Pale in Paradise & Why I Won't Tan

Apologies for the radio silence for the last few days, but if you've been following me on Instagram perhaps you understand why. At the beginning of the week Thomas and I took a pre-dawn drive through icy fog down to Dublin, boarded a plane, flew to Washington D.C., said a brief hello to my parents, left D.C. less than 24hrs later to fly to a little strip of paradise--the Riviera Maya. It's sunny and warm and we're feeling quite spoiled at the moment. There will be more posts from our sunny get-away to come.
Being in such a beautiful, bright place does mean I feel a bit like Casper on vacation. When I lived in Hawaii my local friends used to tease me about how pale my skin was, saying I reminded them of the under belly of a fish. It was all in good fun and since they were friends and teasing, it never bothered me. Unfortunately comments on fair skin don't stop with the light-hearted jokes of friends and family. For some reason before going on vacation to a sunny clime you are expected to start a base coat or apply a bit of self-tanner to your legs (so you "don't blind someone with the glare off of those!"). Once you have reached that sunshine the pressure doesn't stop, now you should make the effort to go home looking like you laid on a beach--it isn't enough to experience it (and get the pics!) people need to see the sun and sand just by looking at your skin. It starts to feel relentless after awhile and people look at you as if you are vampire white and have two heads when you dare to say you're wearing SPF 50. So why don't I just bite the bullet and get a fake tan or even put a bit of suntanning lotion on when I have the chance to catch some rays like right now? Well there is a number of reasons...
It's not my natural state. The main reason would just be the simple fact this is the color my skin is naturally. Anything else would require effort. I'm not completely against altering your "natural state," as it evidenced by my affinity for dyeing my hair! But with my skin I can't be bothered; if this is the color my skin wants to be, fine by me.
It wouldn't be healthy. I know far too many people who have suffered from skin cancer and it just seems like the smart decision to protect my skin as much as possible. There's also wrinkles and sun spots to think about, but mostly applying sunscreen is an easy way to look after my body's well-being. I might not eat a salad or exercise every day, but I can apply some sunscreen and protect my skin!
I think it looks fine. I know tan is more of the beauty ideal at the moment, but I actually think pale is quite pretty too--even in a bikini or at the beach! There were times in the past when pale was the beauty ideal; I'm not arguing for a return to that, but the fact that what is considered good-looking is fickle just shows how pointless it is to worry about public opinions on beauty.
And honestly, I would look weird with a tan. I mean, can you imagine me with a tan? I can't. It certainly wouldn't suit red hair and would feel so...not me. I was very self-conscious of my pale skin when I was younger, but the older I get the more my fairness feels familiar and insignificant. Most of the time I don't even notice or remember that I'm pale. I'm only reminded when someone comments on it.
I have nothing against tans, self-tanning lotions and I think every skin tone is beautiful, but for myself it's clear--I'm better off pale. I'll still be lying sea-side, soaking up every moment of warmth that I can on this dream vacation, but I'll have my sunblock close at hand as well. 

details: old sunnies, Shein dress c/o (shortened), thrifted belt, BaliElf purse, And Mary necklace
*pictures by Thomas*



  1. I can relate! I actually do tan fairly well naturally, but it takes a long time and by the time the end of winter comes around, my foundation (the lightest shade in the range) is sometimes too dark. There definitely is this concept that being tan is more attractive, and being pale means sickly or something along those lines.

    I can't tell you how many people over years, especially in the months before spring, as if I'm feeling ok because "you look really pale." I AM pale! jeesh! I have dark hair that lightens up some from the sun, so a tan does work on me, but I'm ok with being pale too.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I am so thankful for finding your blog and I find your style absolutely perfect. Your blog has done so much to allow me to not be self concious and scared to show my white skin. I used to use self tanners, but they didn't really even change much. I used to wear black stockings in the hight of summer so I wouldn't "shock" people with my white legs, and was terribly afraid of swimming at the beach. But, when I came across your photos and your perfect style on pinterest I fell in love with your blog. Then I was like, 'hey this girl here has white, untanned legs that she isn't afraid of showing and looks absolutely stunning'. Your blog proved to me that having white legs is not something that makes me less beautiful, I felt empowered. I am so thankful for you honesty and that you demonstrated that having no tan was not something to be shy and afraid of. Thank you!

  3. It is rather sad that people feel need to even comment on stuff so trivial. I really appreciate how articulate and fair you are when you deal with critiques. I agree with you, it is hard to imagine you with tan!

  4. ack! I'm super pale and never tan, also. and even though people don't make comments (for the most part) I definitely feel judged and like, whoa, what's wrong with you in some people's stares. but guys. chill out.

    thanks for the encouragement -- I agree completely!!

  5. Do not tan! It will be the best for you in the long run. I was pale back in the day when all my friends were laying out and getting toasty. Now that we're old I can honestly say people think I am a lot younger then I am. Even my friends say I look younger, go figure. Best decision I ever made.

  6. I think you're very pretty for your own colors: clear skin and red hair :)
    I think taht clear skin is most elegant, but I'm italian and I'm not so clear as I'd like!
    Kiss from Rome <3

  7. You are beautiful the way you are, doing things/changing your look to impress others is silly. All skin tones are beautiful, what matters is what makes one happy. Enjoy paradise, it looks amazing!

  8. You are beautiful the way you are, doing things/changing your look to impress others is silly. All skin tones are beautiful, what matters is what makes one happy. Enjoy paradise, it looks amazing!

