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Pale Olive Undertone Struggles

Confession: I’m a licensed makeup artist and I just found out whether my skin’s undertone is warm or cool. At 24 years of age. A fact that is highly embarrassing as I should know this stuff. In fact I do, I’m able to colour match other people very quickly and well, I’ve just always had a problem with identifying my own undertone. You know how there’s all these tricks you find online that are supposed to help you determine your skintone? They always cause more confusion than clarity here. If the veins on the inside of your wrist are green, you’re wam toned, if they’re purple or blue, you’re cool. Mine are either or both, depending on when you look. If gold looks better on you than silver, you’re warm toned. If silver looks better on you than gold, you’re cool. Neither really looks good on me, to be honest, although I think silver clashes with my skin a little bit less. So am I cool, then? My brown hair and hazel eyes would say I’m not, as they’re generally ascribed to warm skin tones. As is the fact that I tan in the sun rather than burning, which is generally what cool toned skin does. But I look horrible in orange, gold makeup is the worst possible thing I can do to myself and foundation is very often too yellow for me. If I pick up cool foundation however, my face turns a very distinctive pink that stands out from the rest of my skin. Neutral foundation is hard enough to find as it is, but it’s not right on me either.

The clearest I can see my skin’s undertone is when I compare my skin colour to that of my Dutch friends, who are as pale as me. When I put my arm next to theirs I can almost always see a very distinct… Greenness. Yes, my skin is most definitely green. So… olive then? I’ve always thought of olive skin as something much darker than my skin, I often have trouble finding a light enough foundation in the drugstore, sometimes I can just get away with the lightest shade. When someone says olive skin I’ve always imagined Latin, Arabic or Indian skin tones. But lo and behold, it turns out olive is actually an undertone. One that nobody ever talks about, but definitely exists in all different shades. Apparently pale olive is common in Eastern Europe, so that would explain a thing or two about why I’m the only one besides my brother that has this skin colour over here, haha!

One of the best known examples of someone with pale olive skin is Mila Kunis. The green comes out when the tan fades, so you can see it better when she’s lighter, but take a look at this:

See that green?

I’ve got that green.

Pale olive skin means I don’t look good in warm shades, and I have definitely noticed I look better in cooler colours, although all the way silver or blue-toned purple isn’t quite “it” either. The struggle continues as I try to work with pale olive skin that’s kind of warm looking but is actually more on the cool side. Any fellow pale olive ladies out there who would like to share some tips?

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29 thoughts on “Pale Olive Undertone Struggles”

  1. Hi Lucy,

    I also believe I have this undertone, at least on my face. While the rest of my body seems to be plain pale and white where my skin creases, on my face, which is more red it seems to be olive, specially around my eyes. When watching your videos I got the feeling we have a similar “problem”… the brownish dark eye circles… I can’t really say I see a green undertone, but it looks more like brown to me. I find it really hard to match to any colour, so I just use a light concealer and then my face suddenly loses that olive tone. Since my cheeks are red and everything else so pale, I seem to have a totally different undertone. I also “feel” a different shade when in northern Europe, however, I can’t agree with this undertone being common in Eastern Europe. I’ve been in Russia, and the Baltics and it’s not common in slavic people. Maybe you mean in the South or Middle East, that makes sense to me.
    I also disagree on it being uncommon in people of Latin descent, specially with dark features like mine and yours (brown hair and eyes). I recon you’ve been in Spain, where, along with Italy, Greece, Turkey, and other Southern countries it’s not rare. Since you also tan, the being paler thing might be a thing of living where there’s less sun, while locals are constantly exposed to it.
    Having lived in Latin America, I also don’t think you would stand out. One thing are people who have direct ancestors of Native or African origin, and others are a mix of Spaniards, Portuguese, as well as black or native, as well as arabic, so there’s also plenty of people with your/our features who identify as Hispanic or Latin.

    Anyways… to add something useful, aside from covering my dark eye circles, which I find the least forgiving olive undertone feature on me with a very light and pinkish concealer, I find strong colours suit me, particularly navy blue. Maybe it’s worth giving it a try. I also find that other colours can look decent if I wear enough makeup… I just hate that the majority of my body looks good in one colour, and a small detail can totally “ruin” the look, so I don’t even dream of going somewhere public without makeup :/

    I like what dark lipsticks look on you, specially leaning towards purple, as well as black clothes. I don’t care much for pastels, but the main idea is I’d love to see if you could maybe make a video where you separate your clothes in seasons or shades and try them on separately. I think seeing only a group of colours at the same time would help determine what really suits you and would be helpful for people struggling to find what suits us.

