Here are the Reasons Why I Don’t Tan

I used to hate being pale. I desperately envied the girls who came back from spring break with perfect, even tans. My skin burns incredibly easily, so unless I cake on bottles and bottles of sunscreen, I end up the color of a boiled lobster. I mean really, really red. Fire engine, ripe tomato red. Eventually, my sunburns fade into tans, but that takes weeks, and my “tan” is pretty pale by most people’s standards.

After years of lamenting my pasty state, I finally realized: I’m never going to be tan! My skin has always been and will always be pale. Baby, I was born this way.

Here are the reasons why I don’t tan:

Skin cancer. Yes, this one is obvious. Warnings about the dangers of the sun are everywhere. But I have personal experience on this front. My dad has struggled with skin cancer for the past ten years, and helping take care of him after his worst surgery was particularly good motivation for me to protect my skin. He had to have a ping-pong ball-sized piece of skin cut out of his temple and the spot still has to be carefully watched.

My dad had basal cell carcinoma, which is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, but that didn’t make it any less scary. Skin cancer often shows up as just a small mole, but the procedures to remove these moles are painful and expensive. They also leave large scars that need serious treatment and protection. And the cancer can come back easily. Recently, my dad went in for a check-up at the dermatologist and had to have several pre-cancerous spots burned off his forehead. So, take it from the girl who has helped bandage up post-surgery skin cancer wounds. That tan? Not worth it.

Oompa, Loompa, doom-pa-dee-do. If you’ve seen Jersey Shore or The Real Housewives of Orange County lately, you know exactly what I’m saying. It is definitely possible to be too tan. And let’s be honest here ­– orange skin isn’t a good look on anyone. Ever. I’ll take milky white over orange alien any day.

No wrinkles here. Just take a look at a few of the pale Hollywood beauties who have remained stunning as they age. Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren – all ladies who kept it natural, took care of their skin, and still look incredible. Who wouldn’t love to look like that forty years from now? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not end up like Donatella Versace.

I just look weird with a tan. Yes, it’s the truth. I have actually been tan at a few points in my life. And you know what? It wasn’t a great look for me. I have strawberry blonde hair that’s a little on the darker side for blonde. And when my skin is tan, my hair and skin are practically the same color. It’s weird. I also just don’t look like myself with a tan. No matter what, it always seems unnatural. So I’ll be sticking with my pale look.

I spend a lot of time outside in the summer and sun exposure comes along with the season. But you can bet I’ll be religiously reapplying my sunscreen. Check out this website for a list of safe, effective sunscreens, and fend off the Ooompa Loompas!  And don’t forget that pale can be just as beautiful as tan. Just check out these beauties!



  1. Anna says:

    I loved this article! I'm so sorry to hear about your dad, but I'm glad its made you so conscious of the dangers of tanning. Unfortunately I know people who say "aww screw it, I know I'm going to get skin cancer so I might as well look good before I do". I'm fair-skinned, but I'm also half Sicilian so I can tan easily if I want to. However I chose not to for all the reasons you listed above! SPF all the way :)

  2. Angel LaMae says:

    You hit the nail right on the head. I don't tan either. I burn. That's my mantra. I'm sorry, all the pressure that you must be tanned to be acceptable ….. use spray tan if you're that set on it! I just lost a good friend to terminal melanoma and I, myself, just had a big scare with it as well. I won't go outside for an extended period of time without an SPF less than 50. I may be pale, but at least someday I won't look like a leather handbag. I know too many ladies as well who start tanning just for their weddings. Ladies, seriously, tanning beds are cancer in a box. We need to take care of ourselves and not give in to these pressures of society.

  3. Hayley says:
    I like your article, but on the opposing side there is something to be said as far as skin cancer risks go. Third headline down.

    1. Angel LaMae says:

      More research has proven that increased exposure to the sun and especially tanning beds (Think about it, it's the same thing but multiplied in intensity) is linked to the instances of skin cancer. Without proper protection (aka sunscreen) you're putting yourself at risk for developing this disease. More credible resources support the link. The link you provided, is full of holes and lacks credibility. Protect yourself. The alternative isn't pretty and it's damn scary.

