Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Perils Of Being Pale

Just googling "Pale Skin Make Up" shows just how misunderstood pale skin actually is. The top results give me everything from a super bronzed Katy Perry, to an Indian lady... and well you can see the rest for yourself. Bar a couple of the images, none of the results actually depict pale skin. Just why is it so difficult to find images of make up for pale skin on the worlds biggest search engine? 


As a Graphic Designer (who did her dissertation on Colour no less!) it really bothers me when make-up companies describe their products as "Porcelain" "Ivory" "Fair" etc, when they are miles away from actually being those shades. When I think of Ivory, it reminds me of my piano keys which are just off white/black. Porcelain reminds me of the blinding veneers celebs have on their teeth, and so on.

I have tested the following 5 foundations on my arm to explain my point further (from left to right)

1. Boots 17 Skin Perfecting Foundation - Soft Ivory

2. Collection 2000 Sheer Moist Foundation - 1 Sheer Porcelain
3. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer - Porcelain
4. Gosh X-Ceptional Wear Foundation - 11 Porcelain
5. Avon Smooth Minerals Foundation - Ivory

 Compare this with actual Dulux colour chart comparisons with "Ivory" "Porcelain" and so on...

Buying make up, particularly foundation when you have pale skin can be a real nightmare. This is made 10 times worse by haphazard labeling when it comes to the shade. It's a massive ask, but if I could change anything about the beauty industry at this moment, it would be to make the labeling and naming of shades more accurate and appropriate to the actual colour of the product. Anything whatsoever with an orange or deep brown tone is NOT porcelain, OR ivory... so why does nearly every counter stock a shade claiming to be just that... when it definitely isn't!?

In the end, all this ends up doing is alienating people with pale skin even further. Very few companies stock shades pale enough for us in the first place, so to be misinformed by nearly every company is really frustrating. This is one of the reasons I also try and stay away from buying foundations online, unless I have tried them for myself in real life. The shade depictions are always very inacurate, to the point whereby I wonder if the person who created the shade chart for the website has actually looked at the colour of the product...

Fair enough, call me picky on this one, but I believe consumers deserve clarity... especially when it is very difficult to return foundation once it has been tested and found to be the wrong colour. I'm not singling Debehams/Estee Lauder out alone here, but just to give an example of what it's like shopping for pretty much any foundation online...

How is anyone supposed to really know which shade to pick from such a tiny diagram? Get it even slightly wrong with ultra fair skin and it looks way out and ends up not being wearable. There is some light at the end of the foundation brush though, in the form of the Bobbi Brown foundation match service which you can access online here if like me, you don't live near a Bobbi Brown counter or store.

You chat with a consultant who then diagnoses your shade, by asking you to compare yourself with similar skinned celebrities. Amazingly, when I was able to go to a real life Bobbi Brown counter, the shade matched with what the lady had told me. The shade both assistants said I was, is Porcelain (their lightest shade of course!)I'm hoping to really cover this subject in depth within future videos/blog posts, because I feel it's important to understand that when buying foundation, it's a minefield and sometimes you don't know which brand or assistant to trust. I've lost count at the amount of times an assistant has applied foundation on me, told me it looks "fabulous" and "perfect", and when I walk out the store and look properly it's deep orange or just completely off. Sometimes this is after spending alot of money on the the product (I was once sold Estee Lauder Doublewear in Desert Beige)... need I say more?!


  1. As a person who is always the palest in the room, with a fair skinned hubby and 2 ultra pale little girls, I am so pleased to find this blog! In regards to this article about foundation -OMG I know what you mean! Covergirl and Maybelline about 7 years ago stocked a shade of foundation pale enough for myself and my sister but guess what? they don't stock the shades anymore :-(. Here in Australia there is a big emphasis on being tanned and spray tanning machines, lotions etc are really popular due to skin cancer risks. I used to fake tan but only for a glow - I was still the palest even with a fake tan. Since having kids I don't put in that effort anymore but I am much more comfortable in my pale skin (well almost, my legs look a little translucent in shorts - but one application of a tanning moisturiser which is very light just takes the edge off). I am happy without tanning my face or arms.

    1. Thanks for your comment Victoria! :) I hope to inspire others that pale is beautiful too! As for foundations, I recently did a post about mixing foundations to get your exact shade, although more needs to be done to bring out paler shades in the first place.

  2. I couldn't agree more, with every single thing you wrote! This has been the bane of my life for over 30 years. The few foundations I have found that were the right shade for me have been discontinued.
    The most recent one I found which is almost perfect (I'm 99% happy with the shade, but the texture is too sticky for my liking) is NYX "Matt But Not Flat" in ivory - but the only store in my town that sells it has been sold out for 5 weeks, and I got desperate, so I bought Gosh foundation in porcelain, after seeing a review on YouTube where the reviewer said it is very pale - well, it's not pale enough for me! It has a brownish, slightly orange look - even with lots of NYX powder foundation on top of it!.(The NYX powder foundation in ivory IS nice and pale, but it doesn't give good coverage at all.)
    I'm in despair right now. My choice is further limited by my refusal to use brands that are not cruelty-free.
    Nothing makes me feel uglier than wearing pink or orange or brown foundation.

    1. I have recently done a post about mixing foundations with a white foundation which may be of some use to you. I'm not quite sure about the cruelty free aspect however quite a few brands do white foundations such as Mac, Illamasqua and Stargazer. You only need the tiniest drop to cancel out any orange tones so it might be worth a try.

      Also, if you can stop by an Illamasqua counter their liquid foundation in shade 02 is super pale, almost white so that might be worth a try. Let me know how you get on! :)

    2. Ooh thank you - I'll go looking for one of those! Yesterday the store restocked with the ivory NYX "Stay Matte But Not Flat" (not "matt" as I previously misspelled it) and I bought a tube, even though I really hate the oily way it feels (in spite of it being oil-free) - I couldn't take another day of wearing the Gosh. Such a relief to have my face match my neck again!
      I'm going to try an oil-absorbing primer with the NYX, but I'm really keen to mix a white foundation with the Gosh, because I'd hate to throw it out - it was not expensive, but the texture is nice - not at all oily, even after hours of wear.
      I will let you know how I get on with white, and thanks a million!