A PCA Perspective on Matching Foundation

I’ve written about “How To Match Foundation” before, here.

I watched this video and and thought about how it might apply to PCA.

By far, this is the best foundation matching video I have seen. From a colour analyst’s perspective, I agree with so much of what Lisa says.

1. The skin on your entire body is united. Your genetics did not put a different melanin, carotene, or hemoglobin in your hands than your back. The overtones in the face or hands or feet may be different from the rest of the body, but the undertone will not be.

2. The skin contains many colors, reds, greens, blues, and yellows.

3. I fully agree with the importance of self-knowledge, but some types of self-knowledge are nearly impossible to access on your own. You can’t know your red blood cell level without measuring it. You can’t know which foundation matches your skin best without measuring it, meaning comparing several different shades together at the same time. Comparison is a form of measurement that delivers greater than and less than data.

As Lisa says, the apparent skin colour is different for different parts of the face and body. And yet, all of our skin is united in its undertone. Terry wrote about this recently in her article, “What Is Under My Overtone?”

You can’t know your undertone without measuring it. These things are part of our internal biology, extremely difficult to evaluate simply by external observation because they don’t sit on the surface.

Many women have concerns about facial skin texture, areas of uneven pigmentation, rosacea, suntans, and so on. They have asked whether any of these compromise the result of the colour analysis, or if we should be working from neck or chest skin that is more even. The answer is no if the analysis process is analyzing to your undertone, not your overtone.

Warning: BIG digression coming up. It fits into todays’ context and many others.

Photo: livinus
Photo: livinus

 

Defining Your PCA Service

In the last article, some folks heard arrogance from me at the idea that what we think we see is not real.

There is no judgment here. I am not pointing out wrong or right. I truly apologize if it sounded that way. If you spoke to me, you’d know that I’m not 100% sure that  my way is right. I’m always pulling back from that line because I have unanswered questions about PCA myself, Sci\ART system included. In life, there is no 100% wrong or 100% right. There is only lifelong growth. If you’re waiting for 100% locked down forever, you’ll wait a long time.

I do not want anyone to be uncomfortable. All I want is for your clients to be happy with you and my clients to be happy with me. The present situation, full of doubt and misunderstanding, is not good for any of us. Wouldn’t our industry be healthier if clients knew what they were getting and could just enjoy the results? The present situation is keeping us all stuck in the  80s. Feelings are being hurt and business  is not progressing. Someone is going to have get brave and talk openly and fairly. If we, analysts and clients both, don’t put our hands out to steady the wheel, all we’ll ever be is skidding around on black ice.

Every industry exists to serve the public. People have a  desire, a need, and a right to know what they’re buying. You don’t have to agree with how I do an analysis. The point is not to get the public quizzing analysts and making everyone bananas including themselves. The point is to have everyone define how they do things and why. The public can then make an informed choice. The analyst gets the right clients for what they offer. Expectations are satisfied or exceeded.

Isn’t this better than the way it is now, where Personal Colour Analysis implies that we’re doing the same thing and nobody’s ever happy and calm? Why wouldn’t an analyst want her clients to know how she can help them? Why would you, as an analyst, want your business lumped with mine in the public mind, when I cannot offer a client what you can? Businesses define themselves all the time without taking offence or hearing criticism. It’s normal, not harsh or unfair.

If I define my business, what I do and why I do it, it is not to say others are wrong. It is to create a space for everyone else to do the same thing. I get that the transition from  One-Exercise-For-All to Yoga/Intervals/Step/Weights/Pilates/Core/Running/Bosu/P90X  was frustrating, but I believe that someone has to lay out a path for each version can grow and improve, released from the constraints of the pack.

We could distinguish PCA services. They are totally different from beginning to end, though various mixtures have evolved to get the consumer really mixed up. There seem to be two broad categories.

Systems A to D have their colour palettes. The colours for each group are chosen for looking good and belonging together according to that person or company’s taste.

If draping is involved, which drape goes into which Season was decided because it looked right.

As well as judging swatches and drapes for Seasons because they look right, so is the client’s colouring observed on its own, by how it looks.  A – D observes the surface person, believing that, “You truly are what you look like you are today.”

