White is beautiful. Or how to embrace your pale skin!

by Sylvia

White is beautiful

Previously I wrote about how I have been disappointed about how many 40 Plus women are dressing in summer. Basically I feel that could be much improved and far less frumpy.

I have also been amazed about many women’s tanning habits. Perhaps it’s due to my 7 years in Australia (where you get bombarded with ads to slip, slop, slap in Summer; shirt, sunscreen and hat respectively) but I feel strongly that it is a total disservice to you skin to suntan.

I don’t have access to research at the moment, but it is widely known that sun damage is one of the major causes of skin aging. I understand that many women from cooler countries like to indulge in the sun during the summer, but why the need to tan? Why do we still feel that you look more beautiful, more healthy when you have a tan?

Why I’m happy to be pale

I’m very happy to be pale. Of course I will get the occasional remark that I look white, pale or whatever, but I’m much rather pale than have this super fake tan, that I personally don’t like on many women. I have also seen many 40 and 50 plus women, whose skin has this so-called beautiful tan, yet their skin looks more like rubber.

For that reason I never tan. Whenever I walk outside, I make sure that my skin is covered in 50+ Spf sunscreen. Of course I walked in the sun so much during these holidays, that it was a challenge to keep up the protection and I feel that my skin has had more sun exposure than desired, but I will always look for the shade whenever I sit down somewhere.

The difference between the East and the West

In Asia, where I live, people actually want the complete opposite from women in the west. Rather than wanting to be tanned, they all want to be pale. Seeing many women with umbrellas on the street to provide shelter from the sun is not uncommon. Here, pale is beautiful. There is a lot of advertising for skin whitening creams here and in fact many moisturizers contain whitening properties.

Wouldn’t it be better if we all just accepted the colour of our skin and instead tried to protect it the best way we can, so it stays healthy for as long as possible? People always seem to want what they don’t have. Perhaps we should all desire to have or do what is healthiest for us!

Not only does the sun (and especially intentional suntanning) age the skin far more rapidly, it also drastically increases your chances of skin cancer.

White is beautiful!

So yes ladies. Perhaps this is a bit of a rant, but I really want to get the message out that WHITE IS BEAUTIFUL. I have been quite alarmed with the H&M ads featuring an absurdly tanned model as well as the focus on tanned skin as being healthy-looking on American television. Tanned skin should NOT be associated with looking healthy. Look at Nicole Kidman, Kate Blanchett and Anne Hatheway. Incredibly beautiful women that do not need tans to be so. Not surprising that some of these women are Australian. They got the message loud and clear when they grew up.

So what will you do?

What would you rather have? Beautiful pale skin or wrinkled and old looking brown skin. What do you think looks healthier or better?

If I still have not convinced you that white is beautiful, then try the spray tans. At least you still have the colour you desire without all the side effects.

But if it’s up to me, I would rather see your pale beautiful, natural and healthy skin!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cynthia

We’re totally depriving ourselves of the natural pathways to make vitamin D with all the sunscreening — D is protective against cancer and most people are massively deficient now that we’re all working indoor jobs under fluorescent lights. I don’t deliberately tan to get tan, but I like to walk outside for a few minutes each day without sunscreen, and as much skin exposed as possible.


2 Sylvia

Hi Cynthia, I know that vitamin D deficiency is a problem in some areas, but I think that if you get normal amounts of sun exposure each day you will get enough. But it’s certainly something to be aware of when you’re working indoors all day. What I’m most referring to in this article is the obsessive suntanning and obsession with tanned skin and that it is deemed as looking ‘healthy’. I can totally understand you want to walk outside each day to take full advantage of the sun. But you mention that you do it for minutes (and not hours) and that makes all the difference.


3 Luc

Hi all,

I live in Australia, the land of skin cancer! But there is some truth in the idea we have taken the sunscreen message to far, at least in the southern states where most adults don’t sunbake. Heaps of people I know, myself included, are now being diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency. I’d never been fanatical about sunscreen – certainly always on my face, but rarely on my arms, unless I knew I would really be in the fierce sun. But even so, I’m now on hard core supplements!
I’ve taken to lots of sun protection for my son on the weekends, when we might be boating or beaching, but leaving off the sunscreen during the week. They have a hat policy for play at school, and I think he does need a bit of sun.

