Learn to embrace your individual beauty


Toni Pantone

By Ellen Barczak, Columnist

Welcome back, Illini! I hope you’ve all had a restorative summer. We all love summer, don’t we? With its long, sunny, blue-sky days and cool nights perfect for bonfires.

One thing that has always confused me about summer, however, is people’s desire for “healthy, tanned skin.” I don’t know any dermatologist who would associate the words “suntanned” and “healthy” with one another.

Beauty standards over the years constantly evolve; today, we tend to extol sun-kissed skin, whereas 100 years ago, a porcelain white complexion was most desirable. There is no rhyme or reason behind these ideals, yet many  people use them to measure their worth, to quantify their attractiveness.

In the U.S., along with other countries such as the U.K. and Ireland, people exert considerable effort to darken their skin. Whether it be laying in the sun, baking in a tanning bed or spraying on color-altering chemicals, individuals with a lack of melanin in their skin do whatever it takes to alter their natural skin tone.

For example, according to an article from Scroll.in thedesire for lighter skin hasgrown into “a cultural obsession, and one that’s becoming dangerous.” People in India will go to great lengths to achieve a lighter complexion, including using bleaching creams, bleaching pills and chemical peels.

Although bleaching and tanning one’s skin appear to be polar opposites, they share one common factor: They endanger the health of their users. Bleaching agents are naturally caustic; their side effects include, but are not limited to: inflammation, burning, thinning of skin and kidney and nerve damage. Tanning one’s skin either in the sun or in a tanning bed is widely known to cause skin cancer.

Some beauty and style trends are harmless, including mom jeans, ombre hair and highlighter makeup. Others, like altering skin color, do little but cause people harm.

Skin tone is controlled by the amount of melanin in cells. To believe the presence of melanin, or lack thereof, in someone’s skin makes them beautiful or ugly is truly nonsensical.

Beauty is subjective and perceived differently by every person from every era. tyles come and go, trends evolve. The only constant in all of this, however, is you. It is your ability to take what you’ve been given genetically and to love it for what it is. Maybe it’s in vogue, maybe it’s not. Frankly, current styles are irrelevant.

The only thing that matters when it comes to beauty is the ability to accept yourself for who you are. To spend a lifetime trying to change the things that make you you, chasing after the newest and most popular beauty trends, can never lead to personal fulfillment and satisfaction.

If you have curly or straight hair, ivory or ebony skin, blue or brown eyes or anything in between, you are perfect just the way you are. There’s nothing more attractive than people who are comfortable in their own skin. I wouldn’t change a thing about you.

Ellen is a sophomore in LAS.

[email protected]