Women with extremely pale skin are finally having their moment in the sun again (well, metaphorically speaking), thanks to gorgeously translucent celebrities like
Dita von Teese, Emma Stone, Rooney Mara, the Fanning sisters, and Cate Blanchett, to name a few. They don’t seem to feel the need to turn themselves orange to be beautiful, and they really know how to make their red-carpet beauty looks work with their fair skin.
There is, after all, a certain amount of effort involved in maintaining pale skin. Not only is it important to wear at least SPF 30 every day to protect your complexion, but it can often be a headache trying to find the right makeup. It can be hard to find a shade of blush or lipstick that won’t look clownish against fair skin, and things like foundation and bronzer often look fine in the store but then quickly take on an orange cast on the skin.
If you’ve ever bemoaned the fact that nobody makes makeup for vampires, don’t worry: They do, and we put together a roundup of the best cosmetics for super-pale ladies as well as some handy tips. Read on — and don’t forget the SPF, of course.
While most people opt to
blot their face with the oil-absorbing cushion midday, we love the mattifying formula as a foolproof primer before our foundation. This once is translucent, so pale girls don't have to worry about a milky film left behind with every dab. Murad MattEffect Blotting Perfector, $39, available at Murad.
A general rule of thumb for luminizers? Pearlescent tones tend to look best on fair-skin, while peach or gold-based tones often best suited for darker skin. This self-adjusting illuminating cream breaks that rule—though it looks slightly gold out of the tube, it blends to a light highlight that makes fair skin radiate without looking robotic.
Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Pure Luxury Lift & Firm Prism Cream, $42, available at Sephora.
If a pearlescent sheen makes you nervous, try out a glowing primer instead. This one features color-correcting pigments and zero obvious shimmer.
Hourglass Ambient Light Correcting Primer in Luminous Light, $44, available at Sephora.
Photo: Courtesy of NARS.
NARS' Radiant Creamy Concealer is bound to become a holy-grail item for anyone who tries it, but it is particularly ideal for those with tricky skin tones and textures. It comes in a wide range of shades, from chantilly to cacao. Chantilly is described as a “true ivory shade for the fairest complexions,” so if you are so pale your skin is practically transparent, this is the concealer for you.
For those with a slight hint of pink in their skin tone, go up one shade to vanilla for a good match. The best part about this concealer is that, as the name promises, it will make your skin look lit from within. It’s very easy for pale skin to look flat and dry when made up, but this concealer imparts a subtle shimmer (without resorting to flecks of glitter or any horrors of that kind) and glides smoothly onto even the most dehydrated skin. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, $28, available at NARS.
If you’re on a budget, Maybelline Fit Me Concealer is a great drugstore option that is comparable to NARS'. It only comes in six shades, but the lightest — fair — is extremely light, and the formula has a fairly creamy consistency.
Maybelline Fit Me Concealer, $6.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
Those prone to dark circles under their eyes can easily get in on the
color-correcting trend thanks to Lancôme's editor-approved concealer. It has a yellow cast to diffuse purple tones and brighten up even the fairest complexions. Just pat under the eyes after foundation for an instant lift. Lancôme Maquicomplet Complete Coverage Concealer in Correcteur, $31, available at Sephora.
This rich, creamy concealer is practically bulletproof, and it comes in a range of options perfectly suited to fair and light skin tones. In fact, there’s even a pure white shade, should you need to make the lightest shades even lighter. (You probably won’t.)
Kat Von D Lock-It Concealer Crème, $26, available at Sephora.
Photo Courtesy of L'Oreal
Concealer should go on after foundation for full coverage, but foundation can be incredibly frustrating for those with extremely pale skin. Discoloration from acne scars or sunspots, as well as skin conditions like rosacea (or even just normal ruddiness), often stand out more clearly against fair skin.
L'Oréal True Match Lumi Healthy Luminous in Porcelain, $12.95, available at L'Oréal.
Don't want the heavy feeling you find in most medium-coverage foundation? Opt for something a touch lighter, like a tinted moisturizer. It'll cover up any dark spots and even out your skin tone, while keeping your complexion radiant, fresh, and dewy.
AmorePacific Moisture Bond Tinted Treatment Moisturizer SPF 15, $70, available at Sephora.
If you do want to use an alphabet cream, though, this one is a good choice. Not only does it have great coverage, but it has an SPF of 50 to protect your skin.
It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50+, $38, available at It Cosmetics.
Finally, if you simply can’t find a foundation that’s light enough (or if you find one with a great formula but not-so-great shade range), you can easily tweak it to your liking by adding some
MAC Face And Body Foundation in White. It is literally pure white, so by mixing this with a too-dark foundation, truly pale girls can create their own perfect shade. MAC Face and Body Foundation in White, $38, available at MAC.
