Speak On It

A Darker Shade Of Pale

With Summer fast approaching (one of the most over used sentences in fashion and beauty at this time of year) the thought of getting our legs, arms, chests, and midriffs (damn this crop top trend) sends us into panic, stampeding to the nearest Boots for new razors, firming lotions, shimmer sticks and the popular beauty essential – fake tan.

(here come the girls…)

I have to admit, I do like having a tan. When I can be bothered, I’ve been known to “tan-up” about twice a week and we’re talking full body exfoliation, moisturising elbows and ankles and then tanning mouse all over. I even have a certain pair of pyjamas which I don’t mind getting stained and wash my sheets on a weekly basis. Typing this now is making me wonder why on earth I do it?! But to me, the results are worth it. I’m 100% positive sure that I might, possibly look ever so slightly firmer, healthier and…. well, better with a tan than without. I’m still very careful in the sun, always topping up the factor 50 spf on my face and regularly reapplying at least 25 spf on my body and that’s because, as much as I love the look of a tan, I’d never risk my life for it.

Golden glow or “hell no”?

Surely it’s all about how you feel and what you want to do? Working for a brand who encourages self-expression and being who you want to be, who am I to judge? If I’ve got an event coming up, I’ll tan the night before or if I’m feeling a bit grey and dull, I’ll have a nice long bath, wash my hair and put some tan on, it’s part of my routine pamper package. I love everything about beauty so why would I deny myself of an entire product range?

Every so often one of us in the office will walk in looking more tanned than we did the day before and we all say “ooooh, you look nice”! We had a funny conversation in the office about self – tanning the other day when 2 of my close colleagues (no names mentioned) thought “it’s waste of tan to put it all over your body if some areas aren’t going to be seen!” To me it’s about how I feel when I look in the mirror and it has to be said I feel a lot better when I’ve got an all over, beachy glow with no patches or marks.

(FYI, this is not me)

So what is it about a tan that makes us feel good? Don’t get me wrong, if I had beautiful, clear, porcelain skin I might not touch the bronzed stuff, but alas I was not blessed this way. I love the Dita Von Teese burlesque look and Brody Dalle is one of my idols, but not everyone can pull of the pale skin, dark grungy eye and jet black hair look, or feel comfortable sporting it.

Tanorexia?

When does it become an addiction? I don’t feel more “ugly” if I don’t have tan on or anything. But what happens when people do feel repulsive when their natural skin colour is visible? When someone feels “pale” if they’ve not been on a sun bed for a couple of days, or when someone goes on a sunbed for 12 minutes at a time, 7 days a week? I had a friend who would happily go on a sun bed before work, then again after work for a second time that day, when he knew the staff would have swapped shifts,  knowing full well this was not allowed in the eyes of the tanning laws.

Sunbeds are a thriving industry, but there are huge dangers to using them. Your body is suddenly exposed to a high dose of UVA and UVB rays in an intensely short amount of time and I’m sure a very small percentage of users apply any sort of protection beforehand. They’re frowned upon by major skin cancer charities and health associations worldwide so why are they still used? They can help with skin conditions such as acne and eczema and medics have been known to prescribe a short sun bed visit to patients with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) to banish winter blues.

There were stories a few years ago about poor Nicola Roberts who broke under the pressures of the media and as the pale red head of Girls Aloud, felt she needed to compete with her darker band mates. “I used to do fake tanning because I was told that I didn’t look great. The newspapers would always refer to the other girls like ‘stunning Sarah [Harding]’ and I never had that prefix. I wanted that, at 16.”

Luckily Nicola didn’t go down the sun bed route as when she did try a few she burnt straight away so got no results and gave up. I think most people would agree that she looks a LOT better now in her natural, pale skin with her striking red locks.

But that doesn’t stop people, especially young impressionable people, going wild on the sun beds and with ads like H and M’s new Spring / Summer campaign, are the media partly to blame?

Are the media to blame?

Huge brands like H&M who have massive bill boards and posters on every motorway and at every bus stop have a responsibility to portray a positive message to men, women and children worldwide. The below image caused a stir amongst consumers, cancer charities and the press which forced H&M to apologise.

(H&M latest ad campaign.)

H&M’s public apology – “We are sorry if we have upset anyone with our latest swimwear campaign. It was not our intention to show off a specific ideal or to encourage dangerous behavior, but was instead to show off our latest summer collection,” the Swedish clothing company said in an email. “We have taken note of the views and will continue to discuss this internally ahead of future campaigns.”

With TV programmes such as The Only Way Is Essex, Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of Orange County, a fake tan has become more of a statement than pretending it’s a genuine beach glow. In fact the boys on Jersey Shore have a “GTL” motto before any night out – Gym, Tan, Laundry. Dark knuckles and white feet have become more acceptable (phew) and people are no longer afraid to say “yeah it’s fake” when asked if they’ve been away anywhere nice.

I think as long as you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else in the process it shouldn’t matter if someone prefers to be Jersey-Shore-orange” or “Twilight-alabaster-pale”. Sun beds are dangerous – FACT. This is all just my humble opinion, I am in no way endorsing sun beds or telling people to go on sun beds.

But with everything in life, used responsibly and in moderation – are they okay?

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Govinder Rayt

Govinder Rayt

Writer and expert