Let's talk about skin color.
Did you know there are more Google searches for how to get white skin than how to get tan skin? As a Westerner this surprised me. I mean, I've been told all my life that tan is the way to go. Tan is beautiful. Here's some bronze powder and self-tanning spray.
But if there's one thing I've learned since living in Asia it's that skin color and what's considered beautiful is relative.
You won't find a lick of bronzing products here. You won't find self-tanners or tanning booths. You will find loads of whitening creams and soaps. You'll see ads that tell you that the whiter you are the more beautiful you are.
In America, people always made fun of my fair skin. I even get the occasional why are you so white question from other Westerners living here in the Philippines.
But the Filipinos, they love my skin! I think they love it more than I do. I can't tell you how many times Filipinas have commented on how beautiful my skin is and how they would trade their brown skin for my white skin in a minute.
They cover up to go to the beach. They carry umbrellas so as not to get darker. They slather on whitening creams in the hopes of instant white skin.
Us white girls, on the other hand, spend hundreds of dollars on bronzers and tanners. We sunbathe at the beach. We'll do just about anything in the hopes of achieving a sun-kissed glow. Screw premature aging and cancer.
Do you battle with this as much as I do?
I tell my husband, "I'm going to stop worrying about getting tan and just be proud of my fair skin." A few days later he'll find me sitting in the sun sans sunblock.
"What happened to loving your fair skin?"
Now I have a sunburn down the front of my chest and across my back. I don't even want to admit how many horrible sunburns I've had in my life, even though I know they won't fade to brown. I have numerous sun spots speckling my back and I can see a few of them starting to surface on my face. And let's not even talk about the mysterious spot next to my spine that gets red, crusts over, then disappears for awhile. It always comes back.
What have I done to myself in the name of beauty? What lengths will I go to to achieve some standard that changes from one part of the world to the next?
Here's the thing...
I WILL NEVER HAVE DARK SKIN!
I've lived in the tropics for two years, and although I'm darker than I was when I left America, I'm still white. Some people don't even know I'm tan.
I'm tired of beating up my body in order to please random people, especially when the majority of people around here think I'm beautiful just the way I am.
I'm also tired of some so-called self-love advocates making beauty a thing. Here is the self-tanner I use when I go on vacation to the Bahamas. Love yourself!
I was perusing through some of The Wedded Bliss' makeup articles, trying to find something to post to Facebook (I handle their social media accounts), and came across this one on tanning. I love Von Criswell's advice to her clients:
My heartfelt advice to clients is to discover their own skin-tone muse. Finding a celebrity who shares your same skin tone, coloring and hair can help you appreciate your own beauty. I remind clients of Julianne Moore whose signature freckles seem to enhance her natural glamour or Gwen Stefani whose fair complexion is a virtual trade mark. Perhaps the ageless Tilda Swinton is the best example of how avoiding the sun altogether can keep one scarcely looking a day over 30, although she’s actually well into her 50s.
If you won’t listen to your doctor, listen to a photographer who has spent the last eight years photoshopping wrinkles off of 22 year old women.
I'm adopting Tilda Swinton as my muse, and every time I think about heading for a sun spot with the intent of "just getting a little bit of color," she'll appear and whisper into my ear something about wrinkles and cancer and how being alabaster and odd looking is quite amazing. She'll also appear any time someone mentions how white I am and how I should really get some sun. She'll wink at me with those color-changing eyes and I'll kindly respond by telling said person that I'm quite proud of my fair skin. I might also ask why said person thinks it's so important that I get more tan. Is it because they think I look ugly? Because, you know, it might be fun to make someone feel awkward.
If we're going to practice self-love and truly love the skin we're in, let's not forget our actual skin. Doesn't matter if it's white, brown, black, yellow, blue, purple, or red. It's yours and it's all you've got. There's no sense in trying to make it what it's not. I know if we start loving our skin now, we'll thank ourselves later.
If you need to, pick a skin-tone muse to help you on this journey. Learn about her and summon her when the societal skin gods start beating you over the head with tanners and whitening creams. And forget what other people think. The most important people in your life love you for who you are and see waaaaay past your skin color.
Photo Credits: Born of the Flowing Water by Ronnie Biccard | Tilda Swinton for Nars