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Soft Autumn Darkness Adjustments

Soft Autumn Darkness Adjustments

access_time 2011/06/24 account_circle chat_bubble_outline 27 Comments
Every Season makes darkness adjustments for hair colour one woman at a time. There will always be individuals who don’t look right in the median colour, and fare better along the outer edges of the curve.

The viewer feels more relaxed and accepting of our appearance when no element stands apart or needs processing. Hair colour looks believable when it could have happened by itself.

Depending on depth of complexion, personal taste, and occasion, cosmetic darkness is adjusted too, though always staying inside the personal colour palette of the Season, and aiming for the same goals as with the hair.

In 12 Tone personal colour analysis, Soft Autumn is the name given to the type of natural colouring that contains colours mostly characteristic of the Autumn group, but cooled and grayed by a smaller measure of Summer.

In previous posts on Soft Autumn hair colour, I showed a coppery apricot colour as being quite lovely. In every Season, many hair colours are not only possible, but better for some members of the Season than others.

Season describes a group of people who react to colour in similar ways, without implying that they look alike or use their palette in identical ways. Within our group, in our relationships with colour, we share more than we differ. Within our group, we also retain our individuality.

Soft Autumn is a typical Neutral Season in that they have a range of warmer and cooler colours, with none fully warm or cool. The value (meaning, Light>>Dark) range has some movement too, and does not reach the extremes. The setting that is not medium is the softness, which is high relative to other palettes (saying the saturation is low means the same).

Soft autumn beforesoft autumn after copper hair

soft autumn copper hair part

The woman above (all 3 photos) has many apricot brown freckles. She adds those colours to her hair, giving a warmer appearance, as you see in the lower photo where natural medium warm brown and apricot highlight are visible.

With her PCA, she understands that though she appears warm, her warmth is more neutral, so she keeps the highlights warm-neutral with a lot of visible natural colour.

She understands that she is lighter than True Autumn and takes care not to go too dark with the hair colour.

She also knows that softness is key to her colour success, and her colourist has suggested ways of adding a soft toning to reduce the brightness of the colours.

She wears soft orange-brown beautifully in makeup, in a darkness range that unites her natural light appearance with the darkness that all Autumns need to define the face and features.

Because the members of a Season react to colour in the same way, successful makeup colours are often shared or fluctuate within narrow ranges. Once you know your Season