Beauty IRL: Oh, To Be Tan

What a wonderful thing it is to be tan. I know it’s gauche to extol the virtues of sun damage. I know that the freckles that show up every summer, while cute, are actually evidence of sun damage. I know that the fact that I now burn in the sun before I start to tan means that the sun is stronger, my skin is older, and that I need to wear sunscreen. I’m learning. On a recent trip to Miami, I was diligent about applying sunscreen to every inch of exposed winter flesh, and reaped the benefits — a golden glow with minimal burn. I know that sunscreen is the way, and I’ve come around to its charms, but the fact remains that being tan is my absolute favorite way to be. [I must interject her to say one thing, and that is: PREACH. — Amelia]

Being tan feels ineffably glamorous, as if you are suffused with a secret power. Being tan in the summer is a given, a decided marker of leisure time taken and used wisely, but being tan in the winter puts you on a different level. A good tan in the dead of February says that you just got back from Tulum, where you spent a week floating on your back in a gentle ocean and hiking up Mayan ruins. Your aura glows like your skin glows, and people can feel it, trust me.

In the winter, I fade to a weird yellow. It’s pale, for me. I don’t like it. I’ve considered the fake ‘n’ bake route, but for some reason, entombing myself in a glowing, faintly humming box that’s designed to fast track UV rays into my flesh seems less than ideal. Lotions and foams and gelees and whatever else seem fussy. As someone prone to messiness, the idea of using something that requires even the slightest amount of precision seems foolhardy. Sure, the results might be worth it, but I imagine I’d show up to important functions with orange palms and a streaky collarbone, with strips of bronze cascading down my exposed limbs, making it look like I was the victim of a pernicious, undiagnosed skin disease. As bad as it is for me, I prefer my tan to be as natural as possible.

This has been my way for my entire life. After a particularly leisurely summer full of beach weekends, one of my sisters looked at me in the dim light of my living room and proclaimed me to be “too tan.” I never thought there was such a thing. It seems okay to let my skin get as dark as it wants to be, because that’s what nature intends, right? Sadly, I’m probably wrong.

There are freckles on my face that hang out long after summer is gone. I’m not immune to sunburn, I just have to really work at it. Once, after falling asleep on the beach in Santa Cruz, I woke up with the worst sunburn I’ve ever had. It peeled twice. The first day of the summer is always the worst, but it does get better. I’ve stopped being in thrall to the myth of the base tan, and in recent years, have upped my sunscreen game to include more than just tanning oil and haphazard handfuls of SPF 15, applied onto already-wet skin. My minor addiction to being gloriously bronze is now manageable, with the help of some products, a sun hat and a strategically employed beach umbrella.

But what to do for the first really warm day of spring, when it feels criminal to wear pants, when your legs are screaming to be released from their prison of opaque black tights and jeans? I think I have a few ideas.

I hear great things about Jergen’s Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer, which is a body lotion/sunscreen hybrid that purports to impart a subtle glow that deepens over time. Amelia gives it her solid endorsement, and even claims to love the smell. Our very own Robyn rummaged around her apartment and found a bottle of South Seas Island Glow Body Bronzer, which is apparently used on “Dancing With The Stars” and provided noticeable results on her arm. I’m also curious about what happens if I just coat my entire body with Maui Babe Browning Lotion, which is a miracle product I discovered on vacation in Hawaii, which is made with coffee extract and is actually brown. It’s supposed to be a tan enhancer, so if I just slather this on my body in lieu of actually laying out like a strip of beef jerky, it will surely enhance what’s already there, right?

Summer feels close, and that means skirts and shorts and sundresses are around the corner. I will still be tan, because as superficial as it is, I consider it a core tenet of summer — but this year, I’ll be a little safer.