Why I’ve decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

Rachel McAdams - The Vow premiere

So you know how I’ve slowly, over the years, developed a major aversion to blonde highlights? (You know—the generic kind that hairdressers seem to give out like candy, when truthfully most people are way more suited to warmer, darker, more tone-on-tone, all-over colour.) I can’t walk down the street without secretly wanting to tell every third woman I pass that her hair could look a lot better.

Well, the same thing is happening to me with tanning.

‘Tis the season, I know. But real or fake, I just don’t think a tan looks that GOOD anymore.

Case in point: A few weeks ago at a beauty event, I was absolutely mesmerized by one of the publicists and her tan. It was super-dark and it was real (I asked). I forget where she’d been, but it was the kind of tan you can only get by spending three weeks in the south of France, if you know what I mean. And at age 16, I probably would have given my left arm to look like that. But now? I just found myself worrying for her future (filled with premature freckling and wrinkles, no doubt) and thinking, well, it’s not even cute! I mean, all you saw with the girl was TAN… not her pretty features.

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s on this no-tan train either. Lately I’m noticing that so many more celebs are choosing to just go with their pale skin, unapologetically, like Rachel McAdams, above.

Or Christina Hendricks.

Christina Hendricks Struck by Lightening premiere Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

Or Marion Cotillard.

Marion Cotillard The Dark Knight Rises premiere Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

Or Amanda Seyfried.

Amanda Seyfried Gone premiere Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

Or my new obsession (which many of you don’t understand, apparently!), the lesser-known B (C?) lister Holland Roden.

Holland Roden Teen Choice Awards 2011 Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

Compare and contrast to fake-bakers like Ashley Tisdale. (Side note: These are the kind of highlights I have a BIG problem with. Double whammy here!)

Ashley Tisdale Step Up premiere Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

And of course, Kim Kardashian. (This is an old pic, but you get the idea that this tanning thing has gone WAY TOO FAR, yes?)

Kim Kardashian faux tan blonde hair Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

There are so many more who overdo the tans—Christina Aguilera, Lindsay Lohan, Donatella Versace, the entire female cast of Jersey Shore. There’s just something just so… well, FAKE about it. (Duh.) And in beauty, we really are finally moving away from that—it’s SO ’00s. (Seriously, I think we’re gonna look back on that decade quite soon and cringe, big time. Fake tans, fake blonde hair… ugh, it was all so gross.)

Anyway, aside from my celebrity observations that tanning is out and natural skin is IN, I’m also just not feeling the whole self-tanner process this year.

I tried, I really did. At the beginning of the season, I went for the whole head-to-toe application of one of my favourite self-tanners, Rodial, which for the record smells wonderful and caramelly instead of like curry.

(If you must invest in self-tanner then this is the line I recommend. Especially the face product, which looks like this:)

Rodial Brazilian Tan Face Tinted Self Tanning Gel Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

But? For the first time in my life, I just felt like tanner was no longer my thing. People were asking me if I’d been away (yes, the colour is that good), but suddenly it just felt weird to admit that it came from a bottle. Anyone else feeling like this? Is it just me?

As for real tanning, well, I would be a bad beauty editor if I ever advocated for that. However—I won’t lie, I’ve been known in my past to enjoy lying out in the sun, with sunscreen. It just feels good!

But this year I’ve completely abandoned even that. (Possibly why I’m okay sans-tanner. When you aren’t baring your pale, cellulite-ridden thighs to the world in a bathing suit, it’s easy to be preachy. I’ll be the first to admit that tanners provide good camo for body insecurities.)

My reason for running away from the sun like a vampire this year, however, has to do with my face. Because I’m in great danger of this happening:

Lily Cole The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Photocall 2009 Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

Yep, it’s the freckles. They’re cropping up like CRAZY out of nowhere. Except mine are not the cute kind. And so, I ordered this up from Well.ca. (Pic from my Instagram.)

