One of my strongest memories from my 1970’s childhood is of my mom sunbathing. She’d put on her bikini, fill up her Tupperware tumbler with iced coffee, grab her pack of Salems, her large brown bottle of coconut-scented oil and head for the backyard. She’d grease up and bask in the sun for hours. After one afternoon, she’d have an enviable golden glow. By summer’s end, she was a deep bronze and I figured this was the “savage tan” that brown bottle of oil was talking about. I’m one of those pasty white girls and although I mourned lack of ability to get that savage tan for all of my teens and most of my twenties, I’m okay with the skin I’m in now.
I mean…good thing because it’s what I’m stuck with.
I inherited a lot of good DNA from my mom but skin tone is not one of them. Sadly, I inherited my dad’s complexion: the kind of pasty white skin that burns easily after only a few minutes in the sun. My summer skin is either pasty white or bright red. If I consistently spend a lot of time outdoors all summer, I might have something that resembles a tan by August. Maybe. People talk about that “burn that turns to tan” but that doesn’t happen for me.
Summer for me means long-sleeved shirts with UV protection, floppy hats that would look great on some old lady gardener and planning summertime outings to avoid the sun’s strongest rays. Here are some things only pale women understand and, if you find yourself nodding your head while reading this list, then you’re probably one of us pasty white girls, too. Solidarity.
Eight things only pasty white girls understand
1. We are totally oblivious to comments like “OMG your legs are SO WHITE”
Because we’ve heard it before. So. Many. Times. We’re particularly used to hearing this during the middle of the summer when we first break out the shorts and the bathing suits and someone makes the inevitable, tacky comment about needing their sunglasses.
Yep. I know my legs are “so white.” Also? Don’t comment on someone’s body. This is 2020 for crying out loud.
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2. We have at least three “favorite sunscreens”
I mean…at least. Here are my top picks for my fellow pasties:
I really love the Cotz sunscreen for my face. It’s slightly tinted and takes the place of foundation on an active day. It can also be used in place of a primer.
The Coola is the one natural sunscreen I really trust on my body when the sun is strong. Many natural sunscreens just don’t do their job as far as blocking out the sun goes but this one is the best I’ve found. They also have a great spray for your hair and scalp. I usually wear a hat when I know I’m going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time but if you’ve ever had a burn on your scalp, you know why they make products like this.
Finally, the Neutrogena is my go-to for aerosol sunscreen. I know it’s not the most environmentally friendly sun protection but it does the trick as far as great coverage goes.
3. We all have that one horrible “this one time I forgot to put on sunscreen” story
Mine was going on a weekend camping/canoeing trip in high school with my beautifully olive-skinned friend and her beautifully olive-skinned family. My pasty self forgot to pack sunscreen and, since my friend’s family turned a lovely golden color after being in the sun for approximately 10 minutes, no one had any SPF 500 I could borrow.
Instead of explaining to my friend’s mom that my pasty white skin would fry without sun protection, I had the typical bulletproof teen attitude and proceeded to float down the river in an inner tube. Wearing a bikini. For six hours. I spent the rest of the camping trip holed up in a tent and crying because it hurt to wear a shirt. Or a bra. Fun times.
4. We can recite the SPF levels on all the products in our beauty bags and medicine cabinets
If you want to have a heart-to-heart about sun protection, ask the girl with the glowing white legs. We know all the things.
Here are a few more of my SPF heavy faves:
I always look for products that have an extra layer of SPF. The Cotz lip balm has SPF 45 which is the recommended level for lip protection. That’s my go-to balm for when I’m going to be outdoors for an extended period of time.
I do wear makeup most of the time and the Clarins link I provided is for my everyday foundation. I found it by doing a search for best foundations for mature skin and the fact that it has SPF in it is a bonus. Other than that, it’s a really nice, light foundation that has beautiful coverage.
5. We recognize the power of Aloe Vera
Because as much as we pasty white girls try to avoid those harmful UV rays, getting burned happens sometimes. That stuff inside the leaves of the magical Aloe vera plant is… well, magic. THIS is my favorite aloe vera gel, if you want to try it out.
6. We’ve accepted we’re never going to be able to pull off an all-white outfit…
…and we’re fine with that. See also: yellow doesn’t look much better. Glowing bronze skin looks awesome against an all-white sundress but pasty white girls like me know they will never have glowing bronze skin unless it comes from a spray tan machine.
7. We worry about getting sunburned in places most people don’t worry about getting sunburned
You better believe I slather sunscreen in my hair to make sure my scalp doesn’t get burned… and then I put a hat on. I don’t mess around. And yeah, people look at me funny because I spray the tops of my feet with sunscreen about every 20 minutes when I’m at the beach or pool. Those people have obviously never experienced the pain of burned skin on their tootsies.
8. The foundation shade of “Palest Ivory” is just a smidge too dark