After putting their bodies through all this, today's 'tanorexics' might just feel bronzed enough to set foot on a beach - to invite sunburn, wrinkles and skin cancer.
Why do we need to be brown?Once, a pale skin was prized, sunburn denoting a life of toil. The Romans rubbed white lead on their faces, the women of the Italian Renaissance used arsenic. Their goal was the opposite of today's tanners, but they were just as happy to put good looks before health. The fashion for tanning emerged in the 1920s, when a bronzed Coco Chanel was photographed on the Duke of Westminster's yacht. Bette Grable and other swimsuited pin-ups of the '50s made a tan essential, and the now laughable year-round job became achievable in the '70s with the advent of sunbeds. Tanning is now a £1.15 billion industry in the UK, but its customers are walking a health tightrope. Creams protect against skin cancer but can block the body's supply of vitamin D, key to preventing osteoporosis. Still, the tan is too cool to be halted by mere medical concerns. More likely, it'll be fashion that kills it. In an age of budget flights, footballers' wives and fake tans, bronzed skin has become as common as muck. Those wanting a more exclusive look may have to return to the pale hues of the past.