Many pale women shy away from blush out of fear of looking clownish because it can stand out so starkly against fair skin tones. This can be a mistake, because a bit of color on one’s cheeks does a world of good for just making one appear alive. The key is to find the right shade of blush for you. As professional makeup artist
Kristina Johnson (who has very pale skin herself) says, “Make sure you have color on your cheeks, but be careful with blushes and bronzers that are too dark or orange.” Sonia Kashuk Beautifying Blush in Flushed, $9.79, available at Target.
Try soft, sheer shades of pink first — Bobbi Brown Blush is the best for a natural-looking flush of color, offering a wide variety of shades to choose from. Johnson also recommends trying to match or coordinate your cheek color to your lip color (that is, warm-toned pink lipstick with a warm-toned pink blush).
Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush in Dollface, $29, available at Tarte.
If you prefer a dewy finish to your blush, reach for this innovative gel formula. With a lightweight, almost watery texture that smooths skin and imparts a rosy, natural-looking flush, it’s perfect for fair skin.
Givenchy Blush Memoire De Forme Pop Up Jelly Blush, $39, available at Sephora.
Primer meets SPF 30 in this makeup-preserving, skin-perfecting dream of a multitasking base, which is perfect for those who want to double up on sun protection. The silky, gel-like formula leaves your face looking so smooth, you’ll be tempted to skip the foundation — but skipping sunscreen is never an option.
Coola Dawn Patrol Classic Makeup Primer SPF 30, $42, available at Sephora.
Photo: Courtesy of Too Faced.
As Johnson pointed out, many pale women fall into the trap of using bronzer that is too dark or orange for their skin tone. It happens to the best of us. Even bronzers that look innocent enough in their packaging at the store can wind up turning orange once on your face.
Possibly the best bronzer for the fair-skinned is Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer. It comes in two shades: the fairest of the fair will probably want to stick to the light/medium hue, but most pale women should have no problem even with the darker shade, medium/dark. It is a true brown, with no hint of orange whatsoever, and it goes on sheer enough that it would be difficult to overdo it. Oh, and the best part about this bronzer? It actually smells like a chocolate bar (without making you look like you rubbed one all over your face). Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer in Medium/Deep, $30, available at Too Faced.
For a bit of contouring, simply use your finger to swipe a line under your cheekbones to your temples, and then buff it in thoroughly with a kabuki brush. That last step is key for a soft look that won’t be too harsh or obvious.
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze And Glow, $68, available at Violet Grey.
If the mere sight of a powder bronzer is enough to send you running back into the shadows, a cream formula is your friend — it’s easy to blend and buff for the most natural-looking finish, and you can always add more later.
Becca Lowlight Sculpting Contour, $38, available at Sephora.
We also love this trick involving a mineral-powder foundation formula, which makes the process even more foolproof because the powder will blend easily over any foundation.
Picking the shade is half the battle, which is why we love Tarte's formula. It comes in 15 shades, eight of which are for fair skin, with each one suited for a different undertone. The build-in netting also lends a helpful touch, since it allows the user to get the lightest application possible. Just dip a big, fluffy brush into the jar, swirl, tap off excess, and dust it on. Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation, $36, available at Sephora.
do want to pick up a palette, however, you're not totally out of luck. While contour palettes well-suited for fair skin are few and far between, they do exist. Our favorite is a recent offering from celeb makeup artist Fiona Stiles. The formula is incredibly sheer — which makes application foolproof — and the hues create light shadows without leaving behind telltale shimmer. Simply dust a little under the cheekbones and anywhere else you want to create depth. Fiona Stiles Sheer Sculpting Palettes in Light, $28, available at Ulta.
For something with a bit more shimmer — which makes for a perfect product to wear after dark — look no further than this jumbo stick from Smashbox. We've waxed poetic about
this formula before for good reason: It goes on sheer, is easily blended with the included buffer, and looks beautiful against the fairest of skin. Smashbox L.A. Lights Blendable Lip & Cheek Color in Hollywood & Highlight, $29, available at Sephora.
Remember to look for a foundation that is sheer enough to let your freckles show through if you have them — freckles are too adorable to cover up — and that doesn’t oxidize after a few hours’ wear. Wearing a primer under your makeup can help to prevent oxidization. It’s also best to wear sunscreen under your foundation or even choose a foundation that already has SPF, to better preserve your porcelain skin — both the Clinique and L’Oréal foundations have an SPF of at least 20.
Clinique Even Better Foundation, $27, available at Clinique.
Photo: Courtesy of Sephora.
Nude lipsticks can be tricky for every skin tone, but those with very pale skin have to be especially careful when looking for the right shade. Too pale and you’ll look completely washed out; too dark and, well, then it no longer has the desired effect of a nude lipstick. The right nude lippie for you might include notes of peach or pink — you don’t want it to be completely colorless, but do try to avoid any brown or orange in your lipstick.
