the one major downside of being a redhead

There are many things I like about having red hair.

The uniqueness.

The compliments.

The supposed higher pain tolerance that comes with it.

And I actually really do like the color of my hair. I would say it is my best feature and probably the thing that defines me most.

But what I don’t like is the one physical attribute that often accompanies redheadedness:

pale skin

Now I’ve heard that there is pasty-pale and pretty-pale and I’ve been told that I have the latter, but I’m not sure I buy it. Pale is pale and I’m pretty much convinced that everyone looks better tan.  The problem with redheads is that most of us don’t tan – we freckle. Again, I don’t hate my freckles; in fact I sort of like them.

But I sure wish I could get tan, too.

Before Maui my friends and I went against our better judgement and spent time in pure uv bliss {aka: laying in a tanning bed} in preparation for our trip. They all showed up tan … I just came with freckles.

I’m learning to embrace my paleness. It is part of who I am and I can’t do much about it {although I just discovered that there are artificial melanin injections to make you tanner – crazy but interesting}

What I can do is use self tanner.

Not all self-tanners work for pale skin – most turn out really orange/overly bronze for me.

I have only tried a handful of self-tanning lotions, sprays and foams {mostly drug store varieties} but I have found that Jergens Natural Glow firming lotion is my favorite so far.

It says it takes a few applications for the color to develop, but it actually shows up on me with just one coat. I like how subtle it looks … but could do without that strong self-tanning scent.

There are a million different products on the market that claim to give a natural tan and I’m always looking for one that is just right.  If you are the self-tanner type and have a favorite product, will you share your tanning secrets in the comments below?

Just in time for summer.

The fair-skinned girls of the world will thank you.

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138 Responses to the one major downside of being a redhead

  1. martha May 8, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    I read about “sun” from another blog. I bought it off amazon, It is amazing! It smells great and the tan is very natural. It comes in a mist too. Works great on your face as well. I bought the 32 oz. jug that comes with a pump. It will last forever!

    http://www.amazon.com/Self-Tanning-Lotion-Ultra-Instant/dp/B0009V8N5E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336477523&sr=8-1

  2. Lindsay May 8, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    This is so true – I’m with you. I always want to be a bit more tan, but can’t bring myself to get too much sun and self tanner works, but smells :( I’m really trying to embrace my natural skin tone, but it can be so hard with all you see out there! I think you look beautiful just the way you are!

  3. Jennifer May 8, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    As a kid, the most common comment in my school year books was: “Have a great summer and get a tan.” Needless to say the tan part never happened. Never will. 25 years later I’ve finally found peace with my translucent skin and loads of freckles. I’m glad you’ve found a way to enjoy your beautiful coloring. :)

  4. sarah@boxwood May 8, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    I’m a redhead too, and proud to be. In England (where I grew up) I used to get teased quite a bit about it, by kids and adults, but my dad always told me I was his golden haired girl and beautiful, so I knew not to listen to the bully’s.

    Although only one other sibling out of 8 is also a redhead, it’s showing showing up quite prominently in the next generation. I’ve already witnessed people saying things about my niece, horrid things adults should never say when a three year old can hear. I wonder if this stupid “ginger” prejudice has spread over here. I don’t know why people even would comment negatively. Are they jealous?

    But you’re right, the downside is the palely freaky skin. My sisters tan so beautifully and look gorgeous soaking up the suns rays all summer long. And I look like an idiot with long coverups, sitting in the shade! Luckily fall comes shortly after, and I can have my season of glowing with the leafs, while my sisters tan’s fade :)

    Jergens is a great self tanner and pretty fool prof. Great just to take the edge of the pasty! It makes me feel less like a vampire, and for me that’s a good thing!

  5. sarah@boxwood May 8, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    PS. I always just a scrub before applying the self tanner, it REALLY makes a nice difference.

  6. Wendy @ The Shabby Nest May 8, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    I don’t actually have red hair…. my mother is a red head, and my son has red hair…but me, I just got the red-head skin. It’s hard for me to tan as well..mostly I just freckle. And I use the Jergens lotion too. First one I’ve found that does the trick for me as well. I do love that it looks so natural because I’m not so sure if I’m the pasty pale or the pretty pale myself. Lol! Fair skinned, freckle-faced ladies unite!! ;-)

  7. Richella @ Imparting Grace May 8, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    I’m a redhead and my three sons are all redheads as well, so I know your frustration well. I’m lucky that I pretty much only get freckles on my face instead of all over, but fair skin can feel like it looks too pale sometimes, I know.

