April 15, 2010 by Christine Scaman
You may want to skip this post. There will be no concrete answer at the end. It will be a thought repository for my ramblings till someone helps me understand this. If you canâ€™t stand the nitpickiness, Iâ€™ll understand entirely.
I realize that Iâ€™ve been referring to â€œundertonesâ€, as in the Eyeglass Frames videos too randomly. I said that the dusty plum of the Soft Summer frames was essentially the undertone of that skin.
Traditionally, undertones are thought to be either cool, neutral, or warm, not coloured.
Overtones are the outside colour of the skin, like the names of foundation, porcelain, bisque, buff, natural, warm beige, etc. Light/medium/deep also refers to overtones. The overtone must be in the top epidermal layer, presumably the relative melanin/hemoglobin/carotene amounts.
You can get any combination of undertone and overtone. So warm undertone + ivory overtone, or cool undertone + ebony overtone, etc. Porcelain and ebony overtones can share the same cool undertone.
Worth noting too is that you can have a false overtone. The red flush in the skin of women with too-yellow hair, or the yellow overtone in the cool dark Seasons when they wear too-warm colour, these are just effects created by bad colour.
Where is the undertone and what exactly is this colour that we are calling cool-neutral-warm? I mean, cool what? Cool grey? Cool blue? A cool colour that varies by Season, but is of the cool classification?
I looked for input from respected sources.
1. Bernice Kentner of Color Me A Season, always ahead of her time, describes undertone as a real colour, a combination of 4 variables. From her book, The Magnificent Eye, she describes undertone as the result of an equation made up of 4 variables:
. the thickness of the skin which varies by Season and determines which colours show through
. the yellow-brown colour of all skin, beneath the top layer
. the meshwork of oxygenated (red) and non-oxygenated (blue) blood vessels beneath the skin
. the velocity of blood flow in those vessels; so Autumnâ€™s faster blood flow shows more red of arterial blood
I donâ€™t know about the blood flow velocity. I would think that ultrasound would have detected those differences among people. If she means how fast the capillary beds are cleared, well, I donâ€™t know.
I absolutely agree with her that Seasonal Colour Analysis is not about overtones. If it were, women who wear the same foundation would be of the same Season.Â If it were, yellow skin would wear warm foundation, but it often does not (or should not).
2. Lauren Battistini at Color My Closet makes the fundamentally important point in this post, Â that undertone refers to how skin reacts to color. If your skin is most perfected by cool colours, then your skinâ€™s undertone is cool. Not certain if I can extrapolate Laurenâ€™s words this far, but maybe this means that undertone is not a real colour at all, and isnâ€™t located anywhere in the skinâ€™s biological layers. It is a reactionary term.
Personal Colour Analysis is about identifying the precise degree of darkness, warmth, and saturation in the colours of your body, and so in the colours that perfect your skin when you wear them. It has nothing to do with overtone really. Weâ€™re looking for the skinâ€™s reactions, or undertones.
In the Comments, Lauren says that each Season has a â€œcore colorâ€, using the example that Autumn is orange. Each Season does have a signature or core colour (Winter=red, Summer=blue, Spring=yellow), but that is not quite the same concept as skin colour, though thereâ€™s some overlap.
3. Imogen Lamport at Inside Out Style Blog writes an excellent blog with practical real-world advice. In this post on skin tone and makeup, a client writes in with a question. Imogen offers several examples from her experience as a colour analyst.
If I understand this right,
Now you may be more obvious and have a warm yellow or goldish undertone and overtone and therefore warm colouring, or you may have a pinkish undertone and overtone and be cool.
â€¦means the pure Seasons are those where overtone and undertone accord. She cites examples where the two may conflict – but I’m still confused.
4. Beauty School Blog is written by makeup artist, Jen. I find it a fresh take on makeup blogs, with good lessons, a genuine voice, and a wider spectrum of topics. I found this article very thorough. But I’m still confused. If the undertone is a real colour, then which colour is it exactly, and where is it?
5. The colours of melanin.Â This, at Dead Dog Cafe, doesn’t fully attack the topic but does implicate different forms of melanin.
Pheomelanin, yellow to red-brown (ie: orange) : small quantity Â + blue vessels > green or sallow of some cool Seasons.
” Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â ” Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â ” Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â : large intensity + blue vessels > warm gold of Autumns and Springs
Eumelanin is the black/brown pigment of non-Europeans.
6. The 12B concept of undertones. The pictures posted along this article show how undertones appear in my head. There is no scientific testing here, only what I see when I look at this skin. (Dark Autumn could be redder. Bright Winter could be lighter and yellower. Light Summer, I couldn’t decide. Close enough to make the point.)
What use is it?
Foundation is matched to undertone (cool/neutral/warm) AND overtone (ivory to ebony). These images donâ€™t help with that.
But these are your fundamental lip and blush colours. These are your from-within, most intrinsic colours. Using them for eyeglass frames, ties, scarves, and accessories looks good, though the viewer would never know why.
Am I way off? Have I over-simplified or over-complicated?
Iâ€™d surely love to hear your opinions. This feels like a linchpin in my understanding of skin and colour. Itâ€™s really just a theoretical point, but I think about it.