Lustra Hydroquinone Cream Why Ive decided to stop tanning (even the fake kind) and embrace the pale

It’s a 4 percent hydroquinone, and after seeking some dermatological advice, I’ve decided I’m going to try it. In Canada, you can buy 4 percent hydroquinone over the counter, and that’s your best bet topically if you really want to fade spots and discolourations—although they’re notoriously hard to get rid of no matter what. I used to be extremely anti-hydroquinone, but my derm said if you don’t use it long-term (i.e. for more than six months), it’s okay. And well, I’m desperate. The only other option is a series of IPL (intense pulsed light) treatments, and that’ll be a few thousand dollars pricier than this guy, which is only $38.95. (Order it here with free shipping in Canada and no minimum order.)

Apparently you get the best results if you combine it with Retin-A (I guess because that helps it penetrate?) so I’m doing that in the evenings underneath the Lustra, and then Lustra alone in the mornings. Well, not alone—it’s absolutely ESSENTIAL that you use sunscreen with this, or you’ll quite likely end up with something worse than what you started with.

So… I’ll keep you posted! I mean, I want to be pale, but I also want to be flawlessly, porcelain pale. New.Beauty.Goal.

In the meantime, tell me:
Are you going with your natural skin tone instead of stinky, streaky fake-tanner?
Or are you one of those people that just looks and feels better being bronzed?
Ever tried to fade your freckles? What worked for you?


Tuesday, July 31/2012 at 12:58 pm

I’m also anti-tan, but i love the evening-out properties of self tanner on my legs and when i have to wear a bathing suit. I actually recently returned some Benefit bronzer. I thought i would like it because it has no sparkles in it (ew) but I just wasn’t digging the tanned look on my face. By the way, isn’t hydroquinone actually banned from being sold over-the-counter in the U.S. and EU ? I think it’s supposedly a possible carcinogenic. I may be wrong, and obviously you talked to a derm, but if it’s true I would be a little concerned about using it, even short term. Especially an OTC and not a scrip. Just my opinion!


Tuesday, July 31/2012 at 1:06 pm

The “problem” with being pale is that it really shows if you’ve been eating a poor diet, not getting enough sleep, etc. There was a study (you might’ve talked about it on here) that showed that people preferred the looks of women who’d been eating a carotene-rich diet vs. those who tanned. But if you’re not getting enough fruits and vegetables, you’re not going to have that glow – you’ll just look… pale. Um, but I guess that’s not really a problem, just more motivation to live more healthfully (…is that a word?)!


Saturday, October 5/2013 at 5:30 pm



Tuesday, July 31/2012 at 5:39 pm

I’m a pale norwegian and when I go to visit my family in france they always tell me how I should go out in the sun more and tan a little. I have no need, my skin looks a lot better when it’s the shade I am natually. Also, looks weird to me to have your butt be 5 shades lighter than the rest of your body (saw a woman in a changing room with that, wasen’t staring or anything :P)


Tuesday, July 31/2012 at 9:08 pm

I am one of the unfortunate freckled-all-over redheads pictured above, and usually am a self-tanner devotee, as it takes me from translucent to slightly less so, but this summer, I have also been playing it pale. I’m a makeup artist and am seeing trends lean more toward natural beauty, as in doing what looks good on you as an individual.


Joy Clark
Tuesday, July 31/2012 at 10:37 pm

why do we always try to change what God has given us?! I had curly hair when I was young and hated it, now curly or wavy hair is in (well in some circles, I guess)
Hated my freckles for years. Stopped it.
For the love of freckles!
Embrace them


Wednesday, August 1/2012 at 4:49 am

I’m pale and I like it. Doesn’t it look more classy being pale? At least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself ;)
Have you ever tried lemon juice on your freckles? Lemon juice is a great natural source of AHA. Try it, it’s awesome! I use it every night as a toner and my freckles are much less visible. They won’t disappear, but they will fade – a lot! During the day I use a good sunscreen (spf 50).


Melissa C
Wednesday, August 1/2012 at 3:02 pm

I am so curious to hear how Lustra works out for you. I have an olive complexion with my own scattering of freckles and have been trying in vain to lighten them too. The serum I’m currently using contains 2% hydroquinone but after almost finishing the bottle I have yet to see a difference so I’d love to see your progress with this product.


Wednesday, August 1/2012 at 3:08 pm

YesyesYES!! I am GLEEFULLY pale! I have been since high school! I love it! You actually posted a few of my current fave Alabaster Queens up there.

