pale skinned redhead sunbathing by the pool

How to Be Comfortable in Your (Pale) Skin

“Why am I so pale? And what can I do about it?” If you’ve ever asked yourself this question – or been teased for your pale skin – this is the post for you…

Earlier this week, an email dropped into my inbox which broke my heart a bit. Here it is:

Hi amber . I love your page . I’m very pale with dark hair and I’m always being insulted . I get called albino and sickly. I’m going on holiday soon and I’m so self conscious due to being pale and the people I’m going with comment on my skin as they all tan . Do you have any tips or advice . Thanks – Hayley

So, first of all, Hayley, I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a hug right now, because no one deserves to be made to feel self-conscious about their natural skin colour – ever. Also, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that pale + dark hair sounds stunning, and so, so striking – not that it matters, of course, because… well, see above: no one deserves to feel uncomfortable in their own skin, regardless of what colour it is. Isn’t it depressing that this even needs to be pointed out to some people?

It does, though: and I know it does, because, like Hayley, I’ve had my fair share of comments too, some of which I listed in this post – the comments section of which, incidentally, is filled with other pale-skinned women talking about the insults they’ve received because they’ve had the temerity to show their (pale) faces in public without the obligatory suntan. So, Hayley, you’re not alone in this: but here’s the thing – it doesn’t really matter, does it? This is why I hesitate to answer this question with the usual inane platitudes about how, “We’re ALL beautiful!” and “You just have to believe you’re beautiful!” because I know from experience that it’s just not that easy. As proof of that, I submit the following into evidence:

pale skinned redhead sunbathing in a white swimsuit

Why am I so pale, I ask myself? And why should I care, anyway?

You probably think I’m feeling pretty confident in this photo, right? I mean, I’m posing in a swimsuit (This swimsuit, just FYI…), and I’m posting it on the internet, for God’s sake, so I’m obviously not shy about my fair skin, am I? The fact is, though, I’m wearing fake tan here: not a huge amount of it, granted, and I don’t wear it all the time, but while I can talk a good talk, and I genuinely like having pale skin – most of the time – I’m still self-conscious enough about it to want to break out the fake tan for the pool or beach, and to have worn jeans all weekend, because I was worried about blinding people with the pallor of my legs, if I tried to wear a dress.

Hayley, you are not alone: and I know that me telling you to just hold your head up and wear your pale skin with pride probably won’t actually help you here, so I have three main pieces of advice to you, instead:

Please don’t be tempted to try to tan, just because of peer pressure.

It’s tempting, I know. Trust me, there were times when I was a teenager when I’d have lain out in the sun all day long if I hadn’t know it would just give more freckles, rather than an actual tan (I also used to hope the freckles would all join up, and LOOK like a tan: yeah, I was an absolute idiot as a teenager, seriously…), but it’s just not worth it. I’m sure you already know about the skin cancer risks caused by sun-damage, so I’m not going to get all preachy on you, but seriously: I once spent the day at a water park when I was a teenager, and, despite my very best intentions, I obviously didn’t top up the sunscreen on my left foot often enough, with the result that the skin on that foot has always been discoloured, and is actually a completely different colour from its mate. (So now I get to be self-conscious about THAT, too: yay!)

That happened by accident: I honestly shudder to think what kind of damage I could’ve caused myself if I actually had tried to get that golden tan I’d always wanted, so please, please look after your precious pale skin – it’s the only one you’re going to get! I don’t know you, obviously, but I DO know that your skin is exactly the colour it’s supposed to be, and that no one in this world has even the slightest right to make you feel obliged to change it, just to meet their – totally arbitrary – standards of “beauty”.

Understand that other people’s comments aren’t normally about you.

It’s taken me most of my adult life to really understand this, so I’m not saying it’s easy, but after many years of being asked if I was secretly a vampire (Answer: Yes, but I only drink the blood of people who annoy me with their stupid questions…), I came to realise that the people who say these things don’t actually care what colour my skin is: they’re just the kind of people who are uncomfortable with anything that seems out of the “norm” to them. They’re probably the same people who try to harass non-drinkers into joining them at the bar – not because they genuinely feel the non-drinker will have a better time because of it, but because they’re anxious to validate their own actions (“If I’m drinking, then I want everyone else to be drinking, too!”) and they find it hard to understand that not everyone is like them. It’s a kind of herd mentality that crops up time and time again, and the sooner you can see it for what it is, and stop taking it personally (Easier said than done, I know…), the easier your life will become.

