Bronzing blues: why tanning is causing us troubles

Summer. Bikinis. Tan. Oh no. We all know that on the beach, you’re never fully dressed (or undressed) without a tan. They give you that healthy, sun-kissed shimmer that is impossible to imitate – but that doesn’t stop us from trying our hardest to. We can’t deny that a tan is beautiful, but it sometimes feels like our generation has a very unhealthy obsession with them. We lather on litres of fake tan, bake ourselves under a sunbed, and lie for hours on end in the sun, which if we’re honest is the epitome of uncomfortable, hot, and bothered.

Some people are blessed with instantly bronzing skin, but if you’re anything like me, after hours of lying on a sun lounger I look more lobster than luscious and retreat to the shade where my pale skin is accepted rather than scorned. Even if we decide not to give in to the tanning craze, the pain of being asked whether you have a really thick layer of sun block on or if that’s just how pale you really are never quite goes away.

It seems that we have three options: go tanned, go fake or go pale – which one will it be?

1. The Natural Tan


A natural tan is what we all want – no streaks, no orange tinge, and it shows off just how fantastically sunny your summer holiday was. A natural tan seems like the best option, no contest.

But, what if you just don’t tan? You have been lying on a sunbed on the beach in Greece for three hours. You have sweated off an entire bottle of sun block. At the end of it all, what do you have to show? In my case, usually nothing.

What’s more, we musn’t forget the sun’s tanning rays are not our friend – lying in the sun with no protection on could have horrifying consequences. When we apply factor 30, we often apply as little as half the recommended amount, meaning our protection is much lower. Studies also show that even an expensive brand of sunblock, which claims to be factor 30, could be as low as factor 10 – don’t judge a sunblock by its label. In England, we forget that every day the sun’s rays are potentially damaging our skin, leading to premature aging – and worse. Although a natural tan is beautiful at first, it could have ugly consequences.

2. The Fake Bake

orange fake tan

Option number 2: beauty in a bottle. It’s safe, it’s easy, it’s bronze. Of course there is a huge variety of fake tans on offer – anything from instant tanning wipes (hmm…) to expensive salon sprays. They’re wonderful! No lying in the sweltering sun for hours, no burns, you don’t even have to leave the country…

But you might end up looking like a zebra.

And you will probably smell of fake tan for the whole summer.

And you will probably err on the orange side of normal.

On second thoughts…

3. The English Rose

nicola roberts pale skin

Nicola Roberts and Nicole Kidman are the pale girl’s idols. Both of these porcelain princesses deliberately stay out of the sun to stop their skin from aging as much as to make a bold fashion statement. Nicola Roberts’ most acclaimed feature is her striking complexion. Perhaps pale isn’t pasty, and we can prise ourselves away from the tanning culture that makes reaching for a bikini even more terrifying than it need be…

Before Coco Chanel accidentally got burnt when on a holiday in the French Riviera, tanning was not a staple summer fashion accessory. Now, it seems that our entire generation is obsessed with getting the perfect glow, at any cost. While a tan might enhance our bikini body and give us a healthy glow, we have to make sure that we are protecting ourselves – most women’s foundation contains factor 15 sun protection, but men have to try that bit harder to protect themselves from the sun.

Embracing your natural pale-ness seems like the healthiest and easiest option. I have resolved to shun the tan this year and I proud to do so. Saying that, an emergency bottle of Rimmel Instant tan in the cupboard never hurt anyone….

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