A pox on pale legs

I only use self-tanner on my legs, because they are so damn pale, and seem to get more that way with every passing year. And I splurge a little on my brand—these tanning towelettes from Dr Dennis Gross. I like towelettes because they dry faster and are more mistake-proof than lotion, and I like this particular formulation because it’s natural-looking and goes on satisfyingly dark. Added bonus: it doesn’t smell funny.

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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16 Thoughts on A pox on pale legs
    DeDe
    7 Jul 2017
    9:02am

    I am a shade of extra super pale and only ever burn, but I am afraid of self-tanning anything, I won’t lie. Maybe it’s because the distance from my legs to my face is so short, but I fear that the disconnect between the two would be jarring. And I will never use a self-tanner on my face, because that look screams long-lost Tr*mp daughter.

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    Cora
    7 Jul 2017
    12:00pm

    After spending some time in Japan I completely gave up on self-tanner. Women over there wear dresses and skirts whenever they want, and noone is ashamed of her “pale legs” – so I figured, why should I? Granted, extra-pale is the beauty standard in Japan, but the thing is: I’m super extra pale. I don’t mind being super extra pale. There is nothing much I can do about it, which doesn’t raise my risk of skin cancer or requires quite a lot of maintenance.
    Also: It’s super extra hot outside. It’s too hot for pants. So I’m parading my super extra pale legs like I don’t give a damn.
    Because I don’t.

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    Mimi
    7 Jul 2017
    1:30pm

    I applaud DeDe and Cora letting their very pale legs be au naturale in summer. When I tried self tanner on my legs many moons ago I broke out in a bumpy, weeping rash. (It might have had something to do with applying the goo after shaving.) I wonder if Kim’s Dr. approved towelettes would be more hypoallergenic. When I started seeing pics of Anna Wintour with her crepey arms revealed by sleeveless dresses I thought,”So okay. We’re doing this now? Excellent!” I feel the same way about less than perfect legs on display. Nevertheless, I am a die hard member of the camouflage school. I haven’t worn shorts since I was 12 and my preferred summer skirt or dress length is lower calf. Do as I say, not as I do. 🙂

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    Elizabeth
    7 Jul 2017
    2:14pm

    I seem to be more a bluish, translucent (redhead) and really look like I should be wearing a toe tag when I flash my legs to the world. I recently tried some Sally Hansen leg makeup (I remember my mom saying they used leg makeup during WWII when hosiery was rationed or impossible to get). what a mistake! The “fair” shade had my pasty legs looking like I took an orange highlight pen to them–and since it is supposed to be water resistant it was a pain to scrub off. I’d like to be comfy just strolling about with my usual bare legs, but, honestly, I really don’t like looking down and seeing the color of veins showing through the super pale. Haven’t figured out what to do yet. Applause for those rocking their natural legs!

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      suz
      7 Jul 2017
      5:45pm

      Yep. Fellow redhead – I look like a map of the circulatory system in a bathing suit and yes people do still rudely comment on it. As far as I have tested, no self tanner really works for the super pale. “Fair” = orange. The only thing that has ever worked for me was tinted stripper leg lotion/makeup. I kid you not.

      On the plus side – avoiding the sun has made me age pretty well, while the girls who made fun of my paleness way back when now look like badly abused leather bags.

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        DeDe
        9 Jul 2017
        6:07pm

        OMG stripper leg makeup!! 😂 As a fellow pale person, I totally get this. I mean, I’ve never tried it myself but I get why you did.

        FWIW (and this is for everyone who uses self-tanner here), I don’t love my super pale skin – it’s one of the things about my appearance that I would change, if I could – but I got harrassed pretty badly for it as a teen and at this stage of my life, I just don’t have the fucks to give anymore, if that makes sense. It’s not a bold assertion or anything, I’m just tired and kind of whatever about it. People think what they think and I can’t change it, you know? Ultimately, it’s not my problem.

        My whole philosophy of beauty/style is that you should do what makes you happy and makes you feel comfortable. If that’s wearing self-tanner, then by all means, do it. We have enough demands and expectations put on us as women; I feel sometimes the counter-demands to push back against every norm and defy every standard just add to the pressure and self-doubt/recrimination we too often experience. So yeah, do what works for you, I ain’t judgin’ (and screw anyone who does).

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          suz
          10 Jul 2017
          6:08pm

          Agreed on all – esp the lack of fucks to give.

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    Lisa
    7 Jul 2017
    3:43pm

    I spent my childhood and teen years in Iowa being mocked for my pale skin and remember my mother telling her friend she was ashamed I was so white and didn’t try to fix it. I will never forget her friend’s response that I would age better and be healthier for it. Despite that I covered my legs all summer to hide what others told me was another reason they found me ugly.

    As an adult, I am not embarrassed to bare me legs and arms and give no care to people who push their hang up on me. And yes, my skin is in better condition than my sun worshiping peers.

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      DeDe
      9 Jul 2017
      6:12pm

      My (hippie!) mom told me I should tell the kids who were bullying me that at least I didn’t “look like a n*gger”. I’m serious.

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    Hick from Styx
    7 Jul 2017
    6:39pm

    Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer in fair to medium does the trick. It comes in a fast, three-day version now, but I prefer the regular. I can get just the right shade of pale (but not blindingly white) this way. Exfoliate first by using a dry loofah on dry skin. I use it on my arms and neck less often, just to avoid a weird legs-only faux tan. My facial sunblock is 50+ SPF Super Fluid Mineral Defense by Kiehl’s, with a slight tint.

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      KHD
      7 Jul 2017
      7:46pm

      Agree re: Jergens! I just tried it for the first time and just 3 days of the regular formula did the trick. Very natural looking.

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      Susanna
      7 Jul 2017
      11:41pm

      Interesting, I was going to comment on The Jergens as a naysayer. Every year I re-buy it and give it another try, but it never seems to do a damn thing for my legs. Maybe I’m not applying enough of it? I’m terrified of orange streakiniess.

      Meanwhile, I’m the “toe-tag” variety of pale (ha!), and that would be bad enough, but I’m also mosquito bait, so I usually sport legs as pale as paper punctuated by a few constellations of red welts around my ankles all summer. It’s very attractive.

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        Hick from Styx
        8 Jul 2017
        1:06pm

        Blue-eyed redhead here. It doesn’t take much for me to get a “base-faux” tan. Then I step down the Jergens to every twice a week or so.

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    Anne
    8 Jul 2017
    9:47pm

    Hey, the Dennis gross is my go-to also! I love it because it’s not messy and you don’t have to exfoliate beforehand because the wipe do it for you.best tanner I’ve used!

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    Lori in Toronto
    8 Jul 2017
    10:40pm

    I have mostly stopped caring about my bluish whiteness. I mean, it’s who I am, and eff the beauty standards that give people permission to make cracks about it. I’m actually headed back to the Bahamas on Monday, and was just now trying to decide if I should whip out some of the dyes under the bathroom sink, or just be my pale self.

    That being said, the one year I did care enough to invest in something beyond the usual drugstore moisturizers, Vita Liberata did a great job. Not orange AT ALL, just looked like a person with a tan for a few weeks there. When I got back from vacation, it seemed to soothe my colleagues to think I had “gotten some sun.” Oy.

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