    Ah, another video I would perhaps want to see is a more intimate q+a about relationship topics that might be a bit controversial (like, what’s your stance on non-traditional relationships, how would you react or deal with someone cheating, a threesome, or things like that… not in the perverted sense at all, but more like a realistic talk about some more difficult topics people might face with their significant other).

    Other than that, best of luck, and thanks for uploading content.

  2. Thank you – this was super helpful! I too have been trying to figure this out for ages and all the guides on how to find your tone make me even more confused. But this makes total sense – My grandad, dad and sister are all much more traditionally olive-skinned, almost Mediterranean looking, but I’m so pale I thought that that couldn’t possibly be me! But yep, very pale olive toned gals exist! Hurray.

  3. Pale neutral olive skin tone here! I have dark hair and eyes. I don’t wear foundation, but as far as eyes, lips, and clothes, I have found the colors that work best for me are saturated and darker. Plum, forest green, navy, etc. Pastels make me look yellow and jewel tones make me look red. A straight-up gray doesn’t look so good, but something with a taupe-y hue looks much better. I just need that bit of blush in the color to avoid making myself look ashy. So maybe try that out.

  4. I think a good option is if you buy a foundation adjuster and mix it into your foundation to adjust it. I’ve had the same problem with finding my perfect shade. My skin is definitely warm but my veins always look blue AND green. And the jewellery trick never worked for me. You can buy face adjusters from Face Atelier and Temptü. It was only after i added a yellow adjuster to my already yellow foundations that i realised that my undertone is not just yellow but a green yellow. Hope this helps.

  5. I’m austrian and all ancestors i know of are austrian too. My skin is extremely pale but i can be quite dark if i get enough sun. I never found a 100% fitting foundation. I’ve been wearing too orange/pink foundation for years just because there wasn’t anything available back then. I’m now using Revlon Colorstay Foundation in Buff. It’s still a tiny bit too dark for me but quite neutral so it doesn’t look as unnatural as pink/orange toned foundation. It’s also very affordable. I’m going to try the Fit me Foundation of Maybelline soon. See if one of the newer pale shades is a match for my skin. I have severe acne and oily skin so I need a proper one. When it comes to eyeshadow… Copper! I have light blue eyes so it’s extremely hard to find colours that match eyes and skin. Copper is one of the few. Very dark neutral purple-brown shade with bronze shimmer is a nice match too. Black and white looks awful on my eyes. Makes me look like i haven’t slept for days. Everything that is too bright like neon colours is just as awful.

    1. Colorstay in Buff has been the only foundation shade I always went back to when I needed a safe, not–mixing-a-ton-of-shades look. I’ve been using it for years while hopelessly trying a lot of other brands and foundations. Would be great to find alternatives, if you find any.

  6. I’m of Portuguese descent (have medium brown eyes and dark brown hair), and like you, have a pale complexion with that green undertone. I use CoverGirl Classic Ivory and find that matches me pretty well.

  7. I’m older than the rest of you, and have never worn makeup, precisely because of problems matching my skin tones. I’m fair-skinned, with light brown hair with strawberry blond highlights in summer, more red and less blond as I get older. I burn, then tan lightly in a reddish brown. My eyes are green-blue with a tiny bit of yellow in the center. I’ve always had freckles and now, to my horror, age spots, which led to a search for makeup once again. My first matches with Sisley and MAC were all wrong. Both identified me as cool because of the red tones in my skin and because I am fair. The Sisley makeup turned me grey, and the MAC (Studio Face and Body C1) got rid of the red in my face but turned me yellow. Yesterday, back at another MAC, I was quite surprised when the MUA looked at me and said “light olive.” She matched me with their mineralized foundation at NC20 or face and body at N2. The first is a tiny bit yellow and the second a tiny bit pink, but we’re definitely closer. MAC Syrup lipstick is first I’ve ever tried that works great. We didn’t find a perfect blush or bronzer. Like all of you, neither silver nor gold looks great on me, but silver is better, and I can’t wear orange or especially yellow without people thinking I’m tired or sick. Navy, teal, blue reds, olive, grey look good and I’m fine with cream and black. You’re my tribe!

    My ethnic background is Irish/Scottish/English with a smattering of German, but I read that light olive skin is common in German and Scandinavian countries — and those Vikings did get around the British Isles!

