Why Do We Love Suntans?

190s era image of bathing beauties

Bronzed, gilded, browned. Real or faked, many of us love suntans and how they make us look – even though we know they’re bad for us. Why?

Long gone are the days when ladies of genteel breeding  carried parasols to keep the sun’s rays from tanning their skin. Now ladies and guys alike embrace being brown – even braving skin cancer and chemical exposure to get there, possibly because it’s a sign of social status:

We cling to it in part because its significance hasn’t changed all that much, sure; it’s affluence, luxury, and even though we all know better, health. The idea now isn’t so much that we’re acting as if we’ve spent two weeks at Saint-Tropez but rather that we’re not desk-bound. It’s also the perfect accessory: A tan hits the sweet spot between conspicuous and inconspicuous consumption. It visibly shares that you’ve done something we still connect with leisure and affluence, but without the bourgeois connotations of furs, Jaguars, and jewels. Once tan, you cannot help but be tan; it’s literally a part of who you are. It’s the ultimate expression of “Oh, this old thing?”

Despite what the Jersey Shore cast does, and tanning salons will tell you, there is “no such thing as a safe suntan.” If you need some visual proof, check out this story and remarkable photo from CBS news.

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