Its hard to know what is best. I do know however that I have good skin for an Aussie woman, so maybe it was worth it!


4 Amy

Vitamin D deficiency is not just in some areas, it’s a problem in most of the western world and is responsible for many diseases, not just cancer. However, people should know that if you wash your skin with soap or body wash within 48 hours of getting sun, you negate the vitamin D benefits! Further, if you get enough sun to the point of “feeling the pink” or seeing it, then you’ve damaged your skin. And then of course, there’s the ozone damage, which people today don’t know about, because we’ve stopped talking about it. We used to be more protected by our atmosphere than we are today.

And while people were meant to live mostly outside, they were also meant to live mostly in the shade, with short stints of direct sun. All day outdoor time, day after day, mostly in complete shade but in a sunny climate, is the secret to healthy human levels of vitamin D. Alas, few of us can achieve this today, so I take a supplement and monitor my levels to keep them in the high end of normal.

The composition of the light we get when outdoors, but in the shade, is very different from the light we get through windows inside a house, as glass filters some light, which is ultimately a negative in terms of human health.

In short, direct sun exposure is something that should only happen when moving from one shady spot to another while living outdoors in a sunny climate. Extended direct sun exposure was an invitation to death for our ancestors and they weren’t stupid enough to answer the invitation in the affirmative!

I live in the Pacific Northwest and I relish the few sunny days we get. But I don’t use most sunscreens, especially the high SPF ones, because the chemicals in them are suspect. I use 30 spf mineral sunscreen on my neck every day, several applications through the day, and I wear a floppy hat when I’m out in the sun. But mostly, I try to enjoy the sun from the shade.

When I feel the need for a tan, I use a healthy, good quality fake. I try not to judge people who want to be tanned, because I understand the social pressures of today. I just encourage them to be safe about it.


5 Aileen

Amy, many thanks for that information. It is very informative and helpful. They seem to think now there is a link with vitamin D deficiency and Multiple sclerosis in Scotland because historically there are so many people here with the disease.


6 Amy

Yes, I’ve been keeping up with the MS research, very interesting! Thanks for posting about it.


7 Sylvia

Thanks for all the helpful information Amy. I think it’s important to know that I’m not against indulging in the sun and spending a lot of time outside. I only think that the focus on tanned skin as being beautiful and healthy should stop, as like you, I think that direct sun exposure, especially tanning is never good for your skin.


8 Amy

I don’t think anyone got the impression you were against being outside or enjoying the sun. All your photos are outside! It’s only that lately I notice people are using the vitamin D issue to defend “tanning” in general and I guess I worry about that, and it happens to be something I know a fair bit about.
I think it’s unfortunate that in societies, humans tend to decide that one way of anything is the right/best/only way. Whether it’s light or dark skin, blond or black hair, thin or chubby, short or tall….. what is it in us that has this desire to organize these things into hierarchies? And it usually ends up hurting women.
I wish we could all feel that the natural colour of our skin is beautiful, whatever it is.

Of course, our livers are taxed in modern society and this has altered what normal white skin looks like… but, that discussion is for another day!


9 Greetje

Ah…. This is a much discussed subject in our home. I started suncouch tanning when I was 22 (now 58). Could not cope with all the remarks on my white legs.
We did not know anything at the time about skin cancer. And aging skin was a subject so far in the future it did not bother me. Now I know better but I cannot change a lifetime habbit anymore. I just do not like myself white.
You are right though, it is bad for my skin. Having bad genes does not help either, but that is beside the point.
Not being in the sun at all is not good for your health either. I agree with Cynthia on this. As with everything …… as soon as the word “too” is applicable, there is something wrong. Even with “too kind”.


10 Sylvia

You are right Greetje. I guess I just saw Too much of suntanning on my holiday. It would be nice to reach just a few women with this message and hopefully convince more women that white is beautiful.


11 Heather Fonseca

Living in LA I’ve learned to avoid the sun as much as possible. I’ve seen the damage it can do! My left arm is much more freckled than my right arm because the left is on the drivers side window! And I don’t worry about the vitamin d, when you live in a sunny climate it’s not a worry. So yes it’s sunblock every day for me too! I love pale skin and wish I was even paler.


