People in the UK spent £40m on acquiring fake tans last year. It is a booming market but the fashion for year-round colour is fuelling a desire to be brown at any cost - known as tanorexia.
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine
Half the adult population of the UK say they feel healthier with a tan, according to a recent survey.
The £40m spent on sunbeds and tanning lotions in the UK last year shows just how much people are prepared to fork out to feel better about themselves.
But the desire to be brown has recently led to a new word, tanorexia, being introduced into the English language. Tanorexics, as they are known, are obsessed with having a permanent deep tan and are compelled to use tanning machines much more than is healthy.
The person to blame for all this is fashion designer Coco Chanel. In 1923 she was accidentally sunburned on a cruise to Cannes. Before she knew it she'd started a new trend.
Self-tanning products have been around since the 1950s. Some are dyes, others are chemicals refined from sugar cane. Sunbeds were introduced into the UK in 1977.
Mandy Sherwin, 34, is one of three million people in the UK who frequently use sunbeds. She has been using sunbeds for 20 years and estimates that she has spent £30,000 maintaining her tan.
"I need to have a tan, it has a huge effect on my mood," she says. "If it's three days since my last tan, I look in the mirror and think I look pale. People will tell me how well I look and ask if I have been away, but it doesn't matter how many times they say it, you still feel pale."
It is not only women who crave the sun-kissed look, men also go to any lengths to get an all-year tan.
Richard Devere is Blackpool's premiere illusionist. He has been giving the illusion of being permanently tanned for the past 25 years.
"You could call me a tanorexic," he says. "I used to go to extremes, I was never off the sunbed. I would take sleeping pills and jam the switch so I could go on for a really long time."
Aware of the risks, he has cut down his sunbed use to one sunbed a week. For him, it is a significant reduction.
But sometimes, how ever much natural colour you have, it is never enough. Deaon Garwandoe, 34, is black and uses sunbeds once a week. She started after all her hair fell out due to alopecia.
"I didn't go out for six months when my hair fell out," she says. "I just wanted to do something that made me feel better. I wouldn't spray tan, it's not deep-rooted enough, it's just like make up which defeats the object for what I want. I know if you go mad it's not good for your skin, but I don't abuse it.
"Pale people look like they need something extra in their lives. They look grey, pasty and ill. You don't really want to be around them."
'I was stupid'
According to a study conducted by Cancer Research UK, using a sunbed can double the risk of skin cancer. An estimated 70,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with it every year. Of these 2,000 die and about 100 of those deaths are thought to be the result of sunbeds and tanning lamps.
SKIN CANCER FACTS
Most common in over-65s
Second most common cancer in people aged 15 to 34
More common in women than men
Source: Cancer Research UK
Although more women contract skin cancer, more men die of it because they wait longer before seeing a doctor. The number of cases has almost doubled since the introduction of sunbeds into the UK and is expected to hit 300,000 cases a year in 2020, warn experts.
Jenny Murray, 26, went to see her doctor after she found a mark on her chest. She had been using a sunbed for less than six months. She was lucky, her cancer was caught in time and could be treated by surgery.
"I used a sunbed three times as week," she says. "Often I would have to step out as it was so hot, I should have realised how stupid I was being.
"My doctor said my cancer was caused by being badly sun burned as a child or misuse of sunbeds. I know I was never burned as a child, my mum was always very careful. I believe it was the sunbeds that caused it."
Young people who have grown up with an obsession for a having an all-year tan are causing particular concern among experts, because young skin is very vulnerable to UV radiation.
Cancer Research UK says while young people are constantly warned about the dangers of binge drinking and unprotected sex, not enough is being done to warn them about the dangers of too much exposure to the sun.
"Unless young people change their habits we could be heading for a skin cancer time bomb," says a spokesman.
One Life: Tantastic is broadcast in the UK on BBC One on Wednesday, 1 November, at 2250 GMT.
Add your comments on this story, using the form below.
I confess: i am a tan addict!
i use fake tan about 3 times a week - used to go on sunbeds when i was 14, but it made my skin really dry so i've been faking it ever since!
i hate being pale,so it has to be done!
my boyfriend laughs at my streaks,but i dont really care!
i've been known to leave instant fake tan all over bed sheets, pillows and towels at my ex boyfriends!!eek better than risking skin cancer though
People who cannot live without a tan are to be pitied. A tan is not always attractive and makes many people look older by ten to fifteen years. I see many people arrive home from holiday looking at least ten years older and they think they look great.
