24 February 2011

making faces :: bronzed babes and lily-white ladies

pale, pasty, fair, floury...
yes, there is still snow on the ground and despite that "first day of spring" event, march is a liar that frequently carries the most snow and the most wind of the year (making it quite possibly the most miserable month of the year), but we have at least cracked the coldest part of winter and sooner than later, we will want once more to start heading out of doors. (note: if you're in australia or anywhere else in the southern hemisphere, i realise that this is the opposite for you, but the temperature is such that you can basically live outdoors all the time, so maybe this applies to you too.) and bound up with the idea that we should start getting out of doors is the idea that we should only do so sporting a tan. of course, this is really only relevant for caucasians, whose pasty faces lose their radiance over the winter months, but even some with darker complexions are encouraged to tone up if the lack of sun has left them a little sallow.

kate as a youth (simulated)
when I was a kid, i used to run around in the sun all the time, generally with sunscreen so that i wouldn't end up getting dunked in butter by gentlefolk who mistook me for a lobster, and as long as i was thus protected, i'd turn a sort of golden brown in no time. then, i started to notice that all of the people i found really beautiful had very fair skin, skin like mine if i kept it out of the sun, it would stay a tone that i preferred. that was pretty much it for me and tanning. the sun and i have gone our separate ways. a few years back, i spent a week in mexico, where avoiding the sun was pretty much impossible. when i came back, people asked me if i'd spent the entire time indoors.

summer colouring cleverly disguised as "tan"
it's not that i don't develop any colour in the warmer seasons. an inspection of photos taken  reveals that my colour does deepen a bit and things that are now called "discolourations" or "age spots", once known as "freckles" start to appear. this despite the fact that i'm religious about putting on sunscreen every time i think i might have to go outdoors. and i'm fussy. no dollar store snake oil for me. i go for the full uva + uvb, physical (rather than chemical) sunscreen in spf 45 or higher because i want to know that my pallor is protected. being pale is nothing to be ashamed of. i'm waiting for the panic over the sun giving us all cancer to kick-start a revival of sun hats and parasols.


see more about the history of tanning & whitening and descriptions of the makeup i used in the two looks above!



you can't spell leader without "lead"
long ago, skin the colour of mine was thought of as desirable. fair skin was a sign of virtue in women, but even more importantly, as the privilege of the aristocracy, who didn't have to toil day-long in the fields. there eventually emerged a hierarchy of pale- with the whitest and brightest perceived as being the highest echelon. this started in ancient rome, but really came into vogue in europe in the 15th through 18th centuries. both men and women would apply cosmetics to make their skin appear as white as possible. of course, quite often, those beauties would die young and leave pretty, white corpses, because the most common products used to give the appearance of a snowy complexion contained massive amounts of lead (used as both a facial powder, when mixed with vinegar, and a scrub, when combined with mercury) that leeched into the skin (of and speaking of leeches, those were used as well) and made them sick, crazy or dead. [more here]

dr. house is indifferent to the dangers of makeup
although the fervour for the unearthly white complexion faded as those who pursued it lost their hair, sanity and lives, pale skin remained desirable until the twentieth century. generally, the pendulum swing towards tanning is credited to coco chanel, who in 1923 spent a little too much time in the sun during a cruise in the french riviera and returned with her skin golden brown. also at that time, josephine baker was a celebrity in the fashion capital of paris, making darker, caramel-toned skin a hallmark of the 1920s rebellious spirit. rather than following in the delicate footsteps of the anemic waifs who had gone before them, modern women projected an image that they were out in the world and out in the world meant that you were out in the sun.

really, it was inevitable that the shift towards tanned skin would occur in the twentieth century. for one thing, people who had obsessively pursued fairer skin were unhealthy. the profound vitamin d deficiency that resulted from a lifetime spent avoiding contact with the sun caused rickets and osteomalacia and was a contributing factor to certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, alzheimer's and parkinson's disease. hardly the persona that the post-great war generation, with their emphasis on youth, energy and life, wanted to project.

but the trend towards tanning was also a subtle way of maintaining the aristocracy of appearance. after all, in the industrial world, those who were palest were those who slaved away in factories and offices, never able to step out into the light of day. the natural suntan was the privilege of those who had the time and money to spend running around on the french riviera.

don't look at the nipple, look at the tan
in the later part of the century, of course, the sunny glow was eventually supplanted by the deep tan, once again a look associated with the rebelliousness of youth, the embracing of the wild and natural. the rise of california as the home of dreams and dream girls, who spent their lives running around the beaches in increasingly scanty bikinis meant that the tan was no longer a trend- it was de rigeur for those who wanted to be part of the beautiful people. the tan was a statement that one had the time to luxuriate in the sun, and the playful sexuality to do so in very little clothing. which was all well and good until we discovered that the sun, like our old cosmetics, was trying to kill us.

