Friday, August 24, 2012

What Tan Lines?

P's Tan Lines
thanks to PL for the leg modeling!
This summer I've received some emails from readers asking for suggestions on how to get rid of tan lines from bicycle shorts. The women I ride with sometimes discuss this as well. Some say they actively try to cultivate cycling tan lines, seeing them as a source of pride and part of their identity as road cyclists. Others say they dislike tan lines, because they look unflattering when wearing skirts and bathing suits. For me, it's more about the attention they generate and feeling branded: I've had stares and questions from cyclists and non-cyclists alike that I'd rather avoid.

For those who do not wish to cultivate obvious cycling tan lines, one solution is to alternate bicycle shorts of different lengths. Assuming that you are not a racer who is required to ride in a specific kit, yet ride often enough to justify owning more than one pair of shorts, this method works pretty well. I now own three pairs of shorts, each from a different manufacturer: One hits just above the knee, the other half way up the thigh, and the third somewhere in between. I make sure to rotate them, while also doing my best to regularly apply sun screen. The result is a very gradual colour-fade from the knees up instead of a harsh tan line. The leg model above is sporting a similar look, though a little more crisp than mine.

If you've already got the tan lines and need to quickly get rid of them (say, for an event), try makeup. Buy liquid makeup in a shade that matches the tanned area and apply it to the untanned part - reducing the density as you move upward. A friend of mine did this when she had to wear a short bridesmaid's dress (the bride said the tan lines would ruin her wedding photos). It works, though will smear on the underside of your hem a bit. Spray tan would also work if you need the effect to last longer, though makeup tends to look more natural. 

What's your take on tan lines from cycling shorts? Are you bothered by them, pleased by them, or does it not matter? I admit that I've identified other cyclists by their tan lines... though I try not to stare! 

37 comments:

  1. Firstly, thanks for the shot of the thighs.

    "I've had stares and questions from cyclists and non-cyclists alike that I'd rather avoid."

    Whatsamatta wit some peeps there!? I haven't been asked that question in year and years. OTOH I don't swim but my feet look like prosthetic white boots.

    Sun. Sleeves.

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  2. Tan lines would ruin the wedding photos, huh? That's what post processing is for! Oh, brides... :) My curiosity about the make up is, wouldn't it come off on the dress? I hemmed a formal dress recently that had been worn by someone who had been spray tanned. The stuff was all over the inside of the dress. Even worse, it was on the outside of the dress where her arms brushed against the fabric.

    I've got some tan lines about like the models, but I don't think it's all from cycling. I never really got rid of them from the previous summers at the donkey farm. But I did notice that wearing different length shorts and lots of sun block helped soften the line.

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    1. The makeup would rub off slightly on the underside of the dress, but if water-based (as opposed to mineral oil-based) makeup is used, it should wash right off.

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    2. Ok, yeah, I could see that with water based makeup. I guess since I only wear mineral powder makeup, I forgot that there is water and oil based liquid makeup. :)

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  3. Well, I always spray tan before going to Hawaii - erases all tan lines . . . other than that - I normally have them - even though where I live in California it stay pretty moderate. . .

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  4. When I was a kid, a friend of mine trained so much in the same bike shoes (with no socks) in the Florida sun that he had little tan dots on his feet where the vents in the shoes were.

    I don't have lines, except on my feet from the flip-flops, but the contrast between my exposed parts and unexposed parts is substantial. Fortunately, male fashion for civilized occasions displays a standardized amount of skin, and that is all uniformly tan.

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  5. Huh. Never had a problem with legs, but the only things I wear shorter than bike shorts are other outdoorsy gear (swimming, canoeing/hiking shorts). I've had to do the blending thing on my upper arms, decolletage, and watch tan lines on numerous occasions, though I usually lighten with the makeup rather than darken.

    It could be worse. Years ago, my bike gloves had big open backs. So much more comfortable in hot weather than the modern ones, but they had one fundamental problem: no amount of sunscreen would stop you from having a neat tanned oval on the back of each hand. So ridiculous.

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    1. I think there is a trend now for longer bicycle shorts than was typical a few years back. Some come down to just above the knees. So even with a knee-length skirt, such as many would wear to work, when sitting down or even just walking, the tan lines would be visible and attention-grabbing.

      The grid-like tan marks left on the back of the hands from crochet bike gloves though are kind of cute!

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  6. i see many women with cycling shorts above the mid thigh position. perhaps they are addressing the issue by raising their tan line?

