Reader Request: Style Tips for Pale Skin


Styling tips for pale skin

Reader Annabeth popped this question into the suggestion box:

Tricks for working with extremely pale skin. I’m very, VERY fair – to the point where, when I go without makeup, total strangers ask if I’m not feeling well. I’ve adopted the strategy of playing up my paleness rather than hiding it, but would always be happy for more tips about that.

I’ve written before about my own marked paleness here and here, but didn’t offer any style-related pale-girl tips.

Before I even attempt to do so, I must point you to Forever Amber who has a section of her blog dedicated to pale skin makeup reviews and tips, and has also taken a stand on never, ever giving in to people’s weird, misplaced desires for her to get a tan. Rock on, Amber. Pale girls unite!

As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent. That said, here’s what I’ve got for ya.

Don’t worry about it

I’m delighted to hear that Annabeth plays up her pale skin. DELIGHTED, I tell you. Anyone who is policing your body for any reason at all should consider getting a new hobby. Your skin is your business, no matter how tan, not-tan, pale, dark, spotty, or covered in Twilight-reminiscent glittery bits it may be. The end.

Study pale skin celeb choices

Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton (pictured above in all her luminous glory), Nicole Kidman, and Dita Von Teese all rock fair skin. You may have a hard time tracking down photos of Cate and Tilda frolicking about in casual wear, but any outfit shots will show you how they select colors, accessorize, and style their hair to look stylish and chic year-round.

Embrace contrast

As a pale gal myself, I typically shy away from blushes and beiges when it comes to clothes. (Nude-to-my-skin shoes, yes. Nude-to-my-skin sweaters, not so much.) I’m more likely to go for vibrant shades that play off my natural undertones and offer contrast to my light-colored skin.

Of course, I have high contrast anyway with pale skin and dark hair, so this is no hard-and-fast rule. And I’d never say to avoid light colors or nude-ish tones altogether, especially if you can work them into a mix of colors. But in summer when many people are showing off browned skin, colors like peach, stone, khaki, tan, and some ivories will likely look stranger against naturally light skin than they will during the cold months.

Consider your makeup

I’m no makeup expert, but I do know that summer is generally considered a casual season and that casualness extends into the realm of cosmetics. Natural, light, glowy tones look fab on fair-skinned gals during the summer months. A flattering blush, light lip color, and a little mascara may be all you’ll need.

Play with pattern

Where big swaths of color can wash you out or alter how your skin tone is perceived, patterns are more forgiving. Obviously some patterns will work better than others with your hair, facial features, and figure, so choose carefully. But be aware that doing patterns against pale skin may appear less harsh than solids.

Fellow pale ladies, what else would you add?

Do you dress to play up or downplay your pale skin? A little of both? Any other tips to share?

main photo: quinn dombrowski // cc
Next Post
Previous Post

9 Responses to “Reader Request: Style Tips for Pale Skin”

  1. Brenna Goode

    I’m quite pale as well, with no intention of changing that. When I do make the mistake of spending time in the sun, I just burn, then peel, then am pale again, so it’s a rather pointless endeavor! I lean towards contrasts as well, usually with jewel tones. I can’t do neutrals at all, I look a bit monochromatic!

  2. Ruth Slavid

    I’m not THAT pale, but I do have the world’s whitest legs. They don’t tan, they don’t even burn. I avoid black skirts in summer when I want to go bare-legged, and also solid black shoes. Which is good advice anyway if you want to look summery. I don’t kid myself that with other colours my legs looked tanned – just a little less luminous. Sbould my legs be tanned? Do other people think so? As you say, that’s their problem. If I ever get caught out in a skirt in a dark forest, at least I will have a beacon to lead us all home.

  3. Sue

    My skin is pale (another white legged female!) however it is freckled too. I’m very careful in the sun as I know I won’t tan anyway so I prefer to protect my skin. I have dark hair too so have learnt that I look better in high value contrast and low colour contrast.

  4. Amy

    Any post with a picture of SWINTON is a win… oh – and I also play up the pale. The only makeup I wear (not counting 30-50 SPF sunscreen (of course)) is mascara and sometimes a little eye liner because my eyes disappear with the blond lashes. I feel like blush and any type of foundation is too garish and/or hard to match my skin and SO obvious if it’s even a little off. I don’t worry at all about being pale when I pick cloths – whether to color of how much skin is showing. (By nature I’m more often in dark solids – that’s not consciously about my skin tone though) When people make fun of my non-summer tan, I remind them that I won’t get skin cancer and everyone thinks I’m 10 years younger than I am because I take care of my skin. (also I play up fabulous big brimmed sun hats) I used to wish I could dye my hair with subtle fun shades (think a dark brown or black hair with only-see-it-in-the-sun type purple or blue undertones) but I gave up on blond hair allowing for anything subtle many years ago and I’m too cheap/lazy/anti roots to go a really different color.

  5. x46

    The best advice about tanning, or not, I ever read was in an old British magazine where a young woman about to go off on holiday on the beach in France was wondering what to do as she was naturally very pale (redhead) and burned badly. The advice: buy a dark swimsuit, navy or black to show off your pale skin and a large hat, and rent a beach umbrella to shelter under. Lie on the beach in the shade of the umbrella looking sensational and not at all everyone else, but as someone rather special. I say if you’re pale, enjoy it, moisturize and don’t tan.

  6. Victoria Young

    I’m pale, but freckle quite a lot during the summer, so sunblock is my best friend. I love my freckles, but they get to the point where I feel I look as if I’ve been rolling in the dirt :-/

    Starting to go quite grey, so I’m sure my colour choices will shift a bit, but I love cobalt blue and turquoise – vivid colours to contrast my alabaster legs, and still look summery. My “tan” is other peoples’ “normal”, so I’ve learned to adapt and quite honestly, I love bucking the trend!

  7. Amber

    Ah, just saw this – thanks so much for the shout-out, Sally! I totally agree with everything you’ve said, but particularly the first point – I figure my skin looks the way it’s supposed to look, so trying to change it is probably never going to end well for me. I also get people telling me I look ill if I’m not wearing makeup, though, so it can be hard, sometimes, but as you say, people who like to criticise someone’s skin colour really need a new hobby!

  8. FashionableLena

    If I read correctly, you stated that you wear vibrant colors. Yet, for the past couple of months that I’ve been perusing your blog, you’ve worn black, brown, and grey. When do you wear these vibrant colors?

  9. Bike Pretty

    I’m pale but with golden undertones. I can actually get a tan though, and it looks quite nice. But I prefer to be sunsmart. However my skin is pretty translucent and my veins tend to look greenish-blue! It’s a little disconcerting but I try to rock it.