How Tanning Trends Have Changed Since We First Met Jersey Shore

Updated 04/28/19
How Tanning Trends Have Changed Since the Age of GTL
Getty Images

Depending on how your reality television tastes swing, TV viewers everywhere had their dreams (or worst nightmares) come true when Jersey Shore Family Vacation (a highly anticipated MTV revival of the original Jersey Shore series) premiered last night. And yes, a full five and a half years later, the Jersey Shore crew was just as satisfyingly addicting to watch as they were back in 2009. However, we did notice a glaring discrepancy between the crew's 2009 and 2018 selves—they were significantly less tanned. Which sparked our curiosity: How have tanning trends transformed in the past nine years?

For instance, though I personally haven't used a tanning bed more times than I can count on my right hand, the majority of my high school classmates did. (And, correlated or not, this was also back when Jersey Shore was prime viewing real estate.) In fact, members of my friend group would make a pit stop at their tanning salon of choice practically every day after school—a move just as routinized as their java-chip extra-skinny frappuccinos and their rotation of candy-striped Abercrombie & Fitch polos. And while I also went through an intense phase of tanning where reaching Snooki's signature shade of orange was the goal, I relied less on beach-strewn fold-out chairs and trendy tanning beds (because I burn) and more on self-tanning lotions and spray tans.

Which at the time, felt much more stigmatized than they do now—faux tans simply weren't cool, and to me, my inability to tan naturally felt almost like some twisted kind of failure. (Fun fact: As Managing Editor Lindsey Metrus reported last year, having tanned skin originally became cosmopolitan in the '20s because the industrial revolution shifted lower- and middle-class workers indoors, meaning if you were tan, you were likely of a higher socioeconomic status.) And of course these days, we're consistently inundated with media images featuring bronzed, glimmering ideals we're subconsciously taught to idealize, chase, and conform to. Yep—having a glow still sells, but the way we achieve said glow is what has changed the most in recent years.

Interestingly, in 2018, the stigmas associated with tanning beds/laying out and self-tanning products have pretty much completely reversed. Self-tanning is now a billion-dollar industry with steady annual gains in revenue (in 2014 it was estimated at 775.3 million dollars in the U.S. and in 2017, revenue was charted at just above one billion—with roughly a 2.6% annual growth between 2012 and 2017.) Moreover, a "fake" tan is widely considered significantly more couth than laying out in the sun à la the Jersey shore cast or condemning your skin to the damaging likes of a tanning bed. (Seriously, we've heard more than one audible gasp after someone has admitted to visiting a tanning salon in recent years.)

Formulas and results have also come a long way recently, and new brands, product innovations, and launches persistently inundate our inboxes as beauty editors. (And for the record, for every new self-tanner, there also seems to be a new SPF-infused product—both industries appearing to be equally matched in prevalence with today's current tan culture.)

On the flip side, and with more and more data coming out regarding the dangers of the sun, the use of tanning beds or even laying out under the warm summer rays without a hearty helping of SPF is almost unheard of, and as Reuters reports, according to a recent study, the number of U.S. adults using indoor tanning machines decreased by a third between 2010 and 2015. Additionally, according to The Cut and a report published in JAMA Dermatology, "About 1.6 million fewer women and 400,000 fewer men used tanning beds in 2013 compared to 2010, and overall, tanning bed use fell from 5.5% of American adults in 2010 to 4.2% in 2013, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Interview Survey.

"The survey wasn't meant to address why people choose to tan (or not), but CDC experts think public policy has had something to do with the shift," explains The Cut. "They cited the 10% federal tax on tanning services introduced in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act and the 2014 FDA ruling that requires manufacturers to add 'black box' warnings explaining the health risks of using sunlamp products."

In fact, when the Byrdie team was chatting just this morning about tanning trends (because when does an on-screen image of the Jersey Shore cast not bring up GTL), many of us weren't even sure if tanning salons still existed—a true testament to tanning salons' slow and steady fall from grace. However, that being said, an estimated 9.7 million people (7.8 million women and 1.9 million men) are still putting themselves at risk for skin cancer. A startling, scary statistic that makes us shudder, in all honesty.

Related Stories