Fake tans: Seriously, are they really worth it?

Written by phoebecleghorn

With the BBC covering the story of how Cardiff student landlord John Winter noticed a bizarre and increasingly common occurrence of bronze body-shaped stains upon the mattresses of his largely fema

With the BBC covering the story of how Cardiff student landlord John Winter noticed a bizarre and increasingly common occurrence of bronze body-shaped stains upon the mattresses of his largely female-populated student accommodation and the majority of young females nationwide using self-tanning products, it causes one to question whether the cost of this practice is justifiable as a beneficial habit to keep, and even why it is even desired to be kept in the first place.

As a disclaimer, I would like to admit to the fact that I do on occasion use these products simply as a confidence booster, but I nonetheless remain entirely uncertain on where I stand with the basic idea of fake tan and why it is that changing my skin colour has a positive impact upon my self-image.

On the one hand, my intellectual side causes me to question the absurdity of the idea that having slightly orange skin will make me feel more comfortable showing some flesh, but on the other hand, it does actually help!

Appealing and exotic

In modern western culture a glowing tan is seen as appealing and exotic, despite the natural change in colour after exposure to the sun being in fact your skin’s natural reaction to UVA damage. How has this become desirable?

A few hundred years ago pale skin was in fact the desired look, because it suggested that you were wealthy to such an extent that you didn’t have to work in the sun amongst the working classes and remained untarnished in the comfort of your well-shaded, opulent mansion. So how did this change?

Tourism and leisure industry to blame?

There are numerous reasons for why this bizarre obsession may have taken hold of the western world.  For instance, a vast proportion of the media and fashion industry heavily imply that golden, glowing skin is more attractive than pale skin, with only the odd exception such as Dita Von Teese providing a counter-argument for this.

One could also include the tourism and leisure industry as a cause for the rise in fake tan sales, in that being considered ‘well-travelled’ seems to be of increasing importance in today’s culture with a glowing tan being a product of this.

Our ‘ideal-selves’

However to even begin to try and comprehend how and why this bizarre practice has become so engrained in modern Western culture would require taking a vast amount of case studies and factors into careful consideration. But what we can observe is that the desire for bronzed skin is heavily reinforced by celebrity culture and thus the people whom the media present to us as our role models, or our ‘ideal-selves.’

The ‘successful’ select, the models, the IT girls, singers, presenters, performers, actors and actresses, by and large seem to all promote this look, alongside shining white teeth and super-honed bodies.

A tan is just another element of the ideal that we are all trying to achieve, according to unrealistic models fed to us by the media. Our concept of what is deemed attractive relies heavily upon a wider societal understanding established through vast amounts of filters, until a select group of people and ‘looks’ are placed into our limited radars of social awareness.

Not our fault we feel obliged to wear it

Essentially, it’s not really our fault that we feel obliged to wear fake tan and whiten our teeth and undergo all of these silly maintenance routines that probably don’t actually make us look any better, because we are given no alternative but to see these traits as desirable.  

Some people may genuinely believe that they are—I might even feel that way but when I consider why that might be, I question whether the desire actually stems from my own preferences or the preferences of the society in which I desire to succeed.  

Unfortunately for the likes of John Winter and landlords nationwide, this fad and its accompanying stains don’t seem likely to die out any time soon.

What do you think? Are there any benefits to fake tans? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.