So tanning makes you darker…but does reverse tanning make you lighter?
Questions you wonder about late at night.
So I looked it up. Reverse tanning. First of all, yep it’s a thing. Second of all, NASA invented it (NASA???) Third, it supposedly does not make your skin lighter. It only evens out your skin tone.
But why is it synonymous with “white tanning” then?
So many questions. So little time.
“White tanning” has become very popular amongst women in South Korea. Skin color means a lot in Korea; a long time ago, dark skin was considered a sign that someone was part of the labor class, since they worked long hours under the sun. Now, dark skin is not necessarily associated with labor; however, the “cultural preference” for lighter skin has not changed.
Thus, “these days, the pressure for Korean women to maintain light skin for beauty reasons is kind of intense. The (suspect) logic is that a whiter canvas better showcases the meticulously pampered skin they spend a great deal of time and money to achieve.”
So why is it called white tanning if you’re not getting whiter????
Actual tanning involves UV light penetrating your skin to make more melanin. Melanin is your body’s way of protecting your skin from burning. So while tanning increases melanin, reverse tanning uses infrared to increase elastin production. It doesn’t necessarily tan anything – it just evens out your skin tone.
It takes about ten sessions to actually see any type of result. You have to go several times a week for at least 20 minutes. You also have to lay naked in a coffin-like box (just like tanning) to walk away…whiter? Brighter? Even-er?
Although reverse tanning has not taken hold in the United States (yet), Snapchat has made it as easy as a swipe of a filter to make your skin lighter. About a year ago, Snapchat added a few filters (such as the flower filter, the “pretty” filter and the “even-skin” filter). All three filters drastically make one’s skin flawless and lighter. They enhance certain features (like eyes and lips) and make other features (nose and jaw) slimmer and smaller. Basically, Snapchat seems to favor white skin. When asked about their controversial filters, they refused to comment. What’s new?
Nowadays, “beautiful skin” is tied to the idea that you must be white or, at the very least, light skinned. Someone who has “light skin” is automatically privileged with “racial capital.” This “capital” can be seen in a variety forms, such as social capital (social network) or economic capital (a job that pays well). Skin-lightening products are on the rise; the global market demands them, and if you type in “skin-lightening products” on Google, oh man. Prepare to be overwhelmed by over-priced creams that literally use the word “white” in their name. “This practice reveals the strong desire by consumers to achieve aesthetic whiteness, if not a white identity.” Thus, when it comes to advertising, beauty companies make sure to put in a few “light-skinned, Anglo-looking women of color,” to RE-emphasize that white beauty is better.
So get in! We’re going reverse tanning. *insert eye roll emoji here*
 Amy Sciarretto, “Reverse Tanning Is A Misnomer — Here’s What It Actually Is (And Isn’t),” Bustle, December 2014, https://www.bustle.com/articles/52002-reverse-tanning-is-a-misnomer-heres-what-it-actually-is-and-isnt
 Joyce Kong, “Reverse Tanning: What It Is & Why It’s Huge In South Korea,” Refinery29, December 2014, http://www.refinery29.com/red-light-therapy
 Rachael Krishna, “People Think These Snapchat Filters Are Making Their Face Look Whiter,” Buzzfeed, May 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/krishrach/people-think-snapchats-beauty-filters-are-making-them-look-w?utm_term=.kyM6VXoAl#.ccWmG0lbZ
 Margaret L. Hunter, “Buying Racial Capital: Skin-Bleaching and Cosmetic Surgery in a Globalized World,” The Journal of Pan African Studies (2011): 149.
 Margaret L. Hunter, “Buying Racial Capital: Skin-Bleaching and Cosmetic Surgery in a Globalized World,” The Journal of Pan African Studies (2011): 146.