Fashion learns Victorian lesson about a fair skin

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The Independent Online
Wearing shorts, swim-suits and bikinis in the sun could soon become a thing of the past as the ozone layer continues to deplete. Judging by the burnt faces affected by the early April sun, UV rays have, as predicted, have become more potent.

For those worried about skin cancer statistics, Arabic robes could become the beachwear of choice by 2010.

In 1995, the most popular sun cream sold at Boots was SPF 8. In 1996 it had nearly doubled to SPF 15.

"We told customers never to use anything below SPF 15 and it has worked," said a Boots spokeswoman. The company has even produced an SPF 50 mole stick, for those worried that their freckles and moles may becoming malignant.

The world of high fashion blissfully ignores scares such as these. Gianni Versace has a range of itsy-bitsy bikinis that leave little to the imagination, as does Calvin Klein, Chanel, and every big designer under the, ahem, sun.

At Harvey Nichols, Temagin Thompson, the beachwear buyer makes no bones about her itsy-bitsy stock: "Sorry, but I do buy purely from an aesthetic angle. Bikinis are really strong this year, especially in sporty and asymmetric styles, but we do recommend that older women opt for styles that cover up their cleavage and neck areas, as the skin there ages quickly".

There are some companies, however, which are providing safe clothing. Husband and wife team Tim and Jenny Holloway have created a range of clothes called Sun Smart, all of the which have an SPF of 50.

Their clothes, beach umbrellas and sunglasses are recommended by the Health Education Authority.

Adult-sized T-shirts and baseball caps with UV monitors from the company Creative Expressions are also available. When these garments are exposed to sunlight, their designs become increasingly visible. It is only a matter of time before further collections of sun-proof clothing are available in this country, as they have been for years in Australia.

Most super-models, including Kate Moss, have a slight tan, proving that women do still want a slightly sun-kissed look. But the deep tan is now seen as ugly and unhealthy.

The fashion debate about sun protection boils down to simple facts. The fashion designers will continue to expose flesh, as long as it is safe to walk out of doors, so it is up to consumers to protect themselves.

As long as the body is covered in at least SPF 15 and a hat there's no point in worrying too much. Adequate protection is easy with the vast range on offer from cosmetics companies. So wear what you want, within reason, before it's too late.