Alexa Chung recently confessed her love for the nude shades of Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte lipstick and, considering she's the reigning queen of the cat-eye-and-nude-lip look, you know she wouldn’t steer you wrong. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte in Nude Beige is the top choice: just the right hint of pink, a creamy formula, and beautiful packaging. Much like tracking down that perfect red lipstick, however, it can sometimes take a while to find a nude lipstick that works best for you. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte Lipstick in Nude Beige, $35, available at Sephora.
If you’d like to spend less money in your trial-and-error phase, E.L.F. Matte Lip Color in Nearly Nude and
L’Oréal Colour Riche in Fairest Nude are both excellent options for pale girls on a budget. E.L.F. Matte Lip Color in Nearly Nude, $3, available at E.L.F.
Photo: Courtesy of Target.
Red lipstick can also be challenging for the fair-skinned, but for the opposite problem: The contrast can look so striking that it can be a little startling if you’re not used to it. A good starter red lipstick for pale women is Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm in Standout. Not only is it affordable and easy to use, but it is a perfect true, blue-based red that looks amazing with fair complexions.
Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm in Standout, $5.84, available at Target.
While reds are bold, some can be a bit boring. Opt for a berry with blue undertones to up your lip game in seconds.
NARS Velvet Matte Lip in Damned, $27, available at Sephora.
Most fair-skinned ladies aren’t reaching for navy blue shadows and deep, dark purples for every day, so to make your eyes pop on the regular you need a great, soft shade. ColourPop’s Fringe is the perfect champagne hue that can be used all over the lid for a soft
highlight if you’re feeling sparkly, or, when used strategically, it can give you that perfect glow just where you need it. Place a bit in the inner corners of the eyes or line just your lower lash line with this gorgeous hue for a touch of color. Or, if you’ve used a black liquid liner already, add an extra dose of shine by adding this to your inner rim. ColourPop Eye Shadow in Fringe, $5, available at ColourPop.
Photo: Courtesy of Urban Decay.
If you’re pale and wondering which of the much-hyped Urban Decay Naked Palettes to purchase, we’ve got your answer. The general guidelines for wearing eyeshadow when pale are that darker shades can impart a too-harsh, bruised look, while pink or red shades will make you look tired or even ill. (And, of course, nude shades may simply blend in to your skin completely.)
For this reason, pale women will most likely get the most mileage out of Naked 2, which has an ideal mix of taupe and gray-beige hues that will be particularly flattering to cooler skin tones. Of course, you can be pale and also have a warm skin tone, in which case Naked 1 might be the better choice. What if you’re not sure if you’re cool-toned or warm-toned? Well, first, join the club. And, then consider trying Naked 3, which contains many rose-gold hues that are considered to be universally flattering. Urban Decay Naked2 Palette, $54, available at Urban Decay.
Photo: Courtesy of Stila.
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Eyeliner is a cult favorite for a reason: It’s easy to apply and lives up to its name by never smudging. But, black eyeliner can often look too harsh on those with extremely fair skin.
Luckily, Stila provides this excellent eyeliner in 15 different shades, so you can see if brown or even gray are less jarring options for you. Another tip for the more daring: Try applying a shade of blue or green in a thin line on your upper lashline for a subtle, but pretty, alternative to black eyeliner. Stila Stay All Day Liquid Eyeliner in Rich Chocolate, $20, available at Stila.
Most kohl liners require a larger, rounded tip for a smooth glide over the lid — but not this pencil. The precise liner offers up drama to the lash line without skipping or pulling.
Marc Jacobs Beauty Fineliner Ultra-Skinny Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner, $24, available at Sephora.
Many fair-skinned ladies opt for jet-black mascara to ensure that their often almost invisible lashes are not to be missed. But, while we won’t knock a great bold lash look every now and again, sometimes a soft, subtle brown mascara is just what the doctor ordered for an everyday look.
Benefit They're Real! Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara, $24, available at Sephora.
Especially when you’re of the pale variety, brown mascara can go a long way in highlighting your long lashes without making them appear like spider legs. Try Clinique’s Lash Power Feathering Mascara in Dark Chocolate, which is great at separating the lashes and giving them some extra oomph, but will also give you just the right amount of eye-opening lash for day.
Clinique Lash Power Feathering Mascara in Dark Chocolate, $17.50, available at Clinique.
No matter your hair color or complexion, a set of defined brows is key. From pale blond to pitch black, you'll be able to find your fit in this lineup — and there's even a clear shade, just in case.
MAKE UP FOR EVER Brow Gel, $20, available at Sephora.
And if your brows need a little definition, this fan-favorite from Lancôme comes in shades as light as almost-white blond, so you can build thick, full brows that look completely natural.
Lancôme Le Crayon Poudre, $26.50, available at Lancome.
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