  8. Same problem! Fair complexion with olive undertone….I tan fairly easily without burning, but during the winter I always look “washed out” or sick. I also have a difficult time finding complementary colors for my skin tone, however I have discovered that Maybelline’s #20 Classic Ivory is a fair match to my tone and blends easily to my skin color!

  9. I have olive skin too – darker than yours.
    I would highly recommend asian makeup brands. I worked out years ago that western brands all have pink tones in them, so to get the yellow tone you need to follow where most of the market has the same skin tone.
    Shiseido make the best colour match for my skin.
    Highly highly recommend

  10. I can identify with all the comments above. Some things I’ve learned that I hope will help:
    1) I’ve gone to more than one color analyst and have been identified with both warm and cool undertones. Cool colors are sometimes too purple or blue, warm are too yellow and bring out the yellow in my skin. I’ve now decided I’m olive neutral undertone.
    2) I think we can wear both, just nothing too bright and it seems black and white are not really my friends. Navy has been a better neutral, also sand or very light taupe. Nothing that overwhelms or wears you, instead of you wearing it.
    3)Makeup: Before spending a lot of money, try these. I just discovered some of them and what a relief. Aveeno tinted face moisturizer (spf protection, lightweight), sugar plum lipstick in moisture riche by L’Oréal (not too cool, not too warm and even goes with red), Nude crème lipstick by Milani, L.A. girls lipliner in Forever. Bronze eyebrow pencil by Wet and Wild (I use it for eyeliner) I have green eyes. And Smudge pot (bronze) eye shadow by e.l.f. Normally I would not have tried most of these products based on their color, but researched them on the internet first and found them all to be winners. Also like Burts bees, Sedona Sands, lip crayon for a natural look (kind of waxy though).
    Though these may not work for everyone, I think we struggle with many of the same color issues and hopefully this will help you same some money.

  11. This is the problem I’ve been having for the last 35 yrs of my life I’m a mix of Greek and Irish and well I have a genetic back ground of almost every continent but Irish and Greek are the most dominant and it gives my a light olive color finding foundation is so hard I’ve tried it all even went to Mac and let a professional suggest a color sadly it came out a weird pinkish tan color and looked horrible on me someone suggested Nars but I’m to worried about being disappointed again because most make up companies only think of olive as dark tan

  12. Has anyone ever looked into Asian or Korean foundation? just a though, as they tend to have the olive-ish undertones and less pink tones. I haven’t searched around, but its an idea 😀

  13. Omg I have found someone like me! I am half Italian half mix of Australian /English / French lol and I can’t even tell you how much money and time I’ve spent trying to find a foundation for me. My skin is such an unusual tone not in the way that people comment but I can never find a foundation match and depending on the person and lighting and how much sun I’ve had changes the view of my skin. I tell people I’m green-brown-yellow undertone and get looked at like I’m insane. I do have yellow in my skin but not how others describe it I guess as I think sometimes when they say a foundation is too yellow they mean it’s Too orange. I’ve shown this by holding something yellow up to it and orange. I think our skin has yellow in it. But mainly it’s green brown and also just neutral in the truest sense. I haven’t got any pink in my skin really but because I’m pale I get told I’m pink undertone but also told I’m warm lol. The problem is a lot of ‘olive’ foundations are golden orangey. Olive is green neutral. My skin is pale but it’s also not pale which is challenging. It’s like the depth of my skin tone underneath is neutral brown but on top is green-white-slightly yellow. I have been told by frustrated makeup artists they can’t match me or employees say they don’t have my color. I can see them trying but they end up finding nothing or trying to sell me ‘beige’. I understand though and blame the makeup companies. Why are there no foundations for us? Do they exist in Europe and what brands are they? I can’t find anything. I stopped a girl about a year ago as she had my skin tone and had makeup on (eyes,lipstick) and I said what foundation are you wearing? Unfortunately she said she wasn’t wearing any and I saw she had flawless skin but her eyes etc done. Unfortunately I need to wear foundation. I’ll add that for me I look awful in green or orange, both silver and gold look meh but silver is a bit better, I have dark cool toned brown eyes, dark brown hair. I look awful in peach blush and look best I think in blue based red lipstick and for eyes neutral brown, black, a bit of purple and royal blue. What foundations have you found to wear?

