Our attitudes to tanned skin have fluctuated over the centuries, and are often closely linked to our preconceptions about social status. In the UK, those higher up the social hierarchy favoured excessively pale skin, and applied various combinations of dubious substances such as lead and mercury to create an unnaturally porcelain-like complexion.
Leeching or blood-letting was another popular method, and although this was slightly less dangerous than the slow poisoning of the system, it was still a rather extreme approach. Queen Elizabeth Ist famously fell victim to the sustained use of the toxic substances.
At this time, a perfectly white complexion was considered to demonstrate a woman’s pure and virtuous nature, while those who were tanned were those from the lower classes who were obliged to spend more time outside, as agricultural workers, for example.
Times change, however, and recent years have seen an increasing desire amongst both men and women to have tanned skin. People commonly say that having a tan makes them look healthier and more attractive, and many will make getting a deep tan one of their holiday objectives.
An increased production of melanin, however, is a sign that the skin is already in danger of permanent damage. Exposure to UV rays can result in burns, uneven melanin production that requires pigmentation treatment, and even cancer.