Pale skin, freckles, and ginger hair. The stereotypes American tourists demand one must have in order to fit their idea of ‘Irish’. I’m not saying this is completely inaccurate, many of us are quite pale whether it’s due to genetics or year-round a lack of sunshine, yet we certainly don’t embrace it.
Nowadays, you can walk into any pharmacy and find shelves of tanning products: mousse, lotion, wipes, instant tan, gradual tan, tanning oils. There clearly is a large market of people looking to a acquire a sun kissed look. According to an article in the Irish Times, Ireland is the second highest market for fake tan in the world, thus proving ourselves as tan-addicts.
This love of tan is not some sort of psychological mystery. Why do we get our hair done before a big event? Why do we dress well for an interview? Why do we buy creams that promise us clear skin? We want to look our best to feel our best. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently damaging about this mindset, yet there is a fine line before it becomes so.
If we begin to alter our appearance, in this case tanning our skin, very frequently or to an extreme, we risk growing uncomfortable with our natural features. We lose the familiarity of who we are without alterations, adjustments, or enhancements.
Let me be clear, I don’t want to relay the same old tripe we’ve all heard before. I’m not promoting the idea that people who wear tan, make-up or dye their hair are insecure. Making changes to our appearance doesn’t mean we’re just trying to appease the male gaze or fit in with our peers.
The idea that someone may want to wear makeup or tan for themselves is one that many people try to dispute. I, for one, can recall jokes from family members or teachers about wearing too much fake tan during my teenage era. Or trying to convince my mom that I spent hours practicing doing make-up simply because I enjoyed it.
I will reiterate; this is not a call to arms to ban fake tan or deprecate those who wear it. However, a conversation needs to be had regarding the effect it may have on peoples’, in particular young peoples’, self-esteem.
To nurture a relationship with your body in its rawest form is so important to be truly comfortable in your skin. If you are constantly looking at a version of your appearance you consider better than your natural self, it may cause issues in how you feel when confronted with the latter.
I’ll be realistic, fake tan is not some devil product corrupting our self-confidence, but the tanning culture we have in Ireland should be reconsidered. Perhaps we all need a tan-detox to embrace our paleness. Is it time for us to leave the tan on the shelf?