Tell your friends how their comments make you feel.

One of the reasons I think people continue to try to “pale shame” is because those of us on the receiving end of these kind of comments are often afraid to challenge them, for fear of being branded “humourless” – which is the standard response any time you try to defend yourself, or point out that, actually, this is how your skin is SUPPOSED to look, thanks. So, first they tell you your skin is too pale, THEN they tell you it’s too thin: some people really are a delight, aren’t they?

The thing is, though, unless your “friends” really ARE terrible, terrible people (In which case, I’m guessing they wouldn’t be your friends?), they’re probably not deliberately trying to hurt you when they tell you that hey, your skin colour really isn’t all that flattering on you, and you should totally change it, just to please them! Yeah, I know it can be hard not to read anything OTHER than “intentional insult,” into a comment like that, but obviously, if it was that simple, and your friends really were just assholes, then the answer to this question would be simple, too: get new friends. Fast.

It’s not always that simple, though. As I said, most of the time people aren’t trying to be assholes: they’re either following the herd mentality, they think they’re being funny, or they’re just mindlessly repeating things they’ve heard other people say, and which they’ve come to believe are socially acceptable. And, unless you tell them to stop, they’re going to keep on doing it, too. So you really have to be honest with them. You don’t have to make a huge deal about it, or create a scene, but, next time someone makes a comment about your skin colour that makes you uncomfortable, just stop them mid-comment, and say, “Hey, I know you don’t mean it, but these comments you keep making actually make me feel quite self-conscious: any chance you could knock it off?” Or words to that effect.

And, of course, it goes without saying that if they keep on doing it, even after you’ve asked them to stop, then it really IS time to get some new friends…

very pale skin

pale skin and red hair

vintage inspired blue dress

Stop Staring navy vintage pin-up inspired dress

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  • I always find it weird when I see people feeling conscious about being pale. I’m on the other end of the spectrum – I tan SO easily and growing up as a kid, I was always dark skinned. It’s kinda weird but now that I’m in my 20s, I have paled. But anyway. Maybe it’s the society here, maybe it’s different expectations for Asians but I always had the insecurities you did, just with the opposite skin colour, so I understand what you’re saying!

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    April 26, 2017
  • Hana Mond


    I have also very pale skin and dark hair – wear red lipstick and you are Snow White 😀
    Comments tend to be always the same, so make some standard-answers. “Are you sick?” – “No, I’m a vampire. I also sparkle in sunlight.”
    Wear things you like. When wearing bathing suits, I feel more comfortable in dark or bright colours (cherry red, ocean blue – they make a beautiful contrast against white skin) than in white or pastells. When I feel pretty, I don’t care about comments.

    April 26, 2017
    • Lizzie


      I agree with Amber and Hana Mond. I also have really pale skin and dark hair and used fake tan during my teens and twenties. Now I just can’t be bothered and have learned to embrace it. I think it suits the retro clothes I like to wear. Holidays are still a little daunting but, last year, I went to Madeira and decided not to fake tan at all. It was so liberating not worrying about it going patchy. I bought a royal blue swimming costume and a red bikini and most of the time I felt good about myself, although the woman at the pool bar did describe me as the palest person she had ever seen. It actually worked out to my favour though because she made sure the man who handed out the umbrellas got mine straight away 🙂 I tried wearing a long lasting red lipstick to the pool one day but I don’t recommend it – I made such a mess while eating an ice cream! X

      August 28, 2017
  • I agree. Pointing out that such comments are unkind whilst giving others the benefit of the doubt that you know they don’t mean to be mean is the best thing. I’ve certainly been interrogated for not drinking alcohol: “I wish you drank because then you could join in”, “Wow, that’s boring!”, “Are you religious? or, my personal favourite, “Are you a recovering alcoholic?” But comments about your skin tone can be hurtful because, unlike alcohol consumption, it’s not a choice.

    I’ve got fairly dark hair myself, though I do help it little bit, and I’ve never been a great one for tanning. I think my skin is fairly resilient, but I still don’t want to damage it and am prone to keeping out of the sun all together unless I have factor 50+ at hand. For the simple reason that I don’t want skin cancer and for the other simple one, though not so important, that I don’t want to look older than I am. Plus I like the dark hair/green eyes Celtic look!

