Why is a tan seen as attractive?

Why do we want to tan

Sunbathing is the latest pantomime villain of the chattering classes, forget trans fats, parabens and smoking, it’s the time of year to say boooo sssssss booooo to tanning. But no amount of sound scientific advice is ever going to stop the pale skinned from hankering for that instant 30% upswing in hotness a tan provides, but why is this?

According to a study from Bristol University it’s not actually the suntan we find attractive. Eating a healthy diet with more Carotenoid-rich fruits and veg, like cantaloupe, apricots, carrots, peppers, and spinach, causes an attractive, golden tone-change to Caucasian skin in just a month. When Dr. Ian Stephen asked volunteers to look at “before and after” photos of men and women after eating Betacarotene-rich diets (lots of green and orange coloured fruit and veg), he found that people always preferred the golden effect from eating lots carotenoids to any of the other looks, including the darker effect from the sun.

It makes evolutionary sense to choose a mate with a healthy diet, and so follows on that the effect that eating well has on the skin would make someone more attractive. This then begs the question, ‘Are we tanning mad because we are trying to fake a healthy diet?’

Psst! You didn’t hear it from us but if you hate eating your greens and want to cheat a little, these are the best fake tans on the market >>

Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Verity is our Content Editor and a Cult Beauty veteran. Currently on maternity leave, raising Cult Beauty’s honorary ‘word nerd’, Tabitha, she speaks fluent ‘beauty’ and loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm (and cleanser and candles… ad infinitum). Nothing can stop her from quoting Nancy Mitford, treating herself to yet another Bella Freud candle for her desk or buying that pilgrim-esque collared or heavily fringed outfit she’s been eyeing. You can trust her to debunk widespread beauty myths and dispense invaluable advice with ease…