L is for Leathernecks
"But this summer your skin will be fresh and smooth because you will take special care to avoid that "leather-skinned" look which spoils so many Australian women. Plenty of sun on your face will do your skin good if - and this is essential - you replace the oil drained from your skin by its rays.
Before you set off for the beach rub cream well into your face and neck, and remove the surplus with facial tissues. This will help you obtain an even golden tan. If you freckle badly, wear a large, floppy hat.
When you come home, wash your face thoroughly in warm water to remove all particles of sand and salt - then dip you fingers deep into your cream jar and massage a generous quantity into your neck and face. Leave it on for at least 20 minutes, then remove with tissues and splash with cold water. And don't forget to cream your face each night before you go to bed.
It's most important, this lubrication. Fresh air and sunlight have given us a wonderful basis for skin beauty but too much exposure removes the natural oils. Replace them with a skin food that suits you , and discover a new peach bloom in your skin."
(from The Argus, 23 November 1950)
Hmm, I can see that being out in the sun could dry out your skin, but cream (and by that I suppose they mean moisturiser?) is not going to stop you from burning!
This article, from The Australian Women's Weekly, 9 September 1959, begins with the words, "suntanning is a type of beauty treatment". As someone who grew up during the 1980s in Australia with the Slip, Slop, Slap campaign, this advice seems very dubious to me. The prevailing wisdom in the 1950s seems to have been that suntanning was good for the skin, as long as one built up a tan slowly, starting with 8 minutes exposure, and slowly increasing the time spent in the sun. "The drill is to change your position - keep turning like a sausage in a frying pan" [my italics] is a phrase that makes me shudder. Sunscreen was available in the 50s and the article recommends using " a dependable ray-filter" until you have built up your tan.
In fact, the first sunscreen was developed in 1938, by chemist Franz Greiter (who also came up with the idea of SPF), and is thought to have had an SPF of 2. The first widely used sunscreen, however, was Red Vet Pet, a sticky, red coloured, Vaseline-like substance, which sounds rather disgusting to use. It was developed in 1944 by a chemist called Benjamin Greene, and became popular once Coppertone acquired the patent, creating their famous ad featuring the Coppertone Girl.
I wonder how effective these sun creams were, as they promise to let you tan without burning. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, about 4 times higher than in the US. With my very pale skin, I try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Although tanned skin was seen as a status symbol in the 50s (and even up until the end of the 80s) finally it doesn't seem so awful to have pale skin.