    I have a photo of myself at a wedding in Italy of another Scottish friend to an Italian man – the bride and I stick out like sore thumbs! And plenty of Italian friends over the years don’t get why I don’t want to head to the beach with them. I even went to Spain with one for the summer – loved the country, but wanted to go back in the winter! But I also lived in Japan for eighteen months and over two summers, where I saw women walking round with parasols which sell very well there (you can buy the most beautiful silk ones). Japanese women told me it’s because they don’t want their skin to be damaged (and I’ve certainly never seen an unhealthy pale-skinned Japanese lady!). It would be lovely to walk around the streets of the UK on a rare blistering day with a parasol, but can you imagine the stick you’d get?

    April 26, 2017
  • I love this. I think I need to send this to my bestie – she has the most beautiful white skin and she’s always running out to the park to try and darken up when the sun comes out! Doesn’t matter how many times I tell her how nice her tone is. I’m well pale myself and always get the comment “your legs are blinding me in the sunlight!” when I wear a dress. I couldn’t care less these days, to be honest; it’s their problem not mine! I’ll be laughing in 20 years time when I still look 30, and they all look 70-odd thanks to sun damage…

    April 26, 2017
  • Mel


    Without in any way downplaying the dangers of skin cancer, don’t forget that vitamin D deficiency can also cause some serious health problems! It’s tempting to avoid the sun entirely as a pale person or cover yourself in factor 50 every day but everybody does need to get some sun on their skin on a regular basis.

    April 26, 2017
      • Mel


        I hadn’t seen your instagram comment but a lot of other commenters and people generally seem to take the approach of wearing sunscreen every day – I just wanted to highlight that there is a balance to be struck. In Australia I hear that people have become so diligent in their use of sunscreen that vitamin d deficiency has become a real issue.

        April 26, 2017
        • Just want to state that sunscreen does not prevent tanning or prevent skin from absorbing Vitamin D. At least not any kind of decent subscreen. What sunscreen should actually do is prevent UVA and UVB rays and should be used by everyone – no matter what your skin colour and ethnicity.

          May 2, 2017
          • Dionne


            The absorption if UV by the skin is what creates the Vitamin D. That’s why lack of sun exposure is related to Vitamin D deficiency and in extreme cases Rickets in children.

            Lack of Vitamin D is potentially linked to several longer term health conditions like MS.

            It’s yet another fun balancing act nature likes to throw our way – get some sun but make sure it’s not too much! In the case of pale skinned people in the UK I think we only need 10 minutes in the sun between 11am – 3pm April -September. If memory serves that’s the only time the sun (UV) is strong enough to cause Vitamin D formation.

            May 3, 2017
            • Dionne

              Sorry, Amber. Misinformation like that can be dangerous. For anyone reading I just wanted to set the record straight.

              Drawing a line under it now.

              May 5, 2017
    • Melina


      Definitely, no one should never be ashamed of their natural skin colour, that goes without saying! But I’m so glad some (Mel and Dionne) pointed this out – the way some people talk, it sounds as if you get skin cancer the minute you go in the sun…! Which is definitely not the case, sun is actually beneficial and necessary for health. (And not sure I have any faith in those sun block creams and their claims, they are commercial products that are designed to make as much profit as possible, after all…)

      I myself never than on purpose, but I just love to enjoy sunny weather, not shut myself indoors when the sun shines, and unless I do that but do go out & about, I’m bound to get some amount of tan. Though I do understand not everyone does, that’s just how my skin works. I just don’t want to be neurotic about it.

      Oh, and I definitely don’t “harass” non-drinkers to drink either, but I must admit I do think they’d have a better time if they did drink every now and then 😉 I really dislike that “holier than thou” attitude all teetotallers seem to have! Really don’t know why they think it makes them somehow better than others, but I guess that’s partly the above mentioned herd mentality…

      June 8, 2017
      • Melina


        Oh mine, that was obviously supposed to say “I myself never TAN on purpose”, not “than”… 🙂

        June 8, 2017
      • Abigail


        I live in the southeastern US and have extremely pale skin, too. I feel so out of place on the beach when I’m lying under an umbrella instead of basking in the sun. In high school, all of my friends tanned, and I heard the odd comments from them about how I needed to fake tan to appeal to their arbitrary standards of beauty. Luckily, I was smart enough to never attempt to actually tan (wouldn’t have happened anyway. I just would’ve gotten a nasty burn and some sun damage to go with that), and I never bothered with fake tanner either. Tanned skin may be the standard of beauty in western countries, but in other parts of the world, such as in Asia, it is the opposite. Of course, both of these beauty standards are absurd, and all skin tones are beautiful. It just goes to show that these notions of one skin tone being more desirable than another have no real objectivity or truth to them since they differ so greatly between cultures. I have completely embraced the fact that I’ll naturally never tan and that I look like a vampire! I actually quite like the way it looks, and luckily, I’ve been able to evade any unsolicited rudeness from strangers. Sorry to hear about the ignorance some of you beautiful ladies have been subjected to. I hope everyone learns to love their natural complexion.

