On being pale | One To Nothin'

On being pale

Dress: c/o Zaful / Boots: Restricted / Hat: UO

My skin and I have been in a complicated relationship for years. 

As a wee little babe, I loathed it because for one, putting sunscreen on my face hurt like a mother and two, when I inevitably didn't reapply because it stung even worse to put it on my sweaty/chlorine soaked face, it burned, blistered and peeled. My mom had to bribe me to put it on by telling me it was makeup (typical).

As I grew a bit, I learned to deal with the initial lotion sting and stopped getting as many burns, but then I had the kids at school connecting the dots all over my arms at recess. 

"How many freckles do you have?!" 

Then there was my sister laughing at me while I slathered the oily lotion all over myself as she baked herself into a bronze goddess (#rude). I'll never forget that time I only applied sunscreen once before spending 12 hours in the Florida sun at Warped Tour in 8th grade-- pretty sure that's the maddest my mom has ever been at me. Oh, and the time I went to the beach for a weekend with my Cuban best friend's family and they didn't have any "sunscreen" over SPF 8, so a special trip had to be made.

High school was not only characterized by angry pimples and skin that soaked through oil blotting sheets, but also my coming to the realization that it wasn't cool to be pale. Tan was sexy and I will never forget watching orange streaks appear on $500 prom dresses as my fellow students danced their spray tans off. As the cool kids spent hours in tanning beds and getting highlights in their hair, I tried to figure out how makeup worked (um hi Youtube, where were you?) and crossed my fingers that the humidity might be low enough for my so-dark-it's-almost-black hair to stay straight for a whole day. 

But I also spent a lot of time wishing I looked different.

I wanted to look exotic, thin, sun-kissed. I wanted to see tan lines after spending a day at the pool, I didn't want to be the only one reapplying sunscreen every hour, but mostly I wanted to fit in. I was scared to stand out by being okay with myself, and in some ways I still am.

Just last year I went to a party, in California mind you, where when my state of origin was tossed out I received, "Oh my god, I totally thought you'd be tanner." 
I quickly retorted with, "Well, I thought you'd be less judgmental."
But, of course, I didn't actually. Not at all.

Instead I felt self-conscious. 

How dare I bare my skin in a bikini on an 88-degree day by the pool, be from Florida and have skin this pale?

I still want to be tan sometimes. Sure, certain colors might look better and certain imperfections less visible if I were a shade or four darker, but I'm not. I'm me. I'm fair-skinned. I'm freckled. I'm starting to get wrinkles around my eyes from smiling, laughing and perhaps getting burned one too many times. I still break out occasionally, luckily my skin doesn't have quite the oil production that it used to and for the most part I take comments on my coloring with a grain of salt.

I may like the way I look better after I've been out in the sun, but lately it's more of a reflection of where I've been and who I've become. If I'm floating on a river all day and I come back with a few extra freckles, I'm proud of them. I like the way my eyes look greener when I'm under the sun's rays. And coming home from an outing without a wicked burn is cause for full-on celebration.

When you observe someone's tan, maybe think about what you're doing by commenting on it. Are you complimenting them? What if they desperately wish their skin was lighter? Is your friend with fair skin standing next to them feeling defeated because she's never going to receive that "compliment" from you? Are you accidentally telling her to feel ashamed of her skin because it's different from your other friend's? 

Perhaps you could say she is beautiful instead.

Just something to think about.

If I don't love my skin now, how am I supposed to love it as it grows, expands, experiences life and changes over the years?

Self love FTW! Happy Wednesday.

Linking up here.


  1. I tell myself that without all that tanning, I'm less likely to get cancer.. I used to also feel bad about it, but now I'm just of the opinion it doesn't matter. I'm also really bad about applying sunscreen, so thanks for reminding me before I hit the beach this weekend! :)

  2. Fellow pale girl here! After years of struggling with it, I'm actually starting to love it. I'm getting married in a few months, and even though my mother keeps insisting I'll need some color, I really love the way the dress looks against my skin. That's the color I was born in, and I'm allowed to stay that color! I tend to get more compliments than weird, backhanded comments nowadays, which probably has something to do with me not fighting it anymore :) I think your skin tone is gorgeous!

  3. Pale girl, checking in. I brown up a bit during the summer if I aim for it, but I also burn—have had AWFUL sun poisoning twice—and cover up when I feel the red coming on. So I figured out a few years ago I could either burn the hell out of my skin, look awful with a sunburn, and feel even worse because I can't reach that beautiful golden brown by the first day of shorts season, OR I could just get comfortable in my pale skin and feel optimistic that 50-year-old me won't look like a leather handbag. Some days easier said than done of course :)

  4. This is an amazing post. and so true. I've just learned to love myself more when it comes to my pale skin. :)
    XO, Ellen from Ask Away


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Blog Archive

Powered by Blogger.