For me, the realization that I wasn’t the sort of person whose skin grows golden and lustrous in the sun came shortly following a vigorous game of lacrosse on a South Florida beach when I was perhaps fourteen. The tingling I felt was not, as I had thought, the salt water and kicked up sand; it was the beginning of a very bad burn. The next morning, as those around me woke up handsomely burnished and ready for another game, my shoulders and back had developed a Mars-scape of scorched plains and raised plateaus.
Happily, my skin has changed over the years and seems to take a light tan rather well now. I say happily because, as anyone who has taken a look at one of those complexion color wheels knows, very little complements the permanently pale. While I would never strive for George Hamilton levels of tan, a bit of sun on the cheeks can dramatically broaden the range of flattering shades worn. While I emphasize light above, I wonder if natural is the real operative word; it’s the difference between someone who has tanned, and the tan acquired by someone while otherwise engaged. The latter is, in my experience, far preferable.
These suggestions have served me well:
Find an activity to do. Like a rotisserie chicken, movement in front of a heat source produces more even results.
Several applications of lower SPF are better than one slathering of higher SPF—strikingly similar to basting.
The use of accelerants, tanning beds and spray colorant is akin to artificial flavorings and dyes.
If sedentary tanning must be done, avoid overdoing it. A few minutes on each side should do.
No napping; the danger of waking up well-done is just too great.