We've come a long way since the 'beige, beiger and beigest' foundations lining makeup aisles barely a decade ago. But if 40+ shades are now the industry standard, why are a staggering 90 per cent of 16-25 year-old women with olive skin still unhappy with their foundation? Yep, really.
For consultant dermatologist Dr Hiba Injibar, much of the problem lies in the massive misconceptions surrounding the definition of olive skin itself.
'Many people think of "olive" skin as a synonym for "medium." On the spectrum of complexions, it's often incorrectly used to describe pretty much any complexion in between fair and dark or white and black,' she explains.
But olive is not a skin colour or a race. 'It refers to the undertones of the skin rather than the depth and intensity of colour,' continues Dr Hiba who's also founder of Harley Street's Dermasurge clinic.
So, what exactly is olive skin? Is it actually green in tone? And can you have very pale olive skin and very deep olive skin? We explain all, busting countless myths along the way. Confusion – begone!
Does olive skin have warm, cool or neutral undertones?
Skin can be identified as a range of colours from black to white. But each of these skin colours or 'overtones' can have varying undertones. Cool undertones refers to skin with a pink or blue tint, warm undertones refers to those that are more peach or yellow while some complexions have neutral undertones. To identify which you have, simply look at the veins on your wrist – if they're blue, you're cool; if they're green, you're warm; while a mix of both indicates neutral undertones.
'Olive skin is frequently thought of as neutral-toned but it can actually be cool or warm-toned, too,' explains makeup artist Mira Parmar who's worked with the likes of Aishwarya Rai and Suki Waterhouse.
Can you have pale olive skin?
Eva Mendes, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez... for years, they've been the unofficial 'poster girls' for olive skin thanks to countless marketing campaigns and 'get the looks' in glossy magazines. Consider this – alongside the fact olives themselves have such strong connotations with the Med – and it's easy to see how the term's has come to be associated with the caramel-hued complexions of Latin America and the Mediterranean. The reality? Olive skin can originate from a whole host of different ethnicities from east Asia to India, Eastern Europe and Ireland.
'The classic 'olive skin' narrative really excludes a huge segment of people from the conversation – for example, people from the Middle East. There's an assumption that olive complexions are always brown. Actually, you can have very pale olive skin or very deep olive skin, too,' Mira says.
How do I know if I have olive skin?
Having established that olive skin can come in *A LOT* of forms, you're probably wondering just how to identify whether you're in the squad at all. Up until recently the only way to identify skin tone was the Fitzpatrick Scale. It was created in 1975, and would you believe it hasn't been updated since. Frustrated at the lack of accuracy, founder of EX1 cosmetics Farah Naz teamed up with scientist and skin tone specialist, Steven Westland to create the Westland Naz Index – the first ever system that can evaluate the hues of skin. From this they discovered that everyone has green – the defining characteristic of olive skin tones – in their skin. Which is why you can be pale olive, dark olive and everything in between.
So successful in identifying skin tones, the Skin Classification Tool was developed in line with the Index so everyone can detect how much red and green they have in their skin. This will be a revelation when you come to look to purchase any future cosmetics. If you haven’t tried it yet, do it right now HERE.
What's the best makeup for olive skin?
Ask anyone with olive skin what it's like to shop for foundation and they'll probably tell you the same thing. Forget a needle in a haystack, Kim Kardashian West searching for 'that' diamond earring lost in the ocean springs to mind...
Even Jessica Alba – with the world's best makeup artists on speed dial – has admitted she's struggled to track down a flattering base. 'I found it really difficult to find a foundation because I couldn't find the right mix of yellow undertones and a little bit of pink... it would go way yellow or way red and I'm definitely a blend of the two.
'I would have makeup artists constantly talk to me about how hard it was to match my skin tone and how they had to use three different types of foundations...,' the actress, who has a mix of Danish, Welsh, German, English, French and Mexican ancestry, revealed during an interview with Popsugar in 2017.
That's why our handy go-to guides have been created, once you have completed the Skin Index Tool it will reveal the exact shades you should opt for when it comes to your make-up. These are then saved in your account so you can go back anytime you want. It's like having a professional make-up artist in your pocket at all times.
Thank us later.
This very same struggle is what prompted biochemist Farah Naz to mastermind EX1 Cosmetics – a range of bases with olive skins in mind. And remember that elusive 'golden' tone we talked about? That's the secret weapon behind the line. Having discovered most brands tend to use the same orange and pink pigments to make up any shade of foundation, Farah formulated hers – including her best-selling Invisiwear Liquid Foundation, £12.50 – with one-of-a-kind gold and yellow pigments.
'I find the majority of olive skins I work with have a warmer hue so the foundations I use tend to have yellowy gold undertones. Using the wrong base on olive skin can leave it with an ashy grey look,' agrees Mira. In her own olive skin kit? Alongside EX1 Cosmetics, you'll spot NARS, Revlon, Bobbi Brown and Givenchy bases.
Which celebrities have olive skin?
It can be really useful to find your own olive skin muse to help guide you towards flattering makeup, clothes and even hair colour choices. On our olive love list? Audrey Tatou, Mila Kunis, Lily Allen and Julianne Moore are all great examples of celebrities with pale olive skins. Salma Hayak, Meghan Markle, Zoe Kravitz, Freida Pinto, Michelle Rodriguez and Alessandra Ambrosio can all be considered medium olive-skinned while Thandie Newton and Zoe Saldana are gorgeous examples of celebrities with deep olive skin tones.