Do Sunburns Count As Tan Lines?

(Disclaimer: By writing this article, I am not trying to invalidate the experiences of persons of color who face discrimination and racism based off of their skin color. I am fully aware of the privilege granted to me because of my white skin. However, I am here to share my experience being extremely fair, which comes with its own set of negative connotations.)

If you live under a rock, Rihanna released forty shades of foundation in her initial Fenty Beauty launch. The line ranges from the lightest of shades to the darkest, with a variety of warm and cool tones in between. Deservingly so, Rihanna has received many compliments on her inclusion of darker skin colors, which are typically excluded from foundation shade ranges. However, I praise Rihanna for looking out for those of us on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Shade 100, the lightest shade in the line that was designed for people with albinism in mind, is my exact match.

I’ve been pale as long as I can remember, and, when I forget that I’m pale, someone usually drops in a remark to kindly remind me. “The first thing I noticed about you was how pale you are” or “You went on a week-long vacation, how are you still so pale?” to name a few (and, to answer the latter one, sunscreen and sitting in the shade to prevent painful burns and avoid my heightened risk for skin cancer). Or, even secondhand comments that are not directly aimed towards me can feel personal because I am unable to tan naturally. “Ugh, I hate winter, I’m so pale” or “I can’t wait to tan, I look so ugly when I’m pale” are both statements that indirectly equate pale skin with being ugly, whether the speaker intends to or not. I fully understand you are not directly calling me ugly because I’m pale, but it reinforces the beauty standard of having tanned, bronzed, goddess skin and anything lighter is gross and undesirable.

I should be grateful that I’m this fair though, right? Isn’t pearly skin an image of Western beauty ideals? Not exactly. While eurocentric beauty standards plague the world in their racist fashion, having the palest of pale skin demonstrates that no one will ever reach this impossible standard. My skin color is idealized by non-white cultures, and yet, my skin is sickly pale in white cultures where eurocentric beauty standards originate. If a girl compliments the color of my skin, she, more often than not, is not white.

But, I am tired of being insecure over a part of me I cannot change. I love being ghostly white. It contrasts my bold, dark brows and glistens under purple highlighter. Our differences are what make us unique, and uniqueness is beauty. Don’t ever let someone tear down your spirit because they cannot handle beauty outside of their tiny box of beauty standards. Someone else’s ignorance or insecurity does not have to become your own.

And, lastly, to all of my fellow pale beauties: don’t forget the sunscreen.

(Photo by Désirée Fawn on Unsplash)