  4. tina says:

    thank you!!! finally! someone who actually says its okay to be pale. When other websites talk about being pale, they say its okay, but then they tell you to go get a spray tan. :( So thank you!
    And I’m so sorry about your dad.

  5. Ash says:

    I believe that life is all about taking risks, and deciding what is important to you and which risks are worth taking. Tanning, like anything else, means you are taking a chance but does not guarantee any/all bad outcomes.

    1. Catherine says:

      There are ways to get a tan risk free though (or at least without the risk of sin cancer caused by the sun) so why take the risk if you can achieve the same outcome in a much safer way? Tanning in the sun is never healthy for you even if you never end up with skin cancer.

    2. Ash says:

      Of course there are safer ways. There are also safer things to do than smoking/drinking/unprotected sex etc. etc. I'm not saying it's right or that other people should agree with me. I'm just saying that there are risks with anything that you do and you get to decide which ones you partake in. I prefer tanning beds over the other options.

  6. Catherine says:

    I can totally empathise with this article. My dad’s family moved from the UK to Australia when he was 8 years old and at the time no one knew much about the causes of skin cancer and the effects of sun exposure. As a result of this he ended up consistently having to have skin cancers removed and had at least one or two still visible scars on his face. In fact, there was so much skin removed from his fore head from skin cancers he didn’t have any wrinkles there. Seeing my dad with a shunt in his forehead to drain blood after the removal of a (very large) basil cell carcinoma certainly makes me more diligent about looking after my skin in the sun.

  7. msfiveas says:

    I agree that with tanning comes risks just like with smoking, binge drinking, or having unprotected sex, but do we have to be choosing one over the others? Couldn’t you logically decide that you won’t tan for the same reasons you won’t smoke – because they could very likely both kill you? I think gambling with your life over a skin color seems ridiculous, especially with all the sunless tanning options there are.

  8. Uh,Really like your post!!

  9. louboutin says:

    Great article. And sexy writer !

  10. Lynne says:

    Complete agreed. I am asian and have a natural tan. I secretly laugh at all the white people that I know (including my husband) that tell me they sat out in the sun to get a tan. Most of the asian people that I know WANT pale skin. Some of them even go so far as to put whitening powders or bleaching cream on their skin (probably causes cancer too). People should just learn to cherish what they have.

    1. amidress says:

      I am not agree you say

  11. Boooo says:

    I am very pale naturally but forced myself to tan in my teenage years because I thought it looked better. I'm embarrassed to say I fake tanned once a week for a whole year. Then I got smart and don't go tanning much, but my skin has stayed a few shades darker than it used to be. I like it, but hopefully I don't get skin cancer (I'm 19…cross my fingers!). I don't go out of the way to apply sunscreen everyday, but then again I don't purposely go tanning for hours on end anymore either.

  12. anonymousness says:

    I read about this when I was just beginning high school, and it affected me profoundly. Every time I think about getting a tan, I remember her advocacy efforts.

  13. Guest says:

    it's scientifically proven that darker skin (naturally, without tanning), doesn't get wrinkles as early as lighter skin tones… and they don't even have tan! so if your pale just make it work because your going to get wrinkly earlier anyway and if you tan, its going to speed the process up.

  14. Alison says:

    I'm EXTREMELY pale (as in some skin is more translucent than white) – I used to have reddish har but it faded to blond and that darkened to brown so now my hair has a bit too much constrast for my skin. And make up companies don't even make foundations light enough for me. I still long to be tanner but have given up trying for the most part – the annual day laying by the beach for a few hours covered in SPF 30 or 50 is about it for me! I've accepted that I've got the genes of an Irish girl and any sun I get will lead only to a burn.. and then lighter skin than before (seriously – I seem to get an obscenely gradual tan in the summer but it all goes away if/when I peel.) I'd rather be pale pasty white than red, or even purple, and in immense pain!

