by Quincey Klein
Today, people are heavily focused on changing society’s perception of body image. It is all too common for teenagers to battle with eating disorders, struggling to see beauty within their natural self when they look at the number on the scale or their reflection in the mirror. Schools and corporations, such as Dove and Fruit of the Loom, widely campaign to promote the appreciation of the whole spectrum of healthy body types through commercials. However, there is little work being done to convince the public, especially women, to embrace natural skin tone. Even though there have been laws banning minors from using tanning salons in California, there is virtually no progress in changing America’s tan-obsessed culture.
Images of perfectly bronzed bodies are plastered on Victoria Secret advertisements and tabloid magazines. Reality TV stars as young as the contestants from Toddlers and Tiaras are pressured to maintain a bronze glow. During Coronation and Prom season, girls at LGHS sport layers of fake tan, which is just as important as their makeup and hair. Spray tans and tanning beds are ubiquitous in the beauty industry, promoting unhealthy life choices that can lead to negative consequences, both in acceptance of self and physical well-being. Culture must move away from praising unnaturally tanned skin.
Expectations imposed by society regarding skin tone are just as damaging to self-esteem as expectations of Barbie-like dimensions. Social media outlets such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feature post after post of girls tanning during the summer or on vacation. If one girl sees another girl tanning, she is forced to evaluate her own complexion. Not all people tan equally. Some may tan slower and more unevenly than others. Some freckle and some just sunburn. It is impossible to copy the even tone seen in photos posted through forgiving filters. Society needs to shift to embracing all shades, from pale to dark skinned.
Tanness is seen as having a “healthy glow”, while paleness is seen as looking “sickly”. However the reality is just the opposite. Vitamin D is essential, however enough for one day can be absorbed in ten minutes in the sun. Extended periods of exposure to UV rays while tanning without sunscreen in both the sun and tanning beds can cause melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. Even though spray tanning is innocuous for physical health, it further damages the psyches of individuals because people are posing as something they are not. Although most people know of the sun’s harmful consequences, men and women are still immersed in the tan-obsessed culture.
Suntanning can be therapeutic, but only in small amounts. The sun radiance can feel soothing, but it can be the devil in disguise. Being pale is beautiful, but then again so is being browned. Neither one is better than the other, and the most important thing is staying true to your body’s natural state.