On Paleness

When the comment trolls come out to play, they generally focus their attacks on several expected topical targets: I’m fat, I’m ugly, I have horrible hair, I have too many clothes, I’m a self-righteous ass, I have atrocious taste and no right to call myself a style expert. These things, I expect. Especially after nearly four years of blogging and a lifetime of experience with bullying. But the supposed-insult that throws me for a loop every time? I should get a tan.

A TAN, people.ย  I am too pale to be fashionable. My reputation would be much improved if I hit the beach or the tanning salon. Or just got off my pasty white butt, walked to Walgreens, and invested in some self-tanner.

I shouldn’t be so dumbfounded by this. Skin color and shade are charged topics, and people all over the world seek to lighten or darken their skin tones through artificial means. While I’m all for taking steps toward crafting a look that suits your personality and tastes, the idea of tinkering with skin color unnerves me. Utilizing clothing to define your figure, hair color to highlight your features, nail polish to embellish your fingers and toes, even tattoos and piercings to express your creativity … none of these things set off warning alarms. But skin color is different somehow.

And I’m aware that Caucasian women are encouraged to tan, generally for reasons of aesthetics rather than politics as far as I know. Supposedly, tanning makes us look thinner, better rested, younger, healthier. But I just never considered it something I should want to do. Maybe it’s because I am suspicious of ANYTHING that is supposed to make women look thinner, better rested, younger, healthier. Maybe it’s laziness. Maybe it’s obliviousness. Probably a mixture of all three. But until these comments started rolling in, I had never considered my paleness to be an affront.

And I bike all summer and wear loads of sunblock, yet I still get a bit browner and frecklier by autumn. And that’s fine. But whenever anyone tells me I should get a tan, or that I should consider using some bronzer on my face, I think: That is not for me. I think about how versatile my skin tone is, how I can wear so many colors right next to my face and look amazing, and how monkeying with that tone could throw it all off. I think about Cate Blanchett, my paleness hero, and how elegant she looks. I think about how encouraging all Caucasian women to tan is just another way to reinforce that we must all look like homogenized Barbie dolls or feel shame for our differences. And I think about the money, the effort, the time, the upkeep it would take to make my ghostly self tan all over all the time. That is most definitely not for me.

This is a topic that will hold different meanings for each of you, as I know some of you are Caucasian women who tan, some of you are skin cancer sufferers and survivors who have strong feelings about tanning,ย  and some of you are women of color who have dealt with the racial issues inherent to discussions of skin color. But I’d love to hear ALL of your thoughts about paleness, tanning, and artificially altering skin color. What are your feelings and experiences? Have you ever been told that you’d look better in a lighter or darker skin tone? How did you react?

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  • I get this a lot too, not in troll-y comments on my blog but I have had people shout it at me on the street. And I’m not even that pale, not by comparison to someone like Cate Blanchett. I find it really unsettling that anyone feels it’s okay to say that my skin would look better a different colour because seriously? It’s my skin, that’s the colour it is! I’m very fair skinned and Celtic, not even especially freckly. I burn but rarely tan so always wear at least factor 50 sunblock at the merest mention of sun and to be honest, I really do find the idea of willingly burning yourself in the name of acceptance to be very upsetting.

    I know this is such a sensitive issue too because in so many cultures fairer skin is considered desirable but as far as I can see, it’s just another tentacle of the beauty myth. We use the phrase ‘comfortable in your own skin’ a lot, and the pressure to tan or to lighten your skin is the very antithesis of this idea. Why are we encouraged, in whatever culture we live in, to dislike our skin colour so much that we seek to change it?

    You know, I wear dresses all the time. When it’s very cold I wear tights but being lucky enough to live in the fairly clement UK, I can go bare-legged most of the year round. My legs are a pale blue, even though they get sun ALL the time. I don’t think they’d look better tanned, that’s the colour they’re meant to be!

    • Tracyellen1619

      I am an Esthetician in my mid forties and I can tell you that I NEVER hear women tell me that they wished they had spent more time in the sun and getting tan. I constantly hear “I wish I never laid out summer after summer”. I am Irish/English with pasty white skin. I can get some burning, lots of freckles and then maybe…a slight tan. Once I embraced the porcelain look, the compliments rolled in. I wear sunscreen all year long and have a huge sun hat that I don on a very frequent basis in the summer, much to my kid’s chagrin! I have even started staying away from the self tanning creams, etc. I can never get them to look okay and it’s far more hassle than it’s worth. Hey, I’m pale!!! Don’t care – I love rocking the Snow White look!!!

  • When I was 19, I had a cancerous cell mass removed from my face, just under left eye, due to childhood sun damage. Tanning, in any form, is unhealthy for everybody. I tend to get angry when anyone suggests that I “get some color”. I am pale, with pink undertones, that burns bright red in the sun. I couldn’t tan even if I wanted to. I see telling people to tan the same as telling people to take up smoking: you should get cancer because doing it looks cool.

    • Wow. I was 26 when mine was removed. I can’t imagine dealing with that at 19!

      Sunblock for life!

      • guest

        I had cancerous cells removed from my scalp and face at age 10. I’ve had to have yearly dermatology checkups since then (and more spots removed). Skin cancer runs in my family. It’s a very scary thing. And it’s why I’m trying to embrace my paleness. It’s a hard thing to do here in Texas where young girls love to get tan and everyone wears shorts almost every day of the year. I struggle to understand the freedom with which people can comment on someone being “too white,” even though any comments on another skin color would be frowned upon (or lead to a fist fight). It’s like somehow commenting on whiteness isn’t making disparaging remarks about skin color in many minds.

  • Susan

    Huh. I’m just stunned you have trolls.

    • Erin

      Me too.

      • Me three.

      • Kate K

        Me three.

        • SAJohnstone

          Me four. I think you are wonderful.

          • I wish I could say I was surprised about your trolls, but I’ve had a few, too. Here’s a funny kicker: one of them was someone I knew!!! Anywho, I think you’re beautiful and am IMPRESSED by your self confidence. You should absolutely love the skin you’re in (to quote a beauty product).

            That being said, I love a good tan on myself. I hate to admit it, but I get SO MANY more compliments when I’m tan, so FOR ME, AND ME ALONE, I think a tan does some good. That also being said, I get very nervous every time I’m out in the sun trying to get a tan. I’m almost 35 and have fair-ish skin, so I basically lay out in the sun wondering the whole time whether I’m giving myself cancer. I try to keep the tanning/laying out to a bare minimum (tanning only before a beach vacation and only laying out a couple times a week in the summer which is only 3 months per year here). I guess I’m trying to rationalize and justify myself. It’s probably not working, but I really love the discussion you’ve got going here, so I thought I’d throw in my honest and open 2 cents.

  • Holly

    I am currently fascinated by this topic. I’m living in China where paleness is a virtue. Women go as far as to use “skin whitening” products to create their desired pale glow. I am a religious user of SPF 35 but I am constantly being told I do not take care of my skin because I wear short sleeves and do not carry an umbrella in the sun.

    It’s funny that here a tan is a associated with being a poor labourer on a farm whereas at home it seems to be the opposite. It means you could afford to go South in the winter or pay for a tanning bed.

    This racial issue adds a whole other element to the conversion. Do we just desire a different skin colour than our own?

    • Kate

      I spent most of my childhood in China and was constantly teased (gently) by family memories for being tanned. (I tan easily and love the outdoors.) There is definitely a class distinction when it comes to the shade of one’s skin, and there are racial undertones as well. For example, in my home province, the word for “tanned” is “black”–my parents called me (affectionately) “black girl”.

      It never bothered me much, especially not after my family emigrated and I realised how different the beauty standards are in different cultures. FYI, my family in China also teased me for having “big feet” (I wear US size 6.5), thick and naturally wavy hair, and being “tall and gangly” (I’m 5’5). Of course they never meant to hurt me with their comments, but their comments reflect a very narrowly-defined idea of “beauty” from which I’m happy to escape.

      • m

        i can definitely relate to this, being asian as well & rather dark. i tan very easily & though my immediate family has never said anything, my relatives in china have made (for the most part gentle) comments about how dark i can get.
        personally, i just try to be conscious about sunscreen & avoid being outside during the sunniest parts of the day for skin cancer reasons. would i like to be lighter? i suppose… & i think that is probably a result of growing up around very white caucasians & the asian aesthetic, but i wouldn’t do anything drastic to change my skin tone. i am what i am & people can take it or leave it.

    • Mistie

      I grew up with many Filipino families. I was constantly told that I was too pale. People called me casper, sheet, and transparent. My Filipino friends were constantly told they were getting too dark. It’s just another way to control and divide women.

  • Jenny

    This is such an interesting — and as you say, loaded — topic. I think that here, as often, the aesthetics and the politics are intertwined. My, admittedly un-researched, impression is that skin color for white women is a marker of class distinctions. In the past, being pale was desirable because it meant you were rich enough to stay inside and buy hats/clothes to protect you from the sun, while other women got tans or freckles that betrayed their status as workers subject to the elements. Later, being tan became desirable because it meant you had the money and leisure to vacation and soak up sun in some fashionable location… Hmm, now I really want to go find out more about this to see when and why the switch happened…
    In an case, thanks for a thought-provoking post! I was always teased for being pale as a kid and I’ve never had a tan in my life, but as an adult I’ve finally grown to love my coloring.

    • Heidi L.

      CoCo Chanel is credited with starting the tanning trens in the twenties.
      Heidi

      • Quite true! Before her, tanning was a sign of being working class!

        • Kate

          In the late Edwardian, there was also a slight shift towards desiring a “healthy glow” because doctors determined that regular outdoor activity could help prevent TB.

  • Rose

    Long time lurker here, but I have to get out of the wood on this because it hit a nerve.
    I’m very pale, and even if I tried to tan, I wouldn’t. I get rashes, sunburnt, spots, you name it, but no tan, ever.
    I also have naturally very dark hair, so a lot of people assume that I’m sick, gothic, psycho or just a “boring indoor person who reads books” (ah!).

    The major problem is that I live in a Mediterranean country where 3/4rd of people have a darker complexion and where you just can’t get enough sun. There is also a lot of contempt against “the north”. So when I say that, no, in July, I can’t sit outside for lunch because of the sun, I meet a barrier of disapproval as the fussy, whiny, northerner crybaby that should just go outside and get a tan already. Basically, I have to load on sunscreen from April to October whenever I go outside. I don’t feel at home here and sun is part of the equation. I feel like the weather itself is against me ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve even had a local BF that told me that my pale skin was “weird”, “not normal”, and was happy the day I had a major accidental sunburnt because that he hoped that I would get darker afterwards (I didn’t and ditched him instead).

    • You’re definitely not alone on that one, Rose! I live in Chile and most of the people (who have darker complexions or are just artificially tanned) always look at me like I am some kind of grown up Goth.
      I used to worry a lot about it, but since I realized it is not as much my problem as it is theirs that, I stopped.
      Thanks Sal for bringing this up, I think we should all accept our natural skin color and just take good care of it.
      (Sorry for the crappy translation girls!)

  • Bonnie

    People tell me this all the time! I just say “No tan is worth wrinkles and skin cancer!” I am who I am, which is a very pale person. Part of loving my body means loving my paleness. When I was younger I wanted to be a person who tanned. All the popular girls were tan, right? So I would try, get terrible sunburns, be in pain and peeling, etc. Now, as an adult, I choose to love my pale skin and to complement other women on their skin tones as well. We shouldn’t tell each other to change something so unchangeable.

  • AMEN SISTER! I am too quite pale and don’t appreciate being told I should get a tan. No, I shouldn’t. Each to their own absolutely, but it’s not for me. I have a photo with me and 5 friends who each got spray tans for an engagement party and they are all EXACTLY the same colour. I’m sorry, but that’s not normal and I do NOT want to be a clone. My skin colour is MINE and I’m happy to be me!

  • Rose

    Just to add that, ironically, I’d LOVE to tan and be able to enjoy the sun as everybody does. That’s why I know from experience that I just can’t !

  • Oh god, Sal. Yet another topic I can totally relate to ๐Ÿ™‚ Now, I’m a very light person. At the ripe age of 30, I still have natural light blonde hair, a trait said to be rare among adults (coming from a blonde family, this was new to me). So accordingly, I have fairly light skin. And I thought I was nearly white all my life. At first I hated it and tried to tan (naturally, I think tanning beds are whack), but then my mom said why don’t I celebrate being special instead? And that is what I did. I changed my attitude and embraced my paleness. And even if my boyfriend tells me I’d look better tanned, I still won’t do it intentionally. If I tan naturally, that’s fine. I don’t use sunblock either, but rather SPF 20. And it’s enough, even on holiday in the Mediterranean. I welcome a tan as a by-product of spending time in the sun, but I don’t pursue one. I feel fine with my skin tone. And when I recently changed the colors I wear from only very dark ones to fairly light ones, I discovered that I’m not even that pale. I rather have a healthy light golden tone to my skin, which was swallowed whole by the dark and drab colors. So, if one feels very uncomfortable being pale, I’d start with the colors. Wearing the right ones means they are in sync with the colors you already have in your body and face, and they will compliment it. And that looks good either way, pale or tanned ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, BTW: “Maybe itโ€™s because I am suspicious of ANYTHING that is supposed to make women look thinner, better rested, younger, healthier.” SO. TRUE. o_O O_O O_o

  • Great writing, Sal. I too am very pale, or *fair*, as my husband phrases it. I used to burn/tan all summer, in order to meet the expected beauty norms of the era. My poor skin! I’ve had a few basal cell cancers to show for those days.

    Now I embrace the pale, even on my legs, even in the summer. I don’t wear shorts, but that’s a style decision, not about my skin. I wear skirts and bermudas, and let my pale legs hang out. Love Cate and also Kate Winslet and Christina Ricci, all beautiful pale skinned sisters.

    And so sorry you were bullied! Me too, as a teen, with my unruly hair and then-round body. It *always* hurts but we grow strong and learn to love our beautiful selves.

  • Mars

    I live in South Texas and everyone here is brown, even my kids! I , however, glow in the dark. Oh well, I hear comments about it all the time. The way I see it, I am protecting my skin by wearing hats and sunscreen. Don’t like it, don’t look at it!!

    • Girl! Me too!

      I moved to Corpus Christi, and EVERYONE is dark here. It doesn’t help that my family is all Hispanic and so is my husband – I’m the “white sheep of the family”. Look at it this way – we’ll have lovely glowing skin with very few wrinkles well into our lives!

  • I was visiting LA for the first time in 1980, and was riding in the car with my new husband, with our windows rolled down and I had my arm propped on the open window. We stopped at a light, and someone yelled at me: “GET A TAN!” I was floored. I’m so pale, glaring-white legs, and while I’ve somehow bought into the cultural idea that tan is better, I’ve never done anything about it. Of course, now I’m 52 and my skin is really beautiful, no one believes my age, etc. But still, I wish my legs weren’t so white. And I wish I didn’t wish that.

  • Yes, I’ve been told that I look better with some color. It doesn’t bother me enough to wear make up or try to get a tan, but I do try to pay attention to what colors I put next to my face. Put me in a pale, dusty color and I’m going to look deathly.

  • I’ve been told I should get a tan my whole life — even when I think I have one (ouch!) I was thrilled when self-tanner arrived on the shelves — especially the subtle ones for daily use. And then, last year, with no drama and for reasons I don’t quite understand, I quietly put it away. I can’t guarantee that I won’t use it again, but I’m starting to think, “Meh. Why?”

    I do think I look more rested and happier when I have a slight tan, but that could be because I AM more rested and happier when I return from the beach! Why fake it? Why can’t we just be the shade that we are? I do think pale skin is more accepted than it used to be, and that is good. So if you’re leading the natural skintone acceptance movement, consider me on board. Trolls be damned.

  • Jessica

    Sally, THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting about this topic. I am a very fair-skinned Caucasian woman, and not a summer goes by where someone doesn’t remark about my skin tone. I was oblivious to my fair skin until I moved to Florida at age 12 (where I no longer live) and was assaulted by comments such as “Oh my God, look at how white that girl is! Gross!” and “Hey, look, it’s Casper!” The vast majority of these comments came from other Caucasians. Even where I live now, in a non-tropical climate where people are practically holed up indoors and freezing for months at a time, people still stare at me or comment about my paleness.

    I have no control over my skin’s natural inclination to be whiter than white, and I don’t fully understand why people care about it so much. I have tried tanning in the past- it takes me 3 months of tanning 3-4 times a week (for up to 15 minutes at a time) to get the slightest hint of color. After one entire summer of tanning, people started telling me how healthy and great I looked, but now that I no longer bother to tan (or even self-tan), these same people make cracks about my skin color. I don’t see why that is considered acceptable. I could certainly insult these people on some of their physical attributes, but I don’t. For one, it’s rude, and two, their physical appearance and what they choose or not choose to do with it is none of my business.

    Even though I am close to 30 years old now, I still have hang-ups about my skin. Not enough to go tanning or slather on some chemical cocktail that will inevitably turn me orange, but enough to wonder if everyone is looking at me when I wear shorts and a tanktop. Are they all staring at me? Are they repulsed by my appearance? Will they say something to me as they have in the past? Why am I so self-conscious about my skin?

    Each time I start to feel insecure about it, I remember this: Several years ago my mom and I were eating inside a local cafe that had a wall full of windows. I sat facing the windows and was painfully aware that the light from outside was probably making me look even whiter, and my fears were realized when I noticed a woman at a nearby table who kept staring at me. I became increasing uncomfortable and continued to glance at her, only to find her glancing at me. The scowl that I had tried to hold back became apparent on my face. The woman rose from her table and approached me. “I’m sorry,” she said, “You probably are wondering why I keep staring at you. It’s just that you have BEAUTIFUL skin. Please, NEVER go into the sun. Your skin is gorgeous.”

    This woman probably doesn’t know that her kind words echo in my head and help to quell my skin-related insecurities, but I am forever grateful for her.

    • Bridget

      I had a similar experience once. I was at a drag club with a friend of mine who also has extremely pale skin, and one of the queens came up to us between sets, put her arms around us, and said “Never tan. You two Swedish Milkmaids are gorgeous!” Cancer runs in my family, so I never wanted to tan, so as to not tempt fate, but it was still really awesome to get that affirmation that I looked good the way I was.

  • Sarah

    I am really pale. Second-lightest-or-lightest-shade-of-foundation pale. My-whole-class-went-to-the-Dalmatian-coast-for-five-weeks-and-I-was-the-only-one-who-stayed-the-same-color pale. Redden-burn-peel-pale-again pale. Freckles pale.

    Abstractly, though (that is, not comparing myself to anyone else), I don’t feel pale. I step out of the shower and wrap a white towel around myself, and I’m very much not the same color as the towel. But when I put my tanned-for-me forearm against that of my boyfriend (in my head, we’re the same color), it’s not even close. Same goes for my mom, who also has light eyes and freckles. If I go to the beach and get some “color” (per the tan line around my bikini bottoms), I see in pictures with my friends that the color I got…minimal, to be kind.

    But I’m also incredibly prone to skin cancer (my dad has a new one every couple of years), and even the super-gradual for-pale-people self-tanners are streaky and make my skin look dirty, and I know I don’t have the luxury of not being this color, so it is what it is. I wear blush and tell myself I’m not pale, I’m fair (which used to be a synonym for beautiful because of how prized paleness was).

    (That brings up a WHOLE OTHER SET of issues for me. Is it politically irresponsible for me to prize myself for an attribute which has been used to subjugate women and men with darker skin than me? Even though I’m just using “fairness” and its former association with beauty for self-love purposes, is that not okay, given that that association was used to associate dark skin with ugliness and a lack of femininity/gentility, which is BS and deeply, deeply not okay? Complicated.)

    • “That brings up a WHOLE OTHER SET of issues for me. Is it politically irresponsible for me to prize myself for an attribute which has been used to subjugate women and men with darker skin than me? Even though Iโ€™m just using โ€œfairnessโ€ and its former association with beauty for self-love purposes, is that not okay, given that that association was used to associate dark skin with ugliness and a lack of femininity/gentility, which is BS and deeply, deeply not okay? Complicated.”

      I appreciate that you brought this up, because it’s a valid point and I can really relate, albeit my personal concerns are more about size (thinness) than fairness. Can self-love / self-acceptance be problematic when it involves liking attributes that are extremely culturally prized, like fair skin or a thin body?

      • Sal

        Indeed. And there is no quick or easy answer.

        • JennyDC

          Maybe part of the answer is in how the love is directed – you love your own pale skin or body shape or whatever, but don’t judge/ not love others for not having it. I think if you can honestly celebrate beauty of all shapes and sizes, there’s nothing wrong with loving and being proud of your own beauty.

          • Kate K

            Sarah, I think you make a great point and JennyDC, I think that is a perfect answer. I think there’s a difference between my body/my hair/my skin color is right for me and my body/my hair/my skin color makes me better than everyone or is the best choice for everyone.

  • ParisGrrl

    I was rather shocked to read an opinion recently that France’s First Lady Carla Bruni needed to be more tan. Seriously? There have been entire style periods of history when a woman was considered Less if she tanned at all, and now we’re Less if we don’t look like we’re auditioning for Jersey Shore. If someone wants to become more tan, they should have at it, but putting another person down for not being tan is rude. I’m maybe one shade up from albino, and “alabaster” works for me.

  • This morning I woke up, took a shower, and slathered self-tanner all over myself. It’s already summer here in Texas, and that means more bared skin. It also means self-consciousness due to my paleness. For years I have been embarrassed by how pale I am. I feel that my pale skin makes me look unhealthy and well, fat. I’ll admit that donning my self-tanner makes me feel thinner and slimmer, and more self-confident, though rationally I know no can of lotion can make me lose weight.

    This is a very interesting topic, Sal. The idea of being tan as a trick to looking thinner has been around for awhile. I wonder how many women tan for that reason. It’s given me a lot to think about this morning,

  • Michelle

    Is it coincidence that I’m watching the Glee episode on ‘Acceptance’, and they’re singing Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’? I think NOT!

    I am of Chinese and Indian descent.

    I’ve never been told directly by anyone that I needed to be a different colour but in Asian culture, the “fairer” (paler) you are, the better.

    Even my own mum who has a darker complexion, would constantly comment on how so-and-so “was so beautiful and fair”.

    We have “whitening” skincare ranges as opposed to ‘tanning/bronzing”. Isn’t it bizarre? Yes, it’s a parralell universe or weird other dimension, you get the idea! I love make up but where is the line between meeting a demand and feeding off the insecurities of people?!

    Anyway, it wasn’t huge issue for me in and of itself but just another factor in growing up not believing I fit the existing image of beauty. I didn’t try the products – this was early days and I wasn’t convinced.

    Then I moved to Australia where everyone coveted my “tan”!

    My faith and my husband have helped to move me along the journey of acceptance. I am beautiful, I love my skin, it is even and it glows, I have never had acne issues. I never get sunburnt (but I do always use sunscreen!) Most of all, it protects me. It heals in a miraculous way. It bounced back after my pregancy!

