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The Pasty White Girl's Guide to Summer

Updated on May 12, 2015

Can't Tan to Save Your Life?

Everyone has to deal in their own way with the body they are given, and ideally, learn to enjoy it.

Everyone also loves summer and wants to enjoy it to the full.

I am a pasty-white girl who can't tan. Burn, peel, repeat. But I am grateful for what I have been given, and I still love summer. Here are my personal tips for weathering that not-so-white-skin-friendly season.


Protect yourself from the sun - blah, blah, blah.

We all know it. We all know we should do it.

Sunscreen is great and definitely we should use it. I personally don't like the greasy feeling of putting sunscreen on my face on a "normal" day (a day when a long outing outdoors is not planned). If you feel the same way, consider using hats.

Hats are cheap, fun, and easy to accessorize with craft-store ribbon, flowers, or whatever you like. For the sporty, there are tons of cute hiking hats, or baseball caps.

One less-convenient thing about hats is that you either have to keep them on all day, or choose a hairstyle that transitions well from hat to no hat. Fluffy curls don't (which is too bad - because curl may be exactly what your hair does in the summer!). For long hair, I like a simple braid down the back. Depending on the hat, you may also be able to wedge it on over a bun (a messy bun, obviously). Or, wear a ponytail but carry a clip in your purse so you can clip your ponytail up once the hat comes off.

The hat is from St. John's Bay, with an added ribbon.  The cute kid is an original!
The hat is from St. John's Bay, with an added ribbon. The cute kid is an original!


No law says that when summer comes, you must wear shorts.

Imagine my relief when I discovered this simple truth.

This may be in the eye of the beholder, but it seems that pasty-white skin often tends to look fatter than the exact same leg or body shape would in a darker tone.

When it doesn't look fatter, it looks more risque. Immodest, if you will. Think Marilyn Monroe on the grate.

And there is also the problem of the way that the odd stray leg hair tends to stand out against very fair skin. Which is not so Marilyn.

For all these reasons (plus more religious ones), modest looks are good for this pasty-white girl.

Luckily for us pasty-whites, many, many capris are available. There are also jean skirts, peasant skirts, maxi skirts. Something for everyone. This same principle applies to sleeveless shirts. I love the comfort of a sleeveless shirt. I don't love the way it makes me look like a Rubens painting.

Summer is going to be hot whatever we do. But there's no reason we should be hot AND uncomfortable because we've got too much white showing.


Self-Tanning Lotions

If you want to give yourself a complete, artificial tan all over, it can be done, with the help of instructions from web pages like this one.

It can be done, but it does require a certain amount of time. Locking yourself in the bathroom, waiting 30 minutes, monitoring for smears throughout the day ... meh. Maybe I'll try it some day. Like when my kids are grown. For now, I follow the Lazy Pasty Girl philosophy. Which is, apply a little self-tanner to just my legs and upper arms, whenever I get the chance. Not in order to appear tan (which is pretty much impossibly anyway), but just to reduce the shocking white appearance of my limbs to something a little closer to normal.

Happily, there are now self-tanners made for various shades of skin, including "light." (Yay!)

In the excitement of seeing yourself actually getting tanner, it is easy to get carried away with self-tanner. So of course, be aware if you are starting to look orange or are seeing a lot of smears. Your legs do not need to be any darker than your natural face (which sees the sun all year).

Not all of us can pull off wearing bright green as well as this kid can.
Not all of us can pull off wearing bright green as well as this kid can.

Careful with the Super-Bright Colors

One of my very favorite colors is a nice, bright green. Probably shouldn't wear it, though, because next to very white (or, more likely, pink) skin, it looks a little ... odd.

And I love yellow. Next to pink skin, it looks ... disastrous.

Many designers love bright colors too, and every Spring and Summer the stores and catalogs will be full of tempting shades of vibrant that look great on the models. I'm not saying that fair-skinned girls can never wear brights. Of course, you have to know yourself and what looks best on you. And sometimes, the lift that a piece gives to our mood is worth it, even though we "shouldn't" be wearing that color.

But other things being equal, we should go for darker shades of the same color (as are often found in nautical-looking clothing), or for more neutral, earthy-looking shades (olive or loden green instead of Leprechaun green).

And finally, as they say, "own it!"

Yes, own that pasty white skin. Go ahead and wear black. Or dark red or navy blue or deep green. Colors that say, "Well, of course I look pale in this shirt!" And, heck, add some dark lipstick.

We can't hide our super-fair skin. We might as well manage it, own it ... enjoy it.

Happy Summer to my fellow pasty-whites!


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