        May 16, 2019
  • Chelsea


    Fairly pale person from the Southern US here. I live in a place where everyone decides to tan as soon as it hits 65 degrees F.

    A few years ago I moved to NYC for a summer internship, and I decided to tan before I went so I wouldn’t have to worry about fake tanner or being too pasty and what not. So I did The Bad Thing; I fake baked.

    I went once a day for 6? weeks, used the special lotion in a higher level bed. Even worse, I didn’t. Use. Sunscreen. I KNOW. I got to the darkest I could, the darkest I had ever been! Was it most other people’s medium color? Yes, but I was tan (to me)!

    A few days after I moved I began to notice things. I had explained them away previously but I couldn’t anymore. I had age spots. I do get freckles, yes, but these weren’t freckles. These covered my forehead, my nose, and my chest, making my otherwise even skin tone blotchy. The skin around my elbows and knees (and in between my breasties) became that weird wrinkly brown; you know, the one older women who have been tanning forever have. I kind of hated myself.

    It took me forever to get rid of the sunspots, and I still have some. My elbows and knees are back to their normal pallor, and I haven’t fake-baked since. I did lay out once on a short vacation in FL with friends, however. How did that end up? Even after applying multiple layers of sunscreen over the four hours we were outside, I got sun poisoning on my legs. Bright. Stoplight. Red. Took weeks before all the swelling, color, and peeling were gone.

    Don’t tan. Don’t risk cancer. My sister teases me about it sometimes because she got the brown genes in the family, but, honestly? I tell her to shove it. This is my body, not hers.

    *if you ~must~ be tanner for an event or something, I recommend the St Tropez In-Shower Tanning Gel. Very gradual, never orange looking. Used if for a wedding in March and had superb results.

    April 26, 2017
  • Nicola M


    I love this post Amber, I’m told a lot my family, friends and people who don’t know me that I’m ‘awfully pale’ or that I’m brave for not wearing fake tan. I’m not brave, I’m just comfortable in my own Northern Ireland skin. Every skin tone is beautiful.

    April 26, 2017
  • Veronica


    I’ve been very pale for my entire life. I’m usually just a little too pale for the lightest shade in most drugstore foundations, you get the idea.
    I’ve lived in a few different cities and I’ve found that whether or not I receive rude comments on my skin tone has nothing to do with me or how I look. It has everything to do with whether or not the people around me are used to seeing people who look different from themselves, as Amber stated in her 2nd point.

    April 26, 2017
  • This is an absolutely brilliant post, Amber, and I am glad you are so open about your struggles with pale skin – all us porcelain people have been there!
    Hayley, as one pale woman to another, you and your skin is absolutely beautiful, and perfect the way it is.
    Growing up in Australia where everyone is a golden goddess, and I was a pale little thing, I never felt comfortable in my skin – especially as the rest of my family were dark or olive skinned. At school, I was constantly used as a comparison tool so my friends could show how dark their tans were. One time, I had a professional photography tell me the sun was reflecting off my skin and causing his photos to be overexposed. I have been told that the fact you could see my veins through my skin on my chest was unattractive. Growing up, I never felt confident in my skin, and ruined many many white Egyptian Cotton sheets with my fake tan.
    So I hear you, loud and clear.
    But you know what? I eventually learned to embrace it, and realised that I’m not ghostly, I glow. I’m not pale, I’m porcelain. You and your skin are both beautiful and although it can seem tough when up against your own golden goddesses, just remember, beauty comes in all shapes, forms and colours.