    Now that I have a daughter, I have banned my mum from ever saying comments like she used too about skin colour. I can’t protect my baby forever but at least she should always know that the people closest to her and who lover her, think she is perfectly beautiful in every way.

    I love the varied world of the fashion and beauty blogospere where everyday women are taking pride in their beauty and showing it off to the world.

    I admire you for putting yourself out there, especially when some people use the relative anonymity of the internet to attack you like that. I can’t believe how rude people are in comments sections and forums.

    I hope that the positive always outweighs the negative for you so you can continue to do what you do, which is such a wonderful blessing.

  • Carbon Girl

    I do not have your lovely pale skin color, but sometimes I wish I did as I feel it my justify not tanning more than my two shades darker tone. I too err on the side of not tanning, which is odd here in Florida. Though regretfully, in my youth I was a sun hog, which means sun spots at 29! I am so thrilled about those. Nothing ages you quite like sun exposure. I really wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her to absolutely stop tanning.

    I too have received criticism about not tanning. My favorite was from my mother-in-law who, despite my father-in-law having skin cancer, encouraged me to tan for my January wedding. My response? It’s January and my wedding is in Vermont! I should be pale, wouldn’t it look odd if I was tan?

  • I’m pale and proud – I don’t want to ‘get a tan’ so I understand exactly where you are coming from. My skin colour is the way I was born to be, it’s not wrong.

  • What a timely post, I just watched this video a friend of mine posted on her Facebook: http://youtu.be/dEdkrhBmq1M

  • Anat

    Off the bat and not related to the topic of tanning – I was appalled to read your first paragraph. First of all I was outraged to hear these insults directed so unfairly at you, and secondly, I just thought about what it would be like to have to absorb that kind of hatred and nastiness. It really sounds tough and I am sorry that your blogging which has helped me so much personally, also brings you that kind of pain.

    About tanning, your championing your white legs helped me accept my own. I have not tanned any part of my upper body since I was a teenager, but still preferred to see my legs a few tones browner. Now I feel they are just fine. And knowing what we know today about the sun’s damages, tanning is just out of the question for me.

  • Madge

    i’m irish with blue eyes and dark dark hair. i am the colour of milk. i burn under a lightbulb. i do not tan. unfortunately, everytime i go home (i live in london) i am struck by how i don’t Fit In with the girls i went to school with, because they’re all a ginger-biscuit shade. when we were ten, we all looked the same, now you stand out if you don’t tan. it’s expensive, it smells and it doesn’t look real. no native caucasian girl in ireland is going to be that colour. i find it quite stressful and have gone through years of thinking about it, putting tinted aftersun on my legs (then wondering where the weird smell is coming from) and now i’m just annoyed.

    a holiday glow is what makes people look good. you look relaxed and happier, and your skin generally reflects that, but if i’m in the sun i get freckles and then people tell me i would look better (ie normalized) if i covered them up.

    gah, this isn’t very coherent. yes, i get told i should tan, that i’d look better. then i’m told i should cover up my freckles (that come with the “tan”). you can’t win.

    although, all that being said, i do wish i would hold a little tan in my skin, rather than turned red and peeling off. perhaps i am just jealous ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Lola

    Oh thank you so much, Sally, for adressing that topic! I have reddish hair and the pale skin to go with it. When I was a teenager, it was very chic to be suntanned – everybody wanted to be suntanned – everybody was out in the sun as much as possible. A tan was considered to make you beautiful, look healthy and fit. Pale skin – blah!
    And I was so desperate, but all I got was sunburn. Lucky me, I could not stand that feeling of sunburnt skin, so I stayed out of the midday sun and always, always applied sun screen (although my friends told me I was ridiculous). So I did not get skin cancer, but I did not get a suntan, either. When I was in Greece for 3 weeks, everybody else around me (even the other tourists) was espresso-coloured, but I was cafe latte, so to say.
    I am so glad that I see internet blogs like yours now where women who are naturally pale dress nicely, with pride; and the same goes for internet blogs of coloured women who dress nicely, with pride. And I hope very much that everybody gets it soon, that beauty is in diversity. (A friend of mine who always went to the max when it came to tanning looked at my skin in the sunshine once, had that astonished look on her face and said: “hey , your skin becomes iridiscent in the sun!”). Yeah. LOL.

  • Georgina

    I once had a man shout ‘get a tan!’ at me in the street. I was a teenager at the time and it really upset me. My skin never reacts to the sun so I stay pale all year. To make matters worse I was often mistaken for being a Goth as I have long dark hair and just have that Tim Burtonish look about me whatever I do. Even now, at the grand old age of 36, I am reluctant to wear black because I don’t want to be misinterpreted. I have some beautiful black clothes and wish it didn’t bother me but when I wear them it nearly always provokes a comment, usually from a stranger. I think it is simply because it accentuates my paleness. Someone asked me about it recently and I replied that “I was born looking gothic” and at least that made both of us laugh! I think (hope) that people are more tolerant of ‘difference’ now and certainly smarter about the potential dangers of tanning but there is a worrying trend in the UK of overuse of sunbeds, especially among teenagers. I feel sorry for youngsters growing up with the pressure to fake their way to the Barbie look but I’m also hopeful that the internet provides more possibilities to find your own tribe and carve out an authentic identity.

  • 1) Compliments first: I think you look awesome, and in part because you’re somewhat unusually pale. This is not to say other skin tones look less awesome, just that yours goes really well with the rest of you and your style, of course!

    2) Rant next: Tanning is another one of those things where supposed aesthetic concern is put over health concern – while getting a little sunshine is good and necessary (I’m looking at you, vitamin D!), the excess exposure or the chemicals needed to really tan is also what may give a woman skin cancer or at least age her skin earlier in the long run (which, then, is bad both health-wise and aesthetically! And also, not quite relatedly, who decided that a weathered look on middle-aged guys was attractive while it was ugly on middle-aged women?!). So even though my very Caucasian winter pallor easily caramelizes under sun exposure (a fact I found out only in my early 20s due to being extremely cautious before), I’ve said no to purposefully tanning all life long, and freaked out every time I had a stronger sunburn (which was exactly twice, when I was living in California). Whenever I go to sunnier climates now, I put on extra-protective sunscreen and wear a large floppy hat…

  • bonnie

    The only person to ever tell me that I am too pale was a nutritionist! She felt that this was a sign that I was unhealthy and stayed indoors too much. Actually at the time I had a job that required me to work outside. I told her that my ancestors were Irish, English and German and that I’m probably genetically predisposed to paleness. She was quite shocked that I wasn’t anemic or deficient in vitamin D and told me I really needed to work on getting a tan so that I had a healthier look. Needless to say I switched nutritionists. I have never been tempted to use self tanner or go to a tanning booth. I just feel like I wouldn’t look like me. I also don’t lay out to tan in the sun because one of my great grandmothers died of melanoma.

    • malevolent andrea

      Wow, that is just stunning incompetence from that nutritionist :-/

      • bonnie

        Totally! I think she was still operating on the 1970’s assumption that a deep tan meant health. Odd because she kept to date with everything else health related. Maybe some internal prejudice on her part?

  • I just wanted to thank you for sharing this post. I received a comment from “anonymous” on one of my blog posts that simply said “fatty.” I deleted the entire post immediately, not just the comment. That comment still haunts me, more often than not, when I look in the mirror. I had not thought that this comment was a form of bullying. Thank you for the “aha” moment. Maybe now I can start to see the comment for what it truly was…a comment troll being mean. As for tanning, I use copious amounts of SPF 40+ and still get a little color. I’m at a point in my life where health is far more important than a tan. I think it is everyone’s personal choice to tan or not to tan.

    • Eleanorjane

      Ooh, don’t delete your post! That’s letting that stupid bully shut you up! Be loud and proud and don’t let the bastards grind you down!

  • Hi Sally,
    I am a fair skinned freckled woman. All my life I wanted to be tan, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to embrace my pale skin. I’ve come to realize that my 1/4 Irish heritage is something to be proud of and I shouldn’t have to hide all my white glory. I have been teased in the past, especially growing up so I tried to suntan, go to the tanning bed, etc. but I’m ok with it now. Yes, sometimes I feel like I am a big white glowing neon beam when it’s time to break out the shorts and skirts, but I just grab my sunscreen and hat and embrace who I am. Thank you for writing about this topic. I wll be interested in seeing what others have to say.

  • K2

    I tend to be a medium skin tone and tan very easily even though I have dark red hair. A diluted heritage from my Mexican great grandmother. Like my mother, I never seek out a tan for the sake of a tan. If I get a little color because I’m out doing the things I love, that is fine. But, I’m a little sad right now because my lovely stepdaughter has been visiting tanning booths because she thinks she is too pale. I don’t know how to encourage her that this is unnecessary and her normal pale color is pretty.

    • Eleanorjane

      Look up some facts about skin cancer and sunbeds and give her some nice fake tan. There are some really good products out there!

      • Georgina

        Maybe you could show her this article and all of our comments? I think that a discussion like this would have really helped my teenage self accept my natural skin tone in a happier way. It’s cheering my adult self up reading everyone’s stories ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Rose

    I, too, have recently decided to embrace my natural skin tone and stop tanning/self-taninng/whatever. I am old enough to know better about laying out in the sun and while I still do activities outside and swim and go to the beach/pool, I have switched from oils to high SPFs to try to be the healthiest I can be. As you said, this will result in some sun but not the purposefully-trying kind of tan. I am scared of getting skin cancer and only wish I had been more worried about it when I was younger but I figure it’s better to start now than never.

    My father’s wife is Korean and I have noticed she uses some kind of skin “whitening” creams and washes and stuff. I don’t understand much about that but I spoke briefly about it to my friend’s wife who is Thai and she said it’s very popular in her country too because people with browner skin want to look “white like white people.” I asked her why and she indicated it was because of the Western culture and all of it’s benefits as seen from their perspective (wealth, power, beauty, etc.) I think that is sad because I find people of all colors beautiful and natural and like that everyone looks different.

  • Mia

    I couldn’t agree more! I’m as pale as they come and I’ve heard all my life I need a tan. Except I don’t tan anyway I just burn, and burn I did for many years while my dark complexioned mother tried to get me darker. Luckily I always thought it was ridiculous and wholehearted embrace my paleness. I even went to Hawaii and happily came home without a tan or burn. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Tracyellen1619

      I have also vacationed in the Bahamas, Mexico, Florida and returned without one person asking me “where did you go on vacation?” Nobody can tell because I am vigilant about sun protection. I remember looking at Glamour and Vogue magazines in the 70’s and 80’s and wishing that I could have that tan that the Bain de Soliel woman had “for the St. Tropez tan!”. She was the color of polished mahogany in her little black bandeau. Now if I see someone that tan, it almost seems cheap or unhealthy. Like watching someone chain smoking.

  • I’m also pale and have been told I needed a tan at various points in my life. My mom had skin cancer after growing up in Miami and never wearing sunscreen. I don’t tan unless I burn first, which is no fun. Point is, I’m not too interested in being brown.

    But here’s what I think is most interesting about the whole discussion: it’s a social statement. A couple hundred years ago, being pale was the way to go. Think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. Being pale meant that you were upper-class: you didn’t have to work outside. You were delicate. You were a LADY. To be tan (and skinny, I might add) meant that you lived a difficult life. But now, we’ve reversed that. Being tan and skinny means that you have more leisure time to spend on the beach or in the tanning bed, and to work out at the gym or have a personal trainer, or a cook or whatever. Fascinating, no? I always just say that I would have been the height of gorgeousness back in the days of Botticelli. Pale skin, dark hair, lush curves … it’s all about what society as a whole values at any given point in time. I think we should regress. Let’s work on that. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Becca

    I used to tan when I was younger, and the paleness of my skin is difficult to work with next to most of my clothes, but I no longer care – I don’t want to look like I have elephant skin when I get older, and I’m too lazy to use self-tanner.

  • Perhaps it’s because I’m in my early twenties and born into that “vampire craze” era, but I love love love my pale skin. I feel great about knowing I’m preventing wrinkles, saving LOADS of time by not attempting to tan (which would take every waking hour I have to successfully do), and being genuinely happy with the body God gifted me with. I am me. Pale. Freckled. And perfectly me.

    • Rudyinparis

      The kids are all right!

  • Lisa Botts

    When I was younger I bought into the whole tan is better looking theory. As teenagers, we basted ourselves in BABY OIL (you heard me because I yelled) and spent hours roasting in the sun. (no tanning beds back in the 70’s) My darker complected friends would have a golden glow while I, with my red hair and freckles, would simply have skin the same color of my hair and 5 times more freckles! This need to be tan followed me into my adult life where I spent a summer season getting into the tanning bed every day. This time I did tan but came away with some suspicious looking spots that I have to keep a check on. I finally realized the problem I had was with my self-image so I stopped worrying about what others thought. I am 48 years old and for the first time in my adult life I’m not worried about my size or my skin color. Let’s don’t talk about hair coloring though, okay? If you don’t like my white legs in capri’s or dresses then don’t look at them. I’m just happy to be alive, healthy and expecting my second granchild any day now.

  • First off, I’m glad you’re bring this discussion up.

    I always knew my skintone was pretty light, or “pale” but I never thought about it too much. That is until I met some friends in middle school who consistently teased me about my paleness, and the blinding light of my legs or arms. It made me horribly insecure — I tried make-up, bronzer, self-tanning lotions, and loads of artificial tanning solutions to give myself some kind of fake “glow.” These friends always encoruaged me to go to tanning beds because they did but this is something that I adamantly against — will not now, then, or in the future.

    I’ve come to accept my paleness and never apologize for it because this is my skintone; I can’t change it nor will I try to through artificial means, ever. Since I’ve started reading blogs (and now that the weather has turned) I see a lot of bloggers exclaim about how pale their legs are, and apologizing for it. I hate that being tan is such a vital aspect of beauty in this culture.

    That is just my two cents.

  • Denise

    First of all, I forget how great a descriptor “trolls” is! I, too, am very, very pale and never tan. Mostly because I can’t: sun just means sunburn on my skin, so I’ve never even attempted a tan. People will comment on my lack of tan, but I think I’ve been sort of oblivious, because I will respond mostly as I did here: not for me, not possible. Self-tanners are for women far more patient and skilled than I! When Spring comes and I hear other women complaining that their legs are “pasty,” I think, “my legs always look like that!” but it doesn’t bother me. I think your comment about conforming to “Barbie” is pretty close to the mark; it reminds me of Simon Doonan’s advice to “Say ‘no’ to ho!”

  • Emily

    I have had a tan exactly once in my life and it was a really odd feeling. I acquired my tan on vacation and when I got back everyone told me that I looked amazing, healthy and glowing, but who knows if that was the tan or three weeks of beaches, shopping, and noodle soup.

    I certainly would never aim for a tan. I have red (ish blonde) hair and pale skin, which makes me more at risk of skin cancer and even if it were safe, who has time to tan these days? But it was really interesting having a tan for the month or so that I did.

  • caroline

    I’ve never commented on your blog, but I read it daily and love it. I am totally envious of your beautiful, pale, peaches and cream skin. I have lived in So. Cal. all my life and have the lines on my face to prove it! I’m a fair skinned brunette, but spent literally hours in the sun in my teen years trying to get a tan. I succeeded, but have skin that is sun damaged.
    Just be your own beautiful pale skinned self – you are lovely just as you are!

  • sche

    I’ve long embraced my paleness. I love the contrast of my very light skin and very dark hair, and how that contrast allows me so much leeway with color in my clothing and makeup.

    I also, however, lost my grandfather to skin cancer several years ago. He spent a lot of time working outdoors without sunscreen, and seeing the results made me much better about protecting myself (and others–I frequently shove my tube of sunscreen at friends and family who are going outside) from the sun. It definitely solidified my disagreement with vanity tanning. There’s just no sense to me of running the risk.

  • I’m fair and freckled too, and no one has told me I should tan in a long, long time. I’m surprised that people would still say that now, given that we know that tanning can lead to skin cancer. I don’t tan or even try to tan because my skin does nothing but burn. And like you, I’m happy with all of the colors that I can wear with my coloring, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that.

  • I’m not just pale I’m clear. How in the world would I know what color make-up to buy if I got some color? Without it it’s easy – I just buy the lightest shade! ๐Ÿ˜€ Seriously I can change a lot of things if I so desire but my skin-tone isn’t one of them. To me it reeks of maintaining someone else’s idea or definition of beauty and that’s just not cool with me.

  • Colleen

    I live in the metro NYC area and one of the true stereotypes around here is that some women LOVE their tanning beds. Skin cancer aside (!), I have seen what it does to the skin’s texture and color – after a certain point it really becomes leathery. Sometimes I am shocked to find out that a woman with fine lines, rough textured skin, sun spots, etc. is in her 20s rather than late 30s like I’d thought. It amazes me that damaging your body in a way that becomes visible pretty quickly is considered desirable. I put heavy tanning bed use in the same category as repeated crash dieting or pretty much any unhealthy aesthetics motivated behavior.

    Now, I also know ladies whose jobs involve being outdoors a lot who are religious about their sun screen and still have some sun damage. That I can understand, because maybe being a park ranger or what have you outweighs having a few fine lines.

  • I’m pretty sure I’m at least as pale as you are. You seem to lack that blue undertone I have… And yes, I’ve heard that I “need some sun” most of my life. I will likely have skin cancer at some point, because it took me about 30 years to realize that was a crock. I am very fair, and don’t even tan “properly” when I try. My mind loves sunshine, but my body likes sunblock.

    Several of my friends spray-tan. A bestie remarked last week that she needed some color for her new Lilly P strapless to look perfect. Not me. I’m walking the dogs on our tree-lined road, wearing hats, sunglasses and sunblock, and hoping that I can ward off the skin cancer invites I sent out in my teens and 20s.

  • My best friend and I joke that we are so pale, we’re practically transparent. We don’t tan; we lobster. My mom had a basal cell carcinoma removed recently, so that really sealed the deal for me as far as applying sunscreen religiously.

    I am also stunned that you have trolls!

  • I don’t really tan either. My freckles come out and merge together but that’s not the same. My legs which are extremely white don’t do anything other than burn. I’m fine with that because I don’t think I’d look good orange (faux tan) and I have no intention of looking like I’m made of old leather by the time I’m 40.

    • Mistie

      This is exactly what I am like as well. I tan in the summer if by tanning you mean that my freckles get so large and numerous that they merge together. My legs get more freckles and maybe a shade or two darker, but not by much. But I have to be really careful that this happens over weeks and weeks or I will burn to a wonderful fire engine color.

    • Penelope

      Heh, that’s how I feel. I’ve gotten actually “tan” (for me, it’s most people
      I know’s base color) but when you look at my skin its just all teeny tiny freckles of color over the paleness, along with all the big freckles.

      I dunno, I always ignored the “you should tan” think and embraced my paleness. I’m a northern European mutt, I should be pale.

  • This whole post makes me so mad… I was in a friend’s wedding and was told I HAD to go tanning for her wedding in Florida. I was tempted to skip it just to spite the bride. But vanity won out that battle. Yellow bridesmaid dress + my skin tone = gross. No one would want to see my skin in yellow… not even me. It’s a funky color combo, for sure.

    If I tan, it’s because *I* want to – I’m going on vacation, want to get a little base to make sure I don’t burn myself and end up miserable for the rest of vacation. Or, sometimes I’m just feeling I need a little bit of “sunshine” to pick up my dreary winters in New England.

    Bottom line: I think it’s totally ridiculous and unfair that someone would think it’s acceptable to tell you that you need to get a tan – fashion is fashion, regardless of skin color. If you’re comfortable with your skin the way it is, keep rocking it. Confidence is the best accessory for your outfits!

  • as a native Floridian, a tan is definitely expected of everybody, regardless of age. A few years back when I turned 30, I realized that spending countless hours outside, on the boat, in the yard, laying out were all doing damage & I swore it all off I miss it from time to time, but now that I have half of my back inked, it helps me avoid falling back into that old habit.

    pale girls united! ๐Ÿ™‚

    V

  • Jen

    I. Love. This.

    I came of age when all the “cool” girls would bake themselves brown in tanning beds back in high school. Year round they would glow a lovely brown and I would languish pale and freckled. Each summer my Eastern European roots would rise forth, and bless me sunkissed and tan, sprinkled on the face and shoulders with dark brown freckles. For three months I was cool. But by the time I hit college I revolted from the tanning craze. First because I began to see 20/30/40-somethings that had been baking in tanning beds and looked it. Their leathery skin, premature wrinkles (earned only via tanning, and loads of UV light, not life and laughter) turned me off from those tempting rays. Then I had friends parents who were getting treated for skin cancer. Even one who lost her battle. It was clear to me…protect my skin at all cost.

    Each morning I slather on moisturizer with an SPF of 20…face and hands each day, and if more skin will show, it gets the treatment as well. If I’m spending time outdoors, I up the SPF depending on the amount of sun I’ll get. Our 4 year-old gets the treatment as well. I get on my soap box any time I’m around the teens at work and it is clear they’re fake-and-baking. I would outlaw those tanning beds if I could. I may lament my pale and veiny legs from time to time, but they won’t get cancer through any fault of my own. They’ll carry my body through life just fine. And better yet, they won’t bear scars where a doctor will have to dig out cancer. That is the best gift I can give myself!

  • Bubu

    Ugh, I’m just so outraged at the nasty comments you have to deal with! The beauty of the internet is you can seek out blogs and content and perspectives that resonate with you, and pass on those that don’t. What in the world do these people get out of being mean to you??? I stand up on my chair and applaud your blog, the time and devotion you give to it, the confidence and inspiration you give your readers, and the beautiful smile you greet us with every day. Fie on all those negative folks, fie I say!
    Ok, sorry, had to get that off my chest. I too am a pale girl, and I always burned if I tried to tan (including a poorly thought out trip to Florida right before my senior prom – lovely peeling going on there!). I have actually just tried my hand at bronzer and I do like that it gives my face a little color after being so white all winter long. But self tanners I just find messy and stinky, and anything else dangerous. I see in my kids that one inherited my husband’s yellow undertones and tans easily, while the other got my pink ones and burns like me. It’s just genetics. I think you need to work with the hand your dealt in a way that is healthy, both mentally and physically.

  • Rebecca

    I think this discussion is interesting. In the winter, I have fair skin, which I am happy with. Summer days are spent either on the farm or the beach, so despite my sunscreen vigilance, I get pretty tan. I am happy with my fair skin, because the only other options are unhealthy, but I definitely think I look better with a tan. I’m sure this is culturally ingrained in me. My Mom gently teases me about my “Yankee tan”, as she lives in the south and gets outside way before I do (she also has a darker complexion than I.) It took me a long time to get to where I am happy either way, but I am.

