The Beauty Backlash

Why I Don't Fake Tan

Apparently Scotland gets roughly 250 days of rain per year and the average temperature in Winter is 4°C, give or take. This is great news for deer and squirrels, but really isn’t the ideal environment for me to get a decent tan. Or any kind of tan, for that matter. So it’s safe to say that, except for excessive sun worshipping on our annual holidays, we’re a pasty nation. Though at least we’re in it together.

Ever wondered why Scotland’s biggest exports are whiskey and wool? Probably not, let’s be honest, you’re probably too busy checking out the latest nails of the day, but they are and that’s because we’re constantly trying to keep warm. If the wool blankets aren’t working, a wee nip will sort you out! Usually, this isn’t so much of an issue, we’re all so covered up in huuuge jumpers you can barely see our skin anyway, but this weekend I had a really fancy 21st birthday party to go to and my ivory dress turned out to be worryingly close to my skin colour. Probably should have seen that one coming, but I was living in denial. What you gonna do?

Anyway, whilst considering fake tanning for this party, I was forced to remember all the previous disasters that have stemmed from me trying to be less pale. It was not a pretty flashback, let me tell you, but it has made me realise that I’m too unlucky/accident prone to ever be a master of the artificial tan. (Why is this column steadily turning in to a catalogue of my bad life choices..?!)


Now, don’t get me wrong, I initially expected to embrace fake tan; I was so looking forward to the end of my days as a whiter shade of pale! Sadly, it just wasn’t that easy. My first attempt involved a bizarre foam which stank and left me looking more like I had  decided to go as a freisian cow for Halloween than the bronzed goddess I was aiming for. It took hours and the only thing I gained was a headache. Nevertheless, I persevered. For my cousin’s wedding I got a spray tan, thinking that surely if the woman was making a living from tanning people, she had to be good at it (this theory constantly fails me). But no, I wound up looking, and feeling, like a bemused alien who’d crash landed in to a mud pit. Which was, frankly, not ideal. Streak is not chic.

So, aside from the fact I seem fundamentally unable to master what my friends assure me is a simple treatment, I began to wonder why it was so important to me to darken my skin that i’d continue after such terrible results. Thousands of women, be them young or old, students or professionals, mothers or singletons; daily fake tan themselves in order to feel and look better. It is make up for the body. Many of us feel like we’re putting on a mask or facade with make-up, that it somehow makes us ready to face the day, and I can see how this transfers. Is fake tan the modern woman’s body armour? As much as it sometimes gets a bad press when things don’t go exactly to plan, tanning is a huge industry, a major branch of the body modification tree and it certainly doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.

But, until a miraculous product is invented which doesn’t involve someone shooting a gun of paint at my skin or rubbing a scratchy cloth over myself, I think I’ll stick with my English rose complexion, and if all else fails I can always revert to face paint and spend my days as a smurf. No one fake tans a smurf.

All images via Shutterstock

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