Amy Gehrt: Getting that ‘healthy’ glow

Amy Gehrt

Every year, I promise myself that this summer will be different, and I will protect my fair skin from the sun’s damaging rays. But each spring, as soon as my pale limbs start to peek out from short sleeves, skirts and capris, my vow flies out the window and I once again find myself in search of the perfect tan.

It’s not that I don’t know about the dangers — in this day and age, who doesn’t? And I’m not a particularly vain person, either. What I am is pale. Blindingly, blue-white pale.

The truth is, very few people can pull off alabaster skin in the summer months. Sure, Nicole Kidman looks incredible with her porcelain skin. But my natural skin tone is more pasty than porcelain.

Like millions of others, I have tried virtually every fake tanner under the sun. I have used foams, creams, lotions, tanning butters .... even tanning towelettes. The latest products don’t turn me orange like earlier self-tanners tended to do, but all do still end up leaving my skin with an unpleasant odor — even after showering multiple times. Not to mention the fact that my hands always end up several shades lighter than the rest of my body. And while the “spray-on legs” products don’t usually smell as bad, they will rub off on your clothes, car and furniture.

So every summer, I don a swimsuit, lather on the sunscreen and begin the tedious task of slowly bronzing my body. Yet despite my frequent applications of a suncreen with an SPF of 30, I always burn the first couple of times.

As a child, sunburns were simply a painful ritual of summer. A nuisance for sure, but no reason to cut time spent in the pool, running through sprinklers or playing outdoors with my friends. Now, of course, I see sunburns a whole lot differently.

I see the added freckles, the wrinkles and the sun spots. As if all that isn’t bad enough, I also am prone to new moles — including those ugly red ones. Those small, angry-looking marks always seem like a warning beacon, flashing a message that seems to say “Now you’re going to get skin cancer. Hope those two hours at the pool were worth it!”

I have run enough stories to know how deadly skin cancer can be, and how hard it can be to catch in its early stages. I have even had a couple of suspicious moles removed, as have most people I know. But despite all of that, I still eagerly head to the pool each weekend. I have always loved the water, and working out in the pool and swimming laps feels a lot more fun than my typical sweaty workouts.

So I have somehow managed to convince myself that the health benefits I gain from my time at the pool help balance out the damaging effects of the sun’s rays — to a point. I do, however, faithfully use a sunscreen with good UVA and UVB protection, which is more than I can say for many at the pool. Every time I see teenagers pour on baby oil in place of sunscreen, I want to go up to them and explain to them the damage they are inflicting on their skin. But I know it won’t do any good. We all want that “healthy glow” — even if it isn’t so healthy.

So instead I’ll focus on trying to learn to love my pale white flesh, in the hopes that next year I really will stay out of the sun.

Amy Gehrt may be reached at