Bronze age here to stay
ANYONE who watches reality TV will know that none of the participants would be seen on camera without glowing bronzed limbs. The cast of TOWIE always look a couple of shades darker than the rest of us with even Arg and the other Essex boys proud to admit to their sun-bed sessions.
By Arlene Harris
From the 1920s when iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel stepped off a boat in the south of France with a glowing tan, much of the Western world has become obsessed with acquiring a healthy glow. During the 1980s, film star, George Hamilton, as famous for his perma-tan as he was for his acting, was the poster boy for sun beds but when the links to skin cancer were discovered, many tan-lovers reached for the bottle.
Apart from a few exceptions (such as Nicole Kidman, Katy Perry and Nicola Roberts) most celebrities have embraced the notion that tanned skin equals beauty and success with everyone from Katie Price to Victoria Beckham rocking various shades of orange.
So determined are some to remain nut brown throughout the year, they book regular sun bed sessions. But sun beds use UVA radiation to penetrate deep into the skin, which can damage the skin and accelerate the effects of ageing. Importantly, UVA exposure can potentially cause skin cancer.
At the extreme end of the scale is the unlicensed synthetic hormone, Melanotan, which is injected into the stomach. It stimulates natural melanin production, turning the skin dark with minimum sun exposure. Not surprisingly, it comes with side effects.
On-off summers, coupled with awareness about the risk of skin cancer caused by sun exposure has made fake tans big business. St Tropez sells three bottles of it bronzing mousse every minute across the globe. It’s also one of the leading self-tanning products in Ireland. It’s estimated that more than 40% of Irish women use self-tanning products, with the class divide determined by the depth of your chosen hue.
The latest reality show to hit our screens is TV3’s Dublin Housewives and although Jo Jordan (38-year-old business woman and owner of JJ carpets and JJ properties) and Danielle Meagher (36-year-old director of Dermaface Botox Clinic in Dublin) don’t do fake tans, three out of the five ‘ladies who lunch’ wouldn’t be seen outside without tan .
Roz Flanagan, 48, says although she wouldn’t dream of using a sunbed, during the summer, a layer of fake tan is essential.
“I have never used sun-beds and am totally opposed to them,” says the mother of four daughters (aged between 13 and 27). “I rarely have a spray tan done but prefer instead to do my own DIY tanning at home — using Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs (€13.95) or He-Shi products (around €30). I think everyone looks good with a bit of colour but I am careful not to go over the top as the ‘tango’ shade doesn’t work for anyone.
“I wear factor 30 in the sun and have warned my daughters not to get sunburnt, so when I have a bit of fake tan on, I don’t need to sunbathe and can just enjoy the weather and know that I still look glowing.”
Fashion designer Virginia Macari steers clear of sun beds, , and protects herself from the harsh rays but is an avid user of fake tan.
“I never use sunbeds and I’m actually very frightened at how damaging they can be,” says the 36-year old. “My mother always taught me from a young age to keep out of the sun. I don’t always listen to her because I do love lying on the beach sunbathing, but I always use a high sun factor.
“I have tried and tested probably every fake tan on the market and use Rockstar Groupie (€24.95) once a week. It’s the only tan that doesn’t smell, it goes on evenly, has a beautiful natural colour and it fades evenly too. It’s long lasting so it doesn’t break the bank, in fact I can’t recommend it enough.
“I also use Fame Instant, which costs €19.95, but I use only a couple of bottles of both a year as it lasts very long.”
The new mother (to 13-week-old Thor) says having a fake tan does wonders for the psyche and is the healthy option for glowing skin. “It’s important to feel good and look good,” she says. “I think having glowing tanned skin will always make you look better in that special dress.
“Fake tan is not damaging to our skin like the sun is. In Ireland there is a high percentage of skin cancer sufferers so fake tan is the only way to go. I use it all year round and my secret is — a little goes a long way.”
Lisa Murphy, 37-year-old owner of New Lisa Life beauty salon, says fake tan is an essential part of her routine and she makes sure to top up regularly throughout the year.
