Indian girls would look incredulous when I told them that in the West we roasted ourselves in the sun just to get a darker skin. If we couldn't find any sun, we actually paid
to use special tanning studios to get darker ! They probably thought that western women are mental and completely don't appreciate their beauty, and shook their heads as I explained fake-tan creams that make you darker. In India there exist creams to make you whiter. When you go to a photography studio to get a photo for showing potential marriage candidates, you wear a brocade sari and foundation a shade lighter than your skin tone. The photographer uses extra strong lights and then he Photoshops the skin whiter.
When I got my ID photo made, my eyebrows didn't make it to the end image. In India pale is beautiful.
Pale, spotless skin means that you belong to the upper classes; while a tan is something the working class gets from outdoor labour. Dark-skinned actresses look several shades paler onscreen. Some change is in the air though: Indian Vogue features dark-skinned models (and boy
, are they gorgeous
) and portrays sultry as beautiful; but this hasn't filtered down to the masses yet. For the average Indian embracing dark skin makes as much sense as embracing your pimples. Indian ladies don't let their skin out in the sun if they can help it. They carry umbrellas through the summer, and stick to the shade. And yes, they usually have beautiful skin to show for it even when they are old and fat. (And no, it's not all genes, since the peasant women get wrinkled as leather.)
In the west, words like sun-protection and SPF have entered mainstream consciousness only in the 90ies. Before that, a whole generation got premature wrinkles and skin-cancer from hours spent in the sun. But the history of baking in the sun for the sake of a tan is quite recent as well. Ever wondered about how the tanned look came into fashion ?
It's been around only since the 20ies. Before that, for hundreds of years porcelain skin was the thing to have, and ladies resorted to various strategies to achieve that: masks, parasols, even lead and arsenic (yep, the last two are poisonous). Pale, spotless skin meant that you belonged to the upper classes; while a tan was something the working classes got from working outdoors. We have Coco Chanel to thank for making a tan fashionable.
Thank ? Or rather blame ? Coco inadvertently made tanned skin fashionable when she accidentally got sunburned on a cruise in the French Riviera. And what Coco did was Law. If she got sunburned, then sunburn must be chic. Since then, millions of women have destroyed their skin and given themselves doses of free radicals.
In the West, embracing your paleness is a teeny-tiny movement sparked by ladies who are fed-up of slathering on self-tanners and swear by sunscreen instead. But this hasn't filtered down to the masses yet.
Thats why I blog about self-tanners