As opposed to American styles, which praise dark skin as a sign of beauty, dark skin here in Korea is generally regarded as undesirable. Ajummas wear visors and stylish women carry parasols and wear long sleeves all summer to protect their precious skin from the rays of the sun. Many skin creams, including many sunblocks, go so far as to include whitening agents to make the skin even whiter.
While we foreigners generally tend to make fun of the glowing white faces the long sleeves on a 90 degree day and the long sleeve t-shirts in the water at the beach, I'm starting to feel as though they might have a point. I have disgustingly white skin thanks to all the northern European blood in me. Every year I go to the beach hoping to come home with a tan, and every year I come home with a painful sunburn which eventually fades away to my normal white bread skin.
Finally after 23 years of futile efforts of tanning, I decided, on the beach in Bali, that I was going to cover up my skin. While all my American friends laid out with varying degrees of skin showing, from tankinis to topless, I hid under my beach towel. Even still, I managed to burn my scalp, because I didn't keep my head covered well enough. And my ankles got burned because my towel didn't cover them. After that I invested in a geeky baseball cap which I kept on my head the rest of the time.
Maybe these Korean women have a point. Are they getting skin cancer in their 30's and 40's? Probably not, but you know the American women are. Why exactly do we praise tanned skin? I know that it gives us the look that we have lots of leisure time to spend tanning, or on vacation in tropical places. I know that many people think that they just plain look better with tan skin. I on the other hand, am starting to feel as though white skin is one hundred times more attractive than red skin, which seems to be my only other option.
While you'll never catch me with the whitening creams, I'm keeping my skin covered from now on. No more tanning and no more sun burns for me. Thank you very much.
Cucumber treatment a la boyfriend for my sunburned legs after 3 hours of hiking this past weekend near Yongpyong.