The Colour of your skin does matter#getting a tan in Scotland

It is extraordinary how important the colour of our skin is — whether we are black, brown, white or any combination — we all seem to spend a lot of time wanting to change to something else. There is a sad story I heard about a little boy living in a predominantly white area who had mixed race parentage. He was found in the bath scrubbing at his skin with a nail brush…….’I don’t want to be this colour’ he said. When he was a teenager he committed suicide. Some black people want to be lighter, sometimes you will only be accepted if you are black or dark enough. Then there are all those white people wanting tans.

The problem may be solved by globalisation and the increasing number of mixed race marriages (Harry and Meghan — as we speak). So we will all be brown soon.

Growing up on the west coast of Scotland where it often rains for much of the summer getting any sort of a tan is a challenge especially for the very fair skinned and carrot tops (red heads).

Most of the Scottish girls I knew (boys were not interested in getting a tan as far as I could see) started to rate the colour of their skin changing to brown in the summer as very important, if difficult to achieve, especially if your holidays were spent on those freezing beaches near Glasgow.

How I remember those bathing costumes that looked like bubble wrap. The highlight of the outing was the chittery bite (chocolate) after you had braved the North sea for a couple of minutes.

Holidays abroad were regarded as exotic in the nineteen fifties and sixties and a trip to Spain only for the rich and so we only had one girl who would arrive back for the summer term a rich brown colour which went especially well with her tennis skirt. So having a tan was associated with being well off and well travelled. In the 1960s it started to become a summer obsession especially now that the mini skirt ensured that much leg was exposed and the bikini seriously needed a tan. The sad fact is, that white legs just don’t look great.

The first few days of summer were spent going bright red, suffering in agony and then watching the whole top layer of your skin peel off. Protective sun creams were not heard of and some sun worshippers I knew even smothered themselves in oil in order to hurry up the process.

The Victorians would have had a fit. Tans were associated with people who worked in the fields and they did everything to protect their creamy white skins. How wise they were as it turns out. But for most of the baby boomer generation the tan was part of feeling good and looking good. In the seventies and eighties the arrival of spray tan took things, in my view, a bit too far and some people started to look a more orange colour. A politician, you all know who, seems to have got stuck in that era. Hair got blonder and skin browner after many hours on those sun loungers.Often the spray tan took on a rather streaky look making you look odder still.

There is also the skiing tan — neck up only ……for most people, unless you are one of those who toast more exposed flesh on a balcony at lunchtime in the Alps but then you have to cover up so all a bit pointless. However those rather ruddy tans convey to everyone back home for a couple of weeks that you are rich and brave enough to go skiing. The panda eyes as a result of the goggles are an extra touch.

However the chickens are coming home to roost. Many babyboomers especially after all their foreign holidays, or that second home in Spain have started to look like parchment paper. and the wrinkles abound. Many would say it has been worth it for all the feel good factor lazing in the sun has created, although I have noticed the increasing numbers who say ‘ I prefer to sit in the shade these days and I never have my face in the sun’.That sprinkling of freckles that is so attractive on young children after their early encounters with the sun turn into rather nasty brown spots which keep appearing on face and hands when you get to sixty plus.

Our children now cover their children in all in one protective suits and hats to keep the sun out, so much so, that with all the staying indoors watching television and playing on ipads they are at risk of lacking vitamin D. Can’t we ever get it right !

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