Why I hate fake tan

"I'm pale and I'm proud"


Hannah is a philosophy and sociology student and aspiring broadcast journalist/dj/ presenter - she hasn't quite decided yet. Her love of music and hatred of silence means she's always got her headphones in or radio on, even when she's asleep!

The average woman spends a month of her life applying fake tan, according to research by Superdrug. Recently, while in a well-known Essex nightclub, I witnessed this phenomenon to a greater extent than I’d ever noticed before. As a person of very fair skin I tend to stand out, but never as much as I did that night. Every woman, and many of the men, had literally been ‘tan’-goed (get it?).

But this practice isn’t just commonplace in The Only Way Is Essex territory. At uni too, I’m finding myself under pressure to fake it. For my friends, slapping on the self tan seems as integral a part of getting ready to go out as brushing teeth and choosing an outfit. The place I assumed was a hotbed of individuality is in fact riddled with people all desiring to look the same shade of orange. Whatever happened to pale and interesting?

While I really don’t like the way fake tan looks – I will never understand how looking burnt and streaky is desirable – my main issue is this: using fake tan is basically like treating your whole body as a blemish which needs to be corrected and disguised. Pretty unhealthy, don’t you think? People seem to have lost sight of the fact there is more to life than the way you look. Spending life in your own vain little bubble is not going to make you popular or happy, or help you achieve anything constructive.

When I question people about why they fake tan, the most common argument is that it gives them confidence. This is less a justification and more a sad example of the insecurities of our youth. Essentially, what people are saying when they use this argument, is: ‘I am more confident when I’m not myself’. But confidence comes from within, and should not be dependent on physical appearance. If you were really confident, you wouldn’t feel the need to change the way your entire body looks. Michael Jackson tried it, and look how he ended up.

Another argument people try to sell me is that ‘it’s no different from makeup.’ I think you’ll find that it is. The purpose of makeup, in my pale opinion, is to enhance your natural features and cover up the odd spot that might be looming. There is a drastic difference between evening out your skin tone and darkening your eyes for a more dramatic look, and not only covering, but actually changing the skin you’re in.

Apparently, another common reason for faking it is to make people think you’re constantly going on exotic holidays. Ridiculous. No one cares if you can afford to go on holiday or not, and if you really think that’s what people judge you on then you have a very warped perception of the world. Instead of spending time and money perfecting an image, how about using your time constructively and developing yourself into an intelligent character who values the happiness and fulfilment that comes from realising your non-aesthetic dreams? Or even using the money you’re saving by not buying bottles of brown goo to go on a real holiday?

Once, the good old English rose was the preferred look. As someone who rocks the albino look, I do get defensive when it’s suggested that I should feel less attractive/confident because of my skin. Personally, I love being pale. Staying true to my natural state is something that’s very important to me – what gives me confidence is being myself.

But since moving to uni, I’ve been engulfed in a world that’s more image obsessed than I’ve ever experienced, and, to my dismay, I’ve found myself changing. I used to be able to get ready to go out in a relatively short amount of time, but now I find myself spending over an hour perfecting the way I look. It’s not that I didn’t make an effort before, just that going out was more about socialising and having fun, rather than looking great.

I am also ashamed to admit that, after two terms of begging, I gave in to my flatmates demands and let her fake tan me. Far from this boosting my confidence, I felt uncomfortable because I was walking around as someone that wasn’t me.

There is so little focus on looking natural. People instead are determined to get as far away from their true selves as possible. All this is doing is fueling a nation of young people who are unhappy with themselves, and who try to change the way they look instead of learning to appreciate how wonderful they are.

So please stop being so superficial. Ditch the fake tan, and spend the month of life you’ll get back learning to love yourself for who you really are, tanned or not.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015