After years of bronzed skin, suddenly pale and interesting is the thing, writes HANNAH BETTS

 For decades, my bleach-white limbs were seen as ghoulish. Boys trailed after me at school, clicking along to the theme tune of The Addams Family.

Yet something seismic is finally happening to complexions. After 100 years of golden-girl rule, skin untouched by orange tans, real or fake, is now in vogue.

Take the red carpet at Cannes, usually a catwalk of Californian sun. Not this year. From Jennifer Connelly and Anne Hathaway to even Kylie Minogue, sun-kissed figures gave way to natural beauty in front of the flashing cameras.

And at last week’s Downton Abbey: A New Era premiere in New York, Downton’s damsels displayed their natural skin tones, despite the movie celebrating the epoch when Riviera tans first took the world by storm.

Nicole Kidman in March

Natural look: Australian actress Nicole Kidman glowing in 2012, left, and this March

Gemma Arterton in 2008

Gemma last week

Just don’t call me Arter-tan: Bond girl Gemma Arterton in 2008, inset, and last week

Anne Hathaway in 2009

Anne this year

Goodbye caramel: Star Anne Hathaway in 2009, left, and looking much fairer in Cannes this year

As ever, it was Lady Mary who led the charge. Michelle Dockery glowed like the silver-screen goddess she is, dressed in lustrous sequins and showing lavish expanses of back and calf.

Elizabeth McGovern was dressed in barely-there shades, and even Downton newcomer Laura Haddock played ball at the London launch, an English rose unsullied by layers of Towie tan.

It’s striking how many celebrities are eschewing the bronzed look they used to love. As recent appearances testify, Gemma Arterton, Keira Knightley and Emmas Watson and Stone have all banished the tangerine tone.

Meanwhile, a new generation will have never even considered the sun-scorched look. Behold, luminous luminaries Lucy Boynton, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Nicola Coughlan at this month’s Met Gala — and Anya Taylor-Joy pretty much everywhere she goes.

Kyllie Minogue in 2002

Kylie this week

Minogue’s in vogue: Kylie in 2002, left, and without the bronzing this week

Emma Stone in 2011

Emma Stone in 2011

Stone-washed: Actress Emma Stone in her golden era, 2011, left, and earlier this month

Jennifer Connelly in 2004

Emma Connelly last weeek

Spray Gun! Top Gun actress Jennifer Connelly in 2004, left, and radiantly translucent last week

I just think our true colours are our best colours, as these red-carpet beauties prove. It’s about working with what nature gave us — black, white or, in my case, an insipid off-green.

At 51, I’ve been waiting wanly for this moment for decades. Since my teens in the 1980s, I’ve been hiding in the shadows. No Club Tropicana tans and Sun-In streaks for me.

Where other girls basted in oil next to foil, I resisted the pressure to chase what I saw as an unappealing obsession. I would cover myself in sunblock — then a petrol-blue gunk which gave me a sheen akin to a dead fish.

The New Natural marks a return to a fashion that existed before Coco Chanel’s Riviera set made bronzing the symbol of globe-trotting glamour. Before the 20th century, the fair look was a token of aristocratic leisure.

These days, with tans available to all via a bottle or a bucket flight — think of all those influencers basking in Dubai — they’re no longer a status symbol. So the world’s A-listers are once again turning a cold shoulder to the sun, deeming artificial bronzing too obvious, too banal, a faux pas.

Emma Watson in 2010

Emma last year

Faking it? Potter star Emma Watson in 2010, left, and last year

Keira Knightly om 2005

Keira two years ago

Keira Lightly: Actress Ms Knightley in 2005, left, and two years ago

After all, why spend top dollar on your red carpet facial only to cover up the benefits of your newly radiant skin with satsuma-coloured gloop?

And let’s not forget the dangers of actual tanning — from prematurely ageing to cancer.

So put up your parasols and slide off those sun loungers. You have nothing to lose but your age spots.

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