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12 Essential makeup tips for pale skin

Lisa Fogarty


Lisa Fogarty

Lisa Fogarty has written numerous articles for USA Today, The Stir, Opposing Views and other publications. She has covered everything from red carpet events to the discovery of toxic PCBs on school windows. She lives on Long Island, N.Y....

The dos and don'ts of applying makeup on super pale skin

So maybe you'll never be a bronze goddess. Pale skin is just as beautiful.

Growing up, I was one of the palest people I knew. My Mediterranean background only confused matters even more, leading many people to stop when they heard my maiden name and question whether I had mistakenly introduced myself as someone else. I spent the first three months of my freshman year of high school wandering the halls with tan foundation caked to my skin — surely, I was fooling everyone, I thought. No one would see that I had forgotten to spread the makeup down my neck or that my ears stuck out like two beacons of florescent light.

After a few more years spent robbing myself of my health while acquiring goldish-reddish skin in a tanning booth, I turned 17 and said "enough." Discovering Kim Gordon and other pale indie rock queens had a lot to do with it, but so did the fact that trying to be something you're not is exhausting — and expensive as hell.

More: Makeup tutorials for women of all shades

Over the years, I've come to love my pale skin and am always looking for top-notch ways to play it up. Molly Leahy, bridal hair and makeup artist at Blushing Brides Boston, and Jennifer Trotter of Lip Service Makeup, pro makeup artist and beauty expert, offer 8 great makeup tips for lighter skin shades — as well as the things you should never do if you've been blessed with pale skin.

1. Glowing skin is still possible

"If you prefer to have your skin on the pale side then make sure it's glowing," Leahy says. "Often times it's hard for people with paler skin to wear heavy foundation because it can look caked on so stick with a tinted moisturizer or a luminous foundation paired with spot concealing any imperfections. If you prefer full coverage foundation then simply mix it with a few drops of a liquid highlighter to get your glow."

More: The super pale girl's guide to glowing skin

2. Find your eyeliner match

"Try using a softer eyeliner," Leahy says. "This really depends on what your hair color is as well. If you have dark hair and dark lashes with pale skin then you will most likely still feel good rocking black liner. However, if you have light hair and lashes, using a brown or gray eyeliner will look more natural. A good trick for pale skin with fair lashes is to also line the tight line (upper water line) so it doesn't look like you have a big gap where your lashes are."

More: The best colored eyeliner for your eye color

3. Don't shy away from bright lipstick

"Don't think that you can't wear bright lipstick," Leahy says. "Often times a pop of color can look even more pronounced and amazing on pale skin. Pinks and reds look absolutely amazing in contrast, but if you aren't used to wearing a lot of makeup then start with a sheer shade of pink or red to get used to it first."

4. Avoid the wrong shades of blush

"Don't go super crazy with it so that you feel like a clown, but a light wash of color can help pale skin feel much more alive," Leahy says. "Stay away from the brown and orange tones and go more for the pinks to give your pale skin a soft healthy glow."

More: Which blush suits each skin tone

5. Go minimal on the eye makeup

"This doesn't mean that you can't ever dress up your makeup, but a little bit goes a long way when it comes to pale skin," Leahy says. "Stick to warmer neutral tones or it can look like you're getting a black eye."

6. Make your hair color even richer

No one is saying you should run out and dye your hair black, but often times, a richer, glossier hair color can make alabaster skin look stunning. "Deeper, richer hair colors provide great contrast for pale skin," Trotter says. "If your hair is a dishwater shade, consider going deeper to complement your look."

7. Beat your arch enemy, blotchiness

"Blotchiness is the bane of pale skinned girls," Trotter says. "Use a color corrector (my fave is IT Bye Bye Redness Correcting Cream) to banish blotchy skin tone and create the perfect porcelain canvas."

8. Fake your tan in a healthy way

If you still long to look sun-kissed, add a little warmth to your complexion in a healthy, UVA and UVB ray-less way. "Fake a natural glow with a light shade of bronzer dusted anywhere the sun would naturally hit you — the top of your forehead, bridge of your nose, cheeks and chin," Trotter says. "Use a big, fluffy brush and use a light touch."

9. Never try to be too tan

"Don't try to create a fake tan with too much bronzer, or a shade that's too dark," Trotter says. Your face will just look dirty. Not cute."

10. Don't fall into the neutral makeup trap

"Avoid overly neutral makeup when you're pale," Trotter says. "If you like nude shades, be sure to choose nudes with a flush of pink or peach, and avoid brown shades in blush and lipstick. They will age you and drain the color from your face."

11. Hair appointments are key

"Don't neglect your hair, especially if you're getting a few grays," Trotter says. "Pale skin coupled with blah hair sporting grays is an instant recipe for looking old and tired, regardless of your actual age."

More: The best pastel and neon hair color for your skin tone and eye color

12. Don't skip blush

"Even if you aren't used to wearing it, you really need it when you're pale," Trotter says. "Apply peachy rose shades to the apples of your cheeks blending upward for lift and a light flush that prevents you from looking washed out."

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