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>Pasty pale or prettily porcelain?


Its that time of year again when I start to mentally curse having pale, English rose type skin.

During winter I can hide myself in layers upon layers (helped by being a cold person so people are used to seeing me swathed in jumpers, scarves and gloves) and not worry about the fact I’m pasty.

However, come the summery days I face the annual worry about whether the world is ready to see my pale skin (so pale you can see my veins up most of my arm) or whether I need to try and give it a boost with a bit of fake tan.

As a teenager I embraced grunge and had no reason to bear any skin in summer, remaining wrapped in my black and Doc Martins.

Throughout my twenties I would greet the emergence of the sun with a rapid reach for the bottle and spend most of the summer with legs of an interesting (and often streaky) orange, pale face (sunscreen is important to prevent ageing and I’ve worn a moisturiser with sun block in for years), and gradually slightly off white arms and rest of body.  It wasn’t exactly subtle.

I must have spent hundreds of pounds over the last 15 years trying to find the perfect fake tan.  There are some that are less obvious than others but I’ve yet to find anything that comes close to the pale brown I naturally turn.

The rest of my family are lucky – they got the continental skin and so turn a beautiful brown at the slightest contact with sun.  I remember my Mother suggesting, aged 15, that I just wasn’t trying hard enough to tan…

So now I find myself with another summer arriving and this year I’m pondering whether to not fake tan, whether to bare my legs au naturel and let nature take its course, letting me tan slowly and to my real colour.

Is pale attractive (not the sort of thing that scares people away)?
Can I get away with showing these white legs off in public?
Have the likes of Nicole Kidman changed the perception of us pale types from pasty to pretty?

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17 comments to >Pasty pale or prettily porcelain?

  • JulieB

    >I'm definitely of the pale and pasty persuasion, whereas husband has Spanish ancestry and therefore turns brown just by looking at the sun. I'm slowly coming to terms with being "pale and interesting"…very slowly… Every summer I tell myself I won't be pressured into some kind of beauty ideal, and then every summer I think maybe I'll try one more fake tan. I never know what's worse though – white or streaks! I've used some of the Johnson's holiday skin body lotion in the past – that seemed to work moderately well.

    However, one thing I am sure of – there is no way on earth I would want to end up like some people you see that appear to have turned into tangerines.

  • Fiona

    >I have been thinking the same. Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, I have fairly nice legs-long annd slim, but very white. When ever I fake tan-it looks like I have done just that-fake tanned!
    I think this summer I am going to concentrate on just looking after my skin more-like exfoliating and using body butter so at least it looks gleaming.
    Nicola from Girls Aloud and Nicole Kidman can do it so why can't I?

  • TheMadHouse

    >I have the complection of a vampire, but since my medication last year, I am actially tanning, ell only on my top half, it is like my legs are made of something untannable or unburnable.

    I too used to look for the right fake tan, but never found it, so noe I wear long skirts and linen trousers in the summer and hide them away.

    We have all had factor 50 on since 6am this morning

  • skirts and wellies

    >It's all in how you hold yourself isn't it? If you think you look good that's half the battle they say. I think fair skin looks just as good as anything else out there this time of year. I've got lots of scars on my legs, but I got them out in a miniskirt yesterday. (My first miniskirt in years.)

  • PantsWithNames

    >My Mum, who after an afternoon in the garden in March looks like she's been on holiday to the Caribbean for 2 weeks, always talks about being pale and interesting. Guess you always want what you can't have!

  • Patchwork Bird

    >I face this every summer too. Summer clothes just don't look nice against my white skin. So this morning I gave it and put on some fake tan – even when I fake it I'm still paler than most people but it just takes away that white glow. I use La Roche Posay (you get it in pharmacies) which I must say I like, it's quite natural looking.

  • Naomi Richards

    >I would fake it so long as you use a good natural product. I think pale skin is lovely and beautiful but for me I look more healthy with a tan. A few days in the sun and you should get a bit of colour.

  • Tara Cain

    >You and me both MAM.
    I am sooo pale and my husband and children look like Italian nationals.
    When we go out with bare legs I dread one of my children sitting on my lap and showing how milky my flesh is by plonking their olive skin on top of it!
    I find the only way is gradual tan. Over a few weeks. Otherwise it looks like I've spilt the gravy on my legs

  • Jen

    >Pale and proud 😀 Jen.

  • solveig

    >Having grown up in the middle east and been exposed to sun for my entire childhood – we did wear suncream, but only on the beach, not the other 6 days of the week – I now am terrified of tanning. I slather myself in at least spf30 and hope that I will somehow save my skin. I can definitely see the effects of sun exposure already.

    I've tried fake tan but can never keep it up. I now use those body lotions with fake tan in on my legs – not sure it makes that much difference but you can just slap it on without too much effort, and I think it makes your skin a bit more glowy at least!.

  • Ed Pilolla

    >fair skin is lovely. fair skin is more than pretty, it's alluring. you get to wear big hats that protect you from the sun and look ten years younger than you are. seems to me:) fun post.

  • diney

    >I'm of the pale variety too and I hate those milk bottle legs once they are uncloaked from their trousers! I went to a lunchtime dressy party today and put on the first skirt for a while, so slapped on the Clarins fake tan which I highly recommend. It has no smell and is a moussey texture. I was in a rush and forgot to wash my hands though – whoops! Not a good look!

  • Noble Savage

    >I used to go through all the hand-wringing and embarrassment about my pale legs too but I decided that this year I was going to stop that nonsense. IT'S JUST SKIN!! Seriously, if anyone is offended or put off by your natural skin colour, they have such serious issues that you needn't worry about what they think! Would you ever tell a person with darker skin that they should hide their dark legs or crack jokes about their skin colour? I really think it's ridiculous how much we've idealised the Almighty Tan as a symbol of health, wealth and sexiness. It's a bunch of bollocks, I say.

    I set myself that challenge and so far it's not been difficult. I even went out the last two days with my fairly hairy legs uncovered. That was harder to get over than the pasty bit but I did it and lived to tell the tale. I doubt anyone even noticed I hadn't removed the hair from my legs for a few weeks and if they did they didn't say anything.

    I have to say, it's been very freeing, on both counts!

  • vegemitevix

    >I have been deliberately about the same thing. I don't really tan I freckle. I live in hope that one day all my freckles will merge and I'll be sunkissed with olive skin!

  • crunchymommysomeday

    >I've got the so-pale-I'm-transparent look going on too, and the only way I ever got color was if I accidentally got a nasty burn…and then waited several weeks, and it eventually mellowed to a light brown. I'd rather not risk that happening again, and I'd only muck up fake tans if I tried, so it's the vampire look for me. Luckily I hear that's in right now 😉


  • Mwa

    >Yes! You should embrace the pale look. Think of a pale person you like and channel them for a while, until you grow into it. Also – you could complement it with your clothes. Try colours that help make pale skin even more beautiful.

    I embraced my naturally curly hair this year, after years of trying to convince it to go straight. It's been liberating! So much better to make the most of what you've got than try to be something you're not.

  • Babes about Town

    >I'm at the other end of the colour spectrum so have different issues when it comes to the sun (am I getting too dark? lol).

    I find when accepting a part of yourself you might not readily embrace, it can help to just 'rebrand it'. So instead of thinking of yourself as 'pale' find another, sexier word…e.g. 'I'm not pale, I'm dazzling'. Or whatever suits 😉

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