A tan for a man should come from a can

The George Hamilton perma-tan is back, but under a different guise. The "man tan" is not as tan-gerine, nor as omnipresent, but is on the increase among urban males men striving to give an adventurous edge to their look.

Noticed someone fronting up to the office with a suspiciously bronzed, healthy glow? Their motive, although separated by decades, is likely to be much the same as the old television star's.

"I grew up at a different time [when the tan] was a sign of sportsmanship and affluence in my younger life," Hamilton told Fairfax recently.

"More importantly, when I was 15, 16 at Palm Beach ... I got a suntan and I was hit on by these women and I thought, it must be the suntan."

Bronzed glow

Michael Brown, from fake tan brand St Tropez, puts the rise of the man tan down to social media. "Everyone is on it and for men, there has never been a bigger time to stay looking fit and therefore posting about the fact they are fit," he says.

The desire for that golden tan is still strong and often at any cost.

Dr Sean Arendse

"They will do anything they can to get that healthy glow, even if that means using a self- or gradual tan product to get them 'fitspo' ready."

Fakery is not without its risks. A 'tan from a can' could go too dark, which can be ageing. Choosing a cheap tan will not give good colour or wear and may look fake. "It is even more important for a guy to have no tell-tale signs of wearing a self-tan," Brown says. "Application is key, which some guys can not grasp."

Spray of sunshine

Given the difficult of flawless self-application, some men this summer may prefer to tan the George Hamilton way — sunbaking. Dr Sean Arendse has one word of advice – don't.

He sees some of the sorry effects of this 1970s throwback at his Flawless Rejuvenation Skin Clinic in Melbourne's Toorak.

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"Damaging effects from excessive sun exposure are no secret, but the desire for that golden tan is still strong and often at any cost," he says.

The Cancer Council proclaims skin cancer prevention campaigns have all but dispelled the notion that Australian males still aspire to be a "bronzed Aussie".

Reducing the risk

In the summer of 2010-11 — the most recent research available — 24 per cent of men surveyed said they liked to get a suntan, compared with 38 per cent in 2003-04.

"However, we know there is more to be done when it comes to reminders about sun protection behaviours," says Sue Heward, SunSmart manager of the Cancer Council Victoria.

"Data released earlier this year showed that almost 2.4 million Australians are getting caught out and getting sunburnt on summer weekends."

The effects of sun exposure does not always result in skin cancer, but with time they will be cosmetically evident. Sun-damaged skin results in sun spots, hyperpigmentation and early wrinkles. A man tan doesn't look so hot then.

Fraxel, a non-ablative fractionated laser, can effectively treat sun damaged and ageing skis. But Dr Arendse says his "ABC" skincare rule can also help sun-damaged skin — that is, topical treatments of Vitamin A, Vitamin B5 and Vitamin C.

"It is apparent that there really is no safe way to tan from UV rays," he says. "It is also important to understand that a spray tan does not offer any protection from the sun."