This is one definition of PCA and its desired outcome. A – D have a good argument on side. After all, we are judged on how we appear to look. If you believe in this method, the clients who agree want to know so they can find you. They will be unhappy and confused with my approach, which involves measuring palettes, drapes, and clients by multiple comparisons at every step. On your web page, define what you do and why you believe in doing it that way. Since I don’t understand that way, I cannot do justice to your business. I’d be lucky to match a paint chip from a choice of 100 similar colours, never mind isolate it from a face.

Only you can market and promote your business. I am not tearing anyone down, I am simply defining my business. If my approach sounds flawed to you, I would be first to read about why. Teach me something. That’s what I really want. Convince me of how I could improve. I’ll send you a free book to express my gratitude.

Here’s how it all looks to me: Systems J – M say, “I’m not so sure. First of all, my colouring looks different in every outfit, hair colour, and room lighting. Second, I know that humans are not good at knowing what a colour is on its own, let alone when many colours are mixed together, like in a face or in skin. As soon as colours touch, they change. Thirdly, our colours just can’t be expressed in the top layers of skin, or not only there. It makes no sense. I mean, why is my face is different from my hand from my belly? I need to bark up another tree if I’m going to find the right foundation.”

J – M  then say, “Even if all my body parts were all the same colour, who knows the exact colours in skin? Look at ten people with their hair covered and their eyes closed and tell me the exact reds, greens, blues, and yellows in their skin tone.”

J – M stew some more and add, “One other thing. I think it all goes a bit deeper. The impression of our appearance is formed by many brain areas, not just a 2-dimensional top layer snapshot. Something else is going on here. Believe it or not, human surface skin is see-through to human eyes. Seems to me that that’s where the real information is.” While some human beings are better at eyeballing colours than others, and one does get better with practice, the fact is that in general, we are not consistently good at it. You have to compare them to something unless you’re able to literally measure their wavelength.

J – M say the surface is not enough information, it’s different for different body areas, and it is influenced by everything around it.  If you gauge foundation to the colour you think you see on the surface, even if you pick the right section of surface, you could easily get the colour incorrect. There has to be another way.

Services J  – M look through and beneath the surface at the undertone, thus removing the errors the overtone brings in. This group take the “You are not what you look like you are.” approach.

Well, anyone who has spent 10 minutes on an online colour site knows that the Sci\ART-based systems fit in with J – M but they don’t do things at all the same. Some don’t use the gray surrounding. There is lots of variability in how Better and Worse decisions are made. Some don’t use test drapes. Some take 30 minutes to know your Season, some take 1.5 hours. There is conflict about the meaning and appearance of harmony. Numerous Sci\ART- based analysts practice very close to how Systems A – D do things, by what looks right, with their own reasons for doing so. Not wrong, but different for sure. Too different to match.

None of this is a secret. It ain’t a perfect world. The public thinks we’re all doing the same thing because we stemmed from Sci\ART. This is not the case. It explains why I took down the Sci/ART Analyst Directory. I do not presume to speak for Australia, but in North America, the Sci\ART system has been re-interpreted so many times at this point that the name should go out of usage except historically. Let all analysts stand alone according to their practice, which they explain on their websites. Refer back to differences with me if you like, I’d be fine with it. Take down all the Sci\ART Certified banners. The public will stop expecting the same product. For my students, so that the public can expect the same product, the process isn’t up for negotiation. Discussion, sure. Do I think I can control everyone forever? No, just as Kathryn couldn’t. I can only separate myself from them in a public way.

Photo: sumeja
Photo: sumeja

 

Looking Is A Painting. Measuring Is An Analysis.

If we render what we see, that’s a beautiful painting. Change your clothes, hair colour, and the time of day, it’s a different beautiful painting.

I have nothing against beautiful paintings. A group of interesting colours that depict a version of me would be awesome. I would really love to have this. There are people who work in this way, with extraordinary taste and fascinating colour perception. I would love 1000 of these renditions. Each one is a version of how we are seen through the eyes of others. That stuff is absolute magic.

But that wasn’t why I had my colouring analyzed. I wanted to know what to buy every day for the me that’s always the same. Different question, different purpose and approach, different outcome. I wanted a functional wardrobe.

