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5 Things A Pale Person Always Needs In Summer

When it comes to beauty, here's how to play the long game.

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Woman floating on inflatable tube in pool on vacation in summer
Aila Images/Stocksy United
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At the ripe age of 46, I’ve come to accept many things about my appearance: I will never get taller than 4 foot 11; these hips, which have birthed two babies, aren’t getting any narrower; and my skin is never going to take on the golden bronze color of a tan.

I am pale. And when I say pale, I don’t mean the slightly lighter color that sun worshippers take on in the winter when they’ve spent too much time indoors and in clothes. I’m pale on a whole different level — nearly blue I’m so white. The thousands of freckles that dot my arms, chest and face are the only evidence that my skin has any pigmentation in it whatsoever.

When I was little, my teachers frequently asked my mom if I was sick or anemic, so light was my pallor. My mom got so fed up with this frequent battery of questions she told my fourth-grade teacher, “For God’s sake, she’s not sick, she’s Irish!” My jet-black hair didn’t help matters, either. Kids frequently called me Casper, Eddie Munster and Morticia, and there wasn’t even a question on who would portray Snow White in my third-grade production of the fairy tale.

I tried for decades to get that beautiful, healthy glow using all sorts of methods. The end result was always the same: burn, blister, peel, fade to pale — with a few more freckles and higher chance of skin cancer each time. And sunless tanners, no matter how natural they say they look, turn me a Trumpian orange. Not exactly the look I’m going for.

Somewhere in my mid-20s I gave up the ghost and embraced the paleness. But being pale — and healthily staying that way — doesn’t happen without a little work. Here are five things every pale person needs to have at all times.


Duh! I wear it every day, everywhere, period. Look for makeup with sunscreen added or setting sprays with it included. If I’m not planning some sun-intensive activity, I’ll usually mix some sunscreen in with my regular after-shower moisturizer. If I’m going to be in the sun, I go with a high SPF — usually 80 — and slather it on. I also raid the section of the store where there are travel items, stocking up on 2- and 3-ounce tubes of sunscreen to put in every purse, tote bag, backpack, fanny pack, suitcase, whatever I might use so I’m sure to have some with me to reapply while I’m out and about.


My preferred hat is a giant straw one that has a brim big enough to cast a shadow all the way to my elbows when my arms are outstretched. But in a pinch, a baseball cap will do. We pale folks have pale scalps, too, and NO ONE has invented a good way to put sunscreen on them without making our hair greasy. Bonus: If you dye your hair, wearing a hat in intense sunlight may help preserve your color longer (especially redheads).

Giant sunglasses

Yes, we are going for a Jackie O vibe, but it also is imperative to protect the thin skin around your eyes from the sun’s rays. Bonus: Sunnies keep you from squinting, which contributes to those dastardly fine lines.

Lip balm

Yep, lips can get sunburned — and they do. And repeated sunburns can turn your pout rough and leathery, and even break down the collagen responsible for plumping up your pucker. I either use a tinted lip balm with SPF 30 or swipe on a clear lip balm with sunscreen over my lipstick, and then reapply after eating or drinking. Bonus: Balming up can help prevent cold sore outbreaks in those prone to getting them from sun exposure.

A cover-up

OK, I know … who wants to put on an extra layer in the sun? But sometimes, even when we make the best plans, we find ourselves out in the sun and can feel our skin baking. If there’s no chance of hiding out in the shade, a thin, long-sleeved shirt or a cheap pashmina thrown over your shoulders may be the difference between a burn and not. Nothing like that handy? Try an umbrella — almost everyone has a few stowed in the car, and it works! Bonus: Walking under an umbrella on a sunny day instantly brings a Regency-era feel to any occasion. Care to promenade, anyone? 

When it comes to contemporary beauty, I’m playing the long game. Sure, I may lack a “healthy” glow now, but in 40 years I’ll be a smooth, milky-skinned hottie hanging out at the retirement village pool asking the men to “rub a little sunscreen on my back” while my sun-worshipping contemporaries are spending all their free time in the dermatologist’s office.