Autumn or Spring? Winter or Summer? In this post I won’t go into the seasonal color analysis, but will go back to basics – skin undertone and the overall coloring of the appearance. I’ve done my share of research on the seasonal color analysis and, unfortunately, I must admit that the information is abundant, but often doesn’t make any sense. In my opinion, one of the main issues are bad examples and bad definitions. Guessing celebrity coloring may be fun, but unless we’ve seen them in person without makeup, we can’t judge their real coloring at all – even the best cameras distort colors, and I won’t even start about Photoshop. Here I’ll share the things that always confused me when I tried to determine my skin undertone – what if they are holding you back as well? Let’s see!
1.Warm = green veins, cool = blue veins, neutral = purple veins/can’t tell
Let me start by immediately addressing the elephant in the room – all the vein color debacle. This idea is used extremely often because it’s very easy to tell this way… or is it?!
The color of veins on the wrists is dark red, bordeaux color. Then we’ve got layers of skin over them. The light goes through the layers of skin and the veins don’t look dark red anymore, but a green, purple, or blue shade. In reality, all we see looking at our writsts is our veins through the skin – that’s all. It’s the same as to say that under eye circle color helps tell the skin undertone – an idea that doesn’t stand against any criticism, even mere biology.
This whole idea is built on simple color mixing. Try overlaying dark red with yellow and you’ll get greenish yellow, try mixing red with pink and you’ll get blue. Let’s see what happens if we mix these colors: I simply overlay a 10% opacity rectangle over a dark red background:
As you can see, skin isn’t simply like an indicator that has one color in it – it’s much more complex that that. If it would be so and the yellow in the skin would simply serve as a filter for how we see vein color, the veins would appear orange. If the skin would have blue undertone, they’d appear purple and if if pink – fuschia. Red color itself is the opposite of green on the color wheel and green color isn’t formed using red pigment – anyone who’s ever drawn can figure this out. Red with blue will always give some kind of purple. Long story short, the vein color story is a kind of baloney that’s still being hyped for some reason.
2. Warm is yellow, cool is pink
I’ve come across many sources that refer to the warm undertone as ‘yellow-based’ and cool as ‘pink-based’ meaning that warm skin tones look more yellow and cooler skin tones look pink. This is absolute nonsense because every skin tone has yellow in it – skin undertone isn’t about the actual color of the skin.
As I’ve continued my research, I’ve stumbled upon many interesting sources that made more sense to me. These sources referred not to the visible color of the skin, but the inner glow and base of the skin, and they referred to warm as golden and cool as blue or sometimes red. This is all because golden and blue are qualities of skin – not actual colors. I’ve actually first found this idea in a very old book I own – Color: The Essence Of You (1980) by Suzanne Caygill. The book contains A LOT of very strange (at least to me) ideas, such as that the coloring is connected to personality, however what really interested me were the author’s descriptions of skin tones – she often refered to chrome, gold, vermillion, and amber to describe skin undertone, so this idea isn’t new in any way.
3. Celebrity examples
One of the things that have always seemed like an obstacle were the celebrity examples. By all means, the sources use them to illustrate their point, but I automatically tried to find a celebrity ‘lookalike’ in terms of skin undertone and overall coloring as a kind of shortcut. That was a very bad idea because celebrities rarely show up in public without a full face of makeup, they often change their appearance, pictures rarely catch the real colors, and there’s also Photoshop.
Besides, same celebrities are always categorized into completely different ‘seasons’ in different sources. For instance, I’ve seen Angelina Jolie being all 4 seasons, which just can’t be coherent and means that at least half of these sources don’t know what they’re doing.
The best solution here was just to toss all these examples altogether and focus on myself and theory only. This helped me figure my undertone and coloring out pretty quickly and was the shortcut I needed.
I know that draping is a popular way of determining skin undertone, but in my opinion, it’s kind of working in reverse, like trying all the spices and herbs in one dish trying to determine which will taste good instead of looking the recipe up. Or trying all of the shoe sizes on hoping that you’ll stumble upon the right one sooner or later, except there aren’t that many shoe sizes as there are colors!
In my experience, draping doesn’t show much and for me wasn’t very valuable, because some cool colors look good on me as well. After I’ve determined my skin undertone I know what I’m working with and the colors that work best on me. Now I know that I’ve missed out on quite a lot of great colors just because I didn’t know my real skin undertone.
Another thing I’ve stumbled upon is online color analysis by just putting a picture of a person against a background of a certain color. In my opinion, this type of online ‘draping’ is the worst because, as I’ve mentioned before, pictures rarely show skin as it is. The problem is that an image is a flat 2D object. The skin has dimension to it that cameras just can’t fully grasp.
5. The idea of a neutral skin undertone
When I struggled to determine my skin undertone by veins and draping, I’ve concluded that I might have neutral undertone. My vein color is rather mixed, so I felt like that was the solution. And yet, I knew I could pull off quite bright colors and quite dark colors as well, meaning that ‘a little bit like this and a little bit like that’ kind of thing couldn’t work on me. Neutrals are different for every undertone, so concluding that I was neutral didn’t give me any value or concise recommendations – it just further confused me.
The problem with the neutral skin undertone is that it (probably) doesn’t exist in real life. To be neutral, skin has to have an absulutely same amount of both warm and cool ‘ingredients’ or have none of them at all. Besides, being told that a person is neutral doesn’t mean that they can pull off basically anything – it means that they have no personal place, no coherent pallette to use, which is just unfair. To me, concluding that I had a neutral skin undertone didn’t mean that I could pull off anything I wanted – it meant that there was nothing I could pull off perfectly, because there’s not one person who can pull off every color equally well.
Overall, I think knowing skin undertone is very useful because there’s much less mistakes when choosing outfits, much less risk of wasting money on something that doesn’t suit me. By all means, determining undertone is challenging because we don’t see ourselves very objectively, but still it’s completely possible! I just wish there would be less misleading info and more honest and quality information about it online.
How about you – have you ever tried to figure your skin undertone out? Or, alternatively, do you simply know the colors that suit you? I’m incredibly curious, because this whole skin undertone thing has been really mind boggling for me for quite a while, so makes me wonder about the experience other people have 🤔
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