Last year, I met a woman at a party with a deep, streak-free tan. As an eager fake tanner myself (who still hasn’t perfected the art), I immediately asked what she used.
"Solariums, babe," she responded. One word I hadn’t heard in years.
In January 2015, commercial solariums were banned across Australia (excluding Western Australia, which banned them in January 2016) because of the serious health risks involved when using them. But even after the ban, many people, including Ali*, are going to dangerous lengths to achieve a tan.
"I’ve probably been using them for five years," Ali told Mamamia.
"I hate fake tan. So I started using them back when they were legal, and then when they became illegal I probably didn’t use one for two years."
After the ban in 2015, covert solariums started popping up in major cities across Australia.
"Once they became illegal they became pretty hard to find, so if you did get into one it was through word of mouth. It would be like one of your friends was using it and you had to go with that friend," Ali said.
"You could never send them a text and say, 'Can I come use your bed?', you’d have to say, 'Can I come have a coffee or something.'
"So I used him on and off. Then he got shut down at the start of last year and I decided to buy my own," she said.
Although commercial solariums are banned, it is still legal to own one in your own home (as long as you don’t charge anyone a fee to use yours). And as Ali explained to me, they are easy to buy online and she uses hers regularly.
"If the weather is crappy I’ll use it at least three times a week," she explained. "But once I get to a certain colour, I might not use it for months."
"Sometimes, I'll use it twice a day," she added.
Australians have often been associated with sun-bronzed skin. However, sporting a tan hasn't always been fashionable
During the 19th century, the colour of your skin would distinguish the rich from the poor. The whiter your skin, the more money you were thought to have. So women of status would protect themselves from the sun and apply whitening products, while those in the working class would become more tanned as they worked outside all day.
But in 1923, when fashion icon Coco Chanel caught a tan while holidaying on a yacht in the French Riviera, tans started to become fashionable. For the first time, they suggested you had the money to travel to warmer climates.