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  7. My sister tried to get me to go tanning before her wedding, but I put my foot down. The 'farmer's tan' is fairly obvious in a strapless dress but it hardly ruins the nice wedding photos!
    That's the only time it has ever been an issue, though. I never wear dresses anyway, but even if I did, I wouldn't be inclined to worry about it one way or the other.
    I used to wear crochet-back gloves until they stopped making my favorite ones, and I remember one time when my doctor thought I had a weird rash because I had a spotted tan.

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  8. I don't mind the tan lines on my thighs. I do mind the tan lines on my face and under my chin from my helmet and helmet straps! I hate makeup, and besides, when I tried it, it didn't work very well at covering up the lines - it just smoothed the lines a bit. Any suggestions?

    I cover the lines from my gloves with a watch on one hand and a bracelet on the other; there's still a sharp line, but I'm told it's unnoticeable.

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  9. As a native Floridian I have to say WOW... just... wow.

    Who the F thinks tan lines will ruin their wedding photos? Really? I mean, REALLY?!?

    I can't tell you how many couples I know who went the 'Island route' because one of the mates was a yankee... everyone piles out for a week in Aruba or St. Marten (or Hawaii if they're both from here) and EVERYONE in the wedding photos has the reverse rackoon face because everyone went on a sight seeing tour or dive trip the day before wearing their sunglasses. Nobody has ever been vex about this, though I have heard many funny comments through the years.

    I see nothing particularly wrong with the pointless tanning for tanning's sake but tanning as a residual effect of outdoor activity is a naturally endowed badge of honor and should ALWAYS be regarded as such. I encourage sunscreen usage and hydration but you can only go so far.

    The idea that tan lines would ruin a wedding photo is so foreign and repugnant to me... I would be tempted to suggest that the person who wants "me" in their wedding photos doesn't actually know ME.

    Also, is it THAT hard just to pull/roll the hem of the cycling shorts up to what you deem an acceptable threshold? You're not going to escape the sun unless you only ride at night so...

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    1. I am to be a bridesmaid in a few weeks. The bride was worried about the tan lines on my arms, not on my legs. I was a good sport and tried to wear sleeveless jerseys all summer. Problem solved.

      While I would never have asked the same of my bridesmaids, I don't think it's "repugnant" or stands in the way of me being me. The frilly matching dresses on the other hand...

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    2. Karen,

      You're right.

      Repugnant is too strong a word. I just couldn't think of a lesser equivalent. I could tell you about derision I've faced for being a 'redneck' but I don't have a southern accent, I DO say "y'all", and I got my tan dishonestly through cycling and sailing (FOR SPORT!).

      Instead, I will just say that I am going to be fitted for a tux in the next few days... who knows how that will look. Much like you said about the frilly dress.

      I figure, you give a little, you get a little and vice versa. You also seemed to get ample warning about those tan lines and that counts huge. I would have switched to a 'wife beater' and gone all John Boehner but I wouldn't cry (DAMNIT! I TOLD MYSELF I WOULDN'T CRY! efiin' dusty church)...

      I have no problem getting more tan to obscure the lines but I would still feel infinged upon. WOW! There we have it! Sorry for the rambling it just took all that.

      That's better, right? "infringed upon"... I dunno, it's still kind of offensive to me.

      To be clear, I would do what you guys are doing, the diplomatic thing, and I think this covers a LOT more ground than tan lines, but... if it came down to tan lines...

      #1: I'm getting married, jump through this hoop.
      #2: So... everyone is jumping through this hoop?
      #1: No, just you, this is your hoop.
      #me: I see...

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  10. I was shocked when I got them in the one day of summer we seem to have had. It doesn't bother me but I am amused by the lines on my very hairy legs that normally shrug off the sun.

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  11. as every cyclist knows....

    Rule #7// Tan lines should be cultivated and kept razor sharp.

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  12. Worse are the tan lines associated with half-finger cycling gloves...

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  13. While they seem less popular with women than men, I wear cycling knickers or board shorts riding. For longer rides if the hem is not tight enough by design, i pin it to prevent loose material chafing my knees.

    Patagonia and other companies now offer light weight long sleeve spf shirts. Designed for fishing, I find they work well for sunny hot weather cycling.

    Tilly makes a nice French Foreign Legion style cap with neck flap. Not sure how one would get a helmet over it if that is a requirement.

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  14. When I was training for triathlons the time I spent in the swimming pool eliminated by sharp roadie tan lines. But only in the back.

    The back of my thighs were line-free and as you moved toward the front, the lines appeared again. Particularly odd.