  • I get these kind of comments from friends and co-workers – not even internet trolls! I’m also very pale and burn fairly easily. People don’t get it that I don’t WANT a tan. I wear sunscreen on my face every day, and always put sunscreen on my body if I’m going to exposed and outside for any decent amount of time. After my sister was diagnosed with cancer before she was even 30 years old, I realized how incredibly stupid it was to tan (I used to use tanning beds, though infrequently (thank goodness!)). But I still get the comments. Luckily, my comebacks about not wanting skin cancer usually work. And I’ve really started to like my paleness. In a world full of Snookis and crazy orange tans, I’m started to really own it!

  • rae

    My skin is naturally dark, and any little bit of sun that hits it makes it even darker. I am pale compared to my sister and cousins, but sometimes I worry that people might think I’m super high-maintenance if they assume my “tan” is fake. What a weird world to live in…

  • This is an interesting topic, for sure. I’m also a fair-skinned gal, but I frequently use sunless tannner — especially in the spring and summer. I don’t do it because I’m ashamed of my pale skin or anything like that, I do it because it makes me feel good. I like the way my bare legs look in a dress or skirt with a slightly bronze tint; I have a handful of small scars that I’m otherwise somewhat self-conscious about and I feel as if the “tan” makes them less obvious.

    I’m also a reformed tanner. I have struggled with SAD my entire life, and I think being in the sun just feels GOOD. I’ve since learned to cover myself in sunscreen when I’m outside and I no longer bask in the sun just for the sake of getting a tan.

    I can’t imagine passing judgement on another person over the paleness of her skin. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.

  • Pscott

    Well, I guess I’ll express the minority position. I am pale, and that’s okay in the winter, where we’re all pretty covered up. But in the summer, I really like to change it up. I don’t lie out very much, b/c I work full time and am also aware of the health dangers (although a bit of Vitamin D is a health benefit). About 4-5 times a summer I will venture in for a spray-on tan, which I then maintain with self-tanner. I’m not obsessed with it, I just like the way it looks with summer strappy dresses and minimalist running togs, etc. I think it makes me look fitter, healthier, and, well yes, thinner! I don’t think we need to be judging each other for whatever choices we make along those lines.

  • Shan

    I live in predominantly hispanic Miami, and my fair friends and I were called ghostly, milk-white, gringas, or “white-girls.” In my early teens I would lay out in the sun every summer, but now I embrace my fair skin and wouldn’t have it any other way! I will never understand people who are always looking for things to criticize in others, when they would be better off looking inward and improving things they may not like about themselves. This sort of criticism stems from insecurity and/or immaturity. White, tan, black, brown, red, or yellow, and anything in between — make the most of what you were born with and stop trying to homogenize the human race to fit into whatever the current “trend” might be in skin color.

  • Sara

    All of my life I have been told “get a tan” “you look too pale” “eew, you’re pasty” and my favorite, “where’s your tan?” (darn, left it in my other pants’ pocket again!).

    A tan from the sun, or a tanning bed, is skin damage, full stop. No thanks. A tan from a tube is fake, and always looks it. No thanks.

    Pale is beautiful. Dark is beautiful, too. Whatever you have, that’s what’s beautiful to me. In my opinion, natural skin tones are beautiful.

  • CC

    Wow, I guess the thing that blows me away reading your post and all the replies is why in the world anyone would think they have the right to comment on what you should or should not do regarding your appearance. How terrible is it that people don’t have enough simple courtesy to remember that when you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Skin tone is one of the wonderful things that makes us unique and while you can certainly do a few things to change it, no one should ever be made to feel like they ‘have’ to in order to avoid cruelty. I am one of those people who gets tan if I walk outside for three seconds and I always feel better with a little color. I am allergic to most sunscreens, they make me break out and itch and they burn, so I rarely wear them. My heritage includes Native American and German/Irish/English so I am pale in the winter and brown in the summer. I don’t necessarily seek it, nor do I avoid it. But that is my business, not anyone else. My hubby on the other hand could totally pass for Edward (Twilight)! I think he is perfect just the way he is. Although he will no longer wear shorts because of the same teasing most of ya’ll have endured. If he steps outside for any length of time without sunscreen he gets burned – very painful. I can’t imagine anyone thinking you should endure that just to fit into their idea physical beauty. For that very reason I put sunscreen on my toddler – I really don’t want him to have to endure the pain of a sunburn when it can be prevented.

  • Courtney

    I grew up in Texas and was regularly teased for my pale skin. I can tan, but I have to do it very gradually because I burn easily. I used to do it when I was a teenager, but starting in college, I just didn’t have the time. A few years after college, I moved to Seattle for 9 years. I didn’t know anyone who tanned, and most of the white people were really pale, so I didn’t stand out. A couple of years ago, I moved to St. Louis, which has a really strong culture of super dark tanning. (As in tanning to the point where the tanned skin looks dead and dry.) I’ll be 38 in a few days, and people constantly guess my age at least 10 years younger. Most white women my age have the skin of women who are over 50, and they still tan!

  • Beth

    First of all, people who troll and leave mean comments are losers at life. I hate that people do that to bloggers, especially ones like you who are trying to make people feel better about themselves. Man that just makes me so mad! Anyway, I am a very pale and always have been. Sometimes I hate that I can’t get a tan, but honestly I just don’t care. If I were naturally darker that would be one thing. Why would we tell people they should be a different color? Isn’t that what has gotten our society in trouble before? You can’t win in this game, because we all love to make fun of the orange Jersey Shore people, and yet pale people will be made fun of for being too white!
    Let’s stop feeling ashamed or like we have to cover up our natural color! There are a wide range of skin colors in the world, we should celebrate that and find beauty in all of them.

  • I am pale too. I used to feel the need to tan, but realized that it wasn’t worth the time or money and never gave me the results I wanted. It helps that my husband loves pale girls (Cate is one of his faves) and encourages me to stay light and healthy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • famousamy

    Love the topic, glad you posted about it. Having read through the previous comments I’m surprised at how many people seemed to be surprised you have trolls. Not because of who you are and what your blog is, but because ALL bloggers get trolls. It’s an annoying fact of life on the internet. Good for you for having a positive attitude about it all!

    Anyway, I have pale skin. I’ve been told off and on through life to tan, but I largely ignored this until I was in my late teens. Then I did the “typical” white-American-girl thing and hit the tanning beds for prom. And boy did I pay! I could never be in a bed for long, and once after a 10 minute session I went home and had to take off all my clothes because my skin was on fire! I was really worried my whole backside would blister up. Thankfully it didn’t, but after that I swore off tanning beds.

    Only in recent years have I come to realize that there is more to the problem than skin cancer. I can’t imagine every telling someone to lighten their skin, so why should anyone tell me to darken mine? It’s sad that there are whole countries where this is an issue and apparently America is either one.. or at least on the verge.. I definitely plan to explain this to my two daughters and hope that they can start understanding a whole lot earlier that it’s important to love the skin they’re in and to not judge others based on their skin.. pale or not.

  • Donna C.

    Good leapin’ lizards, do people really call YOU fat? It’s a darned good thing my pasty white Size 22 self doesn’t blog then (smile). Anyway, I’ve never commented before on your blog, but I read religiously every day. And even though I’m plus-sized (and pale), I’ve gotten so many ideas from your blog and a few others written by what I refer to as “those skinny, pretty girls” (of which you are one). I recently made the momentous decision to become much more adventurous in my clothing choices, just because I CAN. And some of that is thanks to you. After all, whether I’m dressed in head-to-toe black, or in pretty, feisty color combinations inspired by your blog, I’ll still be a Size 22! So basically I’m starting to not give a rat’s pitootie what other people think. I’m making myself happy. And it’s about time. So keep up the good work!!

  • Cecilia

    I am very milky white and spent my whole life listening to comments about being very pale, having to get a tan and so on.With age I learned to cherish my ‘whiteness’ and love it.Of course I also like when I can go to the beach and my skin gets a healthy glow but don’t go out of my way to tan.
    One of these days I went to buy some moisturizer and as a gift I could choose 5 more items from a list of 10.I can tell you that the lady who was helping me was almost shocked when I said that I didn’t want the self tanner(for free).
    I don’t judge anyone who goes tanning(in wise portions) but simply think it is not for me.

  • D

    This is a really interesting topic. I am half Mexican, and I grew up in South Texas, where tanned skin is real common. My mom always tells me about how both she and her mother were always being censured by THEIR OWN FAMILY for being so dark back in the day. My skin tans very easily, but baseline I have fairly light toned skin. After I moved to Colorado I started to cover up more- its cold here!- and my Mom is always telling me that my legs need some color. Weird. It doesn’t particularly enrage me or anything; I was lucky enough to never really be teased about my skin when I was young, so it is not a sore spot; but I do think it is interesting to consider.

  • Thank you, Sally, for this post. I am also extremely pale. When I was younger, there was a period I struggled with my skin. Thinking back on all those prickly, itchy, and painful nights after a long day marinating in the sun makes me cringe. I grew up in coastal California town that loved its women tanned and bleached. I am a light skinned redhead, no tan and bleach for me, please! My mother, on the hand, is a gorgeous tanned (peroxide) blonde. She is half filipino (gosh knows how I turned out looking hte way I did) and can really handle the sun. She never worked outside the home (I consider raising children a MAJOR job) and in the afternoons would sun herself on the porch. I loved to spend that time with her when I had the chance. Somewhere around 16 towards 17, the desire to be tan as an aesthetic goal waned and my desire to experience the sun with the same carefree attitude those around me grew. I don’t care that I don’t look tan, the natural pale redhead thing suits me just perfectly, but the way that my light skin limits my experiences really does! I think I really associate tanning with relaxation and time spent with my mom. It seems decadent to me. When I want to relax, I want to lay out. The problem is, I really don’t want the effects the sun has on me- even a tan but it is more often red splotches. I think I look more beautiful, exotic, yadda yadda really pale and after the trials of pubescence, I’ve never been teased about it but I do feel a bit antagonistic against my skin for the ways that I feel it confines me. Recently, I spent time working in Honduras in a really rural area. I felt so limited by my skin! I couldn’t let one little patch of myself show or a deep red would develop under those equatoral rays! I think my skin there was quite exotic- the region doesn’t get white people traveling through other than ecotourists and the occassional medical team (like us)- and I would get some attention for my skin’s strangeness. I just wanted to tell them, no! it is a burden! You can walk outside without burning up! I’d love some protective pigment. I know that darker skin tones are also at risk for skin cancers and must also be careful but I really do covet the ability to let me skin be free to the sun without a burning rash. Anyways, that is my truth!

  • I will admit to occasionally lying out in the sun – but only because I love that gorgeous warm feeling you get after a long, cold winter. I am pale. In fact, I can’t tan – and I think that trying to to fit in someone else’s idea of beauty is just silly.

    Freckled citizens of the world, unite!

  • I grew up on a farm, and we never used sunblock. I had a “healthy tan” over parts of my body – mostly my arms and face. Now I use sunblock and don’t activity seek out a tan. I had a pre-cancerous mole removed in a place where the sun didn’t shine. My ancestry is most Northern European and prone to paleness, but I have a bit of American Indian thrown in for the yellow undertone I have. I really don’t care what the masses think on whether a tan is healthy. I wear short skirts despite the whiteness of my legs.

    Did you hear that skin cancer rates are rising in young wealthy white females? Hmmmm….I wonder why?? :/

  • I am a red head with fair skin that burns easily. I was very conscious of this in my teens and early 20’s, as everyone around me was tanning all summer long. Even my Mom, who knew how badly I burned, would tell me that I should lay out in the sun for 15 minutes every day, so I could get some color without burning. I never really had the patience for doing that though, and I never found that it made much difference anyway. It seems that the only way I tan is if I get a sunburn which is no fun. I used to use self tanner on my legs sometimes, but it was such a pain to use. This was all back in the days before we started hearing about skin cancer from sun exposure.

    Now I just accept the fact that I’m pale and I’m not much bothered by it. And when people tell me I should get some color, I just say I don’t want a sunburn or skin cancer.

  • malevolent andrea

    I wish I hadn’t tried to (futilely) tan in my youth. I can’t pretend the “freckles” I got fromit aren’t anything but age spots now. Then, for awhile in the 90s/early 2000s, I tried self-tanning my legs in the summers. It was tricky and hard to maintain. So for the last several years, I’ve been exposing my blinding white legs in summer dresses and not caring. The irony? I’m sitting here writing this covered in the gradually-subtly-tans-you body lotion I’ve been using for the last several days. Why? Well, for the better part of a year I’ve been working really hard in the gym to build muscle and the sad truth is, muscle definition shows up better with darker skin. (Hence the scary not-found-in-nature spray tan colors of competitive bodybuilders.) I’m 48 and I have a four-pack for the first time in many years; I want to see what it looks like tan, even if the only one who sees it is me in the mirror. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Sal

    Wow, gang, this one really hit a nerve! Several nerves, in fact! So glad to have opened up a topic that clearly needs discussing, and that has worried, hurt, and affected so many of you for so long.

    Thanks in advance for keeping your comments civil and and respectful.

    Big thanks, too, for your support regarding trolls. However, as famousamy points out above, it’s just part of the bargain when you blog: I am EXTREMELY lucky to have you all as my readers and to get a fairly small number of nasty troll-y comments and e-mails. But they come. And although they rankle me, I can roll with ’em. Especially when I know I have your overwhelming, uplifting, amazing support to counteract ’em!

  • Ashley

    I am also very pale, but interestingly enough, I don’t tan OR burn. As an adult, I work in an office building and don’t get to be outside nearly enough as I would like. However, I found out as a teenager that if I went to the amusement park all day, without sunscreen (horrible, I know!), or to a baseball game, or was otherwise outside ALL DAY, my skin did not change one tone – not red or brown! Growing up in Texas where half (or more) of the year is summer and short shorts and sleeveless shirts/dresses are the norm, I used to be rather self-conscious about it, but as I have grown older, I have just learned to accept that this is the color of MY skin, and I like it. And no one else’s opinion matters.

    • Tab

      You sound a lot like me. I am very pale, I mean I know red heads with naturally darker skin tones than me and I don’t tan or burn. I used to burn so I wear a light amount of sunscreen to protect myself from cancer/etc. I have always been told I need to tan, especially living most of my life in the south. My soccer coach in high school had nicknames for the three of us that were so pale, ghost, milk, and cheese. -_-‘

      I think the comment that hit me the most though was in February. My fiance was throwing a party and I dressed to kill. (Actually it was an angels and demons party and I dressed in a way that outside of that party people…thought poorly of me. It was the first time I had done that and I don’t think women should feel the need to use sex to feel beautiful, but that’s another point). Either way I got more compliments than I had in a while (thankfully it didn’t make me feel I needed to degrade myself to get them). I was enjoying it until one of the few straight guys there said, “Hunny you have a smokin’ body but you need a tan.” WTF, did you really just compliment me and insult me in the same breath? I think that’s one of the most damaging things people can do compliment someone and insult them at the same time to make them feel they’re not good enough, ESPECIALLY when it comes to something like tanning. You cannot help the skin color you were born with, tanning can kill you. I wish all women felt comfortable in their natural skin but if you don’t I’m not gonna judge you and make it worse I just plead that you’re safe with your tanning!

  • Jennifer S

    Thanks for the timely topic again!

    I truly admire your skin color. I’m a fair skinned red head. Not the freckled kind. There are days when I wish that I had inherited my grandfather’s dark skin color, not his acne prone type, but then my favorite colors would be different too. I’ve learned to pick colors to wear based on my skin tone and I think it’s pretty.

    I’m a burn and peel back to white kind of person, and with my 82 year old grandmother going in for her second skin cancer appointment this month (I think that’s where I got my skin color) I really try to avoid getting too much sun. I’m bad that I don’t wear sunscreen every day except on my face, but I’m not out in the sun that much during the day – if I am going to be, I layer it with mosquito repellent as I’m one of those people who welts up from bites too.

    I was considering buying some tinted lotion for my legs at least, but know what? I’m not going to. I’m going to spend this summer reveling in the fact that I won’t get as wrinkled as my “tanned all summer, every summer” aunt and the fact that I won’t ever look like a New Jersey Ooompa Loompa, I mean cast member of Jersey Shore.

    I’ve never had anyone tell me to get a tan, but when they talk about their tanning habits I tell them of an acquaintance who had a six inch diameter mole removed in a cone shape right down to her thigh bone to prevent the skin cancer from spreading. She was the fair skinned kid in a dark tanning family that got burned every summer because when she was growing up, they didn’t realize that it caused cancer yet. It does freak out the odd person, yet not enough for them to stop trying to get darker.

  • Amanda

    Count me in as another happily pasty woman. I’m quite yellow-toned so I joke that I look jaundiced. My legs are the most pale, because like my mother, my legs do not tan. They don’t even really burn, not like the rest of me anyway. So blindingly white they stay and I don’t care. If anything, maintaining my pale skin with loads of sunscreen makes me feel healthier than when I forget and get a tan on my upper body.

    My partner is very pale and ruddy, he shows his recent Irish heritage. And he gets comments all the time about how red his face is which used to bother him a lot. Now he just responds with a crack about how he is *always* that color and has always *been* that color.

  • Ellie

    Long-time reader, first-time commenter. I was interested in this thread and the comments, because I’m a pale person who’s had a real love-hate relationship with the sun all my life. I don’t have much to add to the things others have already raised, but I thought I’d chime in on the question of why tanning is valued for the pale-of-skin.

    You suggested that it was aesthetic rather than political, but historically the aesthetics of tanning in Western societies have been very much political, because tanning is associated with class. Until the 1960s, having tan skin was considered undesirable because it was associated with outdoor, manual labor. Farmers, laundresses, servants were tan, and white skin was considered “prettier” because it meant you were middle- or upper-class and had other people to do the necessary outdoor, manual labor for you. Think of the moment in “Pride & Prejudice” when Miss Bingley wants to insult Elizabeth Bennet, so she says Elizabeth looks all tanned and freckled. This flip-flopped with the advent of jet travel in the 1960s, and tanned skin became a sign that you had the money and the leisure to go on beach vacations in the winter. So tanning came to be seen as “prettier” than pale skin, and here we are now.

    • Ellie

      Oops, Jenny already pointed this out!

  • Luna

    Sal, I am very “tanned” and love my color, and I love yours too. The most beautiful thing we can do for ourselves and each other is both appreciate the “rainbow” and look beyond it — Luna.

  • rb

    I’m a person who applies the light shade of self tanner to her lower legs. Actually, I use the “gradual” lotion in Fair/Light and I only have to use it once to get the color I want. It’s not dangerous, it’s not hurting anyone and it’s my decision. I prefer how my legs look in skirts when they’re just slightly darker.

    I don’t think it’s any different than applying makeup.

    I do find these comments judgmental.

    • STL Mom

      I wish that stuff worked well on me. I loved it in theory, but always ended up with patchy color, and I could never get used to the smell.
      If I could get a fake tan that looked great, didn’t smell, and didn’t irritate my skin, I would keep my skin at a darker shade than normal from spring until fall. I like the way darker skin looks with my summer clothes, it makes my legs look thinner, and it hides my spider veins.
      I think a lot of people in the comments are so sick of being criticized for being pale that they are a little too quick to criticize those who fake tan. Most of these people would probably support people coloring their hair whatever color they like, even if it is fake and orangey!

  • liz

    as an asian american female [too old to be a girl..not old enough to be a woman], i am often told i am much too dark. i enjoy being in the sun and have only ever burned while living in the southern hemisphere. that said, my best friend is irish [she claims translucent] and together we pretty much look like ebony and ivory. it has taken well past our teenage years and into our mid 20’s, but we both accept our skintones. furthermore, though we shouldn’t have to, we are both more than able to defend our choices against those that berate us for not looking “right”.

  • Nicole Kidman and I could be sisters. Well, Nicole from the 80s. Same unruly curly hair, same super pale skin… For a long time I was totally bummed about never being able to tan, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to love my paleness. In older civilizations, paleness was very desirable and that kind of old fashioned thinking is alright with me. I no longer care if I tan, what I care about is skin cancer and feeling fabulous in my own skin. So thank you for taking up for all us pale ladies (and gentlemen?) who have had enough of the “you should get a tan” comments. You know what folks? I’m going to continue to wear my skirts and shorts regardless of the color of my legs.

  • Elise

    Thank you for sticking up for the pale girls. I have never tanned, I burn and I know enough to try and avoid that at all costs. For many years I did use self-tanner, but I have been embracing my paleness the past couple years. I see it as wanting to celebrate my uniqueness; I used to want to fit in and look like the other girls, but now I’d rather stand out from the crowd. I even thought about breaking out the emergency self tanner for my legs when I was in a wedding this weekend, but then ended up leaving it at home. My pale legs would just have to suffice.

  • First of all, you have a gorgeous skin tone! As does everyone else, as that is the color you are supposed to be! Nothing is grosser to me than overly tan girls with those weird pale creases… but that is their choice, I guess, not mine. I tan very easy (especially for a redhead) and am totally guilty of not remembering sunscreen on a daily basis. If I’m going to the beach or know I’m going outside all day, I remember… but a quick bike ride, a walk around the lake, I forget. A lot. And I know I need to do better and just carry sunblock with me in my purse so I have no excuses.

    I will also say that one of my best friends has albinism and it is INSANE to me what people say to him. Both to his face and when they think he or I can’t hear. We’ve come so far as a people in terms of understanding and accepting people who are different than ourselves or what we consider “normal”… but we still have a loooong way to go.

  • Mel

    Wow! I’m appalled, outraged, stunned that you would have trolls!!!! Do these people have NOTHING better to do? I don’t get it. If they think whatever, why are they wasting their time reading your blog?????

    I read your blog every day and get sooooo much out of it! It doesn’t matter to me in the least what you look like…your size, your skin color, your hair….or whatever. What matters to me is that you have such great thoughts and ideas and they inspire me to be better. What more do they want?

    I often use your topics as a lunch question at work. Funny how often we end up in spirited discussions about whatever it is.

    So take that trolls!

  • Growing up in the 70s and 80 with a dark complexion that didn’t burn, I spent years in the sun and tanning, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced my natural skin tone (which is on the olive-y side). I do have some skin cancer concerns, but mostly my motivation is about embracing the way I look.

    Seems like an odd thing for people to comment on, but I know that doesn’t stop them.

  • Laura

    I’m 23. I’m very pale. I do not tan, I avoid the sun, and I wear sunscreen all summer (I pretty much just don’t go out in the winter, due to it being so frigid and snowy where I live). Nevertheless, I’ve already had two suspicious looking moles removed. One left a rather unsightly scar on my arm. But even with sunscreen, it had changed shape and color, and all us pale girls know those signs… My dad’s family is a bunch of gingers. My mom’s family is darker, but still prone to melanoma. So yeah, I wear sunblock religiously. But? Sometimes I still screw it up. Last weekend my brain was still in “It snowed this time last year, that means it’s not go outside and wear sunscreen time yet” mode. I’d planned to sit indoors with my grandmother and drink coffee. Instead, I unexpectedly refereed a paintball tournament, and then partook. An hour and a half outside. No sunblock.