I think the girl above, Mandy, who is 34, looks much older than that, probably throuh using sunbeds, and also looks a very weird colour of tan! not a good look, and dangerous.
Monique, Dublin / Ireland
I don't think people look pale and grey if they havnt got a tan. You don't need a tan to make yourself better looking. It starts from within and how you feel inside.
It is a shame that Jenny was caught up in the tanning, but I'm sure she has learnt her lesson and would now be more sensible.
But these people who are obsessed with having a tan, need to wake up and think about what their future could hold!
I just think Mandy Sherwin, under her blonde hair, looks "overdone". And as for Deone and her reference to people looking "grey, pasty and ill", there's something to be said for our "Scottish blue" skins. I'd rather look ill than actually be ill with skin cancer! The best tan I've ever had was out of a bottle. My skin's not meant to be golden brown. Ladies, try spending your money on spray tans instead if you feel the need for that "well done" look.
Fiona , Renfrew
Although I can quite easily recognise this all to be true, I still find the lengths and extremes that some people go to quite unbelievable - especially when most of them look terrible for it! I noted that it was all started by Coco Chanel in the 20's - and since then has been an image perpetuated by the media. Ironic then, that the media in other countries perpetuates an image that is entirely different. On a recent trip to Thailand I was overwhelmed by the number of skin products that included 'whitening' ingredients! All the evidence I need to prove that the whole tan/no tan issue is a scam to make money - which works simply because we believe we should look how the media tells us to.
Amy Reeves, Bournemouth, England
I burn easily so I tend to maintain a ¿pale and interesting¿ look all year. There isn¿t anything missing from my life, but I would be inclined to think that there is something missing in the lives of people who do irreversible damage to their skin in the name of fashion.
Ms B, Oxford
I think people that use sunbeds and fake tan look horrid, it makes people look plastic and orange, when they tan to much they look like a bit of old leather. Its nice to look pale esspecially in the winter. if these people thought of all the money they would save by not tanning they could put it towards a real tan by going on a lovely holiday. you should listen to the risks and think is it really worth getting skin cancer just to look cheap and orange.
Lucy , Exeter , Devon England
There is enough information, warnings and advise about just as there is against the dangers of smoking. People seem to have the 'it won't happen to me' attitude.
I don't see how any more can be done. If we were meant to have darker skin, we would have been born with it.
Bridget, Nottingham, England
It's so scary the lengths people will go to - and how prepared they are to sacrifice their own health - for something so superficial! There's nothing attractive about skin like leather and a huge risk of cancer!!
It's interesting about the changing social views on suntans - it used to be seen as a "common" thing as only those who had to work for a living would get one, with the higher classes staying indoors out of the su.
Sharon, London, UK
Here in Hong Kong Kong the media is completely saturated with adverts for skin whitening products. People will do anything for a whiter skin - everything from drinking vast quantities of milk to smearing themsleves with illegal bleach based products.
B. Elliston, Hong Kong
This just makes me laugh - I live in Singapore, a country with year round high temps and sun, yet all the locals here want to be pale. People are deluding themselves if they think it is a "healthy looking" thing - it's purely a cultural thing. Here people who are tanned are looked upon as the people who work in the fields, and therefore people who are poor. In the UK a tan is a symbol of wealth, as it shows you can go on holiday and look like celeb. And as far as the "Pale people look like they need something extra in their lives - they look grey, pasty and ill" comment goes - you would think people would be used to it, living in the UK!
As a child of an RAF family, I spent a lot of time in the sun up to the age of 10 and have had many moles removed as a precaution against skin cancer - luckily all of them have been benign. However my younger brother recently went to the doctor about a mole on his chest which had started to bleed and it turned out to be a seriously malignant melanoma. He didn't go to see the doctor early enough (should have gone two years before!)and had to have a large part of his chest cut out to ensure the cancer had been removed. Luckily they got all of the cancer out, but we lived on a knife-edge for many months. Please - anyone who has any suspicions about moles on their body - especialy if you were frequently sunburnt as a child - GO TO SEE YOUR GP - better to catch it early than die from a potentially-curable condition.
Julie B, York
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