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  • Randi

Just a Trend

Summer is just around the corner, and I already see the army in the distance. There’s a constant inward battle that I fight on the topic of skin tanning. The insecure side of me wants to have a membership at a tanning salon like I have for so many years in the past, getting that flawless beach babe skin. But the practical side of me thinks, “Really? You want to greatly increase your chance of getting skin cancer just so you can look like all the other pretty girls?”

(The photo above is of the lovely, fair skinned Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette.)

The reality is that in a few years nobody, including myself, will remember how dark or how white my skin is. But the other reality is, fat looks better tan. (There, I said it!) A large majority of women (and perhaps men), feel more comfortable in their own skin if it isn’t ghost white, and this is especially true for those who would like to lose a few pounds. But since when did fair skin become “out of style”?

For many centuries past, and in almost every continent on the planet, light skin has represented power and intelligence, as well as attractiveness. It has been found that, on average, women of a given ancestry have a lighter skin tone than men of the same ancestry and that there is a sexual preference for paleness in women and darkness in men in many cultures throughout the world.

(Now you should know that I am not discussing racism in the least, I am merely referring to my own life experiences as a freckled white girl living in a superficial America.)

However, according to Karl Kruszelnicki in his piece News in Science: Skin Colour, in modern Western societies darker skin is becoming more desirable in both men and women. Pale skin has become associated with indoor office workers, while tanned skin shows the increased leisure time, sportiness and good health that comes with wealth and higher social status. A preference for women with tanned skin has emerged with studies find that the degree of tanning is directly related to how attractive a young woman is perceived to be.

(Leary, Mark R.; Jones, Jody L. (1993). “The Social Psychology of Tanning and Sunscreen Use: Self-Presentational Motives as a Predictor of Health Risk1”. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 23: 1390–406)

According to some recent studies, it has been observed that at the beginning of the 20th Century, in the United States, lighter-skinned people avoided the sun, and tanned skin was considered lower class. But today the story is rather different. Tanned skin has now been reported in the United States to be viewed both as more attractive and more healthy than pale skin. Though sun-tanned skin used to be associated with the sun-exposed manual labor of the lower-class, the associations became dramatically reversed in the mid-20th century.

We know that trends change. But it’s just that, a trend. So as long as I continue listening to the sensible side of my brain, I’ll choose healthy skin that will look a little fair now (and a little less “trendy” here in America), but a lot less wrinkled later.


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