I make no bones about it - I am a true sun worshiper, quite possibly a follower of Ra. So any chance available for me to don my swimsuit, lavishly apply coconut oil and bake until a crispy brown – I am all for it.
Recently, a friend asked me why I tan since I’m already a brown girl? And frankly, I was taken off guard with that one. Why do I tan? Why do I look forward to days of lying in the sun and the smell of SPF and coconut? Why does a black girl like to be in the sun so much? Honestly – I just do!
But that lead me to Google “reasons to tan”. I found three articles published in scientific journals, two based on a study conducted at University of South Florida (all participants were female, and only 0.7% of the study participants were African American – go figure),. The study didn’t tell me anything new. People tan because the media tells them a tan body is better than a pasty pale one. People are forced by their peers to tan. The “Euro Assumption” – a tanned body shows that you spent money on a vacation (because there was the thinking way back when travel was expensive, that only the wealthy vacationed).
The third article was a bit more interesting. This study looked at people who have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is a serious illness when a person is preoccupied with minor or imaginary physical flaws, usually of the skin, hair, and nose. The study results show that people with this disorder tan to camouflage perceived imperfections and that those who pick at their skin are more likely to tan (since picking can be done not just with your fingers, but with sharp instruments which can cause more damage).
Needless to say neither of the scientific articles gave me much insight into why I tan. I am not trying to hide any imperfections, make my stomach look smaller, or because the media sends conflicting messages about peaches and cream skin or nice tan bodies covered in coconut oil.
I tan because I just love being in the sun and I love seeing my skin turn that cooper color. So pass me the coconut oil and let the sun shine in!