The Things We Do for Beauty

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” — Abraham Lincoln.

If I had it to do all over again, I’d never sunbathe.

Tanning was all the rage when I was young, and we spent hours trying to get that sun-kissed and healthy glow.

My Italian mom was a sun-worshiper, and my sis and I as young girls tried to keep up with her. Later, in college, we congregated on our sun deck from February until the school term ended in May.

As young professionals, we’d slip into bikinis every weekend and walk over to the apartment complex’s pool.

There, Casey Kasem’s American Top Forty countdown would be blasting out of the speaker system. We’d grab a soda and a recliner, lather down with coconut oil, and talk or drift into a sleepy reverie for a couple of hours. Until the lunch bell rang in our stomachs (or Casey pronounced his traditional, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”).

If the morning sun wasn’t enough, we sought more in the afternoon. Tennis, walking on the beach, whatever.

Soaking up the rays.

And ruining our skin.

What was I, a fair-haired Irish girl, thinking? I didn’t inherit my mom’s olive skin that never burned or needed sunscreen.

I’d eventually turn a faint tannish color, but it wouldn’t last. And struggling through a sunburn to get there was painful and inconvenient.

I recall my worst sunburn, “won” during a weekend get-away trip to Florida, where I easily could’ve matched a lobster!

Dousing my skin with vinegar (can you say, Salad?) and, a few days later, peeling off the outer layer in strips sort of put a damper on my penchant for tanning. Nevertheless, the damage was done.

Today my arms and legs have blotching and brown spots no cream can erase, no dermatologist can treat.

But I’m also smarter. Less willing to follow the crowd.

And I’ve discovered self-tanners, which, if used properly, can give even an Irish girl a golden glow.

Do tell — Are you one of the lucky ones who tan naturally?

28 thoughts on “The Things We Do for Beauty

  1. Ouch – that vinegar stings! I’ve never heard of that before.

    As you may recall, I have an Irish grandmother and an American Indian grandmother. In winter I am fair as fair can be, and in summer, I tan with little effort or burning. I’ve been mistaken for a blue-eyed Italian, but I think Frank Sinatra cornered that market.

    Self-tanners sound like the way to go. Happy sunshine. 🙂

    • Actually, vinegar helps with the sting. There’s probably some chemical explanation for it, but if I ever knew, it’s long been forgotten.
      You are sooo fortunate. I still wish I had lovely tan skin (even for just a season). In the meantime, thank goodness for tan-in-a-bottle!!

  2. This sounds like my story. I tan more easily now, but the damage is there in blotches. I now wear 30 sunscreen. I suppose I learned my lesson, a bit too late. Occasionally, I still get caught without sunscreen, ugh!

    • I’m a late comer to sunscreen, too, Suzi, but better late than never, huh? I’ve seen women in my mom’s generation who were sun-lovers at the pool every day, and their skin looks like leather. I’m glad that long ago, I read how bad sun is on one’s face, and I took that to heart!

  3. Oh wow – I can SO relate to this post – I did the same sun worship. We spent our summers waterskiing at Lake Powell and other places in the desert – and get this – my sisters and I would actually “lay-out” on lawn chairs in the back, yes the back, of our parent’s pickup that was towing the boat so we got sun on the way to the lake.

    • We really bought into that healthy, tan look, didn’t we, Barb? I can remember playing tennis — in the heat of the day, no less — for HOURS on end. Of course, back then, the sun wasn’t supposed to be as harsh as it is today (that’s what they’d have us believe, at any rate). Still, after a long, hard winter, that springtime sun sure does feel good on one’s skin!

    • Kim, you’re blessed to have enough melatonin in your skin to stay tan year-round! After a long winter like this one, I just feel (and look) so pasty. I miss laying out in the sun, but I dare not do it any more. I learned about vinegar in college — it really works IF you can stand smelling like a salad!!

  4. OMG Debbie, I can soooooooooo relate to this post! Do you remember mixing iodine with baby oil and then laying out in the sun for HOURS? Having lived in Florida and being a SUN WORSHIPER for years and years, I went through a period of about nine years where I NEVER laid in the sun. At all. I started using a sunscreen and using a self-tanner in the summer, just to give myself a little color. I use the one from Jergens (Natural Glow) because it’s cheap and works really well.

    However, about a year and half ago when I went back to visit my family in Florida, I started laying in the sun again. But I don’t sit out long, about an hour, once or twice a week. And I use Jojoba oil on my skin because it’s a nature anti-oxidant and works like a sunscreen. I get a tan VERY fast (being Italian) but I don’t hold it long.

    Great post, dear lady! Have a super week!

    • I remember my college friends “mixing iodine with baby oil and then laying out in the sun for HOURS.” That, I never did. It just looked yucky, and coconut oil smelled more beachy!
      Thanks for the tip on the self-tanner. Those things gave a definite orange tint when they first came out, but the manufacturers have worked to erase that and give people a more natural look.
      The vitamin D from the sun DOES feel good on one’s skin, and you’re probably not overdoing it. I can’t resist sitting outside on a pretty day for a few minutes at a time, either!
      I appreciate your visit, dear Ron, and hope your week is splendid!

  5. I do tan somewhat easily. I’m of German and Polish descent, so I’m not sure where the tanning gene came from, but my dad does have a bit of olive tone to his skin. And I’m more careful than I used to be, but I have to admit that I still can’t resist trying to get a little color once in a while. The winter months just make me feel so pasty!

