Pallor is back.

It used to be that Victorians covered up like a Moslem woman behind the veil, lest one warm ray of the sun find a spot of exposed flesh.

Then came the Beach Boys, Bo Derek in "10," string bikinis and surfboards -- the era of let-it-all-hang-out, with globules of coconut butter and suntan oil. From tanning parlors to silver sun reflectors, a golden glow was in.

A deep tan was a sign of class -- evidence of a March vacation in the Caribbean or an August cruise in Maine (a long cruise, too, to take into account two weeks of fog).

But now sunburning has been linked to premature aging as well as skin cancer, and the pendulum is swinging back to the pale face.

For the upwardly mobile, a pale preppy look is a sign of ambition -- of Saturdays in the office, indoor racquetball courts and sushi bars.

For women today, it's the intense chalk look of Madonna or of Helena Bonham-Carter in "Room with a View": a repressed but steamy sexuality, a study in light and dark contrasts, the lure of passion instead of the hunt for bronzed calves.

So now everyone is talking about PABAs and SPFs and ranking their skin type from I to IV. PABA -- or p-aminobenzoic acid -- is the ingredient that can help shield the skin from harmful rays. SPF stands for sun protection factor, listed on tanning creams.

It all adds up to a new common-sense era designed to keep sun bathers healthy -- and pale.