I’ve been wanting to talk about this subject for a very long time – the skin tone (or undertone) that nobody is talking about. I want to share a bit about my journey to finding my skin tone. It took me a lot longer than most people to find my skin tone because it seemed nobody talked about it, and so I’m really hoping this raises some awareness and helps someone else out if they’re also struggling to find their undertones.
I’ve not paid attention to skin tones and undertones until I became interested in makeup. Up until then, I wore whatever I liked the look of and generally most colours seemed to suit me. This made me think I had a neutral skin tone when first learning about this.
Generally, skin tones are split into warm toned, cool toned and neutral toned. Those with warm skin tones will suit warmer colours such as browns, gold and oranges. Those with cool tones will suit cooler colours such as blues, greens and silver. And finally, those with neutral tones are fortunate to suit pretty much all colours.
However, each skin tone then has undertones – these are the more subtle shades that come from underneath the skin. For example, someone with warm toned skin may have yellow undertones, meaning their skin has a slightly yellow shade to it. Cool toned skins may have pink undertones, so skin can have a slightly pink colour. Neutral skin tones can have either yellow or pink undertones, but they will be more muted and less obvious which is what makes it work well with all colours.
But having said all that, my skin didn’t seem to fit into these categories. I can wear both silver and gold, the colour of my veins isn’t all that obvious (these are some ways you can find out what your skin tone is) and my undertones seemed to be green more than anything else. I spent a long time googling this obsessively until I finally found one article hidden on page 6 of google results – this article suggested another skin tone, olive skin with green undertones.
Now I knew of olive skin tone, my dad and sister are both olive skinned. But I was always of the impression that olive skin equated medium tones, slightly darker than the very pale skin I seemed to have. However, the more I experimented the more it became obvious that my undertones were definitely green.
So that’s how I finally found my skin tone and undertone: I have fair olive skin with green undertones. I burn slightly, but nowhere near as badly as most people with skin as fair as mine, and when I tan I get significantly more golden and darker. But why did it take me nearly 2 years to discover this?
The more I researched the more I found that olive skin is very rarely mentioned in articles that help you find your skin tone. And I only found one article about fair olive skin! Having done a more recent search of this I now found a few more, but still only a very small fraction compared to articles discussing warm/cool/neutral tones. It seems that even with makeup and colour matching becoming more accessible, awareness of fair olive skin seems to be nearly non-existent even among professionals who do this for a living.
There has been a long standing misconception that olive skin can’t be fair, and it seems that there is no attention being drawn to this. This results in very few makeup brands creating foundations to match golden-green undertones, especially in lighter shades.
Finding foundation to work for olive skin tones is already difficult – most brands create foundations with yellow, pink or neutral undertones. I have come across foundations from Dior that cater specifically to fair olive skin, and there are probably a few others out there that I’m not aware of, but generally speaking they are quite rare.
So what’s the solution? Well, neutral toned foundation or golden toned foundation seems to work best for olive skin. If you are like me and have fair olive skin, I would strongly suggest getting samples of foundations before committing, because you want to test out the shades in different lighting to make sure it works for you. If your foundation of choice doesn’t come in a shade made for olive skin, go for a shade with yellow undertones – this will be closer to your green undertones than one with pink undertones, and will match your skin’s warmth.
I tried the olive toned foundation from Dior recently, and I think it would work very well for me in the summer when I tan but it’s still too dark for my current fairness. So it still doesn’t quite cater to fair olive skin, but it’s closer than many other brands. I’m hoping that this is a sign that there is increasing awareness of the struggles those of us with fair olive skin have, and I really hope to see more brands catering to this with actual shades made for us, not just ones that “will do.”
Until next time xo