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  15. There are pictures of the great Sean Yates leading the pro peloton, shorts noticeably pulled up at the hem. No pix of Yates as bridesmaid.

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  16. I don't really care about the tan lines. I got married this summer, I couldn't have cared less about my (or my bridesmaids') tan-lines. Yes, I'm a cyclist. I'm also a farmer. I have tan-lines. So? Not like it ruined my wedding photos.

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  17. As a guy lacking hair, getting sun burnt through helmet vents is the worst!
    A cotton bandana cut in half works works well and prevents that embarrassing red spotted look in the office on Monday morning!

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    1. Wow, I never even considered that!

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  18. even with a short 20 minute commute, my arms and legs are heavily sun-damaged. i've finally started wearing more sunscreen. my arm tanlines are terrible! the idea of sun sleeves sound attractive, but i think they look ridiculous. too sporty looking for someone who commutes. i don't have a problem with my legs as i wear short shorts, but i can see how those knee-length padded bike shorts could cause a problem.

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    1. I don't get the idea of sun sleeves. Why not just wear a long sleeve shirt - seersucker or gauzy cotton? And as far as jerseys, they make them in long sleeve summer weight wool now. I try to avoid short sleeves in the summer as my arms burn very easily.

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    2. long sleeved shirts are so hot!!

      a lot of sun sleeves claim to have a "cooling effect." on amazon.com, many reviewers claim this works! others have recommended linen shirts. i do need to train myself to get used to wearing long sleeves in summer. after all, sun protection is more important than temperature comfort.

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    3. Um people. I have 3 pair, two of which work well, as I have said before of course.

      Seersucker or gauzy cotton with padded shoes and clipless? Huh?

      You can turn any short sleeved jersey into something that has arm protection whereas "you can buy" a long sleeved jersey and have to wash it every night if intended to wear the next day. Arm sleeves you do not.

      Long sleeved jersies are indeed warmer than their short sleeved counterparts, I have found.

      If it gets overcast and you feel like more air exposure you take off your paper-thin sun sleeves and stuff them somewhere. Long sleeves you are stuck with all day.

      Otherwise I can't think of any reasons why one shouldn't get them aside from certain people's well-know aversion to synthetics.

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    4. It actually is possible to ride a bike in something other than a jersey.

      Seersucker is fine up to around 85 when relative humidity is less than 55 or so.

      The long sleeve Patagonia spf shirts I mention above are comfortable in Chicago summers where temperatures and relative humidities are a lot higher then anything one might encounter west of the Pacific coast range.

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    5. The OP wrote that sun sleeves would look too sporty on his commute, so I assumed he does not wear padded shorts and clipless - otherwise they'd fit right in, why not.

      I have seen wool sun sleeves!

      However, I just prefer long sleeves personally. Don't like how the elastics feel on my upper arms; they tend to either be too loose or too tight.

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  19. It would never even occur to me to notice someone's tan lines, unless they spelled out a word or were in the shape of a star or IDK what else. I can tan pretty heavily without trying but I've never attempted to hide the lines, or show them off, or anything. It kind of baffles me that people care so much, especially people who are much lighter than me. But then, I'm not the kind of woman one would ever ask to be a bridesmaid, haha.

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  20. Not tan lines, but tan fade on my hands -- no gloves -- from the 5K - 6.5K feet desert sun here in ABQ, NM. Brown on the back fading to pale as the fingers wrap around the bar and brake hoods. Piebald!

    I recall back in the day when I wore a watch: burned-brown wrist with a startling, winter-Scandinavian-pale (well, a bit more yellow in hue thanks to half-Asian heritage) spot that the watch covered. A sure conversation starter.

    Just say "no" to sunblock (Half Asian, hah hah.)

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  21. I don't mind the tan lines on my legs or arms, and backs of my hands from the gloves that I wear, but the rest of my torso certainly looks strange if I go for a swim!

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  22. I wear arm coolers in the summer if I ride late and Nutragena 60 spf sun lotion for sensitive skin.

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  23. It's so hot in FL that I prefer arm coolers to long sleeves in the summer so air can circulate up a t-shirt sleeve. This brand keeps your skin about 10 degrees cooler and comes in different sizes. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dsporting&field-keywords=Cooltac+arm+cooler

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  24. Best solution to tan lines? Ride to a nude beach!

    Most of us are deficient in vitamin D, so I worry more about getting enough sun exposure than I do about protection from the sun. Besides, many sunscreens contain carcinogenic chemicals...

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