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ESC, History of the Tan

If we hear the word "glow" one more time…

We get it—it's summer, and everyone wants to radiate with a sun-kissed tan à la Jennifer Lopez. The beauty lords know we, too, are guilty of propelling the desire for an illuminating complexion.

But before you break out the bronzers and schedule those spray-tan appointments, we must revisit the evolution of tanning—and all the knowledge we've learned along the way. Why? Because there's nothing sexier than healthy skin.

ESC, History of the Tan

FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Warner Bros./Fotos International

Prior to the early 20th century, many civilizations valued fair, porcelain complexions as a sign of wealth and luxury. Leave it to the ultimate trendsetter, Coco Chanel, to change things up and popularize tanning. Returning from a yacht-bound vacation, the style icon donned sun-kissed skin that many women started to emulate thereafter.

Early 1940s
The tan trend remained strong through WWII, with women from all socioeconomic backgrounds attempting the bronzy look. These resourceful ladies reportedly even used tea bags to stain their skin.

One of the first self-tanning products to hit the market was called Man-Tan and featured an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which causes a browning effect when mixed with the amino acids on the skin. DHA is still a popular chemical found in tanning products today.

With the invention of the sunbed, self-tanning products and the cosmetics craze of the ‘80s, darker, bronzy complexions became a norm...to an almost crispy effect. Not to mention, laying out is an American pastime. After all, who didn't want to look like Christie Brinkley?

ESC, History of the Tan

Reports of skin damage and cancer due to UV exposure started to trickle in. And although many stayed loyal to their UV tanning bed regimen, new health studies encouraged others to find alternative means, blowing open the sunless tanning and bronzers-with-SPF beauty market. Nowadays, advancements in technology allow for streak-free, quick-drying, natural-looking products like Lorac Tantalizer Body Bronzing Luminizer.

Besides an in-depth look at life on the Jersey Shore, Snooki and crew, in perhaps what might be reverse psychology, taught us it's probably best to stay away from the tanning beds. In 2009, the World Health Organization found that tanning-bed users under the age of 30 were 75% more likely to develop melanoma. Just a year later, the Sunbed Regulation prohibited the use of tanning beds for anyone under the age of 18.

With sunless body and facial bronzing products saturating the market, the beauty industry quickly found a demand for contouring products. Contouring is a makeup technique that uses shadow and highlight to enhance your natural facial structure. Although you can use two-in-one products, like Nonie Creme Colour Prevails Sculpture Contour & Highlight Duo, to get the effect, you can also just use your facial bronzer for a subtle look.

Kim Kardashian and J.Lo are credited for popularizing the contouring trend. But it seems even these celebs are now taking a break from the beauty craze. The latest makeup trends called strobing and baking involve much more highlighting, which amps up the luminosity factor. So you’re not just a bronze beauty…you’re, indeed, glowing.