Also, I have no choice. While being pale enough to glow in the dark, I actually don’t tan or burn either. I tried once in high school (it was the ’90′s, being tan was SO in), I was a nanny one summer & wore SPF 2 while I chased my charge around in the high sun for hours 2-3 times a week. (I sunscreened him.) At the end of the summer, people were still telling me I was too pale, I should get outside.

I decided to go back to porcelain, resumed layering on the sunscreen (can’t explain how I knew, just had a feeling that it was important, a few years before they started saying anything), & enjoyed bragging rights as an uber-pale goth.

I actually do not understand why people don’t like pale… it’s just another colour, and like any other, it’s the condition of the skin itself that makes or breaks it. But I do agree with Laura, my skin shows every little mark. Especially those dark stains where I’ve had a bad zit or cut.


Wednesday, August 1/2012 at 6:02 pm

I haven’t been tan in so long. I’m also wondering how the lustra works out for you.

Can you write an article about highlights and what’s going on with them right now?


Thursday, August 2/2012 at 11:21 am

I’m a pasty redhead — I burn and then get freckles. I think about tanning every spring when the jeans come off and reveal my short, flabby legs — being pasty on top of that just seems like too much! And yet, can you imagine how weird a self-tan would look? I’ve decided to tone my legs, and embrace the pale. Jessica Chastain and Rachel McAdams have certainly helped my self-esteem, as well.


Thursday, August 2/2012 at 11:24 am

P.S. But I’m not porcelain pale like the models; the slightest blush or flush turns my whole face a blotchy red. If I am going to fully embrace the pale, I’d like to know how to put on makeup to cover the redness. Does someone have advice?


Thursday, August 2/2012 at 8:21 pm

I’m trying to even out my skintone as well and someone told me to get a facial chemical peel, glycolic I believe. Im seriously considering it. Because I have some acne scar’s and uneven skintone and texture. My skin is also pretty pale even in the summers. But I’m scared of getting thinner skin which can happen if you get too many peels, But this would be my first time.


Saturday, August 4/2012 at 12:56 am

Yeaaa I love this post! I have been embracing the pale for a while now and I am loving it! I think there is something really glamourous and classy about showing off one’s natural complexion. Maybe it has to do with the idea of being better to your body?


Dani T
Sunday, August 5/2012 at 9:42 am

This article is so me right now! This spring I decided to embrace my natural skin colour (and the SPF 60 lol). I look back at pictures of myself last summer, and all I can think is “You look orange! How did you think this looked good??”. I figure pushing back the onset of wrinkles is just an extra benefit.


Tuesday, August 7/2012 at 11:24 am

I’ve never gotten freckles…except for the big dark kind that I have to get checked every now and then. I’ve always been super super vampire pale. Always need the lightest colored make-up, etc. I burn like crazy too. When I was six, I had the pleasure of experiencing a second degree burn over my entire back. I don’t recommend it. In middle school I was extremely self concious of my short, pale legs. Whenever I got cold or hot, they immediately changed color to either a blotchy blue-purplish color or a flushed pink that went red around my knees. I decided to venture into the realm of self-tanner. Bad, bad, BAD decision. Enter the horror of orange legs. Since then, I’ve decided to embrace the pale…and actually, I get a lot of compliments on it nowadays. :) Also, I use sunscreen religiously. Another pale skinned actress I admire who is also serious about protecting her skin is Evan Rachel Wood…her skin is SO GORGEOUS (as seen in this picture: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm688893952/nm0939697 I mean, seriously!!! FLAWLESS).


Wednesday, August 8/2012 at 7:48 pm

I’m actually naturally tan (being part portuguese and part black) so.. going pale would probably NOT work.
some people that are pale look fine, but some just look sickly. I’m all for the tan, but only if you can make it look natural.


Thursday, August 16/2012 at 10:43 am

Although I am 100% anti real-tan, The self tanner thing is a touchy subject for me – I like the fact that its gives my some confidence and is slightly slimming when I am baring all in a bikini – however there is such a fine line between a pretty glow and an OBVIOUS tan. I just feel a lot more confident with the camoflage and evening out that a tiny bit of a faux tan gives! I will also say that the whole process of self tanning drives me nuts and most days I just can’t be bothered! This is when Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs comes in!


