What is Tanorexia?

This is what it's like to have Tanorexia — a condition that drives people to tan excessively.

Protecting the Skin You're in

Obsessed with the perfect tan? Tanning lotions, spray tan booths, tanning beds…This could lead to tanorexia, a term for when a person is addicted to tanning — physically or psychologically. More that 50% of indoor tanners start tanning before age 21 according to the American Academy of Dermatology The prolonged ultra-violet radiation from the sun and tanning beds can lead to skin cancer based on data from the World Health Organization.

At the turn of the last century, a tan was the preserve of the outdoor, manual laborer and therefore to be avoided at all costs. Coco Chanel was responsible for introducing the suntan as a fashion accessory in the 1920s when she returned from a holiday in Antibes bronzed. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel Tender is The Night also played a part, as it glamorized the rich and decadent lifestyle on the French Riviera. Soon tans were a symbol of having both money and leisure time. By the 1930s suntans were all the rage. The introduction of color film in Hollywood also helped, meaning that pale was no longer as attractive. Vogue magazine first featured a swimsuit model on its cover in 1936 and three years later Harper’s Bazaar declared that a tan could “make you look 10 years younger, prettier and more rested”.

The first imitation tans, including Elizabeth Arden’s Sun Gold, were introduced in the 1940s and quickly gained popularity in the absence of stockings. Suntan lotion wasn’t invented for cosmetic reasons, but in response to the plight of U.S. soldiers stationed in sweltering Pacific Ocean regions during World War II. U.S. government scientists discovered that a substance called red petrolatum could be used as a cream to help protect the skin from burning. Florida pharmacist Benjamin Green saw the substance’s commercial potential in 1944. His cocoa-butter based recipe smelt a lot more alluring than its petroleum by-product predecessor and, when he realized that it also helped turn the skin brown, the name Coppertone was born.

Skin cancer is definitely a concern for people like Allison McNamara and that's ultimately why she decided to stop doing tanning beds.