For as long as I can remember, my skin has always been a topic of conversation. Some have been positive and some have been … not so positive. In one of my earliest memories of grade school, I can remember a classmate asking me, “Why is your skin so white?” Up until that point, I hadn’t even questioned that myself. Why WAS my skin so pale? I just shrugged my shoulders, and we carried on with our playtime.
A couple years later I can recall being at a swimming party for one of my good friends. Everyone was in their bathing suit getting ready to hop into the pool when one girl looked at me and shouted, “You look like a ghost! A real ghost!” Another one of my friends joined in on the conversation asking me, “Yeah, why don’t you tan? Don’t you EVER get a tan?” I can’t remember what my answer was, but I do remember that being the first time I was ever embarrassed of my complexion. All of my friends excitedly jumped into the water while I reapplied sunscreen on my face as my mom had instructed me.
Thus begins the chapter in my life where I resented my pale skin. There was something wrong with me, right? SURELY I should be able to get a tan. Most of my friends turned 2 shades darker in the summertime and would compare tan lines. All the girls in my Seventeen magazines were beautifully bronzed. I concluded that I was pale because my mom made me wear too much sunscreen.
A big group of my friends from school and I were taking a trip to a water and amusement park. The day before, I decided I was going to look SO tan in my new Limited Too bathing suit. I remember dragging a lawn chair to the center of my backyard in the middle of the afternoon, laying there for what felt like hours, and not applying a drop of sunscreen. (It was probably only 45 minutes.) I hurried back inside to look at myself in the mirror. I was SO excited! But to my surprise, there was no change to my skin – only a little flush from the heat. I slumped down on my couch feeling discouraged. A couple hours later, I had a headache and face started to feel tight. My arms and legs were red and blotchy. I asked my mom what was wrong. WHY wasn’t I tan??? She explained to me (while rubbing aloe vera all over my burning skin) that everyone’s body reacts differently to the sun. I went to the amusement park looking like Rudolph.
You would think that experience alone would be enough for me to understand that the sun was not my friend, but that wasn’t the case. All throughout middle and high school, I tried to be invincible and embrace the sun. This resulted in headaches, sun rashes, sun burns, and not ONE tan line. My skin simply didn’t tan. I was still occasionally made fun of. I was asked and encouraged so many times to get a spray tan. I had multiple boyfriends who tanned SO easily and just didn’t understand my need for sunscreen. I felt out of place.
Then, gradually, my perspective began to change. I had been very interested in makeup since I was 13 and was always researching, learning, and practicing. I began to realize that skincare really determines how your makeup looks. I became SO infatuated with skincare and began taking even better care of my complexion. I read so many articles and watched hundreds of YouTube tutorials. One consistent theme was sun care. All these girls were applying SPF, regardless if they were tan or as pale as me. The more I researched, the more I started to understand how important sun protection is – especially if you are super sun-sensitive like me! I also found out that there are SO many other girls out there that have porcelain complexions and embrace it. I began to research celebrities and all sorts of famous women throughout history. I read so many stories about beautiful women who’s secret to keeping their skin young and glowing was staying out of the sun. With knowing all of this, it felt as if a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I really should have known this all along though just by watching my mom. She applies SPF every single day of her life and frequently wears a sunhat. Needless to say, her skin is beautiful. (Sorry, mom 🙂 )
My thoughts were even more confirmed when I met the love of my life. Nicolas’s perfect Scandinavian complexion is almost as porcelain as mine. He loves my skin so much, and is always the first to recommend that we put sunscreen on. He makes sure that I have an umbrella when we’re on the beach and that I am frequently in the shade throughout our everyday life and travels. I am so blessed. <3
There are of course pros and cons to tanning, regardless of your skin tone. Laying out in the sun gives you lots of Vitamin D, can boost your mood, and for some, can give a really bronzed appearance to the skin. However, getting excessive sun exposure can really take a toll on your body. Tanning can increase your risk of skin cancer as well as contribute to premature aging (sunscreen = less wrinkles!) It is also important to point out that a suntan is JUST as dangerous and damaging as a sunburn. The only difference is the color of the skin. I wear SPF every single day. The sun’s powerful rays are still prominent even on the most overcast days. Tanning is a personal choice of preference. Because of my porcelain and sensitive skin, that choice was easy for me to make. I also DO like the sun. I love sunny days. I love summertime. I like to get around thirty minutes of sunshine a day. A little Vitamin D is good for everybody! But one thing you can be sure of is that I will have my sunscreen on. 😉
I want to say that I think ALL skin tones are beautiful. I even frequently use bronzer on myself to give my skin a healthy sun-free glow. As a makeup artist, I am fortunate enough to get to work with women of all ages and skin tones. I work with makeup brands that offer foundations for the most porcelain all the way up to the deepest complexions. Stay tuned for another post on all my favorite bronzers as well as all of my sun essentials!
I know this post was very different from anything I have written before. I wrote this in hopes of raising awareness on the damaging effects of the sun as well as to reach out to women who are in the same position as me. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. If you have serious questions about sun protection or skin-related issues, please consult your doctor or dermatologist.