The Hollywood tan loses its luster

The tan is fading from fashion.

A coppertone complexion — achieved the fake way, through lotions, sprays and powders — isn’t looking so fresh this summer season, as young, fair-skinned stars like Taylor Swift, Emma Stone and Jessica Chastain go beyond the beauty pale and embrace their natural, peaches-and-cream peaux.

Their fans are following suit. Sales of self-tanners dipped 2.1% during the year ending in March, according the NPD Group, a market research firm. “When you look at who’s in the (celebrity) forefront, I just don’t see a lot of this sun-kissed beauty type thing coming out,” says NPD beauty industry analyst Karen Grant.

“As much as most women say we’re not influenced by celebrity, we totally are,” Grant says. “We see what’s being popularized in the media. It just starts to permeate into our psyche that this is acceptable, that pale is cool.”

The dangers of a UV-generated glow are long known, of course (earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration proposed stricter rules for tanning beds). But now J.Crew catalog models are eschewing ersatz caramel color. Likewise runway models. A pair of winter-white stems sprouting from a set of short shorts, once a fashion faux pas, are celebrated by style editors. (See Kate Bosworth at this year’s Coachella.) Indeed, it’s the faux mahogany look that’s increasingly a faux pas.

Blame, in part, Snooki and the other “Jersey Shore” sirens, along with the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, who “started taking it to such a crazy level,” says Victoria Kirby, Redbook beauty director. Darkening yourself 10 shades past your natural epidermis “became associated with stars who are not exactly known for their sophisticated style.” It was an orange-tinted contrast to the natural-hued stars who are, such as Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett. “That’s when things started to divide.”

The trend is also a bit of a backlash to other recent forms of beauty artifice. “The past couple years have been so much about people going for enhancement, lash extensions or hair extensions, the faker the better,” says Emily Dougherty, beauty and fitness director at Elle. “This idea of people taking a step back to, ‘What is my skin tone?’ and celebrating their true skin color” is very freeing. “It’s not about dark skin tones trying to be paler or pale skin tones trying to be darker.”

Add in the popularity of the polished, far-from-the-beach looks of the women of Mad Men and Downton Abbey and the related rise of the rich, red lip, which pops best against a milky mug. (Red and berry bundled together constitute the top lipstick shade, according to NPD.) “I can’t think of the last time the paler skin tones have been so prevalent,” Grant says.

In Hollywood, technology gets some credit. When women like Blanchett started out in the industry, “it was tough,” Dougherty says. Studio lights washed out light faces and limbs, losing texture and depth — hence the desire for “everyone on set to be these neutral honey colors,” a la Jennifer Aniston. But “technology has come a long way,” Dougherty says. “Now, they can really light for these skin tones.”

Women like Blanchett and Amanda Seyfried are getting skin care modeling contracts as a result of the shade shift (SK-II for the former, Cle de Peau for the latter). They’re photographed in all their dewy glory. Not long ago, “people thought, ‘Oh, if you’re blond, you should be tan,’ “ Kirby says. These days, “you look at stars still doing the spray tan and it almost looks out of place.”

Longtime celebrity makeup artist Paula Dorf goes a bit further, declaring the faux glow gauche: “It’s tacky-looking. It’s aging.” Last summer, Dorf whittled her bronzer collection down to one, from three. “I’ve always felt it looked so artificial, and instead of making someone look great, I always thought it made someone not look so good.”

The rosy realness of, say, Carly Rae Jepsen, on the other hand? “She’s adorable. Beautiful.”

© 2013 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.