Those unfortunate people, such as myself, who cannot be in the sun for more than 20 minutes without getting painfully burnt, greatly lose out in the "summer tan" trend. Summer has come and gone, and we are constantly bombarded with pictures of beautiful people on beaches sporting perfect bronze tans and the trendiest summer fashions. Magazines congratulate perfectly toned bronze celebrities, while poking fun at the ones who are a bit paler.
At first I tried to be a part of this elite group of the tanned and beautiful and found myself eagerly reaching for the tanning lotion on my next trip to the beach to embrace the sun's warm rays. However, I returned home not a golden shade of brown, but a burning and blistered scarlet. The pain didn't end there and nor did the colour. For two agonising weeks my body remained as red as a tomato and my skin - from head to toe - was on fire. It took me hours to fall asleep because I had to try to find a position to lie in where the least possible area of sunburn came into contact with the bed - and believe me it was hard. My forehead burn was the most embarrassing token of my stupidity, and while the burn began to fade, my forehead still shone an angry bright red, impossible to cover with make-up.
This unfortunately resulted in laughs and stares whenever I entered a public place and sarcastic questions as to whether I had been to the beach lately. My friends, who had the task of covering me in after-sun lotion and laughing while I lay crying out in pain claim they have never seen a person so red in their entire lives. After this painful and unsuccessful attempt to become tanned, I now have declared the sun my enemy, constantly reapplying factor-30 sun screen every hour when I am out in its rays.
My father told me a story about his childhood. His next-door neighbour fell asleep by the pool one hot summer's day. When the boy awoke he had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance as he was suffering from ugly, blistering, second-degree burns all over his body. The sun can be dangerous and harmful and must be treated with caution, especially in the UAE - a climate which is constantly warm and sunny.
Every time you get sunburnt, you damage your skin cells and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. After a sunburn, your body works to repair the damage. Having multiple blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. I Googled the topic of sun tans, wondering if they were as harmful as sunburns and was surprised by the answer. According to my research, tanning causes one's skin to change colour because the skin is responding to DNA damage by increasing melanin production to try and fend off further damage. However the damage is already done. This means that tanning is also harmful. Indoor tanning is bad too, as there are UVA and UVB rays present in tanning booths. Studies have shown that 15 minutes in a tanning booth gives you as much harmful UV exposure as a full day at the beach!
My aim to become tanned started to disintegrate. I considered another option which claims to offer bronzy goldenness without the need for actual sunlight - fake tan. This is the safest option for achieving a tan as it does not damage the skin, and for people such as myself, it is the only way to get a tan without getting badly burnt first. I did some research on the internet and found a gradual fake tan that was highly recommended. I thought that this would minimise my chances of accidentally turning orange as this was my first time and I did not know how much to apply.
Unfortunately this gradual tan was very gradual indeed and took up to eight applications over six days to even show a hint of a tan. By that time I needed to shave my legs, which resulted in it all coming off. The outcome was a tanned body with very pale legs and frankly looked a bit silly. Next time I will take my chances and use an instant fake tan, rather than a gradual one to avoid this mismatched look.
However, after this unsuccessful ordeal, I am really not that interested in becoming tanned any more. It is too much of a hassle for me - with one I end up lobster red and with the other I end up with a colour combination of a fried egg - sunny side up, naturally. I guess I will just have to yearn for the times when Queen Victoria and the pale but interesting look ruled. In the meantime I will just have to content myself with being healthy.
Zoya Zajac is a 17-year-old student in Abu Dhabi.