From about the time I was 13 years old to well into my 30s, I would either sit outside for hours each summer or go to tanning salons so my skin would appear tanner than it actually is (I have very fair skin). The tanning salons saved time which was important when I was in college and later holding a full-time job, and didn't have a lot of spare time. The results also were quicker, and I could get a deeper tan than sitting in the sun.
When I was a teenager and still living at home, I was very impatient at the start of each summer...I wanted color right away. So I would - when my parents were gone - pull out the tub of vegetable shortening (the white solid kind that is found in the baking aisle in grocery stores) or baby oil (which my friends recommended) - and put that on my skin.
I would sit out and "tan," and go indoors after several hours. When I looked in the mirror, I always was red as a lobster. My parents, of course, were horrified when they came home to see that my skin had turned an unnatural shade of red. Thank goodness I don't have any pictures of what I looked like. I'm sure it was not attractive.
My reasoning was that if I burned, then the burn eventually would turn to tan skin (which it did).
Throughout the summer I wouldn't wear suntan lotion. Why bother? I wanted darker skin rather than the pale skin I was born with.
This continued well into my 30s...until I attended a women's health expo. At the health expo there was a booth where you could sit down, rest your chin on a little ledge (like the kind at the optometrist for a glaucoma test), and look into the mirror.
The technician then turned on the ultraviolet lights. The image I saw in the mirror went from a normal view to one that I was incredibly shocked by. The image below is very similar to what I saw...except my face was even darker with more blotches...some larger parts (like the cheeks and forehead) were solidly-colored:
Proof that a Tan Never Fades
A special ultraviolet camera makes it possible
to see the underlying skin damage done by the sun.
And since one in five Americans
will develop skin cancer in their lifetime,
what better reason to always use sunscreen,
wear protective clothing, and use common sense.
What the image in the mirror shows is sun damage to your skin. The damage isn't something that you can see with your eyes - it only can be seen with ultraviolet lights.
Needless to say, from that moment on I changed my lifestyle as well as make-up routine. No longer was I striving for the tanned face that needed minimal make-up.
At this point, I'm aiming to protect my skin from further damage. No longer do I sit in the sun for hours at a time or work outside in the middle of the day with no sunscreen and sleeveless shirts.
Although my legs are usually bare (because of wearing shorts), I tend to wear clothes that even cover my arms in the summer.
I use a rose-water spritzer on my face before using an all-natural lotion (either Lavender-Patchouli by Mirasol Farm or Lavender Body Cream by Watkins). At night, periodically, I use a night cream by Watkins.
At some point, I want to switch over to using all-natural make-up. I have not done that yet, but would like to within the next six months (when my current make-up will run out).
I'm hoping that by being smarter about caring for my skin that it will look better (and younger) when I'm older than if I was tanning excessively.