Saturday, August 25/2012 at 10:45 am

I always think I look better with some sun, but as I get older and busier I find I don’t have the time to be outside enough to develop any lasting tan. It doesn’t bother me too much, except that I have dark circles under my eyes. For years I have used concealer, but it always looks cakey, or fake. Do you have any tips or product suggestions for a more natural look?


Thursday, September 6/2012 at 3:21 am

That stuff should have a skull and cross bones on it! Try a Devita product… which is a natural/organic line that makes a Sun damage repair serum that works just as fast . IT contains a copper peptide and is also good for anti aging with no harsh chemicals. I have tried hydroQ 4% and the peptide.The peptide did not have such a high rate of freckle relapse. Also you should not have to worry about freckles if your spf is working properly. I have the skin of casper the friendly ghost that is extremely acneic and the only thing that I have been able to wear is the Colorscience Sunforgettable mineral brush in 50. This has been the only time I have never had spots after 25 years. This stuff is so awesome you will not need a fade cream or make up after a couple months . This is the only thing that wouldn’t burn like hell during Retinoid treatment, doesnt sweat off after hours of hiking in the California sun and is waterproof WHILE being extremely easy to take off. You can take it off with warm water and a baby wash cloth and it can be warn all over your body as well. good luck <3


Thursday, September 6/2012 at 3:24 am

Also : I am extremely fair. I wear the medium Colorscience spf and it looks translucent. I have not tried the ‘fair’ color.


Tuesday, November 13/2012 at 8:31 pm

I think this actually persuaded me that tan isn’t everything! For once in my life, I just realized! Just, the thing is I feel like I have no natural glow, and people with even the slightest bit of color, see me and think in their heads, ew that girl’s grossly pale.. but it’s okay! Just, when you’re pale, you notice every little zit, imperfection, and ugh I just feel prettier tan you know? :/


Sunday, December 16/2012 at 3:32 pm

You missed the #1 reason why it’s good to stop tanning: melanoma. The incidence of melanoma in North America is rising each year and most people have no idea that it’s one of the deadliest cancers if not caught early on the skin. I was clueless about this until my father was diagnosed with it and died less than 5 months later. It was a shocking wake up call and for that reason, I’ll never tan again.


Tuesday, January 8/2013 at 5:07 am

My skin is pure white, well my legs body and shoulders are pure white anyway. When I was younger I used to try and fry myself in the sun to get a tan and would burn peel and turn white again.
I then tried fake tan and found it made me look silly and so time consuming.

So I hid myself for yeas and was so embarrass to show my white legs I would wear jeans even in 40 degree C days.

Last summer for the first time I started to wear shorts. At first it was quite embarrassing but I slowly build up my confidence, until I started to realize the having pure white legs is nothing to be embarrassed about. Also my white skin looks really good since I started to look after it .

My legs are so bright you cant miss them and it looks great, I get a lot of people looking at my legs and smiling at me after .

This is the first time in my life I love having pure white skin and I dont want a tan .

I think if people with white skin were to look after it and stay out of the sun it will look great . This goes with any skin type. If you avoid long term exposure to the sun skin will remain healthy.


Friday, February 1/2013 at 6:30 pm

I actually think the girl in that second-to-last picture is super cute, and that the freckles suite her well. I’ve never understood people’s aversion to having freckles.


Saturday, March 23/2013 at 9:40 am

i detect a kind of bitterness in this post. stop calling it “SO FAKE” point is they WERE able to tan and you WEREN’T so shut up


Thursday, September 12/2013 at 1:00 pm

I am sooo with you on this. The last time I got an airbrush tan for a vacation, I couldn’t wait for it to fade. It makes me feel older and a little haggard. My new obsession is the flawless porcelain look too. I’m thinking Christina Hendricks and Dita Von Teese. So classic and fresh! I am naturally pale and a child of the 80′s (can you say tanning beds..ugh!) so this is a trend I am so happy to embrace!


Pajamas in the Basement
Wednesday, October 23/2013 at 4:26 am

U got probs. O noz, freckles! Superficial bttch is what you are. Pro-tip: Of the guys who like freckles in their grrls, they prefer the splotchy freckles that come from the sun.

- Takes one to know one


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