The Makeup Rules Everyone With Fair Skin Needs to Know

Unless you have a glam squad of Kardashian proportions, doing your makeup is difficult. Contouring your face for model-esque cheekbones or nailing that subtle cat-eye is a challenge. But selecting makeup colors that will flatter your skin tone is just as important.

At The Cheat Sheet, we want to teach all women how to best select their makeup palette, and intend to do so. But if you’re the fairest of them all, we recently received some guidance tailored just for your skin complexion. We spoke with celebrity makeup artist and Smith & Cult beauty ambassador Ashlee Glazer about colors you should and shouldn’t use.

1. Wear: Green

Musician Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift shows off green lids. | Jason Merritt/Getty Images

As a fair-skinned beauty, nearly every colorful eye shadow, lip color, or blush you dab on your face will create a striking, and completely blogger-approved, contrast. If you don’t want to be a makeup wallflower, try sweeping a light green on your lids. Glazer, who has worked with everyone from Marchesa fashion designer Georgia Chapman to celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe, says it’s a common color she uses for her fair clients.

As Kermit the frog once said, “It’s not easy being green,” so we recommend any first-timers err on the side of caution. After all, you can always add more.

2. Wear: Mauve

Actress Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan looks lovely with mauve makeup. | Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Not ready to take your makeup routine to the next level? It’s OK, we understand you might need to work your way to those pigmented colors in your makeup kit. For a gentler option that will make your skin look radiant, give mauve a try. “For the eyes, I think that cooler browns and rosy/mauve-hued tones complement fair skin beautifully,” said Glazer.

What’s so special about mauve, you ask? It’s more subtle than that experimental green, yet it’s far more exciting than that copper you use every single day. In case you need an extra incentive, fellow fair maiden Saoirse Ronan pulled this color off beautifully at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

3. Wear: Pinks and reds

Actor Emma Stone

Emma Stone proves red lipstick belongs in your makeup bag. | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

There’s a reason nearly every woman has a tube of reddish lipstick in her makeup bag. It’s a classic shade, plus it’s proven to help your teeth appear whiter. Admittedly, red looks great on all on skin types, but it’s important to find a shade and consistency that suits your complexion and preference, respectively. If you have fair skin, the choice is yours. “For lips, I love rich berried hues, cool pinks, rich oranges (depending on hair color) and burgundy reds,” Glazer told The Cheat Sheet.

4. Wear: Gray

British actress Emily Blunt poses for photographers

Emily Blunt makes gray look anything but boring. | Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images

As you proceed down the color wheel, you might become intimidated by those harsh black and browns. To be frank, we’ve all had our run-ins with a thick, black kohl liner, so the hue is intimidating for most of us. Unless you live somewhere that’s summery all the time, you probably can’t get away with wearing cheery coppers, pinks, and greens year-round, which is why you should add some gray to your makeup cabinet.

5. Wear: Navy

Actress Emma Stone

Emma Stone sports navy eyeliner as a way to up her beauty game. | Jason Merritt/Getty Images

If you’ve worn gray makeup all your life and are ready to hit the refresh button on your beauty routine, navy will do the trick. Like gray, it’s perfect for the colder months, but isn’t as harsh as a black. Whether you trace your lash line with a navy liner or select it in powder form, you’re bound to get a lot of mileage out of this hue.

Colors you should avoid?

Set of professional brushes for a make-up of eyes

Professional makeup palettes have plenty of hues to use, as well as ones to skip. |

We’ve lectured you on some colors fair-skinned beauty addicts need to buy, but what about the ones that do more harm than good? According to Glazer, it’s not that easy. “There are not really any colors I say no to ever — it’s more about blending and mixing shades with other colors to make a look work for you,” she said. “That being said, here are some things I keep in mind with fair-skinned clients.” Making almost any color work with your complexion is just a click away.

1. Avoid: Black

Actress Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway takes a careful approach to black liner. | Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Very few people want raccoon eyes, which is probably why many shy away from using a harsh black liner. However, when paired with a soothing gray shadow, the liner can give your look the necessary pop it needs. “Typically, flat matte black can be harsh on porcelain skin but a beautiful smoky eye can be achieved with charcoal gray,” Glazer said.

As for those raccoon eye connotations? Try tracing your eyes with a thin line. That way, you’ll get the effect without adding too much drama.

2. Avoid: Nudes

Actress Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick did pretty well with her nude lip, but it’s a tricky look. | Larry Busacca/Getty Images

If you don’t have time to reapply your lipstick every few hours, a nude formula seems like a fail-safe option. But tread lightly, fair ladies: The fuss-free shade might blend in with your skin a little too well. Luckily, when there’s a will, there’s a way. Mixing and matching different nude shades can give your look some extra dimension, plus there’s something incredibly appealing about sporting a unique color. “For lips, the totally nude look with bare color all over may not pop as much as a rose tone nude,” said Glazer.

3. Avoid: Gold

Actress Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried makes the hue work by going big with her lashes. | Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Speaking of colors that might wash you out, gold isn’t always the best option. But if your heart is set on gold shadow, Glazer recommends revitalizing your look with tons of mascara. Not only will it offer more depth, but the dark mascara will perfectly contrast your otherwise subtle makeup. Still not getting the results you’re craving? “[Try] swapping the yellow gold for an olive green since greens tend to work well with fair skin,” Glazer concludes.

4. Avoid: Lilac

Actress Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett looks lovely, but pulling off this hue is trickier than you think. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Having fair skin comes with its own set of drawbacks, like frequent sunburn and your veins appearing darker than your porcelain. If you regularly struggle with the latter, you might want to stay clear of lilac shadow. According to Glazer, brushing this color on your lids can only enhance the color of your veins, which won’t give you that healthy glow you so desire.

But again, there is a solution. “To rock this look, add warmth to the skin by simply adding a touch of bronzer to the crease and use a base to neutralize the lid prior to adding color,” Glazer recommended. Yes, it’s that easy.

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[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published February, 2017]