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From Sun to Spray: The Evolution of Cosmetic Tanning
A tanning bed is just one of the ways humans have learned to give their skin a bronze sheen. Check out Groupon’s exploration of the evolution of tanning.
Before it was considered a sign of a healthy individual, tanned skin was the sign of someone gravely ill. In fact, for centuries people considered pale skin a mark of sophistication, but the stigma was reversed in 1929 when fashion mogul Coco Chanel, freshly bronzed after a yachting trip, said, “A girl simply has to be tanned.” Almost instantly, the tan became a trademark of luxury and style, and throngs of people began to include ample sunlight as part of their beauty regimens.
However, not everyone could afford such luxuries as sunbathing on the French Riviera or bathing in Italian volcanoes—and the winter months made getting a little sun difficult no matter what. To solve this dilemma, German scientist Friedrich Wolff introduced a system of specialized ultraviolet lamps and reflectors in 1978, sparking the tanning-bed revolution. This new approach, which artificially mimics the sun’s natural radiation, offered a way to achieve a sun-kissed hue indoors, but various shortcomings—such as the potential hazards of overexposure to the tanning beds’ uncomfortable box springs—led to a new approach: eschewing UV rays altogether. Concoctions of cosmetic creams and sprays soon hit the market, most making use of dihydroxyacetone (DHA)—a sugar, derived from plants, that temporarily darkens the pigment in the outermost skin cells, in a process quite similar to the effect from sun exposure.