sensible thing to do, along with putting in the extra supplies (socks, hankies, diarrhoea tablets, and condoms etc – delete as appropriate).


However, as a chorus of experts have clearly signally, getting a base tan is not a sensible thing to do. According to advice from consultant dermatologists this is not a good idea as tanned skin is damaged skin. Not good, not a base, but a beginning of further possible damage.


In addition, not only has the skin been damaged but the possession of a base tan often leads people to exercise even less caution than might otherwise be expected. With a base tan, people often skip to lower levels of sunscreen, ignore hats and generally stay exposed when the sun is at its fiercest.


In case we forget that we are not meant to be a dusky complexioned race, there is the chilling fact that Ireland boasts the uncomfortable distinction of having the third highest number of malignant melanoma cases in the EU.


So, having listed the great reasons for not being tanned, in reality we have also not returned to Victorian convictions where pale was infinitely superior. Thus the dilmena. As we still regard a tan as the perfect skin accompaniment