As I recall, the popularity of having a  a suntan coincided with Hollywood’s  production of more  technicolor movies. The  Wizard of Oz was made in color in 1939 . But it wasn’t until the 1950’s that the process was cheap enough for studios to make fewer black and whites.   As a teenage girl at the time, I desperately wanted to have the beautiful, even colored skin tones of stars like Jane Russell and Elizabeth Taylor.  After seeing  a technicolor movie, I would go home, look in the mirror, and realize that my splotchy, pink and white skin just didn’t measure up.  The only remedy  was to acquire a suntan.  After a few hours lying on a blanket in my backyard, I thought I looked more alluring.   But are suntans still sexy?

Technicolor movies in the 50’s started the suntan craze.

Most of my teenage girlfriends didn’t have to work part time jobs for spending money.  While I was slaving away as a salesclerk or stenographer in the summer, my friends were basking in the sunlight.  They slathered on baby oil with iodine to acquire enviable dark suntans. I tried catching up  on my days off,  but I was too fair skinned to begin with.   Now, many of those girls  I envied are getting treated for melanoma and other skin cancers.

Suntans have acquired a bad reputation in the past few years, due to warnings from the American Cancer Society. And yet, suntan parlors continue to thrive, and people going South for the Winter still come back sporting a tan. The truth is this:  most people look younger and more attractive with a light suntan.  Unfortunately , those fake, parlor suntans don’t work so well.  They may produce a ghastly, greenish yellow suntan  that makes a person look like  someone  out of a horror movie.  And they still carry the danger of skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society urges people to use strong sunscreens when out in the sun .  That advice has helped with the skin cancer problem but  now there are scads of people with Vitamin D deficiencies because they don’t get enough natural sunlight.

Surprisingly, the medical profession now tells us to get 15 minutes a per day of natural sunlight, without  using a sunscreen.   By following their advice this season, you can probably acquire a light, healthy tan while getting enough Vitamin D to make your bones stronger.   So yes, it’s still okay to have a  light suntan.  Just acquire it slowly and don’t overdo it.

Suntans are still sexy!

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