The consumer needs to identify what they want. It is their job to decide and to stick by their decision. Perhaps they could do their job better if they could understand that they are not investing in the same product. Both great products, but not equivalent. I know colour analysts who feel these are or should be comparable products. I disagree and advise the public to stop trying find a relationship between them. There isn’t one that will redeem the time you took to figure it out.

Here’s why I use my product: My issue with looking: I can’t get it to work every single day, with many outfits and  makeup that is always right on my face.

I meet greenish-gray-eyed Summers that were decorated far too warmly. Her hair is too orange, her clothes are too warm, so the skin turned yellower. It could all go together if we just give her yellower foundation and took time to blend, except that her clothes and eyes create combinations that are unappealing. Therein lies Problem #1, even if we can change our skin, we always wear our eye colour. The colours in eyes repeat the colours in skin, though skin has many more. They’re never different. Nature never colours anybody discordantly. Do your swatches look good with your eyes? Even True Winter and True Summer can easily have lots of yellow in the eyes, lots, but it will be that green-yellow match from their measured palette.

In too-warm clothes or foundation, she could think she has a healthy-looking tan. In reality, her eye colours have dulled and the lip outline erased. Feature definition is the biggest part of looking young (good article linked further down). It’s massively important to decisions others make about us. Me, I’d want an analyst who could talk about that, Sci\ART based or not. Problem #2: too warm colour flattens feature definition. This includes too-yellow foundation. Besides,  a healthy glow doesn’t come about from yellow foundation or a yellow overtone from too warm clothing (not discussing self-tanner on faces here). It comes from wearing clothing and blush that elevate the colour of our natural circulation and from correct use of bronzer.

I meet many brown-eyed, freckled Winter blends who have been observed into Autumn colours. Nobody would decorate a room combining Winter and Autumn colours. This is  not an attractive match. Our eye and clothing colours are seen together and there’s not a thing we can do about it (not discussing coloured contacts here), as is the undertone because human eyes can see through human surface skin. A Winter’s skin colours are not gorgeous next to Autumn cosmetics. A Winter using elephant gray and chocolate brown as the neutral backbone of her wardrobe is not making her best choices. The wardrobe won’t work with her makeup or jewelry. Problem #3: from you to your palette, there has to be a functional and appealing wardrobe of clothing and cosmetics if that is what you were investing in.

I believe that we are not what we appear to be in a million different ways. My purpose is to place you more organically and energetically into your colour palette, on the same wavelength as all of your clothes and makeup, in the colours that you really are as determined by calibrated measurement. Why use the word energetic? Because I believe humans feel energy as wavelength very well if they let themselves. Now the discussion is getting too deep. I direct you two articles back to Can True Beauty Be Diminished? if you feel like wading into the Universal Energy swamp. You can always find me there.

Big digression complete. We can all exhale.

Photo: michelini
Photo: michelini

 

4. The area of the face that Lisa matches to foundation makes sense to me. I like to use the lower jaw and drag it down onto the backside of the neck, for the same reasons as she does. I also test five or six different stripes side-by-side. With colour, comparison is the only way to tell what works and what doesn’t. I would insist on that and never buy foundation from a single test. I meet way more cool and cool-neutral people than warm or warm-neutral. The foundation range out there is way the opposite, not counting all the peachy coloured product that looks like real skin colour under department store light and like candy in daylight.

5. Wear a neutral gray and tie your hair to choose the colour. Deciding your Season or your foundation by looking requires the consultant to take what they think they see, and make more. If what they think they see is correct, great. Some cosmetic consultants are pretty darn good judges of true colouring.

If you went shopping as one of the many Dark Winters who look yellow because of their clothing or surroundings, the only thing that happens is that the error gets magnified. The consultant will make more of what you’re not. Could most makeup consultants explain how to correctly distinguish and identify undertone from overtone, or just define the terms?

6. As Lisa says, once you have a colour that unites the face and the neck, meaning the right foundation for your undertone, the entire face, neck, and chest will blend together. It is the very rare person who needs to adjust foundation to match the neck because they are so disparate in the overtones.

