We are all now fully aware of the potential hazards of exposure to the sun. Even here, in the relatively un-sunny climate of the British Isles, most of us know a few people who have had treatment for malignant moles or early signs of skin cancer.
Back in the 1950s, there was suntan lotion available but the emphasis was more on soothing burnt skin after the event. In our house this was done using calamine lotion.
Doing my research for this post, I have learned that the early creams were meant to reduce the burning whilst allowing you to acquire a ‘healthy tan’. We all now know that ‘healthy tan’ is a misnomer. These early creams and oils were designed to reduce burning from UVB light but didn’t filter out UVA light which gives you a tan but also causes cancer. These early potions were called suntan lotions/ creams because the aim was to help you get a tan. The term ‘sun protection’ was never heard as the wasn’t seen as something we needed protecting from.
In the 1920s and 30s, the very rich and the aristocratic were flocking to the French Riviera whereas the normal working person was not legally entitled to paid holiday leave until 1939. Until the late 1960s, the sunny holiday abroad was still the preserve of the better off. So for many decades a tan had been seen as a sign of wealth. With the rise of the package holiday through the 1970s, more and more people were able to afford to take a holiday in the sun but it was a while longer before our ideas about tanning caught up.
All images gleaned from Google Images, Pinterest and Wikipedia. I make every effort to use only pictures which I believe I am at liberty to use. If anyone feels that I have inadvertently infringed copyright please contact me and I’ll remove the offending image. Thanks too, to Britain’s Science Museum for some interesting facts on the history of sun protection.