Can you have pale skin and still be considered olive? It's all about the undertones baby...

It’s fair to say over the last two decades olive skin has pretty much been the optimum beauty goal - with Jennifer Lopez, Eva Mendez, and Penelope Cruz the poster girls. And the best bit? With a bottle of self-tan everyone and anyone could achieve that sought after golden glow– irrespective of what colour they naturally were, or what suited them.


In the craze for ever deeper skin, the conversation about undertones was lost. Who cared whether you had yellow undertone or pink undertones in your skin when everyone was rushing to deepen the hue? It certainly didn’t occur to many to take a look at what colours occurred naturally in skin and to then choose cosmetics accordingly.

This was especially tricky for those with pale olive skin tones; what’s happening under the depth of colour is really important, and whether a creamy pale olive skin or a slightly more yellow pale olive skin, it is the presence of those cooler undertones that distinguishes those with pale olive skin from those with other kinds of pale skin like alabaster (where skin looks close to cream in colour) or rosy skin (where pinkness pushes through the skin) – and dictates what would work best when choosing make-up. 

Where art thou pale olive

Olive skin tones commonly occur in those of Mediterranean descent, as well as in some with Asian and Latin American ancestry. It is generally held that those with olive skin tones don’t burn as quickly in the sun, even if they’re very pale (FYI that doesn’t mean those with olive skin shouldn’t wear SPF to protect their skin from the negative effects of sun exposure.) It’s likely – but not a rule – that pale olive skin will often come with dark hair and that if you have it you might want to inject some brightness into your face with make-up.


If you have pale olive skin - you're in good company with celebrities like Jessica Alba, Alexa Chung and Mila Kunis all flying the pale olive flag - and are wondering which kind of make-up might suit your undertones, check out our unique skin index tool HERE - to discover your true skin tone and reveal the colours to suit YOU!

But having great make-up shouldn’t just be the preserve of those who have make-up artists on hand to help them navigate a market that has traditionally been heavily weighted towards those with pink undertones down the pale end, and those with golden and warmer undertones the deeper the skin tone, even when it is a deep olive.

Therein lies the rub: olive skin has traditionally been associated with those with darker skin (think Jennifer Lopez or Eva Mendes), without considering that it’s just as important to look at the colour of the skin tone rather than just the depth of hue itself.

What the experts say

Celebrity and editorial make-up artist Sonia Deveney believes that the way to make up pale olive skin is to not be tempted to deepen the hue to bring the skin to life: ‘I’m mindful not to go too dark, because it can look muddy and a bit dull. If I want to add a shot of glow, pop a bit of a radiance booster in there for dewiness.’


In her view, it’s also important to lighten under eyes just a shade with either a lighter foundation or a concealer to really boost the sense of brightness.

Make-up artist Jessica Kell agrees that choosing to lift some areas with slightly lighter base is a really good way to lift skin, and adds that two tricks might help to make pale olive skin look great: ‘a slight pop of coral cream-based blush can add some warmth to skin.’

Both agree that the paramount trick is not to focus too intently on having pale olive skin and what that might mean for you but rather to find what works for your face and your specific skin tone.


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