    • Ah, Terri, I can soooo identify with your “pasty” colored skin! It’s bad enough, living with that during the long winter months, but NOBODY wants to endure it in the summertime, too.
      I suppose being careful is key. That, and spray tans, ha!

  6. I do tan and seldom burn but I don’t have the patience for sunbathing and I’m not a fan of hot. I do love the look of a tan tho so I use the self tanners and a blush that I’m told does NOT make me look orange. I’m pretty sure the people I asked wouldn’t lie to me. Vinegar is a great tip.

    • You’re lucky, Katybeth. I’ve always wished I could tan. As a kid, I freckled; when I got older, I burned, then peeled, then got a semblance of a tan. But self-tanners are so much better! None of that laying out business, and one can sort of control how dark one gets. Thanks, as always, for stopping by!

  7. I absolutely do not tan. I never got into the tanning thing. I tried to go to visit with friends but was so bored. My worst burn ever was with friends… to get through the bore of tanning I brought a book. I learned two lessons: (1) Don’t put sunscreen on sitting down, and (2) Don’t bring a book that’s too interesting. I stayed on my stomach for too long and ended up with two very burned patches on the back of my thighs/bottom. Ouch!

    • I can relate to the book thing, Janna. My mom would lay out with a book for HOURS, but she never burned. Me? I could lay out 15 minutes and come away looking like a strawberry! No way would I have thought of reading outside — I know how immersed I get in a good story, ha! Thanks for sharing your story and lessons.

  8. Well, as you can imagine, a tan is one of the few benefits of my work. I don’t get really dark, though. I begin tanning in late February, and once I’ve reached a certain point, that’s it.

    What’s saved me is that I wasn’t interesting in tanning when I was young. I’ve only had a very few sunburns in my life, and most of those came after I was thirty and took up beach life and sailing. When I went to a dermatologist a couple for years ago — for the first time! — she couldn’t find any problems at all.

    I do wear sunscreen on my face every day, but I can’t use it on my arms or hands, because if I get it on the wood I’m in serious trouble. But so far so good. The dermatologist says I must be genetically UNdisposed toward sunburns and lesions. Good for me, sez me.

    • Linda, your dermatologist has to be right — you must be blessed with excellent genes! No way could I do outside work during the warmer months. My skin just wouldn’t hold up, I’m afraid.
      And seriously? You only visited a dermatologist for the first time a few years ago? I’m impressed. I started dermatology visits in college and with my skin, I’ll probably still be going in my golden years!
      I’ve found a good sunscreen for my face and wear it EVERY DAY. I only lather arms when I know I’ll be outside in the sun for longer than I should (like last year at Domer’s graduation, ha!)
      Thanks for dropping by and have a wonderful week!

  9. Oh My Yes!! we sure did didn’t we—-remember that trip to Ship Island???Even when you pay for laser treatments,the spots come back as soon as you step outside!!
    I’m just glad that ALL the lessons learned didn’t come with such a high price….:) love you, Suzie PS I hate to say, but if we were that age again, we probably would do it all over again! Unfortunately, most of us learn in retrospect….

    • Hey, Sis, love seeing you here, and I’m glad you remember, too! You’re probably right about us doing it all over again — don’t they say youth is wasted on the young (or something to that effect?!) “Learning in retrospect” sounds kind of like Monday morning quarterback, huh?!!

  10. Yes, Debbie, I tan naturally, or easily. But I have spent years staying in the shade. The only lapse was a few of my teen years, where I would actually pour coca-cola on my skin, to “enhance” the tanning. As a kid, going to the beach with my family meant finding a spot under the boardwalk. It was dark in there, but I’m glad my mother made us sit there. We weren’t the only ones under the boardwalk by the way. There were lots of families hanging out with us. Strange to think of it now, though. Here in San Diego, it’s impossible to avoid the sun, but I still take shade over direct sun any day.

    • You’re actually blessed to have that natural melatonin in your skin, Monica. How I wish I had some! Interesting that you’d go to the beach and hide from the sun — I loved being outside as a kid (still do, truly!), but now I have to be careful to avoid putting MORE spots on my skin. And covering up just isn’t an option when the temps reach 80 degrees! Thanks for dropping by.

  11. Oh my, Debbie, my sisters and I used to lather on the baby oil and burn, baby, burn on our own Disco Beach, code name for our backyard patio. What were we thinking back then?

    • You, too, Pat? That’s just what we did, and baby oil couldn’t have been good for anything but speeding up the burning process! We told ourselves that having a tan was healthy, but now we know better — too many burns can lead to all kinds of skin problems (including cancer), so now we cover up. For some, sadly, it’s too little, too late. All we can do is pray we’re safe in spite of our bad “habits,” huh? Thanks for weighing in, my friend, and have a lovely weekend!

  12. Well Deb…I come by my tan naturally because I’m…African American. But….My daughter is an esthetician and she said I have brown spots because I never used sunscreen. I didn’t think I needed to…but now I know everybody needs sunscreen. Who knew? All we can do now is to be diligent in keep a good check on our skin and using SPF products everyday to avoid future issues…. and make sure our grandkids wear it.

    • Grandkids are FAR into the future for me, Tanya, and Domer is past the age where I can apply sunscreen to his skin, ha! But you’re right, nobody told us too much sun (regardless of our skin tones) would damage our skin. Now we know and should do whatever we can to educate the next generation. Thanks for dropping by and I hope you’re feeling better!

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