12 Sylvia

Great Heather. Glad you agree with me that pale is beautiful!


13 Aileen

I agree totally with you Sylvia. I am probably very deficient in vitamin D living on the west coast of Scotland, but I now take a daily vitamin D suppliment.
My legs look whiter than white, almost a blue white which is common in Scottish women. I’ve given up on spray tanning after years of desperately trying to hide my white legs in summer dresses and skirts and ending up with horrible streaks.
Now I’ll only wear a dress or skirt with tights. They aren’t comfortable and can be very hot, even in Scotland where the sun occasionally does shine!


14 Sylvia

Yes, it can be important to take advantage of any sun you get in Scotland for the vitamin D. But as you know Scottish skin can rarely cope with direct sun. I would say, embrace your white legs and show them off in Summer!


15 Greetje

Aileen, have you tried Hold ups (or Stay-ups) instead of tights? Less uncomfortable although still a bit hot. Oroblu is a brand that sells a type in summer called Suntime Up, colour Sun for fair skinned ladies. They are 15 denier but feel thinner. It gives you a look of bare legs. They sell them as tights as well by the way.


16 Aileen

That’s a brilliant idea Greetje, I’ll give them a try.


17 Amy

Aileen, self tanners are much improved in the last two years! But I’m with Sylvia, if you’ve got gorgeous healthy blue-white legs, flaunt them!


18 Marianne

I have Multiple Scleroses and I know I have a big deficiency of vitamine D, to be exact D3. I take however a high dose [ 800 i.e.] per day in the form of drops. You don’t find M.S. in countries with a lot of sunshine, the closer you get to the north pole the number of patients with M.S. increase.


19 Sylvia

Gosh, Marianne. I never realised you have MS. I very much feel for you. My sister in law has the disease as well, so I know it’s not easy…. Wishing you lots of strength.


20 Tangobabe

Lots of info in this post plus all its comments; thanks everyone.

As for ‘taste’: I (generally) dislike paleness (am -unfortunately- very pale myself) and (again generally) like MEDIUM-tanned skin. I would love to have another preference or taste, because I know that would be wiser and handier, but the truth is that I don’t.

I find myself looking healthier and prettier with a tan. Nevertheless I rarely suntan, especially since I already had skin cancer. Spraytanning might be best, but it seems hard to apply that evenly. Also I still find self tans often leave an unpleasant smell.
Can anybody recommend a good one that is easy to apply and does not smell?


21 Sylvia

I have never tried self tans, so have no idea, but yes, it would be great to get some tips!


22 Practical Paralegalism

Sylvia, I don’t need convincing. I wish someone had told me in my teens and 20s how bad tanning is for your skin! It’s been years since I even tried to get a little summer color on my legs. I figure they should be ghostly white like the rest of me 😛


23 Sylvia

Yes, let’s hope that some of the younger people will see this message too…


24 Dany

As a black woman who loves her dark skin, I also believe pale skin is beautiful and does not “need” the fake tanning. I’ve also seen some white women who do a sunless tan (using tanning gels) and the results are also pretty. A happy medium must be reached, I think. I have some coworkers who are pale and complain about it complimenting my skin tone and I always tell them that their skin tone is beautiful and to protect it.

But just something that you said about asian countries and their ideal of pale skin. The use of a whitening cream is something that does not sit well with me either. Countries like India have a HUGE problem with that. We all know why the ideal is that pale skin and this is not the place to go on about it. But maybe it should be said that a whitening cream, and I’m not talking about a cream for dark spots or to unify a complexion, is every bit as fake as that fake tan.

Any skin colour can be beautiful.


25 Sylvia

Thanks for your feedback Dany. I totally agree with you with regards to the Asian obsession with pale skin. That’s why I say in the article that we should all just be happy with the colour skin that we have! I guess I did not make that very clear, but I think it’s just as bad to aspire to really pale skin as it is to really tanned skin. Let’s all just focus on doing what is best for your skin and protect it the best we can.


26 Petra

Here, here!!! Also, loved what you said about “…Wouldn’t it be better if we all just accepted the colour of our skin and instead tried to protect it the best way we can…” – well said!


27 Sylvia

Thanks Petra. That is indeed the main message I wanted to get across….


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