What "Olive-Skinned" Really Means

June 9, 2019

Most people either think that "olive" skin tone is the same as "tan" or "dark", or that it refers to some kind of "nonwhite" or "mixed" ethnicity ranging from the Mediterranean region to Latin America. But it's actually one of several skin undertones that have nothing to do with what race or shade someone is.

When shopping for foundation, you've probably heard the terms "cool," "warm," or "neutral" to describe how a shade will look on skin. Those terms refer to your skin's undertone and are used to determine which foundation shade will match it the best.

Cool, warm, or neutral undertones are the colors that come through your skin from underneath the surface to affect its overall hue. It's not about how light or dark your skin is; people of all skin colors, from very fair to deep, can have cool, warm, or neutral undertones. Here's what each of these terms means:

Cool: Hints of bluish, pink, or a ruddy complexion.

Warm: Skin skews yellow, sallow, peachy, or golden.

Neutral: Has no obvious overtones of pink or sallow skin, but rather the skin's natural color is more evident.

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Does your skin look somewhat ashen or gray? You might have the wild card of the bunch — olive skin — which is a combination of the natural neutral, slightly yellow undertone everyone has plus the greenish ashen hue that's unique to olive skin. Olive skin tone is very specific, but is not neutral, as some tend to call it.

Here's what the 4 different undertones would look like on light untanned skin:


And here are people of different races and shades with 3 of the undertones:

3 comments

Unknown said...

Well, thank you for pointing this out!!! I have olive skin and it is the hardest to match for foundation because it is neither warm, cool , pink, nor golden....
I wish there was a make-up line specifically for us olive skin babes !!!

Thanks - good post!

Latinus said...

I think the Golden undertone is a common skin tone trait among Scandinavians, while most British Islanders have the cool complexion.

Pinganilla said...


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