Begin by getting the heat level of any product correct. Heat level is determined by undertone. It is amazing what difference that alone will make.

After that, choose the darkness level, which is determined by under- and over-tone.

After that, be sure the heat type is correct for the skin. Most companies over-warm all their foundations, including those marked Cool. To complicate things further, they use Spring’s pigmentation to do so. Not easy to find a great Autumn foundation.

Imagine being a Caucasian Dark Winter – the difficulty of finding cool colour and Autumn type heat and Winter level lightness. Wearing wrong colour clothing to the appointment makes the job near impossible.

Photo: alba-neag
Photo: alba-neag

 

7. Often women come to a PCA appointment with correctors of various sorts. Once she is wearing her correct clothing colours, she has forgotten all about them. There is nothing that correctors would do or could do that foundation alone has not already done unless there is a particular issue like a birthmark, and even those are diminished greatly by wearing correct colours.

Watching Lisa work is hypnotic. The video on Marilyn’s makeup is great. You will also find this beautiful video for mature skin. Great place for new analysts to pick up some good ideas.

8. I talked above about the importance of defined features for looking younger. This article does a beautiful job of discussing it. Kathryn Kalisz wrote about it in her analyst guide. This is not new information for colour analysts that I dreamed up out of the blue. People say I invented things and changed Sci\ART-based colour analysis. No, I did not. If anything, Terry and I altered the original process the least of everyone, and remain unconvinced to do so. I did notice a few things independent of other things and described them with a new set of words. Maybe folks did not recognize them.

In your correct colours, features are most defined in colour and in shape. It really matters.

Defined in colour… Though they have a place, I am not a fan of nude lips on most types of coloring, particularly when hair or eye colors are intense, or the person is over 35 or 40. It doesn’t have nearly as much excitement on Lisa herself. Why pick the more exciting face? Because why pick the more boring face.

Defined in shape…How does feature definition look young? Because the opposite…think of an eroded statue, an eroded landscape. Signifies wear and tear.

Lately, I am wondering if maturing skin is an overtone change too. The surface layers appear grayer, possibly because we contain less water. In the undertone layers, we test mature women in every single Season, and I bet the very same Season as when they were younger. Many Darks, many Brights. For overtone practitioners, that surface grayness plus silvering hair is the reason they get put into Summer Seasons. Except their edges and colours disappear. No judgment here but I don’t see the visual as being so good. Eroded edges are fuzzy. Looks like blur. Side by side, which of these would look younger?

Photo: giulioplay
Photo: giulioplay

 

Stronger? Healthier? Newer? The focused ones or the others?

Photo: rosa02
Photo: rosa02

 

—–

10 thoughts on “A PCA Perspective on Matching Foundation”

  1. Good article Christine. I have a feeling I’m wearing a too-yellow foundation for my pale TSu skin. It’s the original Laura Mercier Powder Foundation in No. 1.

    (http://www.lauramercier.com/store/shop/Apply%20Foundation_Foundation%20Powder_prod210059#ColorSampleLink_sku110141).

    On my computer it even looks yellow. But, I really love the way this foundation works for my oily/combo skin. It feels good, isn’t cakey, and looks like I’m not wearing much if any foundation. But I worry the color is off. LM has a new powder foundation which gets universal hatred although it has many more color choices, some of which I suspect would be more for TSu. I find it difficult to compare powder foundation at department stores because it’s just hard to swipe on a line next to each other to compare. Do you have any recommendations for powder foundation?

    Interesting that the SciArt process is not more similar among PCA analysts. I didn’t realize this. I hope my analyst got it right. I think she did because my husband, who has a fantastic eye for color, thinks I do look better in the TSu palette than what I used to wear which was closer to W. I feel comfortable in TSu.

  2. Interesting article, Christine. It made me think about the relation of MBTI and our preferred PCA approach. It seems to me you wrote somewhere you’re INTJ. Couldn’t it be possible that Sci/ART based system is closer to people who are intuitives in MBTI (trying to see beneath the person’s colouring; what we think we see is not real; etc.)? Even if not in general, perhaps there is a certain trend. Just thinking…

  3. Are you familiar with the Meow mineral foundations? 80+ shades, 8 value levels, 13 hues from icy to golden. $1 samples, as many as you want. I’ve gotten a better match from them, by comparing six different samples, than I’ve ever gotten from anything. I would be FASCINATED to see what a color analyst could do with them.