    April 26, 2017
  • Nikki


    Thank you so much for this post! I’m a natural blonde and very pale. I’m always receiving comments like, “Ya seen the sun lately?!” “Come out from under your rock and get some SUN!” “Wow! Your legs actually GLOW!” “You need SUN! Gross!” – and they always hurt my feelings. I’m 44 years old and the insensitive comments hurt just as much today as they have for years. I even have a scar on my leg from having skin cancer removed from it (just a basal cell carcinoma, but still counts as skin cancer) but it doesn’t stop people from suggesting I spend hours in the sun. I wish I had good advice, but it’s something I struggle with as I dread each warm weather day. Your post helps to know I’m not alone. I’m going to try to reference your words in my mind the next time someone makes a cruel comment. I hate that I let their words ruin my day. I should never give them that much power.

    April 26, 2017
  • Laura


    This is a great post. Too often, societal norms allow and even encourage people to comment on the appearance of others.

    I am 48, have dark hair, and very pale skin….and I now live in Southern California. I always wear sunscreen and keep a big hat in my car….in the look-out for a few cute parasols.

    Growing up, in the Midwest, my parents often chided me to “go outside and get tan”….they even paid for me to go to a tanning bed.

    In my 20’s, I had enough of being hot, sweaty, and sun-burned. I began a very long relationship with SPF and embraced my pale skin. I fancied myself to be Snow White or Jane Russell (pale with red lips…this began my red lipstick obsession).

    My skin is in excellent condition and people rarely believe me when I say I am 48. On a sad note, both of my parents are undergoing treatment for skin cancer.

    My hope is for Hayley to embrace all that she is and all that she has to offer….. and be unapologetically herself….pale skin and all.

    April 26, 2017
    • D. Johnson


      Laura, an additional tip for you: driving gloves. Glad to hear that all your years of diligence have paid of for you.

      April 29, 2017
  • Jo


    Oh wow, I relate to this post so much. When I was about 10 years old, I was diagnosed with vitiligo. I was never the most tanned person to begin with, but it’s been a real defining part of my identity ever since. It got me pretty much everywhere – I have a few patches of melanin left on my arms and shins, that’s it – and as a teenager, it made growing up even harder. I tried to self tan, I got endless ‘are you sick?’ comments amongst other far ruder things.

    As an adult, there are a few things that have made me okay with being pale. The first (shallowly) was a friend at uni who was really into the gothic look and as a result loved my pale skin. I’d never been told that pale was good before, and it was a really different perspective that boosted my confidence – it’s kind of a rare thing, and I never used fake tan again after that. Secondly, over the years, finding my own style has really really helped me become at ease with paleness; I dye my hair red and wear a lot of bright colours. Some pale skinned people look amazing in dark colours, some can rock pastels, but it definitely adds a layer of confidence I never had before.

    There are still things that drive me up the wall about being pale: pretty much all high street foundation and concealer doesn’t work on me because I’m one step up from luminous white, and adding layers of SPF to my skincare routine in the mornings can be a pain! I’ve largely learnt to point out people’s comments by explaining that paleness can be a medical condition and again, I wonder why people can be so quick to comment – I don’t think anyone really realises how hurtful those comments can be. Also, being pale does not make you unwell!

    The one other bit of advice I’d give? You can’t change your skin, so you may as well love it. Being pale makes you you, and embracing that can be the best thing ever.

    April 26, 2017
  • Myra Boyle


    Why do some people think it’s ok to make personal comments about anyone else? It’s beyond me. If they matter to you, tell them how it makes you feel. If they don’t matter to you, what they say doesn’t matter either, so ignore them.
    We are all unique, love being different from others.

    April 26, 2017
    • Nikki


      You are so right, Myra! I would never go up to someone and say, “Wow! You’re too tan! Why don’t you come out from under the sun once in awhile?!!” Why do people think it’s okay to insult pale-skinned people?!

      April 26, 2017
  • Maria


    This is literally me growing up. Being pale in Italy can be a chore. It’s literally the first thing a new person notices about you. Whenever the weather starts to be ‘sea-friendly’ people start to comment “Wow you NEED to go to the sea and TAN!’. Excuse me, I need it? Like, I need air, and food? I don’t understand why some people feel like they need to tan in order to be proper and socially acceptable.

