Fake It, Don't Bake It

To tan or not to tan, that is the question. Is it better to look ghostly pale and play it safe? Or have a little color and risk some pretty substantial side effects?

I grew up in Miami, Florida, in a time when shades such as avocado and burnt orange were all the rage. Needless to say, those fashion colors virtually required a tan! I remember mixing iodine with baby oil and laying out in the sun until I heard the sizzle. As I got a little older and moved north, pale skin was a result of climate as well as a more nocturnal existence.

Returning to Miami for my career, I spent the last twelve years working outdoors on the beaches. My skin has aged accordingly.

Here’s the thing: A little exposure to the sun has some benefits—like the production of Vitamin D by the body. But too much exposure has negative health effects, such as the most obvious sunburn and skin cancer, as well as depressed immune system function and increased risk of accelerated aging. So what’s a girl to do?

Historically, paler skin was usually a sign of a higher social status. A tan meant you were someone who worked outdoors—usually in manual labor and thus, set you in the lower class. But at some point (some attribute it to Coco Chanel), tanning, especially in winter, became not only fashionable, but a sign of wealth—because who else could set off to a warm climate during the winter months?

Looking at any fashion magazine these days, it looks like the tide could be turning, both celebrating the paler flowers among us, as well as embracing a more healthy, less fake (yes, by that I mean orange) skin tone. Look at Rooney Mara, Hollywood’s new It Girl:

Or take a look at Scarlett Johansson, then and now:


What I am saying is that you should embrace your skin tone, and if you want to enhance it, go for a less-is-more approach:

If you are pale, why not use highlighters to make your skin look moonlit? One I love is High Beam from Benefit Cosmetics. Apply it over foundation at the brow bone, cheekbone, and décolletage.

If you are in the midtones and want a little color, I love Jergens Natural Glow and Protect which gives you natural looking color gradually, as well as broad-spectrum protection, all in one product.

And if you are a bit more olive, or still want more color, I have always loved and recommend Clarins products for the most natural-looking self tanners on the market. (I have even used Clarins on Olympic swimmers before a shoot). My favorite is the Delicious Self Tanning Cream. As the name implies it smells great, like cocoa, and it has a tinted caramel color for easy application and instant gratification, and it develops into a beautiful, natural tan tone.

Tips: Apply after exfoliating the skin. Go lightly on knees, elbows, and ankles. Allow a few minutes to dry before getting dressed. Wash hands thoroughly.

And remember this, regardless of which approach you feel is best for your natural skin tone: The moon’s pale fire is still a reflection of the sun.

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