“Everyone looks better with a bit of colour,” she says. “I know some people disagree and prefer to be white but I think a tan sets everything off and even makes your clothes look good.
“I have a spray tan done every week all year round — I use Vanity Organic (€25) and don’t go too over the top with the colour, trying to keep it at about two shades above my normal skin tone.
“Fake tan is very popular at the moment, probably because we have been made aware of the dangers of the sun. And as far as I’m concerned, I will keep using it to make myself look and feel better without having to go in the sun at all.”
Beautician Catherine Dunne, from Beauty Professional Ireland, says our climate plays a big part in the popularity of fake tan and as there is no sign of our weather pattern changing any time soon, this is one trend which looks set to stay.
“Ireland is one of the most popular places in Europe for sales and treatments of false tanning,” she says. “As we don’t get a whole lot of sunshine we have become obsessed with wanting that summer glow or even the darker look, just to feel better in our clothing. Even men are more curious about tanning products aimed at the male population.
“Applying false tan at home or having it professionally done in a salon is by far the most popular and convenient for instant tanning results. Over the last couple of years, the use of sun beds is gradually making a comeback — even with the bad press they get, people are crying out for that feeling of heat and the longer lasting sun-kissed glow.”
Although there are no legal requirements for the tanning industry in Ireland, Dunne says people should check out their therapist and ask some key questions before undergoing treatment.
“In all beauty salons there are trained professionals who will advise and properly record each minute that a client has on sun-beds,” she says. “The guidelines differ from a fair skinned person to those with a more sallow complexion.”
Thinking of getting a fake tan applied in a salon? Catherine says, “It’s important to ask the therapist a few questions first such as: What type of tan is being used and why they chose it? How long it has been offered within the salon? Does it contain natural and harm-free ingredients? What is the before and after care and expected length of product?”
Dr Abdullah Moktar, a consultant dermatologist at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin, says having a fake tan applied is the best way to achieve that bronzed look.
“Sun beds are very bad for the skin and should be avoided at all costs unless you have skin condition such as psoriasis and you have been prescribed light therapy which is being controlled by your doctor,” he advises.
“Most Irish people have skin type 1 or 2 which means they don’t really tan at all and should make sure their skin is liberally covered in sun screen while in the sun — it is recommended that an adult should use around 30g of sun cream with an SPF of 15+ for every day they spend in the sun. Applying a fake tan is the best way to get a colour without doing damage to the skin.”
Unless you suffer from skin allergies, applying a tan to your skin should have little long term effect.
“Fake tan doesn’t cause any damage to the skin, apart from rare cases where people might be allergic to the product,” says Dr Moktar. “If a skin test is done before using fake tan and the user doesn’t have a reaction then it is a great way of providing the colour that many people in this part of the world like to achieve.
“The only word of warning about fake tan is that it does not offer protection against the harmful rays of the sun so it is vital to keep putting on sun screen for sunbathing or spending time in direct sunlight.
“Mind you, the whole idea of actively trying to achieve a tan is a cultural thing. I am originally from Libya where the women spend time and money trying to whiten their skin. Being unhappy with what we have seems to be a global human trait.”
The most recent data from the NCRI shows that in 2010, 8,713 people were diagnosed with skin cancer, and of these 837 were diagnosed with melanoma, the more serious form of skin cancer.
Nine out of ten cases of skin cancer are caused by ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun or sun beds and as such can be prevented.
Irish Cancer Society health promotion officer Rosemary Scott says: “Sun exposure is the main risk for skin cancer so it is important to always protect your skin both at home and abroad and never get sunburnt. Worryingly, most UV damage is caused during childhood and adolescence.
“It is also important to know your skin and what is normal for you and to look out for any changes. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.
“Many skin changes will be harmless but if you find anything unusual call the National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800-200-700 or visit your doctor without delay.”
* For more information visit www.beautyprofessional.ie
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reservedHome