Maddie Johnson: The Paradox of the Skin

Read what Maddie Johnson, a student at Concordia College, has to say about accepting the skin we’re born with:

When I was a child, my mother was very adamant that I stay out of the sun. She covered me up with towels, hats, and excessive coats of sunscreen in the summer and also insisted that I only go to water parks at night. Most children only fear the wrath of the boogie monster, but for my mom, the sun was her boogie monster. I never understood her reasoning until I was older, but I am thankful my mom taught me to be careful when I am outside. As a woman suffering from rosacea, going outside in the sun makes my mom feel like small needles are poking into her skin. Though I have never experienced this chronic pain, I am more aware of the evils of skin cancer and how they could affect me if I am not more careful.

As I reached teenager status, media began to tell me that pale skin was ugly and a nice base tan was the best way to be beautiful. I regret that when I was at friend’s cabins, I didn’t apply sunscreen as much as I should have and occasionally I would lay out in the sun with my friends in order to achieve that ideal tan. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the outdoors, but purposefully trying to alter your skin color just to be more beautiful is unnecessary and harmful to one’s health. Unfortunately, the influences of society began to get to me and my mom’s advice took the back burner.


In high school, when girls went to dances, it was important if you were Caucasian that you had a nice tan from the summer months. In the case of prom which was in the spring, a lot of girls would frequent the tanning beds in preparation for this event. Medical News Today states that 18.1% of women and 6.3% of men frequent the tanning bed. A few trips before prom to the tanning bed doesn’t seem so bad in comparison, but the article explains that just using a tanning bed once compared to never using a tanning bed increases the chance of:

-developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67%

-developing basal cell carcinoma by 29%

Are most high school girls aware of this? Probably not. I’ll admit, I considered getting a spray tan just to fit in with these girls, but in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t. I’m proud of my skin color and not ashamed that I’m ‘pale’ or what some would consider, a ghost’. In the past, girls have compared their arms to me, showing me their nice tan. I’ve hated the fact that I burn easily and don’t develop tans easily when I’m outside. Previously, I’ve wished that I didn’t have freckles across my face. However, my mom has always told me I am beautiful and this means the world to me. Today, I stand confident in my own skin.


Pop culture icons, such as the cast of Jersey Shore, idolize and normalize the use of tanning beds.

Across the world, women in Asian countries bleach their skin in an attempt to be more white because this is what they consider to be beautiful. Not only this, but here in America, African American women feel less beautiful because of their skin color. A Tyra Banks episode examines this trend. In some cases, women even go to the extremes of bleaching their children’s skin, as seen in the video below.

This is outrageous, but the media has driven these women to think in this way. What is considered beautiful is perfectly golden skin. This is wrong because as a society, we should be celebrating each other’s differences and not trying to create people who are all identical. Trying to create a definition of what beauty means is impossible and should be discredited. I am so thankful that I have a mother that has taught me to love and respect the skin I was born with. I hope women of all different skin colors will one day feel the same way.




One thought on “Maddie Johnson: The Paradox of the Skin

  1. Pingback: COBBlog» Blog Archive » The Paradox of the Skin – Girls in Real Life- What Cobbers are talking about

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