    And I have a really nasty sunburn to show for it. My arms have already faded back to their normal paleness. My neck and shoulder, where it burned worst? HURTS.

    So thank you, Sal, for pointing out that we don’t all freaking want to tan, and a lot of us couldn’t even if we did. “You got some color!” somebody said to me, like it’s a good thing. No, I got a bad sunburn, and now there’s a horrible burn line across my back and neck, and it hurts, and I’m at risk for cancer, and if people would please mind their own damned business, that would be great, thanks.

  • anotherjen

    Sorry if I’m repeating what has already been said but I don’t have time to read all of the comments. Here it is: aesthetics is ALWAYS about politics. Once I realized this it was incredibly freeing!

  • Kristina

    I do tan when I’ve been in the sun, but I’m naturally pretty pale. I like both, but I have this thing for pale skin. Pale skin seems very feminine to me. Or maybe just delicate or something? I’m not really sure what it is, but Cate Blanchett is gorgeous. And I read the post under this one, and I wouldn’t have noticed that you are pale if this post hadn’t been above it, but I love your skin tone!

    Tanning for the sake of being more tan…I don’t think it’s wise. And I don’t really get the obsession with it. I think we just want to be tan because that’s what everyone says we should be (in the US, at least). And I mostly think that what’s unhealthy is wanting to be something you’re not. You’re tan? Great! That’s beautiful. You’re pale? Great! That’s beautiful.

  • Amy

    Like you, I’m pale and I absolutely refuse to put tons of chemicals on my skin OR potentially damage it for the sake of “beauty.” I get a natural tan from living life outdoors, that’s enough for me. Great post.

  • Gotta say, I do get told I should “get some sun” on occasion and it has never bothered me. I’m strawberry blond, hazel eyed and of Celtic origin. I wear moisturiser with SPF in all year around, and layer up with SPF 25 MINIMUM in Spring/Summer months. I wear sun hats.This year I have started to carry a parasol to protect my skin, and am expecting the plentiful jibes that it will no doubt draw…

    But I will not care. I love my skin. I’m lucky not to have to layer on bronzer and fake tan to look healthy – I’m the English rose type. Why should I challenge my heritage?

    The current trend for tan was born of the nouveau riche trend for second homes abroad. In previous eras it was desirable to be pale and fat because it demonstrated that you were rich enough to stay indoors and eat. These days being thin and tanned proves that you can afford a personal trainer and foreign holidays. But I belive these desirable traits are on the cusp of reversing (yet again) in-keeping with value shifts born of the economic and ecological situation we’re in today. The tan is another hangover from the 80s years of plenty that will soon die out.

    Thanks for the fabulous, thought-provoking post!

  • T.

    My own mother is always telling me to get some color, and I find it so tiring. I am 43 years old. I am pale. I do not tan. She gets offended when I wear sunprotective clothing and sunscreen. I don’t know why this offends her. We don’t live in the same city, but one summer when she was coming for a visit I applied self-tanner for the two weeks before she came. I just didn’t want to hear her “you should get some color” comment. I was thinking my legs were looking bronzed by the time of her visit, but within an hour of her arrival she said “Oh, you need some color.” Argh. It’s such a ridiculous thing to nag me about.

  • Alice

    LOVE THIS. I’m yet another pale, pale gal. Irish ancestry gave me dark-ish hair (“blonde” now!), blue eyes, and skin so pale it’s transparent. My skin just does. not. tan. and it took me until my mid-twenties before I realized that!

    Until then, oh, how I tried and tried to tan! I went to a tanning bed two, maybe three times? Not even that would give me a tan, though the last time I went, I got burns in a striped pattern that matched the tanning lights – no joke. I would lay out for hours in the sun. I would always burn in the one area where I forgot to put tanning lotion (there’s always a spot!) and my legs would stay defiantly white. Self-tanner looked ridiculous and orange.

    I’m so glad I woke up and embraced the pale. Now I slather on the oil-free SPF 30, wear a cute sun hat, and go about my day. Every so often I’ll get a comment, but I am so beyond giving a sh*t. I know exactly how I look, and I’m totally ok with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kate K

      Yes on the cute sun hat! I bought one last year for a beach vacation and I feel totally glamorous in it (and it’s spf 45 fabric!)

  • T.

    We pale people need a good comeback when people tell us we need a tan, or need to get color, or just tell us pointedly how pale we are. Any suggestions?

    • Sal

      My default is, “My body, my business.”

    • Sarah

      I tend to say, “Are you sh***ing me?” Because really, who in their right mind says such an inappropriate, judgmental, and rude thing?

    • JennyDC

      I’d be temtped to sort of absently say, “Mm hm” and then stare at any freckle or mole they might have and earnestly recommend they see a dermatologist, because skin cancer is nothing to mess with.

      Too mean?

      • HAHA — LOL at “You need to lighten up.” How about, “Good thing I’m not trying to impress you.”

    • Karen

      How about: “Yeah, I’ll get right on that right after I smoke a pack of unfiltered cigarettes and ride my motorcycle without a helmet.” ?

  • oh my!
    vote of reason here too from a pale freckly non-tanning celtic survivor of malignant melanoma – a tan is simply not worth it

  • Laura

    This is a never ending battle I have fought my entire 32 years on this earth! I struggled with my paleness when I was younger, it was “cool” to be tan. Still kind of is today. After countless times of dealing with Sun Poisoning(Yes I can’t count the times I’ve had it) It isn’t worth it, and almost all of those times I was wearing high spf sunscreen, I just missed spots(how embarrassing that is too)! So I accept it, I don’t want the pain from being burnt and I certainly don’t want to be the leather skinned old lady I feel sorry for, later on in my life!
    I have tons of freckles anyway so I just tell people thats my ‘color’ they don’t have to like it, its not their body.

  • Stacy

    I enjoy the thought-provoking posts you share on your blog, and this one prompted me to post.

    I grew up in Southern California on the beach, where surf culture, bikinis and tanning rule. I am a very fair, blond, blue-eyed woman of Nordic descent. I am now, as an adult, a skin-cancer survivor with an inch-long scar under my right eye where my melanoma was removed. I have a “tic-tac-toe board” of scars on my back where well over a dozen other “suspicious” growths have been removed.

    I can remember the exact day when I got the blistering sunburn that most likely resulted in my melanoma. It was the weekend after my English teacher called out my “porcelain” skin in class to compare me to a character in a book we were reading. I am sure my teacher meant the comparison as a compliment, but I was mortified. I spent the entire day in the sun at the beach without a drop of sunscreen to try to rectify the porcelain skin situation, and I am still paying the price nearly 30 years later.

    Thank you for bringing up this subject for mature discussion. I hope the trolls consider their words and the many varied reasons those of us who “need a tan” really don’t need–or want–one.

  • I am very pale, so pale that I tend to glow in the dark. I also burn really easily. My boyfriend tans while I burn. And I’m tan underneath the burn, I’m still pale. If I slather on a lot of sunscreen, I might slowly tan. But I prefer to stay pale and not burned and damaged.

    I understand how tan is sometimes very attractive. But I also see women that tan every year and their skin is so leathery and sad looking. I don’t think that being tan for a few months each year makes up for what I might look like in 20 years.

    I actually prefer to be pale, it’s part of me!

  • My daughter is adopted from China, and our skin tones are very different. Mine is… what I’ve learned to call porcelain: very, very white, with blue undertones. I never go in the sun, and I look years younger for it — at 37 I have smooth, unlined, lovely pale skin. I’m incapable of tanning, so I apply sunblock every day. My eyes are blue, my hair and brows dark brown.

    My daughter, on the other hand, has the most gorgeous golden-brown skin you can imagine, and when she goes in the sun (still with sunblock! I’m no idiot!) she turns darker still. Her eyes are coffee-brown and her hair is black, and her mischievous smile is so beautiful it fills my heart. We talk about why our skins look different, where they come from, what they mean, and how perfect they are. We also talk about why some people are afraid of people with brown skin, and what we can all do about that. Aesthetics is politics is power is beauty, even when you’re six, folks.

  • Is it me or does no one have boundaries any more? Patting pregnant strangers on the belly, yelling slurs at fat people when they go out of the house to exercise, making unsolicited suggestions that you take on a habit that is known to cause cancer. Seriously, who raised these people? Wolves? Actually I think wolves have better pack discipline and manners than humans do. Kee-rist.

    Also, thankful that my low profile keeps me from having blog trolls.

  • What a great topic for discussion. I need to return to read the nearly 100 comments before me. What was going through my mind as I was reading was that white women tanning is a bent toward homogeny, which I’m personally not a big fan of. And while I am not afraid of body modification, I believe it should be done to reflect inner expressions rather than used as an outer attempt to blend in. And why do we all have to be the same shade of ecru? I am a Hispanic woman who happens to LOVE my olive skin, but that doesn’t mean I want to see everybody look the color of toffee. Like you, I am a huuuuuge fan of Ms. Blanchett (one of my all time fave actors and style icons) who is beautiful by being herself, and never trying to blend in the norm of Hollywood standards of beauty (or actions for that matter.)

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of “the tan.” But my BFF, a lovely auburn haired, freckled beauty loves to go to the tanning salon and “color up.” To each their own I guess. But I’m not approving of the unsolicited advice being thrown your way to tan. I guess I like the way you look, vanilla woman- you look great with toffee, ebony, cafe au lait, porcelain, any hue of the skin rainbow that makes us more interesting.

    • Chelsea

      Great point on the homogeneity. We are sold this one idea of beauty that is tanned (but white), straight haired, blonde, thin but busty, tall but not too tall, pore-less, vein-less, stretchmark-less, cellulite-less, hair-less skin, etc., etc., etc. We do not need to be mannequins to be beautiful! There is so much variety in how people look and that is awesome. It’s odd that how we style out eyebrows or body hair is based on “trends”. Much of it is just companies trying to make us feel hideous so they can sell us something. It really pisses me off how fast people are to buy into this crap and try to make other people feel bad for being un-modified. It can be an uphill battle, but it’s heartening to hear from people who choose to think for themselves.

  • I have been told the same thing, “get a tan,” many times and for years I felt bad about it. Then both of my parents each suffered from skin cancer twice. It was a wake-up call. I could be tan and put my health in jeopardy, wondering every time if this was the 15 minute tanning-bed bake that was going to push me into melanoma. Or I could embrace the fact that I’m Irish, I live in Minnesota and enjoy 9 months of winter, and my dark hair and blue eyes actually look pretty good with my light skin. Healthy skin, no matter what shade it is, is a beautiful thing. Why would I ruin that?

  • Lain in TX

    Another Texas gal who is transparent pale. I stopped “tanning” when I was 13 and realized that my mom, who never got in the sun without a hat, sleeves and layers of sunblock, looked waaayyyy younger than the moms of my friends who spent the summer baking at the pool slathered in baby oil. I am the oldest of my siblings (41), but always taken for being the youngest because they lived and still live in the sun (33 and 37). I love that!

    That said, I started applying self-tanner about 5 years ago when the weather here turns warm (February). I use it to get a light glow, enhance my muscle tone, and cover the spider veins I am starting to get. I look at it as part of my makeup routine. I routinely get compliments on my “tan.” I freely admit to using my “spray-tan-in-a-can” and love what it does for my arms in tank tops!

    • Late to this post discussion, but I’m also a pale porcelain lass who grew up in a sunny state (Arizona).

      That’s exactly the reason I use self-tanner, too: it’s great for camouflaging spider veins when it’s shorts and skirts season! Plus Jergens makes one that’s also a shave minimizer so what’s not to love about that?

  • I am 21 years old, blonde hair/blue eyes, the lightest shade in most make-up, and do not tan. I also live by the beach and am half-Mexican (no, really), so there’s been LOTS of pressure to tan – and lots of yells to tan, too. But really, I love my pale skin and cherish the fact that I won’t look like leather once I hit my thirties like so many of the girls down here will.

    I like my pale skin. I like the smell of sunscreen. I like not having weird tan lines when I wear a strapless dress. And anyone who tells me I need to look otherwise can – for lack of a more polite term – stick it where the sun DOESN’T shine.

  • Kate K

    My mom, who spent most of the 70s and 80s tanning, is a big proponent of “getting a little bit of color” (which I think is a phenomenon among my very pale, German American relatives in Wisconsin–getting a little bit of color can be a tan but it can also be a very bad sunburn. It’s still considered a good thing. As long as you’re not pale! Why being red and in pain is good I’ll never know.)

    What I’ve also noticed is that there’s a weird pressure on plus sized women to tan. When I was doing Weight Watchers, so many of the women on the 20 something message boards talked about all of the time they spent tanning. (Google “looking thinner with a tan” if you don’t believe me.) As someone who doesn’t subscribe to that idea, I can’t figure out why–I guess it masks cellulite? Or makes your skin look more even? Or it’s the skin tone equivalent to “dark colors=slimming”? Or maybe it’s a way to minimize your supposed offensiveness to society, like you can assault our eyes by being fat or you can assault our eyes by being pale but certainly not BOTH. Heaven forbid.

    I tan pretty easily. (Both of my parents are the same way.) No one would ever call me tan but I will get darker than my usual self during the summer months. I wear sunscreen but it doesn’t keep me pale–it just keeps my skin from burning. Since I run outside, I get running tan lines–a nice farmer tan on my arms from my t-shirt and a line where my knee length running spandex stops and of course, the sock tan line. I use the gradual tan lotion to even that out if I”m going to be wearing a swimsuit or a sleeveless dress but I don’t try to enhance my color. (Usually because that stuff starts to look orange very quickly.)

    And to ditto nearly everyone, I find it ridiculous and so sad that you have trolls. Thank you for dealing with them and not letting them keep you from posting here.

  • First of all, I’m so stunned that people would say such rude and awful things to you, Sally! >:(
    My skin is fairly pale, I guess. I don’t actively tan but I spend a lot of time in the sun in warm weather. If I know I’m going to be out for a long time, I apply sunblock and wear a hat. I’ve started using lotion with SPF on my face and chest because those tend to turn pink the quickest and I don’t want to flirt with danger. Self-tanner and tanning beds will never factor into my life but if other people want and like to use them that’s their decision.

  • another jenny

    As with the majority of commenters here, I’m extremely pale. I used tanning beds in my 20s for awhile, until I discovered I was reverse-freckling (little white spots instead of brown)! Quite a few of my family members have had skin cancer removed and I recently had a dysplastic mole removed and biopsied.

    My husband and I went to Mexico a couple of years ago and I felt like the whitest person in the whole country. I tried to keep to the shade as much as I possibly could. My husband who tans very easily even got burned. The sad/gross thing was seeing people who were practically PURPLE, they were so burned/tan. EEK!

    It’s taken me a long time to deal with the fact that I glow-in-the-dark.

  • Rad

    I, like many of the other posters, think you have gorgeous skin (and I’ve seen in person, twice!) Thanks for this great message. I agree 100%, as someone with darker skin who has been told (not by most white Americans) that I need skin lightener.

  • Holly

    I am also one of the palest in my group of friends. When I was in middle school, all us girls would go to the pool and we all tanned. The other girls would tease me for not being tan even though I was. I could lift my bathing suit edge and a significant tan could be seen. I had just started paler than them and therefore was still “behind”. So at that point I decided, why bother to waste all that time and never tanned on purpose again.

  • I felt a lot of pressure like this in high school from the ‘cool girls’. But I always thought it was a waste of time, money and energy. I’m very freckly though so I don’t think I could ever cultivate the sort of ‘even tan’ that these type of people expect.

  • Kira

    First, I can’t believe you have people who say those things to you! I am glad you know that they are all nasty and untrue comments. You’re an amazing and beautiful woman. ๐Ÿ™‚

    To be honest, it’s blogs like yours that made me okay with my paleness. I physically am unable to tan (I just sunburn, no matter what) and artificial tanners are not appealing to me. I used to wear pants year-round for fear that my pale, pale legs would blind some innocent bystander.

    Then I found fashion blogs. It was so startling to see untanned, Caucasian women wearing skirts and shorts and capris, completely unfazed by the fact that their legs weren’t tanned in the least. Startling in a good way, I mean! After a few months, I got brave enough to wear a dress without hose, and all I heard was compliments. The skirts and dresses collecting dust in the back of my closet slowly found their way into my wardrobe rotation, and even though my legs (and the rest of me) is pale, I only get compliments on my outfits. Actually, the only times I’ve been told I needed to tan were people looking at my face, and I quickly told them it was none of their business and that I liked my pale.

    So I have you and a few other fashion bloggers to thank for finding the courage to bare my pale skin to the world. I love this new freedom so much. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I’m stunned at your commenters! The nerve! (The criticisms are so ridiculous–and rude–I’m still laughing out loud about it!)

    Is tan really the norm in our culture at large? What would Anne of Green Gables or Scarlett O’Hara think of that?? I’ve also just been reviewing the Pride and Prejudice 2005 version, and so Rosamund Pike’s beauty as (a very pale) Jane is fresh in my mind.

  • PSN

    I’ve been told all my life to get a tan. I used to run out and sit in the sun for hours, even though I abhor sitting in the sun b/c I cannot stand being hot. But it was always for naught, as I don’t tan: I burn. After a second degree burn along my shoulders (blisters and all…that looked great for my senior dinner dance) and one on my forehead (which now has no pigment, and the rest of my face is quite rosy, so it’s noticeable), I stopped bothering. People still bug me about my legs. Deal with it. I don’t make fun of your orange, wrinkly skin, do I? I don’t tell you to stop tanning, even though I should. I’m fine with my translucent skin. If you’re not, walk the other way.

  • Diana

    I am not Caucasian, but Asian, so am naturally on the “tan” side. I tan easily and pretty much do not burn; I do wear a (weak) sunscreen on my face but nowhere else unless I am going to the beach, and generally do not worry too much about sun exposure. I would never ever go to a tanning bed though, nor would I sit around in the sun for the sole purpose of tanning (among other things, I would be bored to death!).
    Interestingly, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on whiteness or pale skin in traditional East Asian culture, and it was considered the ideal of feminine beauty, probably because it meant that one was privileged, rich, and did not have to work outdoors. Also, because Asian skin tans easily, being super pale is not an easy thing to achieve… Historically, Chinese (and probably other Asian cultures) women used to use white face powder made from lead, which probably lead to quite a few health problems, so there are health issues from trying to make oneself unnaturally pale as well as tan!

  • There is exactly zero way to win this one. When I’m pale, I occasionally hear “get a tan.” When I’m tan, friends tell me they miss my pale skin. I tan pretty easily but also get precancerous cells easily, so I sort of live by that.

  • MmeCurly
    • Sal

      That is AMAZING. And now I am crying in my cube.

  • I’ve never been called out for being pale, but I did have a boyfriend once who I knew preferred tan skin. He didn’t last.

    In terms of skin tone, I tanned in high school and it looked fantastic. Now, if you look at my picture you may wonder how tanning is even possible, but with effort and hours in the sun it was. I’ll pay for it down the road since I am definitely way too pale to have spent that much time baking. But now, at the ripe old age of 34, I freakin’ love my pale skin. Not because I think it’s the best, hardly. I still have “glow” envy when I see my friend after she’s been in the desert. I love being fair simply because it works for me and my style. Red hair, a black top, and red lipstick feels so classic. Occasionally during the summer I’ll get a smidge of color when I’m out running, but by most standards even then I’m pretty Casper-ish.

    And trolls. Seriously with that. Our house rules … If you’re mean, nasty, or otherwise disrespectful you WILL get bounced. Period. There is simply no room for that in life.

  • Mrs.M in MI

    When I read through a list of the skin cancer risk factors, I tick off every one. So no tanning for me.

    However, I LOVE sitting in the sun. Move a bred Southerner to Michigan and she’s cold to the bone six months of the year. I spend as many summer Saturday mornings at the pool as possible, just to feel HOT for once. It’s a delicious feeling that I try desperately to recall in February.

    So, the sun-sitting routine includes high SPF sunblock (applied before leaving the house and under my bathing suit), reapplications every hour, sun hat, and sunglasses. I also have to leave before noon.

    In the summer I do use the “natural glow” gradual self-tanner lotion every other day or so. While all the women in my office go bare-legged all summer, tan or not, I feel more professional and put-together with a slight tan to cover the various imperfections on my legs.

  • I haven’t been told to tan since high school. Obviously putting yourself out there into the fashion-blog scene will invite high school esque bullying. But it still shocks me. We are grown ups people, whether Sal ever decides to tan or not is irrelevant! Sal has no should look like. Sal is already pretty! And so I am I and anyone else whatever their complexion.

  • Maura

    I’m happy to hear from so many of my fair-skinned sisters!

    I have red hair, and the only reason I don’t glow in the dark is I am very very freckled – earned from living in Arizona from age 7 to 15. I was just emerging from childhood and beginning to notice beauty “norms” in the Coppertone Tan era, and it was very distressing for me. I knew that look was not within my universe of possibility, so I was just freckled and miserable instead. Boo. Two moments of happiness for me: the first was in 1986, when (I think Ralph Lauren) showed his whole collection on pale redheads, and just this last year, I started to notice… freckles! Glorious freckles, in lots of ads and fashion spreads in magazines. Honestly, I think it’s a Photoshop backlash.

    I’m pretty happy with my appearance now, because I’ve become more accepting of myself (in all ways, even the freckles) as I get older. I haven’t ever tanned, but I’m not against (sprayed-on, non-damaging) tanning, if I felt like it. I view all appearance modifications in the same way. Anything other than a very simple, au naturale look feels like a costume to me, and I like wearing costumes sometimes. But I don’t HAVE to wear a costume. If I want a certain look, and it doesn’t damage me, and I feel like the effort is worth it, then I do it, and it’s fun, but not a requirement. I’m not worried about the social or political implications of whether or not I am tan, because it’s really nobody’s business but mine.

    • JennyDC

      Okay, I’m a geek, but check out Amy Pond, the new companion in the latest season of Dr. Who – red hair, freckles, and GORGEOUS!!

      I’ve paid to have my hair colored red, sadly the pigment just falls right out of my hair within a couple of weeks. I’ve always envied redheads.

      • Eleanorjane

        Me too! I spent my childhood wanting to look like Anne of Green Gables. And Amy Pond is gorgeous!

  • Cel

    I think being naturally tan is attractive, in that it says you are a person who probably enjoys spending time outside in the sun doing outdoor activities, which in itself is attractive, and less the fact that you’re tan in the first place.

    I don’t make too much effort to tan, although last year I did start laying out in the sun (I had pale legs and tan arms, something had to be done!) and trying to tan the ol’ fashioned way. I have no interest in tanning salons or tanning cream etc. I realize the “natural” way of tanning isn’t exactly good for your skin either but eh well. I enjoy laying in the sun, listening to music, reading, relaxing, it’s some nice me-time, and the tan is just a bonus.

