I have a rather embarrassing confession to make. As a self-confessed colour junkie, and as someone who might be mistaken for an expert, I recently invested £40 in an eyeshadow palette that didn’t work for me. By that I mean, the colours didn’t quite work on my skin. Bit embarrassing, that. We live, we learn. I know I’m always learning.
This purchase resulted in much head-scratching. It wasn’t so much that I had ‘wasted’ £40 on something that didn’t work for me (as it happens, the colours work beautifully on my Summer niece – something I’ll get to in a minute), it was more my confusion at having got it wrong. My problem-solving brain needed to know why those colours didn’t work. I had to know.
Makeup is hard to buy, especially if you’re a perfectionist. If you’ve just had your colours done and you’ve switched from, say, Autumn makeup to Summer makeup (and you are indeed a Summer) then you will likely see a marked improvement. When you’ve lived with your colour palette for eight years, buying what might be considered Soft Summer makeup when you are almost certainly a True Summer just isn’t satisfying. The reality is, I need the cool colours in my palette but I had somehow decided that the slight increase in warmth would bring out the blues in my eye. I was wrong. The bareMinerals ‘cool-neutral’ colours looked like bruises on my face.
I am a Summer, a Deep Summer in the House of Colour system. Cool, deep, soft colours suit me. The bareMineral bare sensuals palette is indeed a cool-neutral palette. I figured some colours would be warmer than others, but that most would work for me. I am aware that some colours can look deceptively warm when they actually have cool undertones.
(As an aside, I think it’s interesting to know that this palette doesn’t work for my Spring friend. I wonder if my Autumn friend could wear the warmer colours here. Despite looking warm, they could actually be too cool for her.)
So, who is this eyeshadow palette for? I’m now reasonably confident in saying that this palette would work for Soft Summers, and probably Brown Summers in the House of Colour system. It could also work for Summers who aren’t as cool as I am. I say this with reasonable confidence as my niece is one such person. She was draped with House of Colour several years ago, and came out as a Summer who suited the mid-Summer colours; that is, not the darkest shades and not the lightest, but those that sit in the middle. I sit on the Summer/Winter border and so it makes sense that I am cooler than her. The cooler colours in the bareMinerals palette (the pinks, purples and silvers) look amazing on her. I wish I had photographic evidence. When the shades of purple from the palette were applied, I knew we’d hit her personal colour sweet spot. Her eyes looked so crisp and in focus. She became magnetic to look at – I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her reaction, perhaps most tellingly, was brilliant. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she literally did a double-take.
Interestingly, the warmer pinks and bronzes in the palette were just a touch too warm for her – perhaps they’d work for a Brown Summer?
My niece has really striking eyes. Her iris outline is navy, the iris itself looks green, and the sunburst around the pupil is a gold colour, much like this eye:
You could argue, quite reasonably, that they look a touch warm.
In comparison, mine are more grey-blue and look cooler:
With all this in mind, I started to think about Brown Summers (in the House of Colour system) in relation to Soft Summers (in the Sci/Art system as favoured by Christine of 12 Blueprints). Would my niece fall into the Soft Summer category? Perhaps; this could be an avenue worth exploring. Or perhaps she’s simply just a touch warmer than me.
Is she a Brown Summer in the House of Colour system?
I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t like to put money on it.
Okay, so, I want to enhance my grey-blue eye colour and my skin, so what is it I’m looking for, then?
This, it turns out:
Interestingly, Christine’s Soft Summer eyeshadow palette looks a lot like the bareMinerals cool-neutral palette (which makes sense, and also makes me wonder if my niece could be a Soft Summer):
My niece has what I’d describe as mostly green eyes, and green sits roughly opposite purple on the colour wheel. This may well explain why the purple shades brought out the colour of her eyes so much (colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel – complementary colours – make each other look brighter).
Seeing the True Summer eyeshadow palette, I was immediately reminded of my Cool (True) Summer fan. Whilst I’ve never been officially draped by someone trained in the Sci/Art system, I have long since suspected that I would fall into the Cool (True) Summer category.
I do believe that, when it comes to makeup, we have the least room for error here. These colours are literally on our face, on our skin; any mismatch soon becomes obvious. Within the broader seasonal palettes, some makeup colours might not work; I watched my Autumn friend some years back try out a variety of Autumn lipsticks at House of Colour. Some of those were simply not worth purchasing (she ended up going for a stunning brick red).
Buying makeup is made harder by the fact that the colours can look completely different in the palette vs on the skin. Also, makeup is as much at the mercy of fashion as clothing is, which is to say that it is often difficult to find certain colours if they are not ‘in vogue’. Warm colours have been in shops and on makeup counters for a long time – my Autumn friend never seems to struggle when it comes to buying clothes, and I am seeing so many ‘naked’ palettes at the moment which essentially consist of warm-neutral and cool-neutral colours, presumably in a bid to ‘suit everyone’ for maximum sales. But here’s the moral of this story: not everyone is neutral. Far from it. For reasons I don’t understand, I drape more Summers on the Summer/Winter border than any other season. These are Summers just like me – very cool undertones, but colouring that is too soft to be Winter. People with this colouring (and indeed Winters) are not served by these neutral colours. Neutral is not synonymous with universal. We don’t all have neutral colouring.
Looking to buy makeup yourself? I have some advice:
- Swatch makeup on a tissue or white paper so you can compare the colour against your swatches. Colours on an eyeshadow palette / in a tube can look wildly different once applied to paper or your skin.
- Don’t shop by eye or hair colour. That lipstick that ‘works for every blonde’ is very likely not a match for your undertone.
- Take someone with you, preferably someone with some colour knowledge. Sometimes we become almost colour blind. Sometimes we are so determined to buy a burgundy lipstick that we can’t see that we’ve accidentally drifted into Winter when we are in fact a Summer (not speaking from bitter experience, honest 😉 – if you’d like to see another of my makeup purchase disasters, comment below).
- Take photos. It’s remarkable just how clarifying they can be. You see yourself in a more objective way in a photo.
- If you know your season, check out the 12 Blueprints Store to see what your colours look like in makeup.
- Swatch makeup products on the inside of your arm. Does both the colour and your skin look better?
- Try before you buy. Have the MUA at the counter apply the product so you can wear it for several hours before you return and (maybe) purchase it. Look at the product on your skin in different lighting (outside, store lighting, at home, etc).