embrace the pale
Following my sunscreen and sun protective clothing posts, I've had questions from many readers on my preferred self tanner. I struggle with this question, because I'm happy y'all understand that UV radiation= bad (cancer, aging, bad), but at the same time, I hate that tan equals beautiful in our culture.
Of course it wasn't always this way, remember Snow White and all the princesses and high society ladies who shielded themselves from the sun in the nineteenth to early 20th century? Back then, tan was equated with being of a lower socioeconomic status. And when I say "remember," I am alluding to movies and old books we've read, of course! It wasn't until Coco Chanel arrived back from the French Riviera in the 1920s with an accidental sunburn that turned into a bronzed tone that tan became a status symbol. Tan become fashionable and even a cure-all for ailments from fatigue to a cold. The "healthy tan" was born. If you can believe it, there were "tan through" swimsuits that were thin enough to offer only SPF 5. The next step to create a seamless tone without tan lines was of course a tanning bed. Unfortunately, my generation has surely seen tanning salons explode.
Since that time, we've learned the many (many, many) ways that heavy sun exposure and a tan is not so healthy. This has led to a black box warning on tanning beds and the majority of states passing legislation to regulate tanning salons. Its still up for debate how well these laws have actually been enforced. A recent JAMA Derm article (GP Guy Jr and coauthors in May 2017) looked at indoor tanning trends since these legislations began. While tanning bed use has dropped from 20% of non-hispanic Caucasians, theres still about 10% of this group still frequenting tanning salons.
Hand in hand with a "healthy tan," I'm sure you've heard about the safety of getting a "base tan." Well, that same article showed that people using the indoor tanning salons were more likely to have sunburns. Yup, not so healthy.
This was long winded, but no tan is healthy. For me, promoting "self tanning" products is supporting a culture that has created a beauty ideal that is inherently unhealthy. So my recommendation? Don't tan, don't use self tanners, wear sunscreen, and embrace whatever your natural skin tone is! You are beautiful just as you are. And I promise that your beauty will be longer lasting without tanning. Embrace the pale.
(Side note- please remember its a BALANCE. You need a little sun to get the Vitamin D you need for healthy bones, but taking a Vitamin D supplement is also a fabulous solution. More on this later!)