  • PHX

    I was a teenager in So Cal during the 80s and tanned quite a bit. I’ve also had my fair share of severe sunburns, so my time might be coming. I have been religious about SPF on my face for at least a decade and it shows — and am trying to convince myself that hats to/from the car to the office are the next step. (To the “Parasol Girl” above — go for it with the parasol–you’ll be my hero!) I have not been so good about the rest of my body and a burn on my forearms this past weekend made me really evaluate what the sun was doing — my skin’s mottled with light and dark patches and (to me) not particularly attractive. So my gift to myself for my 40th birthday: heavy-duty sunblock for the body, every day, just like my face.

  • I not only have never tanned in my life, I have lupus with multiple organ damage and even just an hour of sun exposure is life-threatening–I make antibodies to my DNA in reaction to it. Sometimes things just happen, though, and it’s not possible to entirely avoid UV exposure.

    And then the compliments start rolling in: “You look so much better. I’m so glad to see you’ve finally got some color in your face!” While they don’t know that my heart or my eyes are paying dearly for that and my colon’s already had to be thrown out.

  • AnnaKatie

    Hi Sal,
    Thank you for this post. I’m naturally blonde, blue-eyed, and so pale that I’m pretty sure I glow in the dark. My family is Irish, but I don’t freckle. My brother, who has red hair and freckles, also somehow gets really nice tans. But not me! I’ve spent most of my life outdoors but still have never really achieved a tan. Most of the time, I’m okay with this, but sometimes it still makes me feel socially embarrassed, but I’m mostly over it. I think people look best in their natural skin color, whatever that may be, but for women who purposely risk getting cancer and looking much older than they are in their 40’s, I just don’t understand it. Everyone should just love themselves for whatever nature gave them!

  • Lauren

    I totally agree, Sally. Thank you for this post!

  • Wow! Over 100 comments and not one from a person “of colour”. LOL. Unfortunately, in this day and age I am still reminded that the colour of one’s skin comes with certain privileges and entitlements. My dearest and fairest friend (she’s of Irish descent) never believed me until she saw it for herself. We have discussed the tanning issue (Yes, my skin colour gets deeper. I just don’t lube up and bake. It happens while I am out and about) and how dangerous it is for her skin. She knows I don’t feel sympathetic about her paleness, because having a particular genetic makeup is not a curse. It’s what you do with it (sense of entitlement, anyone?) that can cause the problems. But in her heart she’s a very loving, kind and beautiful friend. And that’s all I see.

    • Sal

      Actually, there are at least half a dozen comments from Asian women, at least two from Latina women, and undoubtedly several from other ethnicities who chose not to self-identify in their comments.

      • I’m bi-racial and while I tan easily I also burn easily. I’m currently making an effort to swim 4-5 days a week and it’s expensive and time consuming to find a sunscreen with enough UVA/UVB protection that’s waterproof and without silicone. I’ve found something that works but even as a woman of color I completely relate to the need and struggle for adequate sun protection.

      • When one refers to a woman of “colour” it is usually referring to a Black woman. Rarely, does a Asian woman or a Latina refer to herself as a woman of colour.

        • Sal

          I guess that hasn’t been my experience. Every reference I’ve ever seen to the phrase “women of color” has encompassed women from multiple backgrounds. A quick example: http://www.womenofcolorday.com/htdocs/origins.htm

          Last week I highlighted Of Another Fashion, which describes itself as โ€œan alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color.โ€ The site includes Asian, African-American, Mexican-American, and women from dozens of other backgrounds. http://ofanotherfashion.tumblr.com/

          All down to experience, of course, but mine has been that the phrase is broader in scope than just Black women.

  • Yeah Cate Blanchett! She and Nicole Kidman are my skincare idols. Normally I don’t mind being pale, but I do pick up an unflattering bluish tint after being in the sun for the first time after an Oregon winter. If it gets too reflective I usually try out a bit of self-tanning lotion.

    One of the apartments my fiance and I visited during our search had a 24-hour tanning bed. The manager went on and on about it, like it was the greatest amenity any apartment could have, and it was all I could do to keep from ranting about skin cancer and Jersey Shore-style tans.

  • Just two days ago, someone told me my legs needed a tan … but she was a makeup artist, so I wasn’t as annoyed as I might have been otherwise. I guess it’s fair for her to look for spray-tanning business. I’ve had people point and comment on the beach as if I’m not only pale, but blind and deaf too!

  • Pamela

    I’m super pale, auburn-ish hair, and I can’t tan. As others have mentioned, I do the burn-peel-back-to-pale routine.

    I vividly remember being a little girl – maybe 6 or 7 – and having an older (in his 40s of 50s) male relative tell me that I should get a tan. Which was all kinds of creepy and inappropriate. I used to try to justify my paleness, but now I just try to own it. It’s my skin color, and that’s part of who I am. Don’t like my super white legs displayed in my awesome pencil skirt? Don’t look at ’em. It’s pretty simple.

    Also, yes, there is a family history of skin cancer, so I’m very careful when I’m out in the sun. My dad and my uncle both worked outdoors for years – their legs are the same color as mine, but their faces and arms are permanently red from sun damage, and they have to get little extra growth-things removed all the time. No thanks, if I can help it.

  • I love that you posted this, Sal. LOVE. I work outside in the Mediterranean sun all summer, and even though I have Eastern European skin that tans nicely and almost never burns, I’m absolutely vigilant about staying covered up and trying to avoid color as much as possible. Firstly, I like the color of my skin, and secondly, I’ve seen several friends in their mid-20s suffer through skin cancer (all archaeologists, like me). Tanning is damaging your skin, period.

    The only time I’ve really gotten comments about needing to tan is when I was getting ready for my wedding. For some reason it was expected that I would tan, or at least get a spray tan beforehand. I’m not sure where the rumor began that you can’t wear a white dress with pale skin, but I think it’s lovely. I was married at the end of July, and managed to avoid the sun like the plague that summer. I happily stepped out in my wedding dress with porcelain pale skin, and loved how I looked.

    Your skin is beautiful, and trolls are silly.

  • first of all sal, thanks for your blog! i don’t know what is wrong with people who go trolling, i wish they would all just drop off a cliff somewhere. you do so much for people by putting yourself out there, and it takes courage. so thanks for that.

    as for skin color, like some others on here, my eyes were really opened when i went travelling. my first trip to thailand i was shocked to find skin whitening products for sale in every gas station, and every woman on the street expected to carry a parasol. and on the beaches all the white tourists wearing as little as possible so they could go home and show off their tan. there was a similar dynamic in mexico, and when you pull them all together it just looks like madness! not to mention how unhealthy some of those products are – i don’t know much about the whitening products in asia, but i know on some older women you could see the effects of a lifetime’s use in their very strange looking skin (and of course tanning and its products can be just as destructive).

    so i’m a whitey with golden undertones and sort of jennifer aniston style coloring (though not face or body, unfortunately :)), so i tan fairly easily. and i love being in the sun. but i recently moved to the cloudy, grey northwest, and it has occurred to me that my body actually EVOLVED for this weather! my skin tone is created to absorb vitamin D in dark, rainy, european style weather. what’s the sense in fighting that? however much i love the sun in tropical places, the healthiest place for me to be, the place i’m most likely to avoid skin cancer, is the north. and the healthiest shade for my skin is pale.

  • o, and further, even with my golden undertoned, easily tanned skin, i can think of at least two dear friends of mine who do not tan AT ALL, one with light hair and eyes and one with dark, and i have always admired their skin. it’s just…beautiful. iridescent, as someone else said.

  • Jessica Schiermeister

    Sally, you’re beautiful. Don’t ever change.

  • As a natural redhead I burn. And then I freckle. I do not tan, and I was made fun of forever because of this. Now, I don’t care. I do this for me, not you.

  • Two cents

    What an interesting post. I am of Indian descent and have very brown (and I like to think beautiful!) skin. Among Indians, we have the opposite issue — we are often told that we are too dark and need to stay out of the sun! When people in India say that a woman has “good color” what they really mean is “very little color or pale”. When my sister gave birth to her son, my brother in law was thrilled because the nurses mistook their son for being caucasian because of his pale color (he later did turn brown though).

    In India, the most common beauty product is called “Fair and Lovely”, which as you can imagine, is a skin lightening cream. It really kills me to see what a stigma there is against dark skin in India, and for that matter, most parts of Asia.

    Sal, you have a beautiful complexion and until your post today, it didn’t even occur to me to think that you were pale, just pretty and stylish.

  • Christine

    Another long time lurker, first time commenter!

    First things first, I can’t believe you actually have trolls! I hope they never get you down, the past few months that I’ve been reading this blog & all of the other self-love resources you lead your readers to have really helped and changed me, as I know you’ve done for a lot of women. So thank you, because you’re doing a good thing.

    In reading over the comments I’m hearing a lot of women who say they never ever want to change their skin color – and that’s awesome! But I wanted to speak up for another group, those of us palies who like a bit of color but do it the UV free way. I have the same story as many of these women – hated my paleness when I was very young, burned, peeled, turned pale again, got older and wiser and embraced my pale skin, but still dabbled in the self tanner world just because I’m more comfortable with not being so pale that I’m able to see the veins of my legs in the summer. I have finally found one that neither smells nor turns me orange, so I felt like the timing of this post was just serendipitous and had to speak up :).

    • rb

      Which one do you use? I am currently using the Jergens Fair/Light. It’s definitely not orange (on me) but it has some smell.

      • I have also used the Jergens Fair/Light. It does have a bit of a smell, but it’s not as bad as some of the other ones and it definitely doesn’t turn me orange. I run outside, and even though I wear sunblock, I sweat it off and get weird tan lines, so I try to even them out a bit with the tanning lotions. I consider it similar to the application of make up.

      • Christine

        It’s a new product called Beautisol, as far as I know it’s only avaliable online (Google can find it for you). For me personally it’s a bit on the pricy side, and I only tried it because of a coupon code, but now I fear I may cough up full price next time, it works that well! The color lasts a long time after application & I haven’t noticed any sweat off, and the bottle seems like it will last for a good amount of time too (depending on how much of your body you use it on).

  • Ivory is a beautiful and elegant color. That’s what your
    skin looks like to me:)

  • I’m 29. When I was 28, I was diagnosed with skin cancer, and had to have 9 stitches on my upper lip when it was removed. I’m not super-pale, but am light-skinned. I’ve always been good with the sunscreen. I don’t do tanning beds, but I do love to be outside in the summer. Now, this will be my first summer post-skin-cancer. And I feel the pull to be outside at the pool. But I am scared.

    It’s tough because you can’t escape the sun.

  • LQ

    Tangential confession: I don’t actually hate the way “leathery” tanned crinkly older women look. Like they played a lot of tennis and never gave a shit. There are worse looks.

    Skin cancer is definitely a terrible look though.

  • Heh, among my goth friends, I’m one of the darkest, simply because my part-Asian skin is yellowy-golden & will never be the porcelain pale white that’s “traditional” in the subculture. It irked me when I was younger, but I’ve embraced it as I got older. It’s me. No matter how much sunscreen I wear, I get golden brown w/a ton of freckles. I will never be truly pale. And that’s ok too.

    I think it’s a combination of embracing who you are &, as s’one else pointed out, like makeup or hair dye. If you want to use self-tanner or bronzer or pale powder, fine, enjoy. As long as you’re not damaging yourself & you’re doing it from sense of enhancing your beauty — like you would wear flattering clothes — then it’s nobody else’s business. And, of course, nobody should be pressured to do such things by others!

  • Stephanie

    I am approaching 40 in a couple of weeks. I was teased as a kid for being so pale and it still affects me to this day. I am so self concious of my pale skin that I don’t even like to wear black sandals because I fear it accentuates the paleness. I am beginning to accept myself for who I am thanks to your blog. I have red hair, pinkish skin tone and burn baby burn. I also have 3 red headed kids and a red headed husband so we are all in the same boat!! Thanks for bringing up the topic. My pale hero is Nicole Kidman. Here’s to accepting our skin color the way it was meant to be!!

  • I have always had very pale skin, I am the same colour as Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman and I am quite ok with that, I think pale skin looks pretty.
    I simply refuse to tan just because other people say I should, including my own Mother who says I should tan my milk bottle white legs!

  • I’ve never tanned. Get too dizzy in the sun. It’s one of those things that’s fashionable this decade I’ve decided to ignore. Also waxing of any sort:).

  • It’s interesting that people with personal traits such as rudeness, mean-spiritedness and stupidity should be stopping by here to comment on what YOU need to change. Unreal.

    I for one know I’m a whole lot happier since I discovered that my skin actually looks better when it’s exactly as pale as the way nature made it. I’ve never tanned very evenly, and the shade that my skin turns when it tans (either by sun or self-tanner) throws off the way colors look near my face. Add in the potential for wrinkles and skin cancer, and tanning seems like a pretty pointless way to spend my time. I also find laying out in the sun to be mind-numbingly boring, but that’s just me.

    The fact is that some people just prefer the look of darker or lighter skin, and that’s totally valid. But telling anyone they need to change to suit that aesthetic is just idiotic.

  • Nomi

    I’m shocked at all the “get a tan” stories here. I’m quite pale — maybe even paler than Cate Blanchett — and I’ve never heard this comment, toward myself or others. Do these same idiots shout skin-lightening suggestions at dark-complexioned girls? How can this crap be going on in this day & age?

  • Hundreds of women tan outdoors or at salons to get a so-called healthy glow while risking skin cancer and premature wrinkles. Still hundreds of others slather chemical-laden skin whiteners hoping for paler complexions. I’m of the “if your skin is healthy, let it be and just take good care of it” school. SPF moisturizer and good skincare habits ftw!

  • Anna D.

    I’m white, and I’m fairly pale, but with pink undertones (“British rose” skin – no, really, I was born in England, so my family says that!). I don’t tan, but it’s pretty much for aesthetic reasons – my face tends to go pink rather than tan, and even so, I have mid-brown hair and I like the way I look much better when there’s more contrast between my hair and skin colors. And I also don’t want wrinkles, which, given the fair skin, the sun would probably give me. I like to think I don’t want cancer – and of course, I don’t! – but to be honest, I don’t know how far that would get me if I really thought I looked better with a tan.

    But I think class is a huge part of this, too. Sure, when I was a teenager in the 80s it was a big thing to lie out, and that was true of a part of college, but once I graduated from college and went to grad school, I became part of a crowd who were too “smart” to tan – after all, it’s bad for you! And it’s not productive! You’re wasting time! But I also think it was seen as kind of declassรฉ to tan. Academics analyze EVERYTHING, and can get into huge debates about self-presentation and what exactly the nose stud or the dreads or the tattoos or the cute-librarian glasses “mean”. I think everyone was very aware of and comfortable with the artificiality of fashion choices, but for some reason tanning was just not a choice that seemed appropriate, and I think it was because it seemed very “un-intellectual.” (I’m putting all these things in quotes because I’m not endorsing these ideas, just trying to describe them.)

    Now that I live in the land of people who live and die by organic and natural and local and slow food and so on, I think the artificiality of tanning (and its health risks, of course) run counter to that kind of ethos. Sure, people get tan from skiing or hiking or rock climbing and so on (none of which I do, by the way), but getting tan is not the point of the endeavor (and people wear sunscreen a lot, too, I think). I’m sure there are people out here who do tan (whether sun/sun bed/self tanner), but it’s never something that’s come up, or that I’ve felt I should do.

    So, so much of this seems to be about class, and location, and so on. I should add I’m not criticizing anyone who does want to change their color, or who likes being out in the sun (though tanning beds? I can’t quite get behind tanning beds… sorry.)

    I also love LQ’s comment about “leathery” older ladies who look like they played a lot of tennis didn’t give a shit. Love! That describes my New England mom and all her tennis friends to a tee. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Though interestingly, a lot of her Florida friends have had plastic surgery, while I don’t think the New England tennis ladies have.)

  • I’m genetically predisposed to mole-y skin cancer. So I stay out of the sun as much as possible. I try to get a few 5 minute rays everyday for SAD purposes, but otherwise I can burn on a cloudy day in September (believe me, I have).

    I think it’s your choice to do it or not do it. I think like hair color or anything else it’s your choice. I don’t recommend it, but I’m not going to tell someone to tan or not to tan. I’m a fan of the Pale and don’t even think twice when people are like “OMG my legs need sun!”

  • Although it is probably not the popular opinion, I do like the way that I look with a tan. However, since I know it is healthier, I stay pale.

    I would never tell other people to change their skin color. We all have personal preferences when it comes to beauty, but it isn’t appropriate to project those preferences onto others.

  • Jak

    As many have mentioned, it’s a status thing. It’s also likely (very minimally) influenced by the pallor thing–people who are sick tend to be paler. Someone upthread mentioned the whole you-must-stay-inside-and-read-a-lot thing; it might be tied into the introvert-ism we have in this country–everyone here is supposed to be outgoing and like to be outdoors with people all the time.

    I love my paleness. I purposefully wear clothing that brings out my paleness. When I told a friend this once she looked at me like I sprouted a second head. She couldn’t believe that I would like this aspect of myself. What’s good to throw at people is that I’m allergic to the sun–that usually shuts them up really quickly (I would still be pale if I weren’t allergic).

  • Katie

    I personally love the pale look, It may be that I also hail from Minnesota and the sun in the winter months well, lets just say its not worth it. I also do not want my skin to look like it is 50 when I am only 30. talk about not looking young, beautiful and healthy. I would never tell someone to tan, first because its unhealthy and also because it just plain mean.

  • Lynn

    I am ghost white, so pale that it is hard to buy makeup. I used to hate it, but, at almost age 60, it’s just part of me. My problem is that I have very dark hair on my legs that grows quickly so even if I shave in the morning I have a five o’clock shadow every day. I wish I could find an inexpensive way of dealing with this so I could wear dresses and skirts without hose (too hot in Florida to consider). Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • Eleanorjane

      Wax! I can buy strips at the supermarket that are easy to use and last a good 4 weeks. I am lucky to have very fine hair on my legs (less luck in fine hair on my head, but hey) so waxing really don’t hurt at all. With thicker hair, it would probably hurt more, but still, a few minutes pain for a few weeks of hairless legs.

      A friend of mine uses a ‘epilator’, a thing that buzzes over your skin pulling out hairs. I’ve never tried it, but it’s another idea…

    • Rose

      Laser is your friend. dark hair + white skin = quick and perfect results !
      Quite expensive, but so worth it.

  • Those comments must be from the people who over tan and end up looking like orange oompa loompas.

    It’s funny because in Asia, the goal is to be as white as possible.

    Grass is greener, anyone?

  • What a great discussion! I too am thankful for blogs like yours which help increase my self-acceptance.

    I was a tan-seeking teenager until I went to Taiwan in college and was exposed to a multitude of skin-whitening products. Seeing how different societies’ beautiful skin ideals are so contradictory helped me realize how ridiculous the quest to be tan really is.

  • hellotampon

    I guess I’m lucky, because I have light olive skin that pretty much no one has ever had anything to say about. I tan pretty easily, and I do think that I look a bit better with a tan (that whole thinner and more rested thing, I guess), but I hate to think that one day I might get skin cancer or end up looking like a leather purse. So I try to wear sunscreen if I’m going to be outside for a while, even though I hate the way it feels. Every summer I do get moderately darker, but I never deliberately sit and bake with the intention of getting some “color.” Then again, no one has ever screamed “get a tan!” at me. I can’t believe people would say that or even care about it in the first place. From now on I’m going to appreciate my skin tone… I never thought about it before, but after reading this I guess I can be grateful that it’s never gotten me made fun of. Isn’t that sad to like an aspect of your body simply because it’s “normal” enough not to bring on attacks from others? Uggh.

  • Meredith

    Sal, if you tanned, people would tell you not to, and since you don’t tan, people tell you that you should. I think it’s just one of those things.

  • Gillian

    My grandparents were florists and constantly tan from working outside and in their greenhouses, and Pop has kept that deep tan all his life. Up until I was age 10-12ish, I sincerely though Pop was black. I later learned that when he was in the military and when he was dating Gran, he experienced all the same discrimination that a black man of that era would have faced. Our ancestors came from the British Isles and Germany, but I also have some Native American ancestry on both my parents’ sides, and that’s where Pop got his skin tone. The grandchildren always loved getting very tan and competing to be the darkest as kids because it made us look more similar to the grandparents we idolized, but as we got older some of us developed more sensitive skin or became concerned with moles. One cousin had such a severe sunburn on her back that she had to get many shots and creams from doctors over the years to try to fade the scarring. Unfortunately, rather than make her more careful in the sun, she wants to tan to cover up her scarring. I try to gently guide my cousins and hope they will grow out of their desire to tan as they are only teens right now. I won’t deny that I enjoy being somewhat tan, as it still has the positive connotations I felt with being connected to family and my ancestry. I also prefer my skin when I can’t see the veins quite so well. I am never a particularly pale person though, just average with ability to get pretty dark. I have a lot of moles and my mom has already had some of hers removed, so I try to be very careful now with monitoring them and wearing sunscreen. I have never been very badly sunburned in my life and don’t think I would be so keen on tanning occasionally if it wasn’t fairly easy for me. However due to health concerns as well as a change of personal appearance, I try to stay a bit paler than I once would have. The personal appearance change is that I have naturally light brown hair that matches well with a tan, but I’ve been dyeing my hair red for a few years and intend to keep it that way, and I think paler skin goes better with the red hair. What I am really envious of is freckles. I covet freckles, I think they are adorable, but I only turn an even shade of tan in the sun. Some of my family freckles up in the sun, and I wish I could do that instead.

    I suppose my opinions on tanning are do what makes you happy if it is healthy for you and it’s not being done due to peer/societal pressure, but man is that ever hard to determine. I dye my hair red because I like how it looks, and I don’t think there’s any societal pressure on me to have red hair. But if I want to have a bit of tan because I like how it looks, can I separate that from all its cultural meaning? Very complicated issue. I can say that I am completely opposed to tanning beds, fine with sunless tanner/bronzing creams and lotions because to me that is a category of makeup for those who choose to use it, and most in favor of only getting some color from the sun while engaged in outdoor activity.

  • I get told so frequently that I should get a tan. And yes, I am pale. I know this. I can tell that my white shoes are almost the same colour as my legs. And I don’t care. Why does society say I have to be tanned?

    Interestingly, I went on holiday to Sri Lanka and every time I went to the pool several staff would run out with huge umbrellas. When I asked why they did this for me, and me alone, they said that I was beautifully pale and I shouldn’t get any sun of my skin in case I tanned and ruined it. Depends on your cultural norms.

    But my feeling should be that, in the same way that you shouldn’t tell people to change weight, you also shouldn’t tell people to change their skin colour. As long as people are being safe, it should be up to them.

