"Why I'm finally giving up my tanning obsession this summer."

Last week, Melbourne was confronted with a 28 degree day.

For a spring that has featured plenty of umbrella weather – and a fair amount of trench coat weather, too – there was a mild sense of panic in the air.

“Where will we tan?” my flatmate quizzed me the night before. “Should we go to the beach? The gardens? A BOAT?”

I looked gingerly out the window to the vacant plot of land that sits next to our inner-city apartment building.

“Well, they have just mown the grass,” I said, before we both burst out laughing.

Tanning. It makes people do weird things.


Despite the fact we are a multicultural nation of people who overeat and rarely leave our office chairs, there is a general understanding that the classic ‘Aussie’ look for women is that of a lean, tanned, Ocean Girl goddess.

Um, yeah right. I lived in Bondi for years, and even in that neck of the woods the au naturale surfie girl look is reserved for but a handful of women.

The deep brown tan, for some obscure reason, remains the calling card of our wide brown land. It’s an obsession that has become so profound that for those of us who aren’t naturally bronzed, it’s a year-round effort to become so.

I still can’t believe Claire didn’t win #ClaireDanes #Emmys #Emmys2016 #emmy #emmyawards #goldendress #schiaparelli

A photo posted by Claire Danes ???? (@claire.danes) on


At an editorial meeting last week, one of Mamamia‘s writers turned up with a particularly brown set of pins.

“Girl, look at your LEGS!” we exclaimed, gathering around her. “So brown!”

“Yeah, I’ve been hanging out in the sun after work this past week,” she said casually.

The wry jealousy was palpable; she had the legs we all rightfully thought should be our own.


I mentioned that I was thinking about writing about tans, and immediately the group erupted into chatter. We knew tanning was bad, we all agreed, but it was addictive. We all just felt… better with a tan. Healthier. Prettier.

Back home and right where I wanna be with my besties @bodybyleahsimmons @emilymash #bondi #icebergs #summer #besties

A photo posted by Pip Edwards (P.E) (@pip_edwards1) on

Here are a few comments I got when I vox-popped the office on the topic of tanning.

“I LOVE being tanned. I feel so much prettier and I like the little freckles in my face too. (And it covers your cellulite!) I always tan in the sun, would never fake tan. But I’m also blessed with olive skin.”



“I used to tan all the time, BUT I am not naturally tanned, and I’m covered in freckles. So this summer I’m all about the fake tan.”


“At 25 I already feel like I’ve got sun damage, and a dermatologist did a thing on my face where you can see sun damage. Holy moley…”


“I like being tan. I feel like I have to wear less/no makeup and it makes my abs look more impressive. I tan at the beach and use tanning moisturiser to maintain it.”

Sing it, girlfriend!

And yet…

Skin cancer is rife in my family.

My mother, Norwegian, can sit in the sun for five minutes before turning a lovely shade of caramel. My father? His poor Irish skin is pocked with the scars of removed melanomas – a handful a year for the last few years. His youth spent in the sun is starting to take its toll.

Needless to say, I don’t take any chances.

I wear an SPF sunscreen every day, and have left my obsession with lazing for hours in the sun behind me. Hats are my friend. Overshirts are my friend. Fake tan? My BEST friend.


But even fake tan has become a full-time job. It’s constant upkeep, not to mention that it smells like, well, cat’s piss. But there’s no denying it: I feel infinitely better with it on. It’s going to be a long summer of apply and fade, apply and fade…

Unless… unless I just don’t?

Travel abroad and the obsession with tanned skin is much less intense. I remember walking around Rome, and even in the height of summer heat these women with creamy pale skin would glide around in chic black slip dresses. Looking classy as hell. Looking completely unfazed by their olive-skinned counterparts.

Pasty-skinned, and rockin’ it.

In fact, some of my favourite drool-worthy celebs are creamy skinned.

There’s Tiah Eckhardt:


January Jones:


Rachel Weisz:

And Elle Fanning:


Not a fake tan streak or sunburnt back in sight.

The facts about skin cancer and melanoma are best considered with a careful eye.

Tanned skin isn’t our country’s calling card; skin cancer is. They’re not kidding when they call it our ‘nation’s cancer’ – Australia and New Zealand have the highest melanoma rates in the world, with over 13,000 cases of skin cancer reported in 2016 alone.

In sunny Queensland, home of the tan, there is an incidence rate of 71 cases per 100,000 people to develop skin cancer.


And for millennials, it’s an especially serious problem: melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians (15–39 year olds) making up 20% of all their cancer cases.

So what do we do? Shifting the attitude towards beauty standards is about as realistic as convincing women that kale chips really are as satisfying as a tube of Pringles: ain’t gonna happen. (Post continues after gallery.)

But I for one would like to point out that it IS possible to tackle the long, hot, Aussie summer without a tan – real, or fake.

Despite the protestations of my colleagues that they have skin “that looks like ham” without a tan, I reckon it’s high time we give it up and embrace the paste.

Because if Donald Trump isn’t a perfect example of fake tan gone wrong (oh, so very, very wrong) then I don’t know what it is.

Let’s free ourselves from Warm Weather Anxiety.

Let’s farewell fake tan hands and orange ankles.

Let’s step out of the shower and out into the world without first lathering ourselves in orange goop.

Let’s embrace soft and healthy skin without burning it to the colour of bacon.

GOODBYE TAN. I’m going pasty for the summer.