5 Key Makeup Tips for If You're Planning on Staying Pale This Summer

These strategies are the result of self-acceptance, tempered by laziness and a fear of dyeing myself orange.
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Publish date:
June 24, 2015
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shimmer, eyeliner, pale skin, red lipstick, foundation matching

I’m really pale. My skintone hits somewhere between moonbeam and beluga. In my wedding photos, I look like a friendly ghost.

I actually don’t mind being pale. I’ve embraced the beacon-of-light look. There’s really no fighting it: my skin doesn’t tan, and self-tanner seems like a giant hassle. It’s self-acceptance, tempered by laziness and a fear of dyeing myself orange.

Over the years, I’ve learned to adjust my makeup to suit my paleness. I call this my Pale Person Strategy, and it has five main rules.

Dial down the contrast.

Black eyeliner might be considered a universal staple, but it looks kind of jarring on me. When it comes to eye makeup, I like substituting mid-tones for dark colors. Instead of black, use grey. Instead of chocolate, use taupe (and so on). These colors look light in the package, but once they’re on your skin, they’ll look darker. And when you use them in the places that you’d normally use dark makeup, they’ll look really beautiful and balanced with your skin tone.

I happily break this rule when it comes to mascara, though. I am all for lashes that look a bit fake and doll-like.

Play with shimmer.

Because my skin is almost the color of pure light, I can get away with wearing a lot of shimmer. Eyeshadow that would make another person look like a human disco ball just looks pretty on me.

I limit the sparkle to my eyes, since shimmery highlighter makes my skin look like an orange peel. But I imagine this rule would translate to highlighter as well, if you’re into it.


If you wear foundation, get it matched.

Obviously, everyone should do this. But I think it’s particularly important for pale people. It can be hard to find a good match, and bad matches will be especially obvious on light skin.

Get thee to a MAC, Sephora, or department store, and get at least one foundation that blends invisibly with your skin. Or, tweak it yourself.

Embrace daytime red.

Lip color is harder for me than eye color. I can do a very pale eye and look lovely, but if I do a pale lip, I look like the undead. If I want an approachable, pretty look, I turn to a sheer red. Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter in Candy Apple is a great drugstore option.

Know that some stuff just isn’t going to work.

A lot of products, advice and “universally flattering” colors just aren’t going to work for you. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of packaging (most contour palettes aren’t going to be the right color for me, so I avoid those and find alternate products). Sometimes, a whole look or technique just isn’t your friend (like me and “nude” lips).

Figure out what you can adapt for your coloring. Anything that can’t be adapted, move on!

  • What are your Pale Person Strategies?
  • What your favourite pale person colors?
  • Can anyone recommend a highlighter that won’t highlight my giant pores?