  • Lisa Walter

    Sally,
    Thank you for being a champion of paleness. I am a pale gal and other than a FEW experimentations with a tanning bed in my 30’s, I have never really tanned. I have heard so many comments over the years about my pale skin and white legs….and I have just had to learn ignore them. I used to really hate to uncover these white legs because of the comments and was quite concerned about being too pale. I didn’t enjoy laying out to tan, or laying in a tanning bed where other people have lain naked before me! So I never tanned…I just fretted the onset of shorts weather.
    I have since gotten over that. I turned 50 yesterday and I can honestly say that not giving in to the pressure to be a bronze beauty has served me well. I have 0 wrinkles on my face. My knees are smooth…no wrinkling…ect. I am freckled and Irish colored (golden blonde hair, pale skin, green eyes, freckles) and I am blessed to appear about a decade younger. I must attribute that to not smoking and not tanning. Of course, Kate Blanchett and other celebrities that embrace their pale, ethereal beauty make it so much easier to do my own thing!
    I still feel a little funny trotting out milky white legs in shorts in the summer. Yeah, a tan hides cellulite..which I do have…but I have found that baby oil gel gives my legs a soft sheen that improves their look and skirts and dresses are my best summer clothing friend. Rock on pale ladies!

  • Christa

    The thing I don’t understand? How did tanning become so terribly politically incorrect? Yes, I understand the dangers involved, but we all take calculated risks and make choices. I prefer the look of a light tan in the summer (and I *love* the little bit of sun we get here in the Pacific Northwest & refuse to hide from it), and I consider it a calculated risk and a personal choice. I also eat dessert, drink the occasional alcoholic beverage, and drive on the freeway. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • oh, yeah, I get this all the time. My usual response? “I’d rather have beautiful skin at 80 than a tan now” or “honestly, I’m not into skin cancer.” And that’s generally the end of the conversation! =)

  • renee

    I’m always amused when Caucasian women tell me they love my colour or would love to be my colour. (I’m of mixed race descent and brown. I smile and nod and don’t point out the other aspects of being my colour – stereotyping, racism, lack of privilege, finding a foundation…

    • Penelope

      Yeah. It does feel a little weird with all of us paleys moaning about being told to get a tan when there’s all this other nonsense piled on people of actual darker skin tones. I don’t really know how to deal with that one… I don’t like being told I should tan because I know that tan on me is barely noticeable to anyone else and I don’t want skin cancer, but then I don’t like going about saying “I’m so whitey white it’s great!” considering the rest of the skin color based racism out there. How do we embrace everybody’s natural skin tone?

      • renee

        Honestly, I don’t particularly care if people want to tan or otherwise (I wear SPF 30 every. single. day.) My entire attitude is there are biggr/more important things in life. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Emily

    Okay, for the record, you are not fat or ugly and I am extremely envious of your beautiful, curly hair. That is horrid that people tell you those things! Honestly, I’ve been quite pleased lately that tans aren’t as “in” as they were a few years ago, I mean, look at almost any model now and they are slightly…well, pale! For years now I’ve never worn shorts because my legs are somewhat blinding, but this year I decided that I don’t care anymore. I like shorts, they are comfy and super cute and I’m sick of being self conscious about my legs!

  • when we were in asia, my husband, who is of a ruddy complexion with dark brownish-red hair, loved to scare the kids. when they would ask him why he was so pink compared to them, he would say it was because his skin was so light they could SEE HIS BLOOD THROUGH IT! this would usually make the kids scream, and he got a good laugh out of it. talk about making the best of it ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kay

    WHAT????

    That’s just unadulterated nonsense from some jealous person.

    Why are dark skinned people told to do something about the skin (I’ve been told time and again to put on some powder) and light skinned people asked to tan? What’s wrong with accepting people the way they are…. I remember an aunt in law advising me on the day of my wedding to tell people that I colored my hair and not tell that I have grey hair! ๐Ÿ™‚ lol…. sure, she has all grey and she dyes her hair at age 57 and good for her that it is her choice,. It is my choice that i don’t put artificial color on my hair and that’s my choice. I have no shame in admitting that I have grey hair. My theory is that there should not be a shame factor involved there, just a choice factor.

  • Wow – there are so many comments I’m sure there’s nothing left to say! As you know, I am super pale. My Puerto Rican grandmother used to call me a ghost. She said it bemusedly, but I don’t think it was a compliment ๐Ÿ™‚ I am utterly content with my pallor. I wear a hat all summer, sunblock 40 all over and I walk on the shady side of the street. I’ve convinced myself that I’ll look 30 for the rest of my life.

  • Marsha Calhoun

    Okay, just have to ask, why in heaven’s name would you, Sal, ever want to get a tan? With that gorgeous complexion? Such a suggestion is beyond the pale (to coin a phrase).

    I’m quite white, myself, whereas my daughter is brown, and she is the one who worries when her tan (which she achieves with minimal sun exposure) fades. In my misspent youth, I tried to tan and achieved a sort of spotty glaze that soon faded to a drab, uneven dishwater dinge; after a few horrendous sunburns, I said to hell with it and have run from the sun ever since. At 60, my skin in fairly unwrinkled (though still saggy in spots), and while I don’t enjoy applying sunscreen it’s better than the alternative. Plus, I (and others) think my white skin is rather striking, and I’m pretty much the same color all over – no tan lines. My white legs are proud legs, and let those who don’t like them avert their eyes!

  • Marsha Calhoun

    Sorry – “is fairly unwrinkled.” My high dudgeon got the best of my proofreading instincts.

  • Ruby

    Ladies, thanks for the post and comments. I am going to post here (sorry for length) a recent email I wrote up as a result of a bad melanoma scare. I’m at serious risk for this cancer and just recovered from surgery after a difficult month. If it spreads, there is rarely survival past a few years. I am 34. I have zero tolerance for anyone who criticizes pale skin. I love the feel of the sun and it is sad for me not to be able to enjoy it more, but it’s not worth my life.

    I just had a melanoma scare (the deadly form of skin cancer) which was a highly atypical mole that may have had melanoma cells and want to share some tips and my story in hopes of helping others prevent skin cancer. I had to have surgery twice- I am fine but will remain at high risk for the rest of my life.

    The best protection of course is to avoid sun on the skin with hats and sun-proof clothing such as the shirts you can buy at REI if you’ll be outdoors a lot. Almost all U.S. sunscreens don’t actually protect against cancer (SPF just means you won’t burn) so I have researched some that actually do and here are 4 to consider picking up or ordering soon. It’s especially important to put one on your face daily because surgery is very disfiguring and face is the place you get the most sun.

    Aveeno Sunblock Lotion, Face- Continuous Protection SPF 30
    Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunblock Spray SPF 30
    Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 45
    Coppertone Oil Free Sunscreen Lotion for Faces SPF 30

    These are currently all 20% off on drugstore.com (code SKIN20) and a few come in cheaper 2-packs. I got them all to see which one I like best. To protect against cancer, sunscreen must have one of the following ingredients: titanium dioxide, zinc, or avobenzene. However, these all have chemicals and some drawbacks, and must be reapplied every few hours. Titanium d and zinc go on white and chalky so are tough to use. Avobenzene is better, but doesn’t work unless it is properly stabilized- the companies in the list above have learned how to do that. There are more expensive sunscreens as well but by Lancome, STRI-vectin and La Roche Posay and others. La Roche has one with mexoryl, a protective agent used widely in Europe but only approved narrowly in the U.S. right now. I paid $34 for a small tube and find it to be too pasty to wear daily.

    I thought I was on top of skin monitoring and have been to a dermatologist for a yearly exam every year for 10 years. Years ago I had a few moles removed from my back that were benign dysplastic nevus, which means atypical moles. If you have any odd moles, it takes only a minute to get them removed and is far safer to remove them before they progress, to avoid it turning into cancer, but also having to have plastic surgery to take out a deeper margin.

    I recently found a very odd looking mole near my tailbone that I hadn’t noticed before due to the hard-to-see location. Yep, in the crack! Near the top at least thank heavens. As soon as I saw it I knew it was bad- large, multiple colors, uneven shape, some bleeding on the edges. The doctor took it off immediately with a shave biopsy. I was uncomfortable that week but could do most things. The results came back as ‘almost melanoma’- it was a dysplastic nevus, or severely atypical mole. Those progress usually from mild to moderate to severe to melanoma. Mine was on the edge of severe; some cells had begun dividing wrong meaning almost cancerous.

    So they sent me to a plastic surgeon to have the cells and skin around it removed to be safe that they would take it all and it wouldn’t spread. If melanoma spreads, it can’t usually be cured and usually the person dies within 5 years. They removed 1-2 inches of the area and a half-inch deep. I was awake for the surgery but they numbed the area so I could feel the pressure but not pain. Not fun. The next few days I couldn’t walk or move much and it hurt a lot. After that mainly I just can’t sit for a few weeks, so I’ve been standing, kneeling and laying on my stomach for the last 12 days. I worked from home for a week, then went into work some of this week. I can’t drive, or eat out, or anything involving sitting, for a while. Luckily the 2nd surgery results showed no problems, meaning they got it all and it hasn’t spread. It was a long 2 weeks waiting to get that info. This hasn’t been pleasant- there is infection risk due to the location and other unpleasant details- but I am very thankful to have gotten it removed in time.

    The doctors say that because I had this it means I will for sure grow others. Skin cancer is pretty simple in a way- you remove it early and you are fine, you don’t and you are not fine. So it is crucial to have a monitoring plan in place. They recommend monthly self-checks and dermatology exams every 3 or 6 months. The scary part is that melanomas can look just like a normal freckle- the key thing is whether it has grown or not. Clearly that is nearly impossible to monitor on your own if you have many freckles. I am seeking a doctor to do full-body photography, which they redo every few years and use to compare high-resolution imaging with measurements against your skin. Most dermatologists do not do detailed monitoring; it is hard but important to find one that does and takes this seriously because we are all at risk and the best defense is a good offense. Other than your skin, there can be melanomas in the groin area, inside the nose, mouth or ears so if you have feel lumps or see lesions there get it checked asap. Signs of skin melanoma are ABCD: assymetrical, irregular border, color, and diameter (bigger than pencil eraser).

    I am sharing all of this to help prevent all of you from having to go through unpleasant surgery, or worse, cancer. It’s very much genetic- my spouse’s family has been getting them in the same exact places as their ancestors in Belarus, who didn’t see much sun. It’s just something many of us will be getting experience with and trust me, best taken care of early. For all of us who got lots of early exposure as kids, the course is largely set and it’s damage control from here on out. But if we get good monitoring and protection routines in place and stick to them, we should be fine.

    You are welcome to share this with others widely. On the bright side, it isn’t often one gets to literally play the ‘pain in the ass’ card!

  • I’m frankly stunned that anyone would say any of that b.s. to you.

    In high school, a guy nicknamed me “Pale Ghost” in one of those chummy-but-not-really, frenemy type things. It never cut me to the quick or anything, but it did make me self-conscious.

  • I wish I could tell the younger version of me about all the spots and dark parts of my face that have been “improved” by tanning. I wish I would have been better to my skin in my youth…it would have paid off now.

    The pursuit of beauty should NEVER be followed by trips to a doctor or dermatologist. If the point is to make us look healthier, we shouldn’t do things that will land us wrapped in bandages after they cut chunks of cancerous skin off our faces.

    My favorite T-shirt? “Pale is the new tan!” Google it. Buy it. Love it.

  • Me

    This is an interesting post. Thanks, Sal. Being Chinese, I feel that most people look at my race rather than my actual skin color. When I was growing up, I moved around different countries and the reaction to my appearance was different everywhere. In Malaysia and Singapore, I was told that I was too pale and that I looked sick. In Hong Kong, my skin was just “average” (they liked pale skin there) although they did think that at 95lbs and 5 foot tall, I was too fat. In the USA, people said that I had “dark Asian skin” and that I was too thin. Really, I don’t think people look at me when they look at me. I wear MAC’s select concealor in NC20 and that is a pretty average color: sort of medium beige with yellow undertones, not light, not dark… just a color that is in between the light and dark ends of the skin color spectrum (I think). I know that lighteners are popular in Asia but they don’t actually make a person’s skin lighter, they target hyperpigmentation like freckles and sunspots (I have loads of sunspots). I don’t use them because I find that if I do, my sunspots may fade but my skin becomes more sun-sensitive. I also don’t use self-tanner, bronzer, or actually get tanned on purpose. I’m just me; I wish people would see me for who I am and stop looking at my skin!

    • LE

      I’m very interested by this comparison between the different cultural responses to your appearance and your actual makeup color.

      The way people see skin color as a marker of race and class is filtered through their cultural expectations. In the US the ideal is to be tan while still obviously caucasian. A standard of beauty that is arbitrary from an objective standpoint, but that reinforces bias and comes loaded with all kinds of consequences for women.

  • Me

    Ruby thank you for your post. I want to add that some people do not use sun protection because they do have darker skin, but skin cancer affects everyone.

    I always have to force the men in my family to wear sunblock… they never do it!

    • Ruby

      My husband FINALLY started after my recent scare, after refusing til age 33. Having to dress my wound etc. for weeks got through to him. I hear you, it is hard to get it on the guys. Now he has a tube in each bag and bathroom and office and it’s part of his routine- hope it lasts. Also I took him to REI to pick out a hat that covers the ears- he of course picked the priciest one:) but wore it last weekend.

  • Changing skin color is an issue for me personally since my grandmother (who is Japanese and in her mid-80s) equates a darker skin tone with having to work outside in the sun (like her own mother did in a rice field in Hawaii). Being pale to her means elevated status, like you’re wealthy enough to not do manual labor. All my life she’s given me skin bleaching creams (which I’ve never tried- like I want to be smearing toxins all over my face!!) while, at the same time, teasing me about my “shark bait” legs (pidgin for really white skin) and how I need to get a tan to look healthier and thinner. I guess my face is supposed to be pale but my legs are supposed to be dark? Sounds like a great look.

    Anyhow, troll comments in general are goofy but “get a tan” is especially lame.

  • Susan

    I have very light skin also and avoid tanning from the sun AND artificial tanning at all costs. I see absolutely no problem with my skin color.

  • Roxxi

    Very thought-provoking post. I’m black, and I live in Jamaica, which in my experience (some would probably disagree with me) has a pretty good racial mix, although it’s a predominantly black country. I’ve always loved the colour of my skin. I think it looks like burnt toast. ๐Ÿ™‚ In a good way. lol But I have friends who are very pale with blonde hair. I think they’re beautiful too. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think everybody’s complexion is beautiful, and I’d hate it if anyone told my friends they needed to get a tan to look presentable. That’s offensive. It’s just another way of saying the way somebody looks naturally isn’t good enough. I’m fine with people getting enhancements, but there’s no reason to bash them when they’re in their natural form, either.
    Regarding tanning specifically, though, I don’t like the idea of artificial tanning. Something about it seems dangerous to me, and not worth the risks.
    Pale skin is beautiful! Dark skin is equally beautiful. The beauty of the human race lies in its variety. There’s no reason we should ALL look a certain way!

  • Kathleen

    I am a fair skinned strawberry blonde who grew up in a neighborhood of tanned kids. In the late 1970’s Seventeen magazine published an opinion letter I wrote about being fair skinned in a “tan at any cost” fashion environment. That was a boost to my self esteem!

    One day on a beach vacation, I noticed that my coloring was the same as the beach I loved….the fair hair, eyes and skin were complemented in nature by sea oats, the surf and the soft white sand of the beach. It changed my thinking that my coloring a mistake. Indeed I was more of a natural mirror of something in nature that I admired.

    I choose to use the word “fair” instead of pale. It is less loaded as a negative adjective, but still descriptive. People would tell me I was pale and needed to see a doctor. Amazing, ….and mean under the guise of caring. I had great retorts ….in my head!! So now I have better skin. Oh well.

    Being older now, I care less about derisive comments, but admit that they damaged my self esteem growing up. Only now do I realize that it was bullying in a different form. So shame on them. (Clearly the bullies have gone on line now. Cowards. They demonstrate poor self esteem to strike out in that way. You keep doing what you do well and blow off the noise. Consider the source and their opinions have no power.)

    I have also noticed more color diversity in fashion models (vs. the 1970’s and 80’s when everyone was a clone). That probably threatens some people if a great tan is all they have to feel good about. Perhaps this varied display of beauty will serve us well as we move toward valuing our diversity ……in all its possible, natural shades.

  • SD

    I think that a person can alter their skin color if they wish. Tan or pale, bleached skin or natural. I don’t see it as any different than choosing to be hair free or not. Tattooed or not. Pierced or not. Made-up or not. Fast food fan or not. It is your body and your business. If people are so rude as to make comments, well, that is their issue.

  • I’ve never been told to tan or not tan, but I did want to encourage you and applaud you for taking care of your skin instead of letting it bake. You (and your skin) are beautiful and radiant.

  • Megan Leigh

    This is such an interesting post and so many intriguing comments!

    I’m of Norweigen and German descent but you wouldn’t really know it looking at me. I have a darker complexion and always look like I’ve just gotten back from the beach. I tan incredibly easily and it sticks around for a very long time. My siblings both tan easily also, but their tans fade quickly. Most of the year they’re pale. There was one summer I worked as a lifeguard and even though I wore sunscreen, I still turned brown. So brown that it was 99% of the time the first thing someone would say to me when I went back to school that fall. In fact, that tan stuck around so long, you could see the tan lines from that swimsuit in my prom photos 10 months later!

    That said, I never intentionally tan. But I have to really pay attention to what I’m wearing when I’m spending a good deal of time outside, otherwise I get weird and funky tan lines that typically won’t disappear before Christmas! Sometimes (a lot of times) I envy you lovely pale ladies….there are certains colors I love but can’t wear because it does such funky things to my skin tone. Golden yellows generally are too close to my skin tone and end up making it look greyish. Hot pinks and bright reds bring out green undertones and make me look ill. Sometimes I wish I had milky white skin so I could where these beautiful shades!

    Another thing to consider why some women “fake bake”…my best friend has a rather severe case of Psoriasis (an immune disease that presents itself as sores and red scabs all over the body) and has been told by several physicians to visit a tanning booth occasionally. I don’t know the particulars (and have no medical degree) but it had something to do with the UV rays and the vitamen D helping with counteracting her disease. I’ve witnessed the before and after and it honestly did help her tremendously. Obviously, though, this is not the recommended long-term treatment. She takes medication for that. But it did help in the short-term and helped her gain more confidence in her appearance.

  • Claire

    I just want to say that I have found aesthetic beauty in very light all the way to very dark skin types. I want to put the wish and hope out there that all those folks who have struggled with this issue will feel convinced of their own unique beauty.

    My personal experience is with light olive skin that bronzes easily (I choose the word bronze because it appeals to my sense of aesthetics and seems personally accurate). I naturally get darker in summer and am light in winter. I also manage long-term acne and rosacea since about age 11 and I’m currently 35. My skin was so bad in high school that I completely gave up make-up and decided that those people who liked me despite my homely appearance were true friends. And I was right. I’ve consistently worn sunblock and been careful in the sun since I learned about UVA/UVB skin damage in my mid-teen years.

    Nothing can change the hand that genetics dealt us from the DNA-cards, regardless of what culture or geographical location we were born into. I realized early that I could be aware of what society thought, but also be able to have my own convictions about my skin and other physical attributes. When something new pops up on my body – the little bumps on my upper arms, the blue veins on my legs and the top of my breast, the odd white patches on my abdomen, the new moles and freckles I earn each year… I quickly assimilate and resolve to modify my perception of myself and to accept these things. It’s not effortless, but it is absolutely essential to surrender my preconceptions: these attributes are now a part of me, that is my new reality. So I integrate them into my sense of self, and I remain comfortable in my own skin. It is amazing that as I age, I come to find new beauty in things I may have once found undesirable. Hopefully this is the wisdom that comes with age, and I wish it granted a thousand times upon all those who are aging. We really are each unique in our beauty and loveliness. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ps – Is this a record for posts? I’m floored. Great topic, Sal!

  • mary

    Add me to the list of folks who are surprised that you have trolls. You are just the bee’s knees to me and awesome in every way. I have learned so much from your blog and have felt my life shift (no kidding!) as a result of your positive example. Oh, and I’m a pale girl, too. “Melanin-challenged,” I sometimes like to joke. (Although now I may need to re-examine that joke, since it may be self-deprecating in a way that sets a bad example for my two young kiddos, one of whom is also likely to grow up super pale.) So thank you, thank you, thank you for this post, Sally.

  • One of the most important things I believe I’ve ever done for myself (in my 20s no less, and thankfully) was to embrace the pale. Learn to like it, and give up the quest for a tan. I am pale, but I spent teenage summers working on the gold. No more. And my skin is the better for it.

  • I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, very timely post.

    When I was a kid, I used to tan darker than my cousins (who are mixed decent and have naturally darker skin). I loved being called ‘pocahontas’ with my long black hair.

    My hair and skin have lightened considerably over the years. Now I get the ‘ghost’ comments all the time, and my hair is not black anymore- it’s brown and shines reddish! I am very very pale now. I wish I was naturally tan like my hispanic husband! I despise how fake-and-bake looks though. You can tell when someone is not in their natural color range- I think it looks terrible (I would never SAY or comment like this, I have never expressed this feeling out loud before). So many beautiful girls get wrinkles and sunspots early because of it, let alone the people I know who have died of skin cancer.

    I do have a love for tanner natural skin. I think it looks gorgeous- my favorite models are latina or nigerian etc etc. There are a few girls in college that have perfect dark skin- not tan- but very very dark like, and I can’t help but admire their beautiful skin.

    I have to admit, I mix self-tanner with lotion to get a little tiny glow. Self-tanner is waaay too dark and orangey for my pale skin. And I am so afraid of skin cancer- my Great Grandma has had it 5x! I guess what I am trying to say is- I don’t know what is right. I do NOT think that paleness is not pretty on others thank god (Sal- I LOVE your skin!) but on myself? I have very mixed feelings.

  • Anuja

    I’m Indian, and like a lot of others have mentioned, paleness is paramount to one’s beauty. My mom has been the best role model for me in terms of how I see my own beauty and my body image, but the one superficial beauty “rule” she buys is that pale=beautiful. That’s all there is to it. And I’ve always been pretty fair skinned in comparison to most Indian women – so within the Indian community, I’m called acceptable. But when we visit family in India, it’s always the same: “You’re so pale! So beautiful!” and a few days later, when I’ve been out in the sun: “You’re so dark and ugly now! What happened?”

    It’s strange when I tan and my white friends are all “wow! You’re so tan!” I get a tad defensive. “Tan” is a compliment when white people dish it, it’s a rude observation when Indian family members point it out.

    I never burn, but I slather on SPF 70 every day anyway – I refuse to get wrinkles. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Touchy issue for me, and one I am passionate about! I am paler than you are and couldn’t tan even if I wanted to. And believe me, when I was a teenager, I tried. I’ve already had to have a minor surgery to remove a potentially-cancerous bit from my skin and decided my life isn’t worth risking in order to look the way other people expect me to. Many people have commented on my paleness and made the observation that I need to get out in the sun. I DO go out in the sun, slathered in sunscreen thank you very much. These comments are incredibly offensive in my opinion – the same people would never criticize my weight, hair, any of my other physical features, nor would they comment on someone’s skin being too DARK. Why is it ok to criticize someone for being pale?

