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.


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:


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...

Many colours, much more different faces. https://humanae.tumblr.com/

Jessy said...

Wow! Finally, someone that describes that gray tone LOL I thought I was crazy :P But it's there and I'm not sick.

Iman said...

I'm native Saudi (Arabian) and I've this olive undertone, it took me so many years to realize this but I've always noticed that no foundation truly match my skin since I'm neither golden, peach nor pink and pastel colors makes me look washed out, I'm glad that more companies have started to make olive toned foundation for us olive skinned women.

When I was discuss this topic with my sister I told her I've olive skin she laughed and said: I knew you are an alien! lmao.

While it is easier to find makeup that matches our skin, when it comes to hair dyes things are a little bit more complicated, almost all the suggestions is to keep my natural jet black hair but I'm somewhat bored of it, so if anyone has suggestions for an olive-friendly hair dye, please do tell

Mary Talbot said...

Hello Iman: I guess there are many different shades of Henna, which washes out after a few washes. Pick a shade that you like and then try it. It is hard for those with black hair to dramatically change their haircolour but Henna is very gentle to the hair and instead of changing the hair colour it coats each strand on the outside.

Mary Talbot

GStone said...

I'm finding a number of your articles very interesting and valuable, including this one. I think your point here would be far better served, though, by an image that wasn't hue-adjusted, as this very clearly is.

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