Pale skin: What’s the deal?

Welcome to another long rambly post with probably no few pictures!

Asians are obsessed with pale skin. I am too, to a degree. Here I attempt to break it down. This is in no way racist: I don’t believe in acting ‘whiter’ than your skin tone, such as using a lighter foundation shade. And as much as I try to be as pale as I humanly can (ie, the natural skin colour I was born with) I don’t try to be paler than I actually am through chemical processes and what not. I envy pale skinned folks for reasons outlined mainly in no. 3 below, mostly make up related, but it’s but an insignificant bonus in life.

Quick story: I used to a bit chubby and pale when I was 15. When I went back to visit my relatives in China at 17, I slimmed down a lot, and tanned a lot, due to sports. Everyone told me I looked ‘dark and starved.’ So yes, in most parts of China, it’s totally in to be pale, and very slightly chubby.

So, reasons why pale skin is loved:

  1. Pale skin is a classist remnant of years past. In the past, labourers were under the hot sun and got tanned. Pale skin meant you could sit at home all day, do nothing, chase butterflies, gossip with your family etc. (If you watch Chinese period dramas, you will totally get what I mean.) That’s why, with the emerging middle class, people try to be as pale as possible, so as to look posh/rich.
  2. Pale skin is a sign of non-sunburnt skin. By now, we all know the benefits of sunscreen and how tanning can cause cancer, wrinkles, premature aging, and so on. Many Asian women I’ve seen still have beautiful, plump skin, because they assiduously avoid the sun. So pale skin is infinitely more covetable than tanned skin. (Bronzer is another issue completely!)
  3. The most important reason of all, only in this context: I feel that pale skin is very pure in colour and tone, and allows make up to really shine. I have been using Photoshop for 8 years, so I know what I’m talking about. Colour gets messed up if skin shows up underneath it. Very, very pale people can get away with practically any kind of make up, because the tones read so pure and true to life. Conversely, on me, the more tanned I get, the more yellow I get (I swear my arms look jaundiced!) and the more certain colours (especially blues) look really, really clashing on me. Generally, the more pale you are, the less obvious your yellow/pink tones are, which makes all colours in the spectrum easy to wear. Also, if you’re pale, features tend to be more prominent or, failing that, easier to draw attention to. Think Cara Delevigne’s brows: they wouldn’t be so stunning if she had dark skin (sad but true, unless a dark-skinned model bleaches her brows blonde?) With super pale skin, you have a clean tableau rasa to make-up on.

Here are some examples:


I absolutely love Kiko Cosmetics’ new fall campaign. Because I love steampunk, I am a (semi) rebel, and I am a total romantic. I also absolutely love the model’s pale, pale skin. The green shadow, which would look very sallow on me (due to the yellow tones of the green blending with my yellow tones) with what appears to be a metallic, slightly coppery lipstick, a dramatic combo that I think wouldn’t work on someone with a medium skin tone. (Although, dark skin tones may do this look well too.) The red hair is a bonus.

(I’ve always loved red hair, but I also realized that very pale people look very good whatever their hair colour is, whether it’s very light, like platinum blonde, or very dark, like black. Complement or contrast it, both work. Not like me, I probably will look like a suntanning whore if I went platinum blonde. Very dark skinned people actually also look pretty good in the full spectrum of light-dark. It’s only medium-toned people like us who sob.)

Kate from Drivelaboutfrivol is one of my favourite bloggers ever. Though I am not as superbly into make up as her, I totally enjoy her in-depth analysis of just about all make up. She is super duper insanely pale, and you can see how the beautiful gold sparkles, copper tones and just about everything shows up so well on her eyes. Her lip colour also looks neon, glowing, and LED like.

Brightestbulbinthebox is also one of my favourites (WHY DID THEY STOP BLOGGING, WHY!) and Robyn is also super pale, but probably not as pale as Kate. Envy much, look at how the brown liner shows up so well on her. I use brown liner as a if-it-smudges-it-blends-into-my-skin kind of quickie liner.

Everything aside, there are also some bad things about being pale. If you are too pale, it’s impossible to find a good foundation match. For me, I am approximately at a universally-easily-available NC20-25. I can find a match in like, literally every foundation ever.

So this sums up my analysis of pale skin and why I aspire towards it, for simply, ease of wearing different make up. It’s good to strive towards being paler anyway, because of the sun damage issue. Do you have any thoughts? It must be terribly hard to buy good make up with darker skin! (I know this is an issue, darker skin tones don’t have as much stuff catering to them.)


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