It seems like almost anywhere you go in the world, you’ll find women who aren’t happy with their natural skin colour; lightening creams are big sellers in Asia, black women experience colourism and white women wish they were tan. I’ve always had pale skin and, while I love it now, it took me some time to learn to appreciate it.
New Zealand, where I grew up, is no different from many Western countries in having tanned skin as the ideal. This is further entrenched by the emphasis our culture places on sport and living an outdoorsy lifestyle.
Trying to be something you’re not – a youthful mistake
When I was younger, I knew my natural skin tone didn’t fit the ideal. While I knew of some famous women who embraced their pale skin I felt that with my blotchy skin I couldn’t achieve their porcelain look. I was also only able to buy drugstore foundations, which usually didn’t have a shade light enough for me. So, I ‘needed’ to tan to prevent the dreaded mask foundation look.
Not wanting to tan naturally, I started using fake tanning products. Back then we didn’t have access to the more natural looking, green-toned tanning products you can now either. I was always left with that tell tale hint or orange. This wasn’t helped my being too uncoordinated and lazy to get a good or consistent application.
Making the best of what you have – the best option
After several failed attempts at tanning over the years I realised there was nothing else for it: I had to try and make the best of my pale skin. I sought out images of ivory skinned women for inspiration and gradually came around to the idea. I’d never be able to have a good looking tan without spending a ton of money. Pale skin would look a lot better on me than a fake tan, provided I took care of my skin.
I came to like the look more and more and to identify with it. I was even lucky enough to meet a man who adores pale women.
While a vintage look is perfect for those of any ethnicity it’s easy to see that pale skin is celebrated among white women who adopt this style. Naturally, getting into the pinup/vintage community has been very helpful to me in providing role models and inspiration.
Now, when I try to take a selfie and notice that I appear paler than my only slightly off-white walls, I’m pleased.
Not everyone gets it
It’s always bemusing when people just don’t get that I like to look this way. When I say that I don’t tan it’s typical to have people express sympathy as if I’m saying I can’t and that this bothers me. Proving how desirable a tan is in mainstream culture every time I go on holiday to a warmer area someone at work will express jealousy of the tan I’ll apparently be able to get. When I return someone else will wonder why I haven’t tanned. I tend to just smile and explain that I try and do my utmost to not get burned at all, and prefer to look pale. They often look a bit confused but are almost always accepting. Besides, when you’re happy with yourself it doesn’t matter if anyone else isn’t.
How do you feel about your skin tone, have you ever wished it were lighter or darker? What is popular where you are?