  9. Hi!! I've been following your blog for a while but I don't usually comment... But today I have to, just because when I read it I just think "it could be something written by myself..." Every single word!!
    I also have that phantom-like skin and it's hard for people to understand everything about it... It's even harder to understand that i like it and I don't feel like myself without that skin tone! I also have one major issue anytime I go to professional make up (so annoying that I almost quit doing it, and now I usually do it myself, even for big evens...) because the girls always try to make my face tanner than it is, saying that "you will look much better with a little tone..." Or that horrible argument that "this is a special foundation that matches with every skin tone"... No, it doesn't!!! Maybe with every normal skin tone but NOT MINE!!!
    By the way, I'm from Portugal (all my family is) and I'm surrounded by very tanned Latin people... Even harder 😜

    Well, just enjoy your vacations (riviera maya is amazing...) knowing that your not alone in this 😝😝

  10. I am about ten shades paler than you (you probably think it's not possible, but it is!) so can relate to everything in this post! Unfortunatly, my legs are so deathly pale you can see every blotch, blue vein and imperfection going. Combined with my many-shades-darker knees and elbows, it's not a pretty sight. Often i wish we lived in a world where no one made snide remarks about skin colour so that i could not sweat in trousers all year round. But alas, we don't, so i like to live vicariously through you and your flawless pale skin. You are definitely the champion of fair beauty. Never change!

  11. As a fellow pale lady, I COMPLETELY relate. I've never understood why people act like being fair skinned or looking pale is a bad thing. All colors are beautiful!

  12. Hi Rebecca,
    I'm sorry that people make comments to you about this! I lived in South Korea for a while. The beauty standard there is that very pale skin is the ideal. One day I was sick so I was paler than usual and I received comments on how beautiful I looked that day! My experience there made me realize how arbitrary beauty standards are - and how they are culturally dictated. No one should feel pressured to get a tan - especially when it leads to skin cancer and wrinkles. I apply sun screen as much as possible but there will inevitably be one day I forget and thus burn. I always regret it!

  13. i love this bright orange dress and all your beachy accessories! so perfect for your vacation.

    good for you for not giving into social sTANdards. (haha see what i did there?) there's no one way to be; some of us look better tan, some of us look better pale, some of us don't care that much about skin tone. i'm personally kind of like you, i prefer to avoid getting tan (although i'm chinese, so i naturally have a kind of yellowy tan)

  14. The riviera maya is a paradise i hope you enjoyed it. About tanning.. even i use spf 50. I'm sure people looked at you because you look gorgeous and we're visually attracted to light skin since we're all so brown and tanned lol. Love your colorful pics.

  15. @Lu, thank you for your kind words! It isn't really people here, or locals at all. It's more people who maybe would naturally be as pale as me but use self-tanner or are desperate to get a real tan. It's not very popular where I'm from in the States or even in NI to stay pale. So it's pretty much always people who would be this pale who wonder why I don't at least try to get a slight tan.

  16. I don't think you need a tan you look beautiful just as you are and your skin is the right colouring for you. It sets off your amazing hair! Excited to see more pics from hols so I can dream of sunny places during the cold weather here.

  17. I think you look great pale! As a pale lady myself, I have grown to love it too. I think a little color is inevitable but I always put on sunscreen and have embraced my paleness!

  18. This post definitely resonated with me! I'm a fellow red head (albeit henna'ed) with very pale skin. I just don't like how I look tanned, like yourself as I've got older I've really learnt to love my paleness which is one step towards self love! I don't mind other people tanning but I also worry about the health risks for paler people and suncream (also factor 50 as I burn awfully) is protecting my skin. I always burned then tanned as a child until I used higher factors and that's not healthy for my skin at all!
    Hope you both have a wonderful break, the lovely Northern Irish weather will be waiting for you when you return - it's actually a little less cold this week and I'm suspicious!

  19. I live very far away from the place where you are right now -- I live in north China, in a metropole of 7 million people called Changchun. Being white is the ideal here. I am very pale as well (and my skin just doesn't react to sun at all, so I never get a tan). And chinese people envy me every day for it.
    After one and a half years here, beauty ideals have shifted for me, and I cannot see them so ultimate anymore. Everyone is the most beautiful in some part of this world.

  20. I have the EXACT same thing. I never tan- I just burn. So I cover myself in factor 50 because, crazily enough, I don't want sun burn.
    Then I come back and people say 'you don't look very brown' as if getting a tan is the main aim of going on holiday...

  21. don't let the haters get you down! I have natural olive skin, and all the time people tell me "you would be so pretty if you tanned!". But, just like you, I care more about protecting my skin than the current beauty trend. And I like the skin I'm in :) I don't wanna change it.

  22. After catching a glimpse of the topic to this post from your IG, I was instantly intrigued. But it wasn't until recently that I have the time to read it. And, coming from someone who comes from an entirely different culture, I'd say, "Keep that pale!" Although most of you white folks seem to think tan is cool, we tanned folks bend over backward on a daily basis to obtain a pale complexion. Sunblock everyday isn't necessarily strange since the sun shines all year round, except when it rains, and we get tanned in the blink of an eye. We would die to get the pale skin tone that your culture takes for granted—and don't think we haven't tried EVERYTHING. Sometimes it works, although temporarily, but most of the time it's just pointless. So I admire and support your belief in keeping your pale skin. It IS beautiful—although probably a lot of pain in the tropics, since it's prone to sunburn.

    Just know that if you ever feel disheartened by people's comments on your pale skin, I—and probably so many Indonesians—will have your back.

    <a href=">Alive as Always</a>

  23. i feel you girl. i like being pale and would look pretty strange with a tan. i honestly don't even think its possible for me to get a natural tan. #palegirls4evr <3


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