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12 Tips To Nail Your Makeup If You Have a Pale Complexion

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The beauty of makeup is that it's a totally customizable experience. It all depends on the look you’re going for, how much makeup you're comfortable wearing, your hair color, and most importantly, your skin tone. What works well for people with deeper skin tones may not complement people with pale skin quite the same way. If you're in search of a bit of guidance on how to build up your pale skin makeup kit, we're sharing eight expert beauty tips for those with fair complexions. Get those makeup brushes ready!


About the Experts:

Ellen Bodkins is an NYC-based celebrity makeup artist who has done makeup for TV, film, weddings, and special events.
Gargi Patel is a celebrity makeup artist for VASANTI COSMETICS.
Alex Levy is a New York–based makeup artist and beauty marketing consultant. You can catch his work behind the scenes at NYFW, editorial shoots, and on the famous TikTok duo @young_emperors.

1. Never Skimp on SPF

First things first: no matter what shade range your skin tone falls under, sunscreen is never a step you should skip in your skincare routine. Plus, people with paler skin tend to be more sun-sensitive and, rather than getting tan, they burn and quickly become red. Be sure to reapply, reapply, reapply!

If you're looking for a moisturizer or sunscreen that you can easily layer on before makeup, lather on the TULA Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen SPF 30 Gel, which is weightless, fast-absorbing, and helps brighten the skin with continued use. For a quick reapplication solution (that won’t mess up your makeup) try SUPERGOOP! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35. It’s easy and travels well.

2. Look for Makeup Products With Built-In SPF

If you're all about using as few products as possible, you can also look for multitasking face makeup that's made with SPF. For an ideal summer solution with a hydrating, natural finish, try the PURLISSE BEAUTY Illuminating BB Cream with SPF 30.

Full coverage foundations and concealers are easy to find, too, if you want to conceal any blemishes or dark circles. They'll help skin look super smooth while also providing some protection. Whether you opt for a natural-looking dewy or matte finish is more about your personal preference than your skin tone.

Try to look for SPF 30 or higher for enough daily protection.

3. Reach for Cool-Toned Bronzer

"Stay away from orangey-reddish toned bronzers," says Ellen Bodkins, a NYC-based celebrity makeup artist. "Dark-toned bronzers aren't really flattering on pale skin. Instead, she recommends picking up very light beige tones like THE BEAUTY CROP’s Bronzer in Sardinia Sand.

4. Make Sure to Really Blend in the Bronzer

Because streaks can be particularly visible on pale skin tones, it's important to spend a little extra time making sure your bronzer is well blended. "To avoid streaking, make sure your skin and the brush you are using for application are totally dry. Using a larger flat-headed brush also helps for seamless blending," Bodkins says. We love using COMPLEX CULTURE's Press & Set Bronzing Brush.

For a top-tier makeup tip, Bodkins adds, "Don't forget to dust that bronzer on your jawline and also on the sides of your neck. This will make sure that your skin tone is even, especially in those flash pics."

5. Build Your Own Perfect Blush Shade With a Palette

Selecting the right blush shade for pale skin can be tricky. You want to make sure not to choose a color that’s too dark and you also want to pick a shade that pairs well with your skin's undertone (cool, warm, or neutral).

If you want to try a few different blush options to find your perfect match, reach for this non-cakey LOVECRAFT BEAUTY Blush Palette, which comes with three complementary shades that layer like a dream and allow you to create your own customizable shade.

Generally, for blush, you should choose a color that resembles coral or shades of peach, says Gargi Patel, celebrity makeup artist for VASANTI COSMETICS. “These shades will provide a more natural glow,” says Patel.

6. Illuminate Your Eyes With Cream Shadows

On pale skin, most eyeshadow shades will stand out against your fair complexion. If you're going for a super bold, colorful look, this can be ideal! But if you're after an everyday-neutral look, it can be challenging. That's why we love using cream eyeshadows on pale skin. They blend brilliantly and make it easy to control exactly how much color you’re applying. Top it off with a brown eyeliner pencil to complete this natural look.

We love the SUPERGOOP Shimmershade Illuminating Cream because not only does it go on smooth, but it also comes formulated with SPF 30 to keep your lids protected from UV damage.

7. Go Bold With Your Lipstick

"Bright, neutral, and brown-based pinks are always a sure shot when it comes to lip colors [on fair skin]," Bodkins says. "Nude, peachy, and orangey-red shades are also great picks." Conversely, she says orange-toned, dark plums, wines or mauves, and brown lipsticks tend to make the skin look washed out.

8. To Simplify the Perfect Pink Lip, Try a Lip Oil

If you're more into low-maintenance makeup, or if you just like to reserve bright lipsticks for special occasions, opt instead for a universally flattering pink lip oil by YENSA BEAUTY. This is ideal for everyday wear as it offers a light tint, a subtle sheen, and hydration. It can also be easily applied on-the-go without a mirror.

9. Use a Primer

“Pale skin tones tend to be prone to sensitivity, so it's best to use a primer before makeup application to help makeup last long, stay hydrated, and plump,” explains Patel.

The right primer can help blur your pores, reset uneven skin tone, and can help you avoid that cakey makeup look that’s usually the result of applying foundation to dehydrated skin. There are different types of primers that are tailored to specific areas of your face such as the eyes, lips, and face. Learn more about how to choose the best primer for you here. 

10. How to Choose the Right Foundation

“When selecting a foundation shade that matches your skin tone, stay close to your natural color as much as possible. Going lighter or a bit darker will only give off an unnatural look and look remarkably different than your neck,” explains Patel.

“Swatch a few similar shades along the neck against each other and see which one most seamlessly disappears into the skin. Swatch against the neck to bring your body's skin color more harmoniously to your face to give a more seamless effect,” recommends Alex.

If you’re looking for light coverage, you can mix your foundation with your favorite moisturizer for a natural finish. There are seven different types of foundations on the market, so make sure to check this post out to find out which one will work best for you. 

11. Determine Your Undertones

“Undertones are the color within your skin, and can be tricky to pin down. For paler folks, if you tend to burn easily, have a pink quality to your skin, or tend to be reactive, you probably have cool undertones. Paler skin tones that tend to tan a bit more easily or present more yellow or green would be considered warmer undertones,” says Alex.

Not sure what your undertone is? Here is a quick post blog that goes over how you can find out.

12. Start Small With Color

It can be tempting to try all different colors to see what works for your skin. But trust us, there is a method to the madness. Especially when you consult your undertones.

“Paler skin tends to blush with more cool, pink tones, and the contours of the face tend to be more subtle and gray rather than deeper and orange. Because color can show up more quickly and easily on pale skin, start small and build your color to the desired amount. It's easier to add than take away,” says Alex.

Want to learn more about the right products for your skin type? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
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Brittany Leitner
Brittany is an award winning beauty, health, and lifestyle writer and author of the poetry book "23 Emotions." She has eight years of experience writing for brands like Elite Daily, The. Dr. Oz Show, Shape, Stylecaster, Bustle, and more.
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Article Last Updated December 15, 2022 12:00 AM