    As a 48-year-old redhead, I do have a bit of advice: Find a sunless tanner you like and rejoice that you don’t tan! Why? Because the tan that looks so pretty and “healthy” on younger bodies comes back to haunt people when they’re my age. I used to feel so jealous of my friends’ tans, but now most of my peers have quite a few spots and mottled-looking skin, particularly in the decolletage area. Now my formerly tanned friends are wishing they’d avoided the sun more. I like Neutrogena’s “Build-a-tan” lotion and Sally Hansen’s “Airbrush Legs” to spray on some color. Otherwise, my advice is to embrace the look of fair skin and know that one day it’ll pay off in a big way! :)

  8. Patricia May 8, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Not a red-head, but I have very fair skin. Jergens has been a lifesaver for me! :)

  9. erin May 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    I’m fair-skinned as well and have in the past liked the Jergens lotion you mentioned above. I do have to agree with you about the smell, it stinks. So for my sister’s wedding (last month in LA) I tried the foam version and was happy with the coverage and the smell wasn’t as bad as the lotion. You may want to consider trying that product.

  10. Erica May 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    I really love to look tan, but am pale, too. I really like the Loreal Sublime Bronze for a self-tanner, but I have some friends who love Fake & Bake. I think in the long run–it’s so much better for you to stay out of the sun–all that tanning can really turn your skin into leather, give you unwanted age spots, and make you look much older than you really are :( Good luck :)

  11. Jessica May 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    I have tried just about every self tanner out there (except for Sun, which I do want to try). I am not just pale but ghostly white…and athletic build – which just looks bad. My favortie so far is Lancome. I have to lotion up with regular lotion first, let that dry, then put on the lancome lotion. Bc if I dont’, it gets too dark. I do this every other day. In the winter, I use a cheaper lotion (Banana Boat from Walmart works ok). When I was pregnant I used Lavera (I got it from Target)…it didn’t seem to have chemicals…or so they say.

  12. kristi May 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    i have the same trouble. the jergens shows up instantly. every other brand i’ve tried has been too orangey. i’m always hoping to find something even more subtle.

  13. Hannah Bunker May 8, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    Oh man, I am right there with you! I’m a redhead with pale, freckled skin and have never once in my life been able to tan. Sometimes I wonder if I could make myself one big freckle so then maybe I would look tan. lol jk, I’ve learned to embrace the paleness.

    • jeanie April 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      I’m a redhead and I have had the most natural results with Clarin self-tanners. Estee Lauder makes good ones, too, but Clarins is rather expensive. Jergens is not bad but it makes me look too red, especially my neck.

  14. Amanda M. May 9, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    You are so truly by far pretty pale. For sure! I used to worship the sun. I laid outside, in the tanning bed, just everything nonstop. I have no idea why God has blessed me with no melanoma thus far (just had my yearly derm check yesterday!). Anyway, I actually use SPF now and don’t lay out, but I do like to be tan. I use Fake Bake, which I order from Amazon. It goes on very dark to prevent streaking and you rinse that part off in the morning – I like it because it keeps me from streaking! There’s a face version and also a fairer skin version, too!

  15. Amy May 9, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    I also have red hair and fair skin. Last summer I discovered Nivea Sun-Kissed Skin gradual tanning moisturizer. It works really well. It doesn’t get splotchy or orange and looks very natural, like those few redheads that can get tan in the sun.

  16. Melaine Thompson May 9, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    Emily~could be worse, you could be a redhead with pale skin and be allergic to self tanners! Oh yeah, that’s me! :(

  17. Julia May 9, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    You always look beautiful!! But if you like a tan, as I do, and have no time to either tan in the sun or in a booth, then you must try TanTowels. I love the towelettes. They apply the tanner evenly and come in full body or half, and in a few different shades depending on your skin type. Love them.

  18. Bridget Juister May 9, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Hi Emily. I’ve really been enjoying your blog. I discovered you when I was looking for a flower tutorial. It was so great to be in the mood for a craft and be able to actually do it without having to buy the materials.

    Anyway, I hear you. As a paley myself, I’ve learned to embrace it and like to think that in 20+ years when I’m in my fifties, I’ll be so glad I did. I love the CeraVe a.m. moisturizer with sunscreen and the dermalogica tinted sunscreen/lotion for the summer.

    Pales unite!

  19. Daisi B May 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    At the Beach Versa Spa is a LIFE SAVER for me. Makes me bronze-y and tan and not orange in the slightest. If you don’t have that, I actually prefer the Natural Glow Express and I promise you, it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as the one you mentioned.

    Another GREAT option, is from the Hemp line. It smells REALLY good. Swear. And it bronzes you in a slight gradual way, which for us redheads means immediately :)
    http://www.amazon.com/Moist-Hemp-Bronzing-Moisturizer-oz/dp/B003TJGNH8

  20. Amanda in WA May 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    I saw a shirt somewhere online that said “Pale is the new tan.” I love that. As a fair gal myself, (my first foundation from lancome was called ‘eau de pale #1), I say embrace embrace embrace. Did you know it only takes 3 burns in the same spot to be at risk for melanoma? I know three girls (in their early 20s) that have already had melanoma removed from their bodies. Embrace, embrace, embrace. If something is going to remove me from this earth, I pray it won’t be because of my vanity. Sorry to be soapboxy, but I am pretty passionate about this one, because it is so preventable.