throughout the eighties, more and more research piled up showing that all those alluring youngsters who had pranced around in the sixties and seventies worshiping the sun had been rewarded with skin cancer, courtesy of the uva and uvb rays that gave them their fresh-roasted appeal. at the very least, a lifetime spent in direct sunlight pretty much guaranteed a complexion that resembled the fringed suede jackets these people had worn during the summer of love.

and so the world divided. some chose to retreat from the sun, to bathe themselves in sunscreens of increasingly high protection factor and sticking to shady areas, lest the rays of cancer catch them unawares. others made the decision to get help faking what nature had made dangerous and thus did a billion-dollar industry get kicked into gear.

she comes in peace?
with all forms of fake tan, there come the horrors of the orange people. many of the fake-bake methods that yield the most visible results also yield results that are anything but natural and instead leave your skin looking like you might be an alien invader trying to approximate human appearance. oh, and the tanning beds used to get those results? yeah, they're going to kill you faster than the sun.

gradually, the emphasis has shifted to a "sun-kissed" appearance, rather than the appearance of having made out with the sun for six hours in the back of a pick-up somewhere. creams that gradually build to a "golden" sheen, bronze highlighters for the face that serve as both blush and an overall tint, these are the tools of choice for those who want to maintain a summery look of health and vigour (the orange look is now that of white trash who don't know any better than to give themselves cancer). and so every year at about this time, women and men are asked what they're going to do to get their skin ready for summer.

for my part, i'm going to stick it out with my glow-in-the-dark complexion for as long as i can and when the time finally comes- usually in late june or early july, i will just have to adapt until the sun recedes a little and lets me return to my regular milkiness. i've gotten to the point where i can play around with colours a little to accommodate the little fluctuation in my skin, but i think the bronzed look is just going to have to remain a spooky experiment for me, limited to when i pretty much have no options. i figure if i concentrate on making myself feel healthy, i'll look healthy and if that doesn't work, well, i'll just have to be content with being out of step with fashion, as usual.

"pale look"
this is more or less what i consider my natural skin tone, when i haven't been exposed to the sun. i've added a bit of a highlight along the cheekbones, but if you look at my neck and decollete (i love that word), you can see that the colour is pretty consistent. i do still put on a cream with an spf 15 every day, because the sun has a way of creeping in and damaging you when you least expect it.

products used

face:
mac prolongwear foundation nc15
mac prolongwear concealer nw20
mac play it proper beauty powder (highlight)
mac briar rose beauty powder (blush)

eyes:
mac unbasic white e/s
mac silverthorn e/s
mac tilt e/s
mac glamora castle e/s
mac noir plum "megametal" e/s
nars eurydice e/s (purple side)
mac carbon e/s
mac smolder e/l
mac smoky heir liquid liner
mac flase lashes mascara

lips:
armani rouge d'armani 604


"tanned look"
when the sun actually affects my colouration, i tend to just look dirty, so it actually helps if i augment the colour a little with a bronze or gold colour blush. the one that i used here is discontinued, but any summery shade a little darker than your skin tone will work. strangely, i tend to use more makeup for this look than others (not more colours, but more of them), because i was trying to capture a sort of 50s/ 60s "beach bunny" feel.

products used

face:
mac studio fluid foundation nc20 (thinned with moisturizer)
mac springshine blush ombre

eyes:
mac crystal avalanche e/s
mac teal blue e/s
mac love lace e/s
mac club e/s
mac boot black liquid liner
mac plushlash mascara

lips
mac almondine l/g



pale & proud

4 comments:

dfm said...

Pale and STUNNING!

astrid paramita said...

Yay for embracing your skin color! You look gorgeous :).
I tried to avoid getting a tan, but my skin gets it even with a five minutes sun exposure (with SPF 50 sunscreen!) :p. Since I didn't like to stay inside all the time either, I need to embrace my tan when it's summertime ;).
PS: I'm cutemiauw on Specktra.

flora_mundi said...

thanks astrid! i tend to get burned in the summer no matter what precautions i take, but whatever colour it turns me, it still isn't good... i'm happy being a pasty girl, all things considered.

xasperadastra said...

when I was a teenage I have to be tan!! Don't know why but I hated my fair skin (that's not so pale...NC20-25) and I've also used chemical methods to get tanned (orange). now I feel good with my skintone, of course I still like to reach easily NC30 in the summer because my skin tends to bronze a lot (actually my father is really chocolate brown O____o)but if I have a good skin without too much imperfections I'm happy with every colour^^

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