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History of Tanning

The ancient Greeks and Romans first discovered the healthy benefits of sunbathing and termed it "heliotherapy" (sun therapy), even going so far as to design a Solarium as part of their homes. But it was Coco Channel, in the 1920's who first made getting a tan fashionable. The rich and famous people of the time, flocked to join her in the South of France to drink cocktails and bask in the sun. Since that time a tan has become associated with looking confident and attractive.

The world's first UV lamp was made by a German company called Heraeus in 1906. Medical treatment using such lamps for calcium deficiency and bone disorders was very popular until the 1930's, with tanning as an added welcomed side effect. But it was another German, Friedrich Wolf, who first decided to use UV lamps for non medical benefits in the 1960's and commercial tanning was born.   He asked Phillips to make him the world's first tubular UV lamp, from which the original wooden sun benches were made.   Later, canopies were added and recognizable sunbeds appeared in the late 1970's.   Vertical sunbeds were invented in the late 1980's, and the new generation of advanced technology sunbeds, almost as big, stylish and complex as a car, appeared in the late 1990's.   At first, sunbed tanning consisted of lying on a flat acrylic sheet for 30 minutes or more. With advances in technology and better understanding of UV light, session times reduced. Body cooling was introduced as lamps got hotter, and then air conditioning.   Comfort increased too with the appearance of ergonomically shaped acrylic sheets, plus style changes and safety improvements.  Now beds feature aromatherapy fragrances and water mist sprays, relaxing music, mood lighting,  and with luxurious skin care creams the emphasis is on pleasure and well-being. Nowadays, sunbeds offer great variety and there is something for everyone.

In the 1980's, scientists noticed a sudden rise in the number of skin cancer cases and were very alarmed. Sunbeds were blamed before the subject was well understood.  We now know that prolonged exposure to strong UV light over many years (typically 20-40 years) can cause the mildest forms of skin cancer through sunburn and overtanning, but we also know that moderate use, without burning, has not been shown to be a risk factor. It does appear that the sharp rise in foreign holidays in the 1960's and 1970's led to terribly sun-damaged skins through the public's ignorance and poor sunbathing habits, contributing to the higher number of skin cancer cases found 20-40 years later.   It is a pity, with hindsight, that sunbeds were unfairly targeted, but scaremongering tactics in the press did at least make everyone aware of the importance of sensible tanning. Scientists also advised that people with very fair skin (skin type I) and children should not sunbathe, but they also know for certain (though they are very hesitant to shout about it for fear of undoing the good work that has been done promoting sensible tanning) that complete sun avoidance is dangerous and possibly fatal.   We need to respect the sun and its health-giving qualities as well as health-destroying qualities. This is one of the things that sensible tanning promotes and we at The Professional Tanning Studio are proud to be members of the The Sunbed Association.

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