Combating the Double Standard of Pale Skin

​By Laura Iglehart, Student at UNC Chapel Hill

I was always that kid on the beach sitting under the oversized umbrella, wrapped in towels and slathered with SPF 100. I could only go out in the sun after three o’clock if I had on my blue-brimmed hat and sun-resistant surf shirt.

It’s pale kids like me who give sun protection a bad name.

Society has dictated that wearing women bearing all in bikinis are more fashionable and attractive than those wearing one pieces, cover-ups and hats.

Fast forward 60 years. Society also dictates that women with smoother, more even complexions are more attractive than women with wrinkled, leathery, sun-damaged skin.

Societal norms do not take into account the ramifications of this double standard. Sunburn, premature wrinkles, uneven skin tone, sunspots and skin cancer are all potential future effects of sun exposure. Although we spend thousands to lessen the physical effects of irresponsible sun exposure, our skin records it all. The ugly truth is this: Sun damage is irreversible.

To combat these less-than-desirable effects of the sun, act now. As we head into the season of sweltering temperatures and skimpy clothes, taking precautions against the sun now, rather than later, is absolutely necessary. Two simple and fashionable ways to mitigate sun damage include applying sunscreen every day and by wearing a hat.

There is a common misunderstanding that sunscreen is only required at the beach. Sunscreen is actually necessary all year round, despite the season and intensity of the sun. You can help your skin protect against sun damage by adding a mere 30 seconds to your morning routine. Apply a light sunscreen to your face (pre-makeup), chest, neck and ears, like Clarins UV Plus Day Screen. It properly protects skin without leaving behind greasy residue. Also, use a hypoallergenic waterproof lotion, like Aveeno’s Continuous Protection Lotion, for your hands, arms, legs and feet. Remember that any exposed skin is susceptible to sun damage and should be covered appropriately. Always keep a bottle in your purse or car in case you forget or lose some layers throughout the day.

Another easy and trendy way to guard against sun damage is to sport a hat. For warmer weather, opt for an oversized floppy hat. Designer Eric Javits makes brimmed hats that will keep you shaded and stylish summer after summer. For the winter, opt for felt hat or fedora. Lanvin popularized hats this past winter with their ever-classic felt toppers. Whether it be baseball hat or sombrero, shading your scalp and face from the sun is critical. Remember, the bigger the brim, the better!

You know pale skin must be “in” when Michael Kors and Dolce & Gabbana have traded tanned models for freckled ones. These pioneers of brazen runways showed dramatically fairer skinned models for their recent collections. This skin tone change has not gone unnoticed. While women are buying up these designers’ collections, they are also buying into the runway looks.

In particular, Asian women, who are quickly evolving as the leading luxury consumers, are spending their fortunes on whitening creams — moisturizers that promise to lighten natural skin tones. This latest phenomenon in the Asian beauty market includes ingredients like extrapone nutgrass and hydroquinone, which bleach pigment in skin cells and create an overall paler complexion. Like many beauty products, these creams come with a stiff price, with the lower-end creams starting at $95.

Take it from the producers, as well a from the consumers, pale skin is the new “must-have.”


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