The 2000s Might Be Back, But Why Does Kim Kardashian Have A Sunbed?

Kim Kardashian has made skincare part of her business empire. Photo / @kimkardashian

Turning to TikTok to share a tour of the SKKN By Kim office, Kardashian revealed a fixture that caused concern from our beauty editor.

Dressed in a fluffy, luxurious-looking robe (greige of course) Kim Kardashian is serenely giving her 9.4 million TikTok followers an inside look around the headquarters of her skincare brand, SKKN by Kim, established in 2022. There’s the wall of magazine covers, the glam room, a custom mannequin and her *** desk.

Like everything the star shares publicly, the timing is strategic — the company has just announced it’s launching a makeup line — but one thing in the video felt like a brand misstep.

There, in the office, is a controversial and unexpected item: “I’m Kim Kardashian, of course, I have a tanning bed,” she says, beaming.

A tanning bed? In 2024?

If you thought this relic was consigned to history, you’re not alone. “In my opinion, they should have been banned decades ago,” says Viva beauty editor Ashleigh Cometti, who was shocked to spot one on Kardashian’s TikTok. “Learning that Kim’s office contains a tanning bed just feels like we’re taking a backwards step once more.”

Kim Kardashian revealed a tanning bed on her tour of the SKKN office. Photo / @kimkardashian
Kim Kardashian revealed a tanning bed on her tour of the SKKN office. Photo / @kimkardashian

Though they were popular in the 1990s and 2000s, tanning beds lost favour as people became aware of the dangers of UV damage and as tanning lotions improved and spray tans became popular with celebrities and regular folks alike.

Also called solariums or sunbeds, what these offer is far from a fake tan. The electronic chambers contain bulbs that mimic the ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight.

“This exposure stimulates skin cells in the epidermis (upper layer of skin) to protect itself by releasing a pigment called melanin,” Cometti says. “Melanin absorbs the UV radiation, which causes the skin to darken in colour, creating an artificial tan.”

So, it’s artificial in the sense that it’s not from the sun, but the damage is very real.

“A tan is a tell-tale sign of skin damage, no matter if that’s achieved indoors via a tanning bed or outdoors in the sun. Excess UV exposure can speed up the ageing process, resulting in wrinkles, age spots and the degradation of collagen stores, not to mention increase the risk of developing skin cancer (including squamous cell carcinomas or basal cell carcinomas),” Cometti explains.

“A study released by the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that using a tanning bed before age 20 can increase your chances of developing melanoma by a staggering 47 per cent. Not to mention they can result in sunburned skin, dizziness and eye injuries due to prolonged light exposure.”

With so many potentially fatal risks and lack of regulation — after all, no one is monitoring your use if you have one at home or, in Kardashian’s case, at the office — shouldn’t tanning beds be banned?

“In the US, tanning bed use is regulated by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration], which calls for warning labels to be included on all indoor tanning equipment. We’re not nearly as regimented as we should be here in Aotearoa, especially given the fact we have one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world,” she says.

“Using tanning beds makes no sense to me. Why would anyone want to actively pursue sun-damaged skin by lying in a chamber that does exactly that?”

It’s even more mystifying, and rather counterintuitive, when you consider Kim Kardashian’s skincare line, SKKN BY KIM, bills itself as clean, vegan and “science-backed” with a nine-step routine that promises hydrated, youthful skin.

As always, Kardashian is selling a look. Her look. To date, it’s made her millions — her net worth is estimated at US$1.8 billion ($2.93b) — and SKNN is just part of a business empire that includes Skims, KKW Fragrance, and of course fashion contracts.

“Ever since the Kardashians broke on to the scene in the early 2000s, the reality TV stars have perpetuated unrealistic beauty standards, from alleged BBL [Brazilian butt lift] surgeries and lip fillers through to heavy contouring and on-call glam teams,” says Cometti.

Deep tans have long been part of their aesthetic, and — along with other aesthetic conventions they’ve adopted and popularised — led to accusations of cultural appropriation and even blackfishing (ambiguously presenting as African American).

Even with this criticism, their popularity and impact have endured.

The Kardashians are some of, if not the most, influential celebrities in the world. It’s this influence that makes the sunbed revelation so concerning.

“My interest was piqued with Kim’s SKKN office tour when the video first surfaced on my TikTok, but I felt extremely let down by the end that once again a celebrity is generating dangerous messages around sun exposure,” says Cometti.

“How many millions of women will see this and now think it’s okay for them to use one, too?”

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