  • LK

    first off no one can escape trolls. Yay for comment moderation. You could have a blog about happiness and rainbows someone would still have a problem with it. Just the world we live in.

    I use fake tanner on my legs before summer starts. I’m gray pale and the scars on my legs show up pretty dark if they aren’t tan. Its embarrassing to be asked “what did you do?!” all the time. So I just use the fake tanner and no one bothers me.

  • Houdini

    I saw that someone above commented that Asian whitening products target hyperpigmentation/age spots, and I think that’s how most of them work.But I’ve seen results from (very enthusiastic!) application of whitening products that makes the user look like their skin is plasticky-white.DEFINITELY not a good look!
    Even worse, some companies market whitening products that claim not only to turn the user several shades lighter, but also to impart a rosy pinkish glow into the skin (as most Asians tend to have yellow tones) as fair pink skin is seen to be desirable-as it looks more Western.
    Beauty standards can be so cruel…

    Embrace what you have,people! Your skin will remain with you for your entire life!

  • This post is timely for me. I’ve been thinking about getting a spray tan, so I can appear thinner. I’m not sure about putting all those chemicals on my body though.

    I’ve always been pale and up until recently, felt just fine with that. I grew up in Australia and for the last five years have been living in the US. I live in California where a suntan is what everyone wants. In Australia we receive a great deal of sun education from a young age. Ever heard of the slogan “Slip, Slop, Slap” – thats what we learn in Australian schools and that slogan is on tv commercials.

    So I have always been very very careful about skincare. I slather on sunscreen every day, wear a hat when going out. I’ve always liked my pale skin and considered it so important to protect the largest organ of my body! I tend to tan just a little in summer, but not a whole lot. I’m pretty pale. Its great wrinkle prevention (which I’m starting to reap the benefits of), but most importantly the best prevention for skin cancer.

    To spray tan or not is the big question ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for an interesting article Sal.

  • oh boy. yeah, i am right there with you on this. half irish and half german, i’m pretty much doomed to paleness and there’s little i can do about that – and honestly, i once got spray tanned and it just looked wrong. every guy i’ve ever been with – my fiancรฉ included – has told me at one point or another they wish i was tanner. i used to, too. but i’ve learned to embrace my skin color and tell them to get over it.

  • first of all, your complexion is beautiful and creamy. i never noticed your lack of a tan.
    i’m quite fair, but from an era where sun-tanning (not faux tanner) was the order of the day- until my early twenties when i realized it was impractical to “lay out”- i didn’t have time! and by then, word had gotten round to the masses that the sun caused skin cancer. i stopped tanning on purpose. skin cancer runs in my family- both sides. i take sun-protection seriously.

    later, i moved to the caribbean (over a decade of sun and sea- outdoor life!) the longer i was there, the more careful i became about my skin, as i observed so many leathery-skinned people bearing the mark of the carefree, caribbean sailor lifestyle.

    yes, i got all sorts of remarks: “you don’t look like you live in the caribbean!” “where’s the tan?” and the most annoying of all, shouted at me by a teen (who is now age 30 and looks 40 due to sun damaged skin): “get a bloody tan!!”

    to blend in with my tanned friends, i tried faux tanner for a while- talk about impractical! it took ages to dry in the indoor heat, so i couldn’t get dressed or had to remain still to avoid sweating. it stained my clothes and plus, i didn’t like the chemical smell.

    no tanning, real or faux, for this former island girl! and sal, ignore those silly remarks- if we all looked like, as you say, “barbie dolls”, how boring and uninspiring would that be! xo

  • Great post, Sal, and I am shocked that you of all people would have trolls!

    I am superbly pale myself, I burn easily, and after years of having been way too self-conscious about it and having tried some smelly self-tanners, I finally realized a few years back that I actually admired pale skin on some people in the same way I admire a glowy, sunkissed skin on Jennifer Lopez, or the gorgeous tone of Iman’s skin, for example. I was given this skin to live in, and I have grown to appreciate it and love it, just for what it is. Having said that, I don’t think I have been told to get a tan, ever. Not by my friends who are obsessed with self-tanners, not by relatives, not by anyone that I can remember. The added bonus of my current location is that in the US, everyone just assumes that all Nordic people are very fair!

    I didn’t have time to read everyone else’s comments – wow, there are so many! – but I’ll have to come back for them at some point!

  • Rabbit

    I don’t really have a problem with people who want to tan, I guess. Their body, their choice, and since I smoke I don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to the health issue. Personally, though, I prefer to remain as pale as possible, so when the sun comes out I slather on the sunscreen and break out the floppy hats and long-sleeved summer blouses/long skirts. I am also most attracted to men who are somewhat pale, though a farmer’s tan can be quite sexy! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Honestly, I’m kind of surprised that tanning is still the trend, considering America’s current vampire obsession.

    • Rabbit

      P.S. I am white and live in the American northwest (not much sun), so paleness is pretty much a given anyway.

  • Erin

    Oh yes, this issue is very relatable to my life.
    As a pale woman, I would be RICH if I had a dime every time someone told me I was pale. HELLO. I do own a mirror! It’s gotten to the point where I’d like to say fuck you too. I’m pale, that’s the way it is. It’s not because I’m sick, or because I’m not eating right, or because I don’t get sun. It’s because I’m pale. It’s a shame I didn’t have a positive inside voice when I was younger because I gave into tanning to stop the comments. Thus leading to sun damage on my face. Every girl and woman should be embraced for who they are. Listen to the naysayers and you will make everyone happy but yourself.

    • Ev

      Amen Erin! People act like your blind and have never seen your blinding white skin before. I know I’m really white, no reason to point it out! If tan people put have as much time into being beautiful inside as they do pointing out how pale I am outisde, they would be more pretty on the inside than OPRAH for heavens sake!

  • my legs are a pasty white, and my arms have a bit of a golden colour to them. i’m half irish, nearly half french, and the rest is made up of native american. i can’t get a tan, even if someone held a gun to my head. it just doesn’t happen. i burn like crazy.
    i remember in high school, when i was making my prom dress, it was going to be black with touches of white and red, and all the “popular” girls offered to take me tanning. i politely declined, and began carrying a parasol around with me, and wearing long pants and long shirts. when prom finally rolled around, i was evenly pasty white, and super happy for it. i looked great in my dress!
    i recently joined a gym, and they tried to pressure me into getting a tanning membership with mine, and i pulled up my pant leg to show them where i had pre-cancerous moles removed, and then a scar on my neck where i had another removed. i said i’d pass on getting any more.

    ironic that something that is supposed to give you a “healthy glow” can be so unhealthy for you.

  • Dee

    I’m a lurker, but I feel that I have to ‘un-lurk’ to share my story.

    I’m a redhead, first of all. That means lighter-than-albino white skin, and burning without ever hopes of tanning. I can freckle, but only if I’m out in the sun for days on end (I found this out during track and field practices in high school). I am a mutt, however my father’s side has the Mediterranean deep olive skin tone, making me look adopted when I’m with my grandparents or father. My mother is half Irish, so I inherited that pasty-ness through her.

    I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit wishing I could tan, or have tanner skin. The reasons vary from bruises not being obvious (I bruise very very easily, and I’m generally clumsy), not blinding people when I wear shorts, to being able to get teary-eyed in public without having a completely red face.

    I’m starting to accept that I’m going to be pale no matter what, and I don’t care how many people go blind when they see my bright white legs.

  • Katrina

    I think tanning for the sake of tanning is just insane. I’m half Italian, and my skin has olive undertones, so if I’m in the sun and not wearing pretty good block, I tend to get fairly brown. . . except on my shoulders and across my nose, where my croatian/german half comes out and I become very freckled . . . I know that tanning is terrible for you, but you know, when I’m outside DOING something, reading or walking, or at a park or something, and I come in a little crispier, I kind of love it. . . I feel warm and summery and like I have a little souvenir of my ultra-rare leisure time. . .
    That being said, everyone has to be comfortable in their own skin, and it’s a rare person who looks better all baked up then natural. Olive skin tones can take a little bit of tanning, but even then too much, and you look like an armchair. . . and get wrinkles! And if you’re fair, rock that!!!

  • Marsha Calhoun

    One more thought that occurs to me – the only time I feel self-conscious about my pallor is when I do inverted yoga poses; my spouse has told me that I look like I might explode when the blood rushes to my head, which is ironic coming from him, who has the classic English “roast-beef” complexion that is most kindly described as ruddy.

  • Maggie

    I love this post Sal! I tan easily and have always been the first one out on the patio to get some colour every year or signed up for tanning packages by the bundle. But for the past few years as I’ve gotten to older (25), all the talk about skin cancer and knowing people who were affected I’ve changed my outlook and am loving my natural self.

    I also developed an allergy to DHA (the main ingredient in all self-tanners) and decided that a rash is not worth golden skin. And I’ve saved so much time! Not worrying about when to re-apply the self-tanner, not worrying about how much time i should spend being bored starfishing on a towel outside.

    I can honestly say that I was heavily influenced by the media and pop culture. I can see it now, but as a teen it’s so easy to get caught up in what someone else believes looks good on you. I hope the message has changed for the youth of today. And with that video about “A Message to the 16 Year Old Me” posted all over my facebook news feed, I think that times are changing.

  • I love this. I’m from Miami and I always got teased for being extremely pale. I thought once I moved to New England for college I didn’t have to worry about this but I see a lot of girls who would die to be tan and go to extremes like using bad tanning lotions that doesn’t look natural or even worse tanning beds. No one looks good as an oompa loompa, and I understand that having color is exciting but being comfortable in your own skin (color) is obviously the most important.

  • Mandy Clarke

    Sal I see you have hundreds of supportive notes, and I’m sorry to hear there are horrible trolls dissing your beautiful self.
    I am a RN that has spent most of her career working in the Nothern Tropics of our country, and the skin cancer rates here are phenomenal . It’s scary.
    Now, I am natually tan and add to it after 20 mins of sun exposure without even thinking of it… And like to even my legs up to my arms with artificial tanner sometimes. But, I would never put down someone for their equally natural pale skin. Differences are beautiful. People are so sheep like sometimes it scares me.
    Keep on being you oh gorgeous one!
    P.S. I don’t think I’ve met anyone less pompous to be honest! And I know pompous. I’m well known for being an early warning bulls**t detector !!

  • Nicola

    It’s interesting that the tan has only become desirable and ‘beautiful’ over the past century. Before then, pale skin meant that you could afford not to work outdoors under the sun. In the 18th century women and men powdered their faces to look as white as possible. In Jane Austen’s novels women are looked down for being ‘too brown’. The tan only became a symbol of wealth in the 1920s and 30s when going on holiday to exotic beaches became the ‘thing to do’. But, while a tan could ‘make you look younger or healthier’ it’s the people who constantly tan who are going to look older and unhealthier when they get older. I’d rather be pale and beautiful when I’m older than look like a walnut.
    I am pale, and I used to hate it all through my teens (probably becuase my friends and sister tanned so easily, and because of the stigma of being ‘white’) but now I am a bit older I have embraced the colour of my skin and I love it.

  • Wow, clearly an emotive topic with the number of comments you’ve received.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now, and while I wouldn’t necessarily wear some of the colour combinations you do, I admire your courage and experimentation to go outside the box.
    As for the tanning – I don’t agree with tanning for the sake of getting brown skin and looking thinner, but I think there is too much scaremongering about skin cancer & not enough information about the extremely essential nature of getting regular small amounts of sun exposure on a daily basis (without sunscreen) to provide adequate vitamin D in your body.

    I think it would be beneficial for all people to read the information on the following site: http://www.tanningtruth.com/

    There is no need to bake for hours in the sun, but a daily dose of 15-20 minutes is vital. And tanning is the bodies natural protective mechanism against too much UV.

    For those readers that would strongly oppose my comment and refer to skin cancer, a vast amount of research has been done that shows that insufficient natural sunlight is an actual risk factor to developing cancer (cancers of all types) and when skin cancers do occur, this is usually a case of insufficient anti-oxidants in the body to counteract damaging, ageing oxidation and excessive consumption of vegetable oils.

    Using nail polishes and hair dyes that contain carcinogens are more harmful in the beauty world than getting some sunshine on a daily basis.

  • Ruby

    Dear Helena,

    Vit. D is crucially important, but I take it in supplements and get some natural sun that is unavoidable. That site is clearly affiliated with the tanning industry and not doctors or medical advice. Those of us with skin cancer issues must be careful; if melanoma spreads there isn’t a cure and you typically die within 5 years. Honestly, I felt kind of similar to you, until it happened to me. For sure none of us know in the end what’s truly best, but the current medical establishment does NOT suggest tanning, especially for those of us with skin cancer risk.

  • Ketaki

    I’m Indian, but unusually pale. here pale skin is seen as a virtue, with women spending thousands on ‘fairness’ products. I do get teased about being pale, but i agree with you that its important to take pride in how one looks naturally, which is how i dont let the comments get to me

  • Natural is skin color is good. Too many people do to much. And getting cancer isn’t worth getting tan over.

  • I don’t feel I can add anything new to these great commenters – I’m also a life-long “pale, frail and sophisticated” girl, as I once heard a woman say. I got over trying to and wanting to tan lonnng, long ago. Much sooner than my friends did. My high school pals would go together to tanning beds which I could never even fathom doing.

    I think the main thing I have just never understood about fair skin is WHY there is even a negative connotation to begin with!? It’s just something I can’t wrap my head around – pale = bad. That’s like saying brown hair is undesirable – it’s ridiculous! Keep standing up for your natural attributes ladies – someone who tells YOU something YOU need to do to look better obviously has issues with her/his self.

  • Lanea

    I just wanted to say that I really appreciate what you do. I don’t know why people are so hurtful but despite what those negative commenters say, you have inspired me. It is wonderful to see a woman embracing her body and personal style and encourages me to do so as well. Thank you for being such a positive role model.

  • pale is pretty. and your skin will thank you in the long run. both sides of my family have a long history of skin cancer (my thirty something dad has already had moles removed for testing) so i wear sunscreen all the time. it’s not bad to be tan, but to do it on purpose, or by false means, just doesn’t seem right. also i hate tan lines. just to throw that in there.

  • Ev

    Hey, Just wanted to say that I just got back from a boat ride with some of my friends, and it’s summer down here already. I’m really naturally pale but it was 95 degrees so I was wearing shorts and a tank, and my “friends” were all making fun of me and laughing at me because I’m so fair. That really bothered me because I’ve told them all hundreds of times that tat reallllllyyyy hurts. You guys all know the feeling. I’m german, irish and english, so I have no choice. It’s in my genes and I really don’t want to go get melanoma or look snooki-orange because some jerks told me to tan. I’m still going to have a hard time accepting myself, but from this post and all you guys’ comments, I think I’m on the way. Pray for me! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Nearly 300 comments! Wow!

    I was repeatedly told I was “pasty” in a nasty tone by a nasty witch I worked with. She attacked me every time I wore skirts. I always knew I was pale but it seemed to truly offend her. She was horrid. I went on a 5 day work trip with her and the primadonna brought enough luggage for 3 people. We had to babysit her luggage through the whole trip. She brought 12 pairs of shoes. But she was tan.

    My brother told me in high school that having a tan increases you on the hot scale 2 or 3 points. He proceeded to inform me that I’d be a 6 or 7 if I had a tan. Which of course meant that I was only a 4 or 5 in my current disgusting paleness.

    Those two people are kinda assholes so I just chalked it up to assholes being assholes, HOWEVER my super wonderful loving mother-in-law recently suggested I get a spray tan before an upcoming wedding we’re going to attend b/c the bolero I’ll be wearing over a halter dress is white. I get it b/c white does wash me out but the bolero looks great with my figure and the dress so I don’t see why I can’t just be a bit paler that day. Why pay 40 or 50 bucks for something that might look totally weird on me and require me to buy new makeup to accommodate.

    The only time I truly wish my skin is darker is when I’m wearing a swim suit b/c I’m super self conscious about my thighs… I wear shortish shorts but those few inches of coverage seem to make all the difference in how confident I feel about myself…

    Sorry to ramble… just another ghost wondering why it seems to matter so damn much and why on Earth people feel it’s ok to comment on my appearance in that manner.

  • PS: You’re awesome.

  • Sharon

    Honestly, I would ignore comments about your skin color. I have never understood the tendency of some to dislike their skin color so much they are willing to resort to any means possible to change the color. I am highly offended on your behave that people would suggest you get a tan. If you love your pale skin no other opinions matter. Personally I love my brown skin and would be offended if someone suggested I should lighten my skin. Too many times I have heard African Americans refer to themselves or other AA’s as too dark. This is foolish!! I live in sunny Florida and see too many of my pale friends who should have heeded advice to stay off the beach tanning. Tough, wrinkled, and leathery skin is NOT a good look, but they continue thinking they look great. Oh, well some people like to deceive themselves. As some would say, “Keep doing you!”

  • Anya

    I just don’t tan. It doesn’t happen. I’ve never wanted to but even if I did, it’s never going to happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Wow people write some nasty things on the internet. Congrats on blogging 4 years and bearing all the harsh comments! I am pale myself because I’m Irish/Dutch. I don’t tan… I get sunburned then sometimes freckles. I interestingly had a friend who was Mexican who wanted to be pale so badly, he thought it was so beautiful. In different cultures we value skin color differently. I’ve come to love my paleness and think it goes well with my blue eyes/brown hair. Yes, it’s harder to disguise imperfections but that makes me work harder to keep my skin protected! Go pale girls ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nina

    I’ve been teased for my white skin too. It was until I got off military bases that it really started happening. I live in Texas now and I’ve gotten the whole enchilada when it came to people making fun of me, “white as walls”, “transparent”, “translucent”, etc etc. And it bothered me. Why did it matter so much about my skin tone? And then people wanted to make judgements about me based on it. I was still uncomfortable with the idea that it mattered so much to someone else. I had never had anything like this happen to me before. I embrace my whiteness as I goes. But it still bugs me when people make a big deal about it. This semester I was standing in a local cafe and twice, both times wearing the same skirt and I got two comments, one that I should wear hose because I was so pale, and another that the person loved who pale I was. Both comments kind of unnerved me although the first one more so. I thanked the person who said the second comment politely and let my awkwardness inward, but thought about it. I had been embracing it for so long and people had never really commented on how good it looked, but now they’ve started too and it makes me happy. The first comment about how I should wear some hose was made after the second comment and I told the person that I didn’t feel the need to wear hose because I wasn’t uncomfortable with the way my skin looked and she looked at me stunned and backed off. Now, I’ll still hear the disparaging comment or two, but it simply is less of an issue.

  • As someone who is interested in health and wellness I find it apalling that anyone would want to do something so dangerous to their skin. This is just my opinion, but I’d rather keep my gorgeous pale bespeckled Irish German Skin and wear it proudly, including bearing a bit of my freckly bustiness and some curvaceous leg. I don’t believe that we should feel pressured to live by a standard that could be potentially dangerous to our health in the future, nor should we feel compelled to live by any cookie cutter view of “beauty” of a woman. God made us all to be different for a reason and I am going to rock my differences with pride.

  • Cara

    I feel that most women commenting here are older than me, so I’d like to encourage fellow young lurkers. I’m in college, and I just got back a week long retreat in Florida with my friends, every last one of whom is now much tanner than I. I am Celtic/British in descent, with auburn hair, ivory skin that gets some freckling/pink splotching but never tans, and startlingly dark brown eyes and black eyebrows and eyelashes. I have NEVER had a problem, myself, with accepting my fair skin, but I blame that mostly on the fact that I grew up in a Paradise of Victorian novels and princess stories, where skin white as milk was a good thing. It took me until some time in middle school to realize that was NOT the culture I had been born into, and it started with the gad-your-legs-glow-in-the-dark and you-should-get-a-tan comments. Of course, I’m naturally an hourglass figure but quite slim through my waist and limbs, so I’ve heard eat-a-sandwich comments, too, because obviously a slim girl who does ballet and is into fashion MUST be anorexic. (For the record, my favorite food groups are ice cream and steak.) But those comments I lay down mostly to jealousy, while the pale comments seem just mean and unable to accept something outside Barbie-like homogeneity.

    Anyway, in Florida, I suscreened like a maniac, and also wore a large, very Audrey-esque white sun hat, and often a long-sleeved button up top tossed over my swimsuit, buttoned up over my decollete (which burns horridly) but tied in a knot around my waist, to show a little more less-burn-prone skin. Both of these things were a little odd, but both were also cute and won me a fair number of compliments and no obvious detractions. I must say, though, I think I have an easier time of this than many girls, though, because I am the personality type that is as often intentionally different as unintentionally different. Everyone else is tan; so, beyond just not trying to tan, I actively try to stay pale. And, no, I’m not a Goth. The old-fashioned look just suits me. That and I like to be contrary. But I understand not everyone WANTS to not fit in.

    I did watch one natural red-head in my bunk-room sunburn on her first day laying out until she was literally purple and blistering. I asked her if she wanted to borrow my super-sunscreen, and she said “Oh, no, thanks. I don’t change color at all unless I burn first.” Something inside of me just died. Really, girls? She’s that desperate? That’s not healthy. The way I see it, people like her and even the girls who tanned “sensibly” in my group are still a little obsessed. The way I see it (unless you’re a weirdo like me), play on the beach as you like. If you tan, you tan; if you don’t, then you don’t. Why is this such a big deal? Why does she feel compelled to “change color”?

    I also never realized guys “lay out,” too. But the guys in our group did. I and one other girl took charge and sprayed them with sunscreen at two hour intervals. Only two of them sunburned, and only the first day when we weren’t as vigilant about every-two-hours.

    This is a disorganized post. I suppose I have several points:
    1. I am young. I am pale. I am proud. The world can deal.
    2. Anyone can get a tan. Not just everyone can get a “pale.” Don’t be afraid to be unique, please.
    3. Sunscreen your boys. Even if they grouse about it.

  • Danielle

    I would love to jsut say AMEN! I am as pale as a ghost somtimes, but I’m not trying to get tan. I lived at the beach for thirteen years and usually never wore sunscreen, but I NEVER got a tan! ugh! I used to hate this, but now I’ve come to accept that this is who I am. I am wearing sunscreen(because all I get is freckles) and I don’t plan on tanning. Oh well, when we are old our skin will not be as wrinkly and blotchy as those who tan 24/7.

  • I’m actually very very pale. I have been very secure in my skin tone my whole entire life. In a recent post I even talked about “rocking my pale”. I look better pale, and I have been told to tan. I have never understood why someone would tell another person to change their skin color, it’s strange to me. When my friends would tan I sort of saw it as playing with fire. During the summer I gain some color, but it’s never intentional. I slather with sunscreen, and even then rays get through my SPF 50. My Mother, and Aunt have both have had skin cancer so I try to be safe in the sun.