    Also, I’m not exactly super pale (for reference, I’m between MAC NW10 and NW15), but my darker hair and even darker brows don’t help. Also, technically I can tan, and go from snowhite to the lightest golden tan you can imagine, and once people around me learnt this the tragedy started “But why not TAN if you CAN?!?!?”. My relatives, parents, friends, literally everyone doesn’t understand why I don’t want a tan.
    Personally, I hate basking in the sun on the beach; I get hot, burn so easily, it’s boring and even with my eyes closed the sun manages to make them hurt. And my head overheats and I get scalp burns, and I can’t exactly apply sunscreen on my hair, can I? Also, I may not be the classic nordic girl so pale she blinds people, I may tan, but I also burn like crazy, even with sunscreen on, so I’m nor risking skin cancer just to get a slight tan that will still be perceived as too pale, lol!
    A funny anecdote from my childhood is that on vacation I once met a family from Norway, and they were all naturally blonde people, like, Barbie blonde. And still, they had darker skin! And they tanned so easily. This was a source of endless amusement for the two kids who I had befriended; they had actually met an Italian that was paler than them! They were so amazed by it and remarked upon it daily… I’m sure to this day they’re still talking about it. At the time I was a bit self conscious about it, but now it just makes me laugh!

    April 26, 2017
  • Jade


    So glad this came up. I too am incredibly fair. My father was very fair, my mother has olive skin. My sister took after my mom, and so of course I always wanted to look like her. I got the same thing from my “friends” and peers growing up. “Why don’t you tan?”, and “Everyone looks better with a tan.” It took a long time to see that my skin was perfect the way it is, and enhances my features. Tan people are beautiful, fair skinned people are too. Also, it’s fun to remember that there was a time when fair skin was incredibly sought after. My father passed away from melanoma cancer when I was young. This keeps me in check, and helps me to remember my sunscreen every day. Embrace it, and you’ll feel happier.

    April 26, 2017
  • Kitty


    I found it worse when I was younger, everyone wants to fit in and it was hard being the super pale, blue eyed, dark haired kid that just couldn’t look like everyone else. I remember adults (teachers mainly) praising my Celtic skin. One in particular (geography teacher) pointed out pale skin was actually highly valued in history, with only peasants really allowing skin to tan. He predicted that in the future with all the global warming issues that pale skin would make a return to popularity. While I don’t think we are there yet (or might never be) there has definitely been an increase in pale skinned people embracing their colouring that I have seen. As an adult I love my skin and am drawn to pictures of pale individuals as they are so striking and DIFFERENT! This is a good thing; uniqueness is to be celebrated. Also as I head into my 30’s the impacts of people that have ‘sun-worshipped’ is becoming very clear. I still get ID’d regularly and have no wrinkles. People regularly are surprised to find out my age and I am now actively complimented on my skin. People will always comment negatively but I find as you get older it’s easier to celebrate your uniqueness and pay less attention to others unwanted remarks.

    April 26, 2017
  • Shannon


    Thank you so much for this post, Amber! I’m very pale, and it is obnoxious the things people think are ok to say to me. I’ve had a lady at work in an elevator see my legs (I was wearing a skirt), gasp at how white I was, and then for emphasis bring her leg next to mine to point it out to me. Whyyyy??? My adult cousin has also seen a picture of me and asked if I was really that pale…

    At this point I’m hardened to it and end up saying something snappy like, “Yes, this is my skin color. No, I’m not going to dye it every day to look ‘normal.'” Maybe it sounds defensive, but those people have stopped making comments!

    April 26, 2017
  • Emilie


    Growing up in Hawaii and being fair was very difficult. When I was young, there was simply no universe in which having really light skin was considered attractive. I still get comments on how I possibly live in Hawaii (or am from Hawaii, when I am traveling) and remain so fair (because EVERYONE who lives in Hawaii must have a similar skin tone, right?) However, over time, I have learned to embrace standing out. I also have a pixie cut (not a popular hairstyle choice in the islands, where most women aim for long mermaid hair) and I enjoy not looking like anyone else and having my own “look.” When I perform burlesque, I enjoy showing off my porcelain skin and the way it lights up the stage, and contrasts against costume pieces. And trust me, no one is pointing out the “wrongness” of your skin tone while you perform burlesque for them . . . .they are too busy luxuriating in the spectacle of a (nearly) naked body 😉

    April 26, 2017
  • Hello Hayley, I’ve got a virtual hug for you too! Amber writes some good words of wisdom there.
    The only thing I’d add is a practical point – make sure that activities for your holiday aren’t arranged so that they exclude you if you’re going somewhere hot where sun exposure is a risk factor.
    When I go on holiday, the only time I’ll go to a beach in the heat of the day is if I know that there are parasols and sunbeds I can rent so that I can stay cool in the shade while others bake themselves. If it’s a smaller beach with no facilities (no shade) then I simply don’t go there in the day, otherwise I’d have to spend the whole time wrapped up like a mummy. My husband’s very understanding and is quite used to us only going to the beach now in the early morning, or the evenings (when all the Brits have gone and it’s just the Spanish locals). Similarly, I don’t do activities like hiking in the heat of the day, because I would have to reapply sunscreen constantly or be so wrapped up that I’d be hot and uncomfortable.
    It would perhaps be good to have a chat with people ahead of your holiday about the kind of activities planned so that you can raise the issue – I’m sure not everyone will want to be in full sun all day every day, there is always so much else to do!

