When I was young I was not a bathing beauty. Just writing that makes me laugh. When I was little I rarely saw a beach. Except for the odd times we rented my aunt and uncle’s camp at Grand Lake. And even then I was constantly sick with a cold and a runny nose so Mum kept me well wrapped up. Bonnet, included. And when I was allowed to shed some clothes, I always burned in the sun. Always. My dark-haired sister Connie and my brother Terry were tanned to perfection. Not me.
When I was a teenager, I was never comfortable on a beach in a bathing suit. All those tanned female bodies, the girls who filled a bathing suit properly and whose mothers didn’t have to take in the bust of their suit to make it fit, made me nervous. Bathing suit shopping back then was my worst nightmare. Skinny, flat-chested, with skin that burned easily and hair that frizzed when stirred by the wind, I felt freakishly out of place on the beach. I know that’s an overreaction. But that’s what teenagers do, isn’t it? They overreact.
All this is to say that I am and never have been a beach person, although I adore the ocean. Consequently the idea of tanning, since it usually involved wearing a bathing suit at the beach, always left me cold. And even though I’ve been much more comfortable with my body in a bathing suit for years, I now think that lying on a beach, or in the sun poolside, is just plain boring.
Of course one doesn’t have to be at the beach or at a pool to get a tan. Even so, I never participated in the activity of “laying out” which is what my sisters did as teenagers. Slathered in baby oil, they lay on blankets tanning in the backyard. To me with my redhead’s freckled, easily burned skin, they always looked marvellous with their tans. I’m sure I must have tanned a little as a child what with all the playing outdoors we did in the summer. I just don’t remember.
But yet, pale skin and body dysmorphia aside, I somehow still like the idea of being tanned. At least a little. As an untanned young teen, being tanned symbolized good-looks, and confidence, and popularity. And even when I grew out of that misconception, I thought that being tanned made white tee shirts and summer dresses look so much better.
When I was in my thirties and early forties I went through a period when I was more tanned then ever before. Not because I partook of tanning, but because I was simply outdoors more. I ran several days a week, Hubby and I cycled and golfed, and we went canoe camping at least once a summer. I always wore sunscreen. But those were the days when we thought SPF 15 was good enough. I should add that I frequently had farmer’s tan. With colour that stopped in odd places, and white feet because when I was in the sun I always wore sneakers.
The summer in the nineties that we rented a cottage on P.E.I. and my friend Janet and her partner came to stay, I was the most tanned I’ve ever been before or since. That’s Janet and me below. Janet is a true redhead, and consequently the only person I know who tanned less than I did.
Now, even though Hubby and I still bike and walk, and camp and fish, I don’t get a tan like I did back in those halcyon days. Ha. Good thing too. I’m not risking skin cancer and even more wrinkles than I already have by being silly about sun exposure. There’s a reason they call it “tanning.” Laugh lines and furrowed brows are one thing, but I don’t want my face to look like an old leather boot by the time I’m seventy. These days I slather myself in SPF 50 and wear a hat. And when I put my makeup on, I brush bronzer on my face and a little dab of cream blush across the bridge of my nose so my face looks a little sun-kissed.
Which brings me to my main point. Since Hubby and I have been cycling and I’ve been walking this summer, I am, despite the SPF 50, getting a teensy bit of tan. A paler version of my nineties farmer tan. With white feet and very pale lower legs. Cycling is bad for that. I actually don’t mind being pale, but pale in places and not in others looks odd. Especially in sandals.
So I’m going to try self-tanners again. With some trepidation, I should add. I tried self-tanners back in the nineties. Smelly and streaky is what I remember most. But I’ve been doing my research. And I’ve identified two self-tanners that I’m going to try this summer to solve my farmer’s tan problem.
One product was mentioned by a reader in a comment a while back. Jergens Natural Glow Daily Mosituriser. This was recommended in one of the articles I read as the best of the “drug store” brands. You use it instead of a daily body moisturiser, and the “tan” develops gradually over time. Not sure how long this takes. The moisturizing bit sounded good to me. Plus since self-tanners only change the melatonin level of the surface skin cells which slough off regularly, one always has to reapply quite often anyway.
I may try the Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Oil, which was also recommended in the same article. I’ve used Josie Maran argan oil products before and liked them. This product was recommended for mature skin. Which I have. Still, I want to visit Sephora and try before I buy. Mostly to feel the texture and experience the fragrance. I cannot abide creams or oils whose smell I don’t like.
Now, please don’t think that I will be going whole hog with the tanning. I think we all should be happy with our natural skin colour no matter what it is. Getting outside in the sunshine is important for most of us, if only for the vitamin D it provides. But we should be careful of over-exposure, and wear sunscreen and hats and protective clothing as much as we can. It’s a balancing act, isn’t it? We need some sun, but not too much. Besides, that old tanning thing just doesn’t wash anymore. Our health is way more important than a tan that fades by September.
I’d kind of assumed that the tanning craze had disappeared with our changing climate and all the available information about the dangers of UV. That is until I saw a couple of extremely tanned women on Instagram on the weekend. And when I was reading about tanning yesterday, I read some alarming articles about women and men who have gone to drastic measures to look, and remain looking, tanned. According to an article in Scientific American, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital say that people who tan a lot can get addicted to the sun. Scientists now think that tanning can increase our beta-endorphins, and make us feel good. And “frequent tanners have been found to have withdrawal symptoms” when they stop.
Wow. The tanning conundrum just gets more and more complicated.
How about you, my friends? Did you tan as a youngster? Or were you pale and envious like me? What’s your relationship with the sun these days? I’m serious, I read some disturbing articles about people (women mostly) who would risk anything to get a tan. And then there’s some famous tans on famous politicians. But let’s not go there, okay?