  21. elizabeth May 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    The BEST self tanner on the market is by St. Tropez. The bronzing mousse is my favorite, it dries quickly and doesn’t streak. If you buy the mitt they sell it goes on perfectly smooth and your hands don’t turn dark. Plus it doesn’t give you that weird, jaundice look that some of the others give. I’m a pale skin girl. Pasty-pale, not pretty pale. And I live in the south, where we wear dresses all summer long. This is my trick to faking a tan.

  22. elizabeth May 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    http://www.sttropeztan.com/self-tan-bronzing-mousse

    the 8 oz will last all summer too.

  23. Andrea May 11, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    Okay, i’m a redhead too and can totally relate. I LOVE my redhair and I have always been told that I have a “peaches ‘n cream” complection so I don’t have a ton of freckles…but I”m definitely a true redhead. Anyway, I love St. Tropez. I swear by it! I need to send you an email with a pic from this past summer. It really works wonders and isn’t orange at all. Plus, the scent is very nice.

  24. Kim May 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    I too am a redhead and enjoy using Jergens for color. I put a good smelling lotion on top of self tanner to help with the smell

  25. Stephanie Burton May 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    I have blonde hair and fair skin, and would tan in the tanning beds in my 20′s, and loved how my skin looked! Unfortunately, the 4 summers I tanned resulted in melanoma…..4 surgeries and huge massive scars later, I would give anything to take that back. Now I embrace my fair skin. I am 32 and the mother of 3.

  26. Jodi May 15, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    The Mary Kay subtle tanning lotion is awesome! Smell is not bad and the color is amazing. I can tan a little, but I prefer not to so I am always covered from the sun. The self tanner gives me great color!

  27. Chris (aka Freckle Face Girl) May 15, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    I am a red head too – I have never been to a tanning bed, but I have gone to a tanning salon to do the spray tan in a booth and that was pretty interesting and it worked really well, stayed on for quite sometime. But I felt like a fake when I came out all bronze. Usually I just use one of the myriad of products at the drug store…and oddly only use it on my legs. Because in my red head brain, it somehow makes sense that my legs aren’t freakishly pale, but anything else just looks weird to me. Let’s embrace our bodies rejection to tanning – we’ll look a whole lot younger when we get past 40 and we won’t have that leather look. It’s a good thing! :)
    Chris {aka Freckle Face Girl}

  28. Kelly May 15, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    A new one just came out for faces, I think it is jergens I want to try! I could tan but come from a wrinkly family so I’m trying to avoid that!

  29. Gina Wilcox May 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    L’oreal’s sublime bronze GEL is pretty awesome! I have had very goof luck with it and reccomend it to all my inquiring friends!:) You are beautiful and I love that you embrace yourself as you are! truly inspiring!

  30. Ashley May 19, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    Banana Boat Summer Color… go with a dark. Slather on at night, heavy but even!, wash the bottom of your hands really well, and a shower in the morning takes away the smell! Lasts for almost a week.

    I had red hair when I was young, now a bit darker which I make blonde! My little guy has red hair- freckles and all. I definately have fair skin- I can tan, but freckle.

    Love this stuff. People always compliment me on my tan!! You might try it (Walmart!).

  31. Ashley May 19, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    I have to include~ I love your red hair and complexion! Beautiful!

  32. Leah January 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    Emily! I too am a redhead that feel EXACTLY the same way!! Sally Hansen makes a product called something like …. airbrush legs? It is sold at every drug store and is usually by the nail polish. It is water-proof, sweat-proof, and makes your legs look AMAZING. I have naturally tan friends that use it to make their legs look nice. It gives the appearance of panty hose but with the bare-legged look. A MUST!!!

  33. Tegan February 26, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    I am a red head with a ton of freckles and fair skin. I don’t tan. I burn, peel, repeat. I LOVE Loreal Sublime Tan gel in medium. It has a bronzer so you see where you put it and get an immediate glow. It developes within a few hours and I usually only need two “coats”…the initial and one for touchups. But I’ve come to trust it so much I can actually use one coat in the morning and go to an event in the afternoon and trust that I don’t have any weird streaks or anything. It of course smells like self tanner but it’s the only brand I’ve found that is totally worth it. I buy it at walmart for about $8 and one tube will last a year. (I don’t stay tan, I only use it when I know I’ll be wearing a dress or shorts to an event in July when everyone else will be a barbie doll)

  34. Barbara Ann March 18, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    26 yrs ago I discovered Water Babies when applying to my children i decided to try it.. I have been getting a TAN ever since…. I am a FIREY RED HEAD with pale freckly skin and I swear by Water Babies… Caution DO NOT use the spray on kind use the lotion and lather it on, repeat again in a couple of hours.. And yes I even go swimming, go to the ocean and anywhere else i choose covered in Water Babies…..

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