    1. Hello! Fellow olive skinned girl here. Have you guys tried EX1 foundations? Supposedly they are made for olive skin specifically

  14. I am not of eastern European descent (I am German, so I’d say central European?), but I definitely have the same undertones – I am a pale olive. I am also quite cool-toned, but ‘cool-toned’ foundations actually pull orange on me. I have ashy brown hair and green-grey eyes with specs of yellow in them as well.
    What I can advise you to do is look on reddit, there is a sub called OliveMua and it is basically a forum for everyone with olive undertones, regardless of the depth of your skintone or of the warm- or coolness. (Cause yep, being olive wasn’t complicated enough – you can be a warm olive, a neutral olive or a cool olive as well, apparently.)

    I actually find it quite impossible to find a foundation with my skintone depth (somewhere between nc10 and nw13) and a cool, yellow-greenish undertone. If you ever find one, please let me know, I would be very interested!

    1. This sounds like me, but I have more blue in my eyes, a mix of blue, green, grey and flecks of yellow-ish in the middle. I have quite cool brown hair, with golden highlight when I’m in the sun.. Never looked good in yellow, pink or neutral foundations. Everything looks dull or strange. I don’t think I look good in a lot of colours either, so I usually wear navy, black, grey, some kind of white (never really good though). Really disturbing, when I was about 12 years old I was looking for my first eyeshadow och said I thought I was olive toned (read about skin tones already then), but people said I was wrong. Depending on stores, some thought I was cool toned because of some redness in my face and on my hands, others very determined I was on the warm side because of the obvious yellowish (actually more green-ish in daylight) tone on my skin. So many confused years! Will look up what you recommended!
      / A Swede

  15. I am in the SAME boat! I have Eastern European roots as well, dark brown eyes, naturally a level 4 in hair color, my veins appear both blue and green depending upon where you look, and when I’m tan-great…but I live in a place where winter is a primary season, and therefore the moment I lose my summer color (which happens fast and then I’m back to pale)-the green comes out. I do not look good in bright orange or yellow, or any yellow-based reds, bright pastels, lime green, etc. I look better in blue-based reds, and blues, greens, purples, black is fine I find, and dark brown. Also do not look good in coral lipstick or any orangey based blushes as well.

    1. Thank you for allowing me to relate-I was on a search for a different hair color. I have highlights which I maintain by using a purple-based color shampoo to keep the brassy out, however, I think I may switch this us-cuz I am so dark naturally, haircolor-wise. Also, definitely did not realize Mila Kunis was so pale olive….she fits me to a T. In fact, I never realized we probably could pass as twins.

  16. Hey Lucy,
    I am soooo happy I found your page! I think we are skin hair and eye color doubles, or almost! My eyebrows are lighter I think… HAPPY because I am struggling!
    For the moment, in make-up, I use L’Oréal 1,5N or 2N. 2N is better because it fits my skintone better, but it also seems to have slightly warm reflections which are not in the 1,5N. I am really curious now about the one you suggested!
    I wear “dirty” jewelery, silver, gold and copper. But it has to be dirty!
    I also tend to be more cool, but I wear best a washed out black, broken (warm) white, all sorts of dark greens, nightblue, bordeaux red, saturated dark purple, neutral red, orange, light brown, jeans, …? still searching for more!
    I was thinking of getting a professional color analyses, I found someone in my town who seems really good at it, having a big range of categories etc… I can share my results with you, if you wish…
    Greetings from Berlin

  17. hey loepsie,
    i think we have the same hair-, eye- and skincolour! 🙂 i am so happy to finally see pictures of someone “like me”. guess what, i am ten years older and still confused 😉 i went to chanel especially to get advice for a lipstick and always went home with cool colours. but i can also wear slightly warm colours, like red with a slightly brown touch.
    for make-up, i use l’oréal 1,5n or 2n. the 2n is slightly warmer unfortunately, but fits better to my natural skintone. but i’d like to try the ones you suggested.
    silver or gold – non of it looks really good on me, unless it is dirty 😉 so i go for vintage and then i can wear both.
    clothes: i have been wearing only black, nightblue and green for ages!! i feel so boring and always wanted to be the “spring type” who can wear a big range of funky colours! also, i couldn’t handle my tan and so i have been using selftanning cream for ages. i stopped this now and begin to discover myself….
    my clothes vary from a washed out black (not grey!), to nightblue, and all sorts of greens. but i am really struggeling here! is that all? bordeaux-red seems to work well too, deep purple and a broken white/creme (but not too warm!), and jeans. i have an orange scarf that i love to combine with night-blue and it looks good, surprisingly. and a very saturated neutral red raincoat that seems to fit well to my surprise, as normally i can wear muted colours better. my most terrible colours seem to be a saturated light blue, turquoise and a very warm yellow. i am thinking of getting a professional color analysis, but i am hesitant, as i got already adviced so wrongly from make-up professionals. but if i do i might share my results, if you wish…