  15. Nancy says:

    I don't tan because I don't like sunblock:


  16. Sonja says:

    I feel the same way about your last reason. I'm Irish, Scottish, and German and I know I would look like an alien tan. Besides, being blindingly pale (like I am) is leaps and bounds better than walking around looking like a lobster in the middle of winter because you fell asleep in a tanning bed, like the girls I go to school with.

    1. Carly says:

      Uh, I don't know what types of tanning beds they're using, but all the ones I've ever used have timers and go off on their own.

  17. My Mother Too... says:

    Great article (horrible pic.), have been on the same journey with my mother since 95, and keep in mind she is a very strong (work while your sick) woman. Her first operation was on her leg and it took her down for a few days, her wound from the laser resulted in a huge non-stop bleeding and excruciating crater that could not allow her to walk or function normally. There is a scar but thankfully her leg appears to be normal looking, but there are many white spots (treated cancer spots resulting in scars) scattered over body. These spots are not noticable to most, but they are there. Her doc years ago asked if she had any children and to tell me that I have a hightened risk and for me to avoid sun exposure, or at least to a minimum. I'm so thankful for her and thank God that it is continuing to be basal cell and not melanoma. Oh, thought of Megan Fox and Angelina Jolie for pale skinned looks.

  18. @juicebox07 says:

    This article could have been written by me. I'm pale and proud!

  19. Marianne says:

    Its kinda funny….
    im super pale,
    my mom had skin cancer on her forehead,
    im strawberry blond,
    i look really weird with a tan (which ive had like twice in my life),

    I actually started wondering and trying to remember if i wrote this!!!
    (I concur, I did not)
    lol xD

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  21. Shannon says:

    When I was younger, my friends used to talk about tanning and I wanted to do it too, so I could fit in. I never really thought about tanning being bad for your skin. My doctor sent me to a dermatologist to get a mole looked at on my back. I was fifteen. The mole was biopsied, turned out abnormal, but not cancerous, and was removed. I now have a 2 inch diamond shaped scar between my shoulder blades. i have since added five more mole removal scars to my body. I'm 21 now and I know better. When people tease me about my ghostly pale legs or compare tans (even my pale friends!), I remember those moles and hope that one day one of them won't turn out to be cancer.

  22. Jaime says:

    I'm part Latin (from Costa Rica) and part Caucasian, and I get burned if I tan at the beach. I think I was about 16 when I last tried it. It was around then that I learned about the dangers of tanning and quit. My BF is from German-American descent so he's very fair, but he still wants a tan. He gets burned badly every time he tries and he uses sunscreen. I've been trying to tell him that there's nothing wrong with looking fair. I really wish our society would stop acting like there's something wrong with having fair skin.

  23. jayjay26 says:

    I'm Spanish, but since I'm the whiter variety of Spanish people (my family is from the northern part of Spain), I burn very quickly since my skin is the lightest shade of olive. Usually, olive skin tans pretty good, but not mine; I burn in about 15 minutes.

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  25. […] Are People Still Tanning?! I’ve written before about why I don’t tan, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that tanning carries […]

  26. […] skin in the sun. It seems that lots of readers agree with us – my post from last summer about why I choose not to tan is one of my most popular posts ever. And Caitlin does great sun safety videos for CC Beauty […]

  27. Mario says:

    I’m an ER tech. In addition to wanihsg my hands a million times a day (as I should, and do) I’m also exposed to alcohol based hand sterilizers, latex, casting pastes, powders, adhesives, the list could go on forever. (Sad) With all those chemicals, the last thing I want to add to my skin is the awful hand lotion they provide. I always bring my own, that an a HUGE container of water. By the time my day is over, I feel gross. I’ve tried lots of lotions, and I’d love to try this, too. Thanks for drawing my attention to a great product to add to my “arsenal of health.”Great site, Heather

  28. Cintia says:

    I visited the Heavenly Skin Care wesitbe and enjoyed learning about all the products that they offer. I am a huge fan of natural exfoliators, I love using them to wisk away dead skin cells so my skin is always glowing and soft. Their Lavender Scrub sounds wonderful as does the Blue Green Algae Body Butter Polish. I know they both would work in nicely with my daily showering routine. Thanks for introducing this fine company to us!

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