    Finally, one of my beautiful nieces is getting married tomorrow (!), and she is like Snow White with her beautiful dark hair and almost translucent skin. No fake tan for her big day!

    Good luck Hayley, let us know how you get on! xx

    April 27, 2017
  • Lily


    I have always been pale. I didn’t take care of my skin in the sunlight. I never burnt but I didn’t bother with spf. Now my skin is discoloured and I have dark blotches. It’s wrecked my complexion. And now I would give anything to have my ivory skin back. So I guess this is a cautionary tale? Appreciate and take care of what you have.

    Oh and tell your friends where to stick it.

    April 27, 2017
  • D. Johnson


    Amber, thanks so much for the words of wisdom. They go well beyond people commenting on pale skin. You have reaffirmed I desperately need to get new friends. Thanks!

    April 29, 2017
  • Hayley


    I’m also a Hayley and I too have dark hair and pale skin. My idol is Dita von Teese, look at how adored she is, and she’s super pale!
    I’ve been called milk bottle etc… and self tan would look daft on me. Plus I dont fancy orange hands and feet haha. I rock red lipstick and slap on factor 50 🙂

    April 30, 2017
  • NG Rae


    I am also pale with dark hair. As a teenager, I was taunted and teased and learned to despise shorts and bathing suits. (Someone at the beach actually said to me, “Where have you been?” I replied, deadpan, “Prison.”)
    It was such a blessing when Madonna became popular because she was SO fair. Pale was so chic that people would ask, “How do you get your skin so light?” I played it up, dying my hair black and wearing red lipstick.
    I am now approaching 50 and my skin looks FANTASTIC. No crows feet, no crepey neck, no blotchy dark spots. I am as porcelain as ever. What an asset my fair skin has turned out to be!

    May 12, 2017
  • Hi – I have pale skin and hated it as a child – especially as my two siblings only had to look at the sun to tan a gorgeous tan without strap marks or anything (how is that possible?!). I only have to look at the sun (not directly, of course) and I go bright red and have lines everywhere – not attractive! Over the years though I have learned to love my pale skin, and embraced it as something to be proud of. I look after it well and haven’t aged too badly so far (the big 40 was a few months ago) – and i stay out of the sun when possible as well. I like that it’s a little different to the trend to tan – and the ghost white legs come out whether people like it or not! Hope this helps someone! x

    May 19, 2017
  • Libby


    Hi Amber,

    I just started reading you’re blog. It’s great! I really like this post. I also have very very pale skin. I appreciate the posts about finding confidence no matter what your skins looks like, but I was excited to read in this post that you found a self tanner that works for very pale skin! I’m going on vacation soon. Usually I wouldn’t try self tanner, but I have been ill, making my already super pale skin almost a translucent white/grey/blue…:( Would you mind sharing which tanner you use when you do use it/ how much you normally put on?


    April 30, 2018
  • Kat


    This is so beautiful to read, thank you all. I am currently away on holiday, and as per usual, not tanning. I actually needed some motivation as I can NEVER tan. I get more freckles but that is mostly as far as it goes. I have always really wanted to be tanned as I see people with that complexion as beautiful and I am guilty of fake tanning (before people take the piss out of me for that too – you just CAN’T win). I spent 2 sporadic days in the sun and I burnt (and got laughed at).. I have enjoyed the rest of my days here in the shade and it makes me so much happier – except when I look in the mirror!!! I do think it is about just working with what you have (but unlucky for me the bright colours doesn’t suit either – sure I’ll find a happy medium) .. I admire you all for being to look past it and thank you for making me know it is okay!! (And if it makes you feel better, I have always wanted porcelain skin, I think it is beautiful – you should all be so proud of your own skin) From, pale freckles and dark hair