  18. I have paler skin than you; if I remember correctly, you use the second to lightest shade from the Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation and i use the lightest, Vanille Clair, which has warm undertones. My hair was very light blond when I was a child and it darkened throughout the years and is now very ashy, so you would expect a cool undertone to my skin, but I only have pink undertones in my cheeks. I’m very pale compared to most people i know, so it’s like you said, you can’t really tell what my undertone really is, when it just looks white standing next to other people. But my sister also has pale skin and when we’re comparing skin tones, mine has a definite yellow-olive shade and hers looks pink.

    I look good dressed in bright red and a number of other bright colors, whether warm or cool, but creams and more neutral tones wash me out. Or maybe my preference in colors has something to do with it as well, haha.

    Oh, and I’m from Eastern Europe too.

  19. I actually buy foundation that is designed for olive skin! I love it and it looks super natural on me 🙂 I really like the way warm neutrals look on me and ashy cool toned colors look really nice. I get my foundation at sweetminerals.com/kingofqueensmua I wear a 2O so I’m more medium olive, but the 1O should be light enough for you. I love taupe or mauve shadows, contours, and lip colours

  20. I have an olive undertone to my pale skin too (although not as pale as you are). Online “tests” always say that i have a cool undertone, but i always look washed out or sick when wearing the colors that are supposed to be good for people with cool undertones. On the other hand, there is a very specific shade of orange that makes my skin look glowing while other shades of orange don’t look as good. I’ll always end up looking grayish in most shades too.
    When it comes to makeup, finding the correct foundation is always a struggle. It either comes out too orange (even the lightest shades) or too fake. Foundations with pink undertones make me look like i’m wearing a mask. I’ve just resorted to using CC cream as makeup base. Lipsticks come as a struggle too. Whether finding a good red or nude, it always comes down to me mixing two or three different products together.
    I guess we get the best of both worlds with our undertone. It makes us unique but that uniqueness comes with a price of a lifelong search for colors that would suit us the best. In the end, the struggle would probably be worth it

  21. Very interesting. I have green, blue & purple veins in my inner wrists, so was always confused as well. I’m East Asian, but decidedly more tan. I’m discovering that bright, full saturation colors look best on me – does this make me more on the cool spectrum? I have no idea. 🙂 Yellow is definitely not my friend, so silver is my metal of choice.

  22. Omg, I can totally relate! I found those test too, and I didn’t get it. I have both green and dark blue veins, and I never wear orange because I feel it makes me look yellow, or something. I only have one blouse in a warm orange, kinda autumn-orange, because I felt it suits my skin tone.
    And that experience with foundations happened to me too, so I quit trying to find make up for me. =(
    I must say I don’t see the green tone that you talk about in your pictures. Where is it? In which part of your face you see it?

    1. It’s really hard to see unless you compare it to someone else’s skin. You can only really tell it’s green when I hold it next to someone else or when I’m sick 😛

  23. Hey!
    My two cents: I’ve come to understand that whether you tan or burn doesn’t really have anything to do with coolness or warmth. Natural redheads are super pale and burn easily, but they’re likely warm-toned.

    Also, if you’ve read anything about colour seasons – there are a zillion spectrums to take into account (for example whether you suit clear, bright colours more or muted colours, whether your overall “image” is dark or light, and so on). And to make it more confusing, you don’t necessarily have to be strictly one or another, you can be somewhere in between. I have dark brown eyes and hair, pale skin and I tan super easily but my colour season is definitely winter (not sure about the subtype, probably clear). I also look like vomit in orange, yay. (I really like orange but I guess some things have to be admired from afar and not incorporated into clothing.)

    Have a great day and do more updates on what you find suits or doesn’t suit you!

  24. I have dark ashbrown hair, dark green-grey eyes with amber in it and this distinct skin color. I think the cooler the color, the better its looks on me, especially silver and blue toned purple 😉
    oh, and i`m of eastern european descent too, from one side. but i always struggeled to find a good foundation and powder that would let me look “fresh” but pale, like redhaeds and blondes do. and everytime i find one affordable, its taken out of the sortiment 🙁

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