In 1926 Coco Chanel stepped off the Duke of Wellington's yacht at Cannes and into the glare of awaiting cameras. The designer had spent too long in the sun accidentally, but because of her status it was interpreted as a fashion statement. For centuries until then, a pale skin was associated with the upper class and quite the fashion statement at the time, whereas brown shades spoke of outdoor labour and the working class. With the development of foreign tourism and the nod from Coco, a tanned skin stood for something very different, status and money.
We, as a country, have taken it a step too far and Ireland is now the biggest consumer of fake tan per capita on the planet. Other countries have taco Thursday but we have tan Thursday, the day all of us milk bottles lock ourselves in the bathroom and emerge a bronze goddess for the weekend. Seriously! Thursday is known as tan Thursday in Ireland and the cosmetic companies are loving us for it.
Programmes like Tallafornia and Towie are adding to an epidemic here, which has us reduced to a Satsuma nation. Teenagers voted fake tan the fifth greatest invention of the past 25years. As teenagers what did we do? We were into basting with oil and foil, so maybe today's teenagers have it sussed.
Many photographers have a note on their website about some tans giving brides an orange hue in photos and there's a lesson in that - in short go easy on the tan.
Most of us have Fitzpatrick skin type 1, which means we have light, pale white skin that always burns and never tans and maybe it is there that lies the problem - we want something we cannot have. Pale and interesting does not seem to cut it for us, even with ambassadors among some of the world's most beautiful women, such as Nicole Kidman, Katy Perry and Dita Von Tesse.
So what is it about the tan that attracts us? Firstly, tans are great for camouflage - from stretch marks to cellulite. We feel more confident and apparently look slimmer with a tan, so we just need a few tips to get it right and not end up looking like an extra from Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
Preparation is key - patchy dry skin won't respond to tan. Moisturise every day when you step out of the shower or before you hit the sack. If you are looking for a good body moisturiser, I have fallen in love with Nia products - which means radiance. This new Limerick company have the most beautiful body balms. Siog is the intensive range with rose, neroli, jasmine, and frankincense. If your skin needs some TLC after the winter this is the one for you at €14.95 and it will last for ages. The owner of the company will be In CH chemist, Tralee, on the 17th if anybody wants to go along and get more information.
Exfoliate a few days before you apply your tan. Soap and Glory do 'Some Like it Hot', which heats up when you apply it and leaves the skin amazingly soft. Also the Body Shop does a great mango scrub and the Dermalogica scrub smells especially nice. Karrora has smooth operator micro-peel €14.99 and it gives a really great peel. A back brush is great for those hard to reach places. If you shave your legs, try to do so a day before applying tan as your skin won't be too sensitised or receptive to the tanning formulation.
Only moisturise the hands, feet, knees and other dry areas on the body, as moisturisers can't act as barriers and don't allow the DHA in the self -tans to develop properly. Wear latex gloves and use a mitt to apply your tan, Slowly work from the top of your body to your feet, for face and hands, mix the product with moisturiser to thin it out and give a lighter application. For a light tan, wash off after 4-5 hours, for a deeper colour leave it on for 8-10 hours. Wear loose clothing when you are finished and moisturise your tan daily to lock in hydration and help the tan to fade naturally. After you shower, pat your skin dry as vigorous drying will scrub off the tan.
'Man tan' has always been around - remember the actor George Hamilton? But male celebrities have been looking more tanned than ever in the past few months. Jersey shore guys call it GTL-gym, tanning and laundry. Bradley Cooper got some media coverage for his half done orange face at the premiere of Valentine's Day. He is not alone - Peter Andre, Simon Cowell and Gordan Ramsay have been piling on the products so it's hardly surprising that, last year, the Fake Bake tanning company saw a 42 per cent increase in fellas going for spray tans.
There are lots of tans out there, but I have a few favourites. First up is the Irish brand, Organic, it won't turn you orange, it's about the only tan in the world that is completely organic and it was made for the pale skinned Irish. Gavin Duffy is the dragon behind this tan.
Rockstar tan is a multi award winning self tanning and retail brand with a realistic colour and long lasting results. It is the brainchild of former Fair City actress Rachel Kavanagh.
Decadence tan was launched last summer. No animal testing, no parbens, no sulphates and no mineral oils. What it does have is, seeweed, aloe vera, vitamin E, sandalwood and a good price.
A new tan on the block is Cocoa Brown 1-hour tan by Marissa Carter and at €7.99 it's very purse friendly.
Karora is a great Irish botanical tan - with a huge range from instant tan to gradual, to self tan mist. Ireland's top models love it because it suits our skin tone. They also have a SPF of 15 in their gradual tan.
If you are looking for a long lasting tan try Vita Liberta, who have a three week tan called Phenomenal, which can last up to four weeks longer than a normal tan.
When your tan is all done and you are ready for sun, don't forget your SPF as most tans don't encorporate them. If you are lucky enough to be heading abroad with your tan, beware of the pool as you will turn back to your former white self. But if all this tanning business sounds too much like hard work and pale and interesting is more up your street, think of what Coco Chanel, the woman who started all this, once said: In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.
• Next week: Teeth whitening.