  4. Thought provoking as always! Re: your last comment about clear edges looking younger and healthier. I suspect this is very true for winters, and as a dark winter is a definition of beauty you see every day! I’m not so sure about the softs and the true summers. The pictures of softs (and maybe true summer) from your “name” is a “season” series look to me like the edges are a little blurred – maybe like a soft focus picture. I would consider that look part of the particular beauty of those seasons. But defining beauty as “clearly defined edges” makes people less likely to be draped in those categories, I would think. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this observation.

  5. I was trying to frame my thoughts around a similar question to what Denise put so well above. As a draped Soft Summer, what I love the most about my colors is how they soften my face. I have slightly sharp and narrow facial bones, and never really liked this quality. What convinced my on the accuracy of Soft Summer, was how much fuller my face looked immediately in the correct drapes. Fuller, less defined, more blended. Myself, only better. When I wear colors from other seasons, as I do from time to time, I always notice how much sharper i look — there are more edges and shadows on my face. So I am wondering if it is merely a matter of definition (i.e. would you look at me in Soft Summer draped and say “aha, clearly defined edges” whereas I see softened, blurred edges?)

  6. Great discussion! As a draped Soft Summer, here’s my take: Its about keeping the youthful contrast that is right for your season. Yup, what is the right contrast for a Winter is harsh and aging on us – but, as a 51 year old, I still cannot believe the wonderful difference in my eyes with just a touch of the RIGHT eyeliner, and how luscious my lips can still look, again with lipstick in the right darkness/ heat / brightness for me. Without a simple touch of my right makeup, i can see the “eroded” faded look, even in my seasons colours – whereas a young SSu pretty well has her right youthful contrast without makeup…but its different than the youthful contrast that a young BW has. Maybe overall, our pigment intensity can fade as we get older, relative to our seasons, as always?

  7. “To complicate things further, they use Spring’s pigmentation to do so. Not easy to find a great Autumn foundation.” – Exactly!! You’ve been reading my mind. I came here today wanting to do some more reading and thinking about foundation, after reading Terry’s article, and I found this. I know I am neutral warm (DA), and leaning warm within my season, and fair. Fair ‘cool’ foundations (as in pink) don’t work, look like calamine lotion. Fair ‘warm’ foundations, which are very yellow (spring!) also don’t work and make me look sallow. A slightly more medium foundation in the cool category, has red in it and not just yellow, works. Hence why I suggested in a previous post that finding foundation seems a lot of trial and error across categories of warm and cool, since not all companies categorize in the same way.

    As you mention graying and aging, a question I’ve had for ages. Are there any generalities in how the various seasons gray? My sister is a Light Summer and went gray very early and is now an all-over bright silvery white. At roughly the same age, I have no gray hair in my chestnut brown hair. For us, it looks like the difference in warm versus cool hair, but is this more widely the case?

  8. Hi, Kim,

    I don’t have a powder foundation suggestion. I agree with you that that this product is misleading in the pan and often is quite yellow, or (on my skin anyhow), becomes quite yellow. Finding truly cool foundation is a job and a half. The Merle Norman company is pretty good at colouring products correctly. I find Sesame to be a great foundation on many Summers and I see that they have several powder choices, some of them in comparable colours. Maybe worth a try?

  9. I’ve wondered that as well, Mimi. There is something that wants dissection, measurement, reliable proof. In general, one could say that Springs think more about how things look and Autumns about how things work, I considered that possibility, but I know too many exceptions. I agree that there is a mindset that isn’t satisfied with anything that doesn’t stand up to rational questioning, that has nothing to do with any prior scientific training.

  10. It’s two different things, as you suggest, Denise, but you have to see it. When I look at any face, I want every lens to be in perfect focus and every windshield (eye) to be crystal clear. I do not want any feelings that part of the face has been washed off. But when colour distinctions are gradual (Summer), the overall effect can be softened. Maybe like a lilac tree, even when focused, the elements seem to move into one another.

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