Before I left for Bali, I was planning to stop at Tan Bella for a spray tan. I only spray tan a few times a year for photo-shoots and revealing outfits, and Bali is beach season year round. I was so busy preparing to travel that I missed my tan appointment. It was pretty obvious, as you can tell from my facebook pics.

I arrived Bali wearing long pants, carrying a bottle of self-tanning lotion and a lot of self-consciousness about my pale skin.

After my first Balinese massage, the masseuse commented on my beautiful fair complexion. I had never received such a compliment. Later at the drug store, I struggled to find self-tanner, and found this instead:


In Bali, white skin is IN. Shelves are filled with lotions promising to provide “Extra Whitening,” “Skin Lightening” and “Instant Fair” effects. I was baffled. Does this even exist in the U.S.?

To me, Balinese women have the perfect skin tone – golden toasty brown. To them, I have the perfect skin tone – gleaming creamy white.

Why do so many Western women want to be tan, while Eastern women want to be white?

I have 3 theories:

1 – The grass is always greener – Everyone wants what they don’t have, like the constant jealousy between curly and straight-haired girls. Corporate marketing efforts exploit this tendency by encouraging us to judge our traits as inferior so that we will pay for products to solve the “problem.”

2 – Everyone loves the look of leisure – In the U.S., having a tan implies a life of fun in the sun while paleness is correlated with desk-jockey status. To the Balinese, darker skin implies a life of hard work in the heat, while a lighter complexion indicates chilling indoors.

3 – Different cultures – different values – Americans value vigor and strength, and tan skin implies ruggedness. Eastern cultures value refinement and delicacy, and light skin emphasizes softness.

Regardless of why different lotions sell in different parts of the world, it seems apparent that women everywhere are unified in wanting to change their natural appearance – and it’s all arbitrary. Balinese women are poisoning themselves to get the skin tone I have been trying to get rid of. By stepping out of our comfort zone and seeing how other women live, we have a golden opportunity to renew and redefine our relationship with our skin, our hair, our size, and so much more.

How do you learn to love your own skin?

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