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WWII Leads to New Sun Habits and Products


Advertisements appeared in women's magazines encouraging suntanning, and showing off tan skin became more prevalent with the introduction of the bikini in 1946. Makeup that promised the appearance of a tan without sun exposure became popular during World War II, when nylon stockings were harder to come by and some women turned to makeup to make their legs look bronzed.


During World War II, airman and pharmacist Benjamin Green proffered greasy, heavy red veterinary petrolatum ("red vet pet") to soldiers as sun protection. Similar to modern-day mineral formulas, this substance served as a physical barrier. After the war, Green continued to develop his formula, adding cocoa butter and coconut oil. These eventually became Coppertone's first sun creams, positioned as tanning products.


The first sunless tanning sprays came on the market. Rather than being a topical product that would wash away, these sunless tanners used dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to gradually darken the skin’s color through a chemical process. DHA continues to be used in sunless tanning products today.