SUNBEDS: A FATAL OBSESSION; Once, Women Used Arsenic to Look PALE. This Week, Devastating New Research Proved They're Risking Death in Sunbed Salons to Look TANNED. and Who's to Blame? Celebrities Who've Made Orange Skin Seem a Short-Cut to Glamour
Byline: by Olivia Lichtenstein
MORE than a century ago, porcelain-white skin was the sign of a well-born lady; she wore long dresses and carried a parasol to safeguard her enviably pale complexion from the sun.
She even went as far as using leadbased cosmetics and arsenic to lighten her skin, little realising the significant health risks of doing so.
There was much at stake: after all, coarser, darkened skin was the sorry fate of those who toiled in the fields.
In short, the colour of your skin was a clearly recognised indicator of your social standing.
Everything changed in the Twenties when the wealthy began to holiday on the Riviera and Coco Chanel, the global fashion icon, made it beautiful for women to be tanned.
Suddenly, a suntan became a symbol of wealth in Britain; after all, the poor, pale working classes, who'd long since left the fields for the factories, couldn't afford holidays abroad, and the sun rarely shone in places such as Blackpool.
With the advent of cheap package holidays in the Sixties, suddenly everyone could have a tan, and with the glowing sun-kissed skin came the illusion that we were all wealthy, healthy and successful.
Since then, we've all been at it, roasting in the sun to achieve the deepest bronze possible, pouring oil on ourselves as we burned to a crisp.
But once tans became really fashionable for the masses, two weeks in the Mediterranean sun was never going to be enough.
Which is why our 'give-it-tome-now' society produced a quick-fix solution: the sunbed, a mecca for the tan-obsessed.
ANY possible longterm health consequences mattered little to the girls who queued up in their thousands to lie in the warm embrace of these light-filled coffins.
As chartered psychologist Dr Colin Gill points out: 'Young people believe that they're immortal, and any health problems are thought to be so far in the future that they are disregarded.'
But how many of the women who queued up to lie on sunbeds in the past 30 years are now paying a very high price? How many are fighting skin cancer, or anxiously studying moles that are changing shape and growing bigger?
This week, the stark facts about sunbeds were laid bare in a damning World Health Organisation report, which concluded that sunbeds are as great a cancer threat as cigarettes or asbestos.
The intensity of the UV light emitted by sunbeds is so strong that a 20-minute session is equivalent to spending an entire day on the beach.
In other words, sunbeds are the modern-day equivalent of those Victorian lead-based cosmetics and arsenic -- except they have the reverse result of making us dark rather than keeping us pale. Note also that along with that dramatic shift has come a sea change in the social class of the women who are most desperate to have 'fashionable' skin.
Where once it was regarded as 'common' to be tanned, now it's an obsession for millions of young working-class women who long to look like the most feted young female celebrities of the modern age.
Take Cheryl Cole or Jordan -- women who have exploited their looks and what talent they have to become rich and successful. …