    June 13, 2018
  • Lucy


    Hiya, I’ve just turned 16 and although I don’t have dark hair (I have blonde/ginger hair), I have ridiculously pale skin! I too have been called all sorts all the way through high school by both pupils and teachers! I was nicknamed ‘albino’ and was and still am frequently asked if I’m ill?! I dreaded PE where the rest off the girls would laugh and point at how pale I was and I longed to be just like them – constantly perfectly bronzed. Halloween became a dreaded holiday when I was younger as people would often make remarks such as “you don’t need to dress up for Halloween, you can just go as a ghost.” Because of this I became extremely self conscious of my skin tone. As you know it’s now the summer season and for once the UK is warm! I braved the shorts the other day and was constantly stared at and ever since have been in jeans – which it is way too hot for! I have my prom next week and too be honest I’m dreading it because I’m scared of what people will say and how pale I will looked next to others on photos! I tried to fake tan and as usual it turned into a patchy mess as my skin seems illergic to just about anything and everything! I’ve tried following your tips but my confidence seems to have vanished. Also I am going on holiday soon and am starting college in September and would love to be happy in my skin. Would love some advice!

    July 7, 2018
  • Moys


    When people say to me, “God, you’re soooo white!” I ask them whether they would also tell a black person that they are soooo black. It then seems to dawn on them how offensive it is to make such politically incorrect remarks, whether one is white or black. I use a similar response when people think it is okay to tell me that I’m too thin, “Do you tell ‘overweight’ people that you consider them ‘too fat’ to their faces? Surely you are not THAT discourteous,? So why do you think it’s acceptable to comment on my body shape? Stop and think in future.”

    Alternatively, just adopt a slight smile, fleetingly look them up and down, lift your chin slightly and turn and walk away. You feel like a million dollars and SO superior!

    July 24, 2018
  • Thanks for this post, Amber. I have also become very self-conscious from my school years wearing the school uniform dress and my friends making pale skin comments. Nowadays, I tell people that I am “The fairest of them all” which helps and kind of makes people back off. Pale skin has its challenges with making me look a bit sick when I don’t wear makeup and my veins are more visible so every tiny inkling of a spider vein shows up. But as long as I look after my blemishes and health, it’s okay. It almost feels that we all get judged because of our skin colour. It’s hard, but I know I need to be grateful for the body I have, which I am. Strength to all you fair ones out there!

    February 2, 2019
  • Esther


    I loved reading this!
    I wish I had a guru on my shoulder constantly to say these things to me , I was often left to sunburn as a child, my parents must not have known the danger , I am am annoyed that they just didn’t cover me up!
    Yet, even knowing the dangers ,I am constantly tanning either sunbed or in the sun,
    And if not ,I am ‘blathered’ ( Yorkshire saying) in fake tan,
    I think all the wrong thoughts about my pale skin , and decided I must need some sort of therapy about it, seriously !
    I think I am ugly when I’m pale, and looking Ill and old and tired when I’m not tanned!
    I fear being ugly , why do I think this? It’s come from somewhere , I feel well and young and pretty when I’m tanned.

    After reading this I am seriously going to address this when I am over this busy stressful time in my life,
    Many thanks

    July 9, 2019
    • Sara


      Great post! I always feel so ugly in my pale pale skin. I don’t have amazing colors like you, I just have dark brown eyes like 95% of people here and plain brown hair. Also, my skin is also very thin and you can see my blood vein in some areas like under the neck or under eye.

      And I feel extremely ugly when summer comes and here in Italy getting tan is almost a duty from April to September. You can be allowed to be pale in winter but in summer….. And if you fail in getting your tan, people always point out “you need to go to the beach” “take tanning bed”. If I wear shorts or skirt I have to accept in advanced that I will receive at least a comment on my leg skin that day…I hate summer

      Hope you have the best weekend

      July 20, 2019
  • Ali


    I am only just reading your page after being ‘pale-shamed’ on return from a 2 week holiday abroad… Not the first time, and won’t be the last, but it makes me smile to know that you approach this with such humour. I would like to have the confidence to reply with one of your comments next time. I will try harder to embrace my pale – I certainly don’t try to tan in the sun (it would be futile!) but I do minimal/light fake tan just to give me the confidence to wear a swimsuit…

    August 10, 2021
  • Ava


    I have my senior pictures next summer and I was wondering if it would be okay to not use sunscreen just this summer? I care about cancer but will one summer matter in the long run? I have never used fake tanner and would be embarrassed to try and use it. I used to tan when I was younger but now I am like a vampire. Maybe if I spend a lot of time in the sun I could tan…

    January 25, 2022