  • Alyssa

    I’m Italian/Native American and I naturally turn a deep tan even with only a few moments in the sun. I use SPF 30 sunscreen on my face and neck everyday even in the winter, and when I know I’ll be out in the sun I use at least SPF 30 everywhere. I just happen to tan anyway. I think everyone’s skin is beautiful, and I have a high amount of respect for those who are pale. Think about it… Snow White was the “most beautiful” in the land. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • just thinking- you’re obviously lovely. So sunblock is a good investment, and maybe troll-block is on it’s way to being invented : ) i hope…soon.

  • Brittney

    I have very pale skin. When people comment on it, I grin sarcastically at them and say “I know! It makes me look like uncooked fish!” It usually shuts them up. But seriously, I love my uncooked fish skn. ^_^

  • Nadine

    I never even NOTICED you were ‘pale’ until now! Weird.

    I grew up surrounded by olive-to-dark-skinned people, and I had to make a conscious decision to make peace with my pale skin and accept who I was. I will go browner in summer, but am very white in winter. But so what?

    I hate the whole fake-tan thing, I think partly because my life is so full of people from different ethnic backgrounds with different skin tones. I think the general promotion/advertising of fake tan to the world at large is annoyingly narrow-minded, since it ignores/dismisses so many people I know and love who don’t need it!

  • Ok, I realise that as comment number 282, I’m probably not oging to get read, but I just had to leave a comment because I’m so excited that there are 281 comments before me from predominantly pale people (how’s that for some alliteration?).

    I am short (1.5m), pale, have curves and I’m a redhead. All my life I have believed that I would feel better about myself if I could just fit into ONE of the beauty norms… tall, blonde, tanned, super skinny…

    And in my late 20s, I’m finally starting to understand that it’s all a load of nonsense. Will I ever stop wishing I could be those things? Probably not (well, except for blonde. I’ve actually learned to love my auburn hair colour). But after years of tortured eating disorders, self-tanning products and ridiculously dangerous killer heels, I’ve realised that by focusing on the things I’m not, I only make myself more aware of them and more miserable.

    Instead I am trying to look at the fact that I have good boobs (just ask my man), thick, healthy hair, a great nose (a surprise in my family) and a funky sense of style.

    This is the first time I’ve read Pretty Already and I feel like every girl should be here, every day.

    Thanks, Sal. You made my day.

  • dany

    I’m a black cuban woman (hispanic is not a race people, we come in all colours!) and this post has been eye-opening. Back in Cuba people would comment on anybody who was pale,specially tourists, and I’ve made those comments myself. I want to apologize to a caucasian friend when I blurted “You are soooo pale!” truth to be told, it was just that I’m not used to skin that’s so pale, not a way to put her down or make her feel bad, but she was hurt by my comment and I understand now why. It’s just not nice, if anybody would comment on MY skin colour they would be called racists, so why would I make a comment like that? Your article and the comments from so many gorgeous women have made me realize the error of my ways lol so rest assured I will never say or think anything like that again. Here in Canada there are so many white women that, for example when I go to a makeup counter or Sephora, compliment me on my skin tone while putting theirs down, “oh I’m so pale”.

    On the other hand, I want to go fake tanning to even out my complexion, and after the long winter my legs are quite pale when contrasted with my face and I want to look even.I love my skintone which is a caramel golden colour but it has been looking a bit shallow lately.

    All skintones are beautiful ladies!

  • so many things we *think* we need to change about ourselves!…
    I will honestly tell you that I wish wish wish my fair-skinned sisters and I had NEVER baked ourselves in the California sun as teens. But we did because it was in fashion, and everyone told us it made us look pretty. Its not just the freckles, moles and other various spots that have resulted over time, but 3 of 4 of us (myself included) are survivors of skin cancer, just because fashion told us we needed darker skin to be beautiful. Women come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and that’s something we should celebrate, instead of trying to change!

  • Carol

    I like to say I have “alabaster” skin, while my dh just says I’m freakishly pale. I don’t mind being fair skinned, it’s just who I am. My skin doesn’t ever tan, it only burns, so I wear lots of sunscreen and avoid sitting out in the direct sun. Every once in awhile, I’ll use some self tanner on my legs, but its more of a diversion for me than trying to change my body. I look at it in the same way that I look at my make-up. It’s fun to try new things, but I always revert back to a natural look.

    Also, I’m 44 and people are always shocked to hear that. I inherited a very young looking face from my Dad, but staying out of the sun all these years has helped too.

  • Rachel

    I’ve never understood the idea that a tan (an actual tan, as compared to a natural darker shade to the skin) makes people look younger. I think it does the opposite, all that sun damage! But it’s all aesthetics, and some people prefer the way they look with a tan, I guess.

    I’m pretty pale, but nothing compared to friends of mine. One friend in particular has many, many times had people yell at her on the street, “GET A TAN”. I just don’t understand. Are they feeling somehow personally offended by her pale skin? It’s especially odd since we don’t even live somewhere that gets lots of sun – it’s not like everyone around us is tanned.

    I personally burn the minute I’m in direct sunlight, so I spend most of my time being slightly red wherever I missed with the sunscreen.

  • Chloe

    I love this post. I was directed here from another blog, so I am really not a frequent reader, but I applaud you for this. I am Italian and Russian mostly, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and yellow undertones. I do not burn very easily, but I am a slow tanner too. I think that people with pale, porcelain skin are gorgeous. I am in high school and it saddens me how I can be at home, feeling pretty and confident one night, then the moment I walk into school it’s like an insecurity bomb is dropped on me. I am not “popular”. I have been bullied and insulted by people who used to be my best friends. Because of the nature of my classmates’ attitudes, I have about 4 good friends in the whole school, unfortunately. But most people are nice to me, and compliment me on my style. The thing I hate, is seeing my classmates come into school, burnt a bright red from tanning, with tanlines around their armpits visibly several shades lighter, and peeling all over. On the same general appearance topic, I wear glasses. I don’t like to wear contacts. I have received many compliments about how pretty my pair of glasses are. But, once a really nice girl told me, “You could be stunning, if you wore contacts.” I know she meant it as a compliment, but what??? I happen to think I look better with glasses, and it saddens me that aspects like your skintone and whether you wear glasses or contacts every day can determine whether you are pretty or not. In my ballet teacher’s general words, “You better not come in here with tanlines! Ballerinas are supposed to look like lovely, pale, delicate fairies!”

  • Holly

    Coming late to the party, but I wanted to thank you for making this post. I’ve read all the comments with interest.

    I am not surprised you have trolls but that’s only because trolls are inevitable. Please continue to ignore them — your blog and you are both lovely! Your skin is also lovely.

    I used to feel bad about my pale, freckle-prone, redhead (half Irish, half Scandinavian) skin — kids are mean and I had a best friend who tanned naturally. I never tried to tan personally since I knew it would never happen for me and just tried resigned myself to disliking my skin. My mother is similar in color to me and was scrupulous about skin care for her children, saying that when she was younger, no one knew about the dangers of skin cancers. I hated the zinc oxide (in purple and yellow!) she made us wear on our noses at the pool (and we weren’t allowed in the sun until after 3pm) and never took sunscreen as seriously as she did, although I did try and avoid burns.

    Now? I’m glad my mother took steps to protect us from the sun — my sibling and I are all pale and mole prone, although I am the palest and the only one who truly freckles. My mother even now will buy us (adult!) kids sunscreens and give them to us when summer is coming. In my late teens I noticed how beautiful Nicole Kidman’s pale, natural-for-her skin was and decided that I would never feel bad about that aspect of my skin again. I

    I take sunscreen ultra seriously now and avoid the bad burns that I used to occasionally get — my pasty skin shows damage easily. I’m reconciling myself to how it shows the scars and laugh lines that I already have at 27 (from an active and full life, ankle surgery, sunburns, poison ivy, and the stray chicken pox scar). My boyfriend tells my my skin is beautiful and no one else sees those imperfections.

    I ignore anyone who tells me I need to tan and they usually shut up when they see me burn or I tell them my favorite summer sport is blinding folks with the paleness of my legs in shorts. I wear black sandals that contrast dramatically with my pale ankles and wear knee length skirts with unconcern.

    I laugh when my fencing coach tells me I look vampiric or a friend sees me before sunset and comments that I must not be a creature of the undead after all. I do enjoy the warmth of the sun but I approach it with extreme care. It’s just not kind to me. And yes, I take vitamin D supplements. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Holly

    Please pardon my typos in the above. Should be ‘tried to resign’ and “my boyfriend tells me my”,

  • Juliana

    well im brazilian, but not everyone in brazil is black or have a latino look.. quite the oposite.. i live in the extreme south where we had a lot european immigrants.. so im pale, have light green eyes and light brown hair.. and guess what: freckles. some people say i should get a tan.. my town has a beach.. i tried..i hated it cuz my freckles got darker and all. i like my skin the way it is.. and i wouldnt change for anything. c:

  • Jaclyn Reynolds

    I’m translucent, so pale my viens stand out and fair/pale makeup looks orange on me.
    In high school and college I was told to get a tan so often. Haven’t heard it as much since but I’m still self conscious from years of previous comments.

    My husband loves my skin, he’s my biggest supporter for not getting any sun,lol.

  • Camilla

    There is actually a very, very easy way to shut up all those people that tell you to tan: (I’m pale as a mozzarella slice and use children’s sunblock. I joke about it, though, ’cause I love my skin tone! But nobody ever criticized that, I only get surprised looks in the summer.)

    “You’re so pale! You should come with me to the tanning salon sometimes.”
    “No, thanks. Tanning gets you wrinkles. Oh! Sorry…” with a very diplomatic look on your face.

    I’ve met 35 year old women that have more wrinkles than my 60 year old incredibly pale mother. Who wears sunblock even in the winter. (she had a melanoma and of course now she’s very cautious.)
    Please note: we’re Italians. Very few Italians like that awful orange-y “the jersey shore” tan, please spread the voice. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Jen

    Girlfriends, do yourselves a favor. DON’T TAN.

    I’m 51, got compliments on my pretty brown skin through my teens/20s. Now when I look at myself… well, “tan me hide when I’m dead, Fred” kinda sums it up. Yes, yes, the word was already out about skin cancer, but neither my friends nor I thought we’d care what we looked like when we were “old.” Alas – we DO care! And there’s no real way of reversing the bloody damage; yes yes, lasers, bleach and all that… but c’mon, not really. And tanning lotions STINK to the point of migraine-level, besides which I’m not so sure I trust all those chemicals anyway, besides which my skin is so dry and crepe’-y(sp?) it looks crummy anyway. Just my two cents.

  • sarah

    As one who naturally tans in the summer even with sunblock… it’s a pain. I have to switch my make-up and colors up by season sometimes dramatically. And as one who had pre-cancerous cells removed a couple years ago, sorry, tanning isn’t worth it!! I think a pale complexion can be just as gorgeous as a tan one, and it really irks me too when people say “get a tan” to a woman with perfectly beautiful skin.

  • Damien

    I have very white skin also, my legs are extremely white. I used to get teased at school for having white legs so most of my life I have hidden my legs out in public. Today I am very self conscious about my white skin, but I love being this white and dont want to get a tan. My wife is Asian and when I met her she loved my white skin. She had told me most Asian people want to be white. I thought it was strange at first but then realize that human beings always think the grass is greener on the other side. White people want a tan and naturally dark people want to be white.

    I realize now how lucky I am to have such white skin. My wife always tell me she wish she could have my legs

    I wear shorts often now and I get comments still like I need to get a tan or I need to get an outside job , but I just say I prefer to be white its the way I am.

    Sometimes its hard to tell whats people actually think about a male with milky white legs. I am open to any comments from you guys on here . I should post a picture up of me in shorts so you can get some idea of actually how white am.

    But I am still going to keep wearing shorts.

  • Elise

    I used to be very pale.
    I never really cared, because I loved being jokingly called Snow White while everyone else was tan.
    But when I changed schools it was suddenly “You always look sick”, “It’s unhealthy” and “It makes you look fat”. The last one especially shocked me.
    At last I buckled under the pressure and started using a tanning bed.
    By now I’m a little darker than average (which is ok, because my hair and eyes are darker than average too). I kind of miss my pale skin, but I don’t miss the stupid comments people made.
    Thinking about it, it was kind of stupid to let myself be influenced like this but I have no idea how to get rid of my tan without people thinking I was ill again.
    Maybe you could write about how to pull of the “Snow White-Look”, it would be really helpful.

  • cat

    I live in Texas and it BLOWS. Every girl here is really tan and does wear nothing but shorts everyday. I also have a problem,everywhere i go people stare. I got use it by the age of 19. People feed me ” Oh its cause your pretty!”. Now I’m not ugly,but i’m not no america’s next top model. I’ve always been treated with a negative attitude by people, once i became pale. I stopped going outside and what not at 14 yrs old. I think pale skin is gorgeous, now i don’t believe i’m sickly pale but i have no idea what i’m doing wrong. Tans are so ugly, and i refuse to burn. I have super fare skin, the older i got the worse my skin got outside with burning and such. I would like answer to my question to,but i think people are just wanting something to talk about. Since tan skin is so normal now, pale skin isn’t anymore. It’s very unfair.

  • Savannah

    I deal with this and im in middle school. Im 12 years old in the 7th grade and everyone calls me ”ghosty” but, I like my skin color because most my of my school has tan color and I like being differnet. I get trolled almost everyday about this and descided to look it up. Ill be in town and everyone will be like ”get some sun” or ”ever been to a tanning booth?” But, I find the more people who are paler look better when they get older and also they are alot smarter -Remeber this is what I personally think- But, if you want to live a life in a tanning bed instead of going to college its fine with me. I feel supported not to go get a tan now, because I was actually thinking about it.
    Thanks for the support now!

  • Brenna

    Thank you!! That’s the best opinion I’ve ever heard about tanning in this superficial society. I’m fair and freckly..i did experiment with talon salons and quit years ago. I even bought the expensive lotins they sell that are supposed to have silicon and SPF 4 to help your skin even when under those heavy lights. Still, even though I may have had this “healthy glow,” my skin is still my skin and when it faded I’d have even MORE sun damage than before. I try airbrush spray tans now every time I have a birthday event or a night out. I still always feel self-conscious because America always pushes us to be more exotic. Why can’t I just be me and still be beautiful? When I visited the phillipines, they all thought I had the most gorgeous skin..they invest in bleaching salons, not tanning. It’s funny how nobody is ever satisfied.

  • Suki Gill

    I’m seventeen years old and I am naturally tan and I love to go outdoors but the only thing that keeps me away is my fear of getting even more darker than I already am! From a very young age, I have only ever heard criticisms about my ever changing skin tone from many people which resulted into the insecure me… I’ve also tired many methods and desperately sought for solutions to alter myself in order to have the best of both worlds. However, despite all the sacrifices I’ve made, I’ve come to know that no matter how society views you, you will be labeled regardless. Yes, I admit I may sound like a hypocrite because I am still insecure and I appear to be spouting pretty words, but I am doing my very best to change all that about me! Not for society, but for ME. After reading this article I’ve been reflecting upon my thoughts ever since and it has changed me! It has given me another perspective to look at from! I love my skin! I am not afraid to admit that I have insecurities like any other woman, and I will certainly NOT let society’s definition of “beauty” define ME! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Shabania

    I too have had skin adventures. Whilst in high school I always laid out by the pool in vain attempts to gain a tan. I’m not sure why. I have Irish skin with a touch of Native American so I am more pink than brown. My parents, not so much.
    My FATHER encouraged me to use tanning beds. They didn’t work and just made me feel itchy. That was a waste of money. And a waste of epidermal integrity.
    Later on in life I had a close friend of Central American decent. She was obsessed with gaining a summer tan and would tan NAKED in her back yard. I remember going to a beauty store with her and she was browsing sunless tanners. My thoughts, “Why does she want to be MORE tan? What’s the point?” At the time I thought I had a delicate summer glow just from wearing shorts, but that apparently wasn’t up to her standards. She told me to buy a sunless tanner, “Sprays are good!” To which I retorted, “Yes, of course, my skin isn’t good enough. It has to be a different color!” Then SHE got mad!

    Anyways, it’s about being sexy. With my friend, I’ve watched her for years trying to augment her appearance in order to attract men. It’s exhausting to watch and almost kinda sick. The ironic part is she claims to be “a devout feminist”. Ha!

  • madmonkey

    I spent my teens and early 20’sin the Pacific NW, where everybody is pale! I think the most beautiful complexions in the US are from that region. The air is full of moisture, soft water, limited sunshine. I had always rec’d compliments on my skin. . .and then I moved to SoCal! Well I’ve lived here for 20+ years now, and some things never change; namely the air stinks, and all the women here have nasty looking skin. I’m too fair to tan, and don’t even try. Besides, everyone here is too blond and too tanned; downright boring. I’ll stay happily porcelain pale, thank you!!!

  • Morgan

    I really needed this all through high school everyone called me albino and teased me for being pale, so I cried and went to the tanning bed. I do tan in the beds and honestly when I look at myself I feel beautiful when I am tan..I wish I didnt..I wish I could feel beautiful my natural color. I am not tanning anymore due to some mole biopsies that have scared me away from it. I am 23 and about to be a bride. The pressures to be beautiful and glowing in your wedding gown are getting to me.. I am very pale with red undertones so I have to use green makeup so I dont look like a tomato on a regular basis, let alone if I go out in the sun. I just want to look in the mirror or see a picture of myself and think wow I look good, however next to all of my tan friends I just feel like I look sickly. Its hard, and I am really trying to embrace my skin and feel beautiful. I suppose it will just take time, reading things like this and seeing the posts by other pale women really helps though:) thank you!

  • Paige

    I hear you on this. It was a source of pain my entire school life. In primary school, I was the ONLY kid out of around 400 with freckles. Add to that my name is Paige and we open the doors for 6 years of name calling from the other kids. Then in high school, my name wasn’t so much the issue as was my pale freckled skin. The first day of wearing my summer uniform (skirt) after a few months of pants, my legs glowed white. Seriously, they GLOWED. The insults were so hurtful that I boiled myself all summer every year after that by wearing pants in 30 degree heat. After I left school I became a bit more comfortable in my skin, mainly because I didn’t “have” to surround myself with “friends” who loved tanning at the beach and turned bronze at the mere mention of the word sun. Then that all got undone when I decided to go to the beach one day because I’d worked night shift for 6 months and hadn’t felt any warmth on my skin. I wore my emerald green bikini (which, may I see, looks ROCKING on my pale body with jet black hair) and laid on the sand smothered in SPF30+. I was alone and felt fine until some Pommy a$$holes next to me yelled “whoa, look at her, she blends in to the sand!”. I’ve never gone to the beach or swimming pool since then, and that was 6 years ago. I feel much better about my skin now as I just accept that I’m pale and freckled. The only time I’ll hit the beach again is when my son is old enough to go.

  • Hummingbird

    I have naturally SICKLY colored skin. I get called vampire, ghost, marshmallow, and more because of my ugly corpse skin tone. I tried laying outside forTHREE HOURS but i only got a little darker, not even noticeable. So, to change my nasty skin tone, I use self tanning wipes. I look naturally tan, not orange. And to make my natural nasty skin even worse is that I have dark hair. I got my mom’s terrible skin tone, my dad is nice and dark. (WHY, mother? I don’t want that nasty pale skin tone!)

  • Mawichan

    Hello! just adding my grain of sand to the discussion.
    This is indeed a very curious subject because, as most people pointed out in their comments, the varied points of view about beauty around the world.

    I was born and raised in a very northern city in Mรฉxico (near the the border with USA) so skin tones are quite diverse, still something that always bugged me off is that obsession many seem to have with pale skin.

    “Blancura es parte de la hermosura” or (“Paleness is part of beauty”)
    is something my mother and aunt used to tell us.

    I have seen lots of ugly and gorgeous dark skinned people as well as fair skinned people, but I hate it when my family talks about someone’s appearace and says things like “Oh she’s so pretty, too bad she’s so tan.” or “Ugh, she has a somewhat ugly face, it’s good that sheยดs white/blond/has light coloured eyes” and even things like “My friend (light skinned) married a cuban man, I hope her baby is not black” and later “Hey guess what? My friend’s baby has born and look! he’s white, isn’t that cool?”.

    My mother’s family is generally quite light skinned and some of them even have light eye and hair colour, my father’s family is so-so, as some of them are tan and others are fair skinned but tan easily. My sisters and I were born with fair skin that tans with no effort.
    Since we loved playing outside my sisters and I got a (in my opinion) nice olive tone, that is as dark we can get. And I believed it was as pretty as any other colour. But over the years somehow I started to see myself as ugly because of it. I don’t know why, my youngest sister doesn’t mind tanning (and perhaps likes it) and she’s gorgeous, but my oldest sister sometimes makes fun of her for it.
    But still, people with dark skin are often made fun of, they are called “Indigenous” (“Indio/India” which is a very offensive word for us.)

    There’s one kid who was in the same class as me during elementary school, he was quite dark, and constantly made fun of because of it, you could even call it bullying. I find very sad the fact that ever since childhood people is being thaught that being dark is bad.

    It hurts to hear my family saying I am pretty when they always talk about how awsome it is that they are all white and stuff and how pale skin is so beautiful and bla bla since I am not like them (that’s how I think it is).

    It is very fun to me to read all those comments in the internet saying things like “I embrace my paleness!”, “I am pale and beautiful as I am” or “I am super pale should I get a tan?” Because I have some time hiding from sunlight already.

    I have several months without exposing arms or legs and recently hands to the light of day. I always wear long sleeved shirts, pants and tennis or other non exposing shoes and gloves. I turn my face away from sunlight and as a consecuence, my skin did indeed got paler, but it’s awful, I mean, it feels like it is never enough no matter what, and my body retorts looking for shadows at the smallest chance of sunlight thouching my skin. My sister makes fun of me and my mom and aunties often tell me that I should get some colour in my face. It’s infuriating since it is because of them that I can’t get out of my head that obsession myself. But Thank God I am learning to get over it. Soon Iยดll be able to wear shorts again.

    All in all, it all may sum up in the fact that people wants what they don’t have.

    If you have a similar problem to mine I would love to hear about it too.

  • Alichia

    I have had pale freckled skin my entire life and hated it. I don’t know how the human race can come so far in regards to discrimination and still think its ok to comment on someones skin color. Growing up in Australia i was constantly told i was “too white”. Can you imagine if i walked around telling people they where too black?? I’m not sure but i think that would be racist not to mention stupid. What is the difference? ALL skin colors are beautiful. I would love to have a rant at anyone who thinks they can choose what skin tone another person should have. Its 2013 people! shouldn’t we be past this??

  • I love this! Most people donโ€™t even know what skin tone they areโ€ฆ they just assume they are warm in theyโ€™re tan and cool if theyโ€™re pale, but thatโ€™s not true. I actually wrote a blog article that has some great tricks and tips. Check it out and let me know what you think! http://www.weartostandout.com/blog/dress-for-your-skin-tone
    xoxo, WearToStandOut