Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tanning Versus Lightening

Now that summer has unofficially begun and the temperatures have climbed, I see everyone wearing lighter and fewer clothes and reveling in the sunshine. Sometimes I wonder if they have sun block on, and if they know that they have to re-apply it every two hours, no matter what color they are. In Western cultures, the general feeling is that being tan is best, and getting sun without getting sunburn is the best and inexpensive way to go. Of course there are tanning salons with tanning beds and spray tans, but nothing beats going to the beach and laying out in sun’s rays, premature aging and the possibility of skin cancer be damned.

When I was walking outside the other day, I saw a fair skinned woman of Asian descent walking with a bright red umbrella, which she had opened to avoid the darkening effects of the sun. It reminded me of my times in India and Indonesia, where dark skin is generally thought to be something that should be lightened for beauty. I would see commercials for skin lightening creams everywhere, and when I went to with a friend to a local Body Shop in an Indonesian mall to do a makeup test, they used lighter foundation for my neck and face at first; I told them to match my natural color. They looked shocked when I told them that I liked my skin tone and had no desire to be lighter. One time I made the mistake of asking for a bottle of self-tanner in a high-end mall’s beauty supply store; I walked away amused by the store employee’s look of horror at the idea of such a product.

I have no desire to sunbathe and expose my skin without protection in the afternoon sun, because I don’t want to damage it. I prefer self-tanners to “fairness” creams, which can be found at almost any Asian market. Staying healthy and even-toned are goals that are far more important to me than pursuing Western or Eastern standards of skin beauty.

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