I may have left behind much of my Australian origin including the accent and I can only remember the silly things like anyone does when looking back to when we were only five. However, what has remained instilled in me is the acknowledgment of sun damage and great respect for my skin’s health.
Beauty standards have changed greatly over the years and part of that is the expectations on tan. Elizabeth I’s shockingly white face is one of the enduring parts of her legacy and she is not alone in her attempts to become chalk white in a world where whiteness was wealth and wealth was beauty: the peasants and working men and women would spend their days outside, whilst the wealthy would have no reason to. As time went on this beauty standard didn’t change, so much so that those dying of consumption were considered stunning with their gaunt, pale faces. Naturally, things come and go, standards change and as a result, I would be considered more beautiful hundreds of years ago with my incredibly pale complexion. I, however, seem to stand fairly alone in my desire to remain pearly white.
I was desperately foolish once and allowed myself to get the worst sunburn I had in my life, it was so bad I got something called the ‘Devils Itch’; it was pure agony. I was certainly aware and moderately cautious of the sun, I had applied sunscreen but when I went into the water it washed off and I wasn’t persistent enough. The Devils Itch was unrelenting in its veracity, an itch that felt like it was inside me and of course completely unscratchable on my sensitive, red skin: the only thing that relieved it was icy, cold water, certainly no creams not even calamine lotion as they all made it worse. I simply had to wait it out.
Everyone should be aware of the dangers of sun damage, yet no one seems to take the dangers seriously: they include premature ageing, skin damage, and cancer, the NHS also say that it makes skin ‘look, coarse, leathery and wrinkled’. We have fought hard to end unrealistic and dangerous beauty standards but I find it concerning that the desire for the perfect sun-kissed skin has not been combatted seriously enough.
I believe sun beds are completely unjustified, they contain a greater dose of UV rays than a midday tropical sun and on top of the normal damage, they also cause eye-problems such as conjunctivitis or cataracts. Fake-tan may be a safer alternative than scorching your skin outside or on a sun-bed but there are many misconceptions that they carry. They do not protect you from the sun and the active ingredients, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which reacts with your skin to change colour, long term effects are as of yet unknown. Lastly, Melanotan injections are point-blank illegal.
With this in mind, I turn my attention to sunscreen. Despite common belief, it is possible to tan with factor 50+ as sunscreen works by filtering UV rays and preventing burning but does nothing to prevent your body from producing melanin which gives the tanned look. So why doesn’t everyone wear a high SPF and why do people not even bother? I believe there has been little to emphasise the disastrous effects that the sun can have, whilst in warmer climates, there may be more awareness, there has been less interest in the UK: as more people travel abroad and the summers get warmer this needs to change. I see no reason to ever buy a sunscreen with an SPF lower than 30 but I will always buy 50+, in fact, Nicole Kidman recently enlightened me on the existence of SPF 100, that Neutrogena sells. She spoke to The Cut, ‘I reapply all the time. I was just shooting outside last week. It was almost 100 degrees in NYC. I was out in the sun all day from beginning to end. I reapplied SPF 100-plus, which is crazy, but I didn’t get burnt once’. I’ve since bought it.
I take my health, both in and out, as crucial to my happiness and I wholeheartedly advocate investing in good products to help look after yourself rather than expensive make-up to hide it all. We must embrace ourselves as we are regardless of skin-colour and certainly never take to drastic and harmful methods to try and morph ourselves into anyone else. So embrace the gorgeous weather, get your Vitamin D, go out walking or exercise or read a good book safe in the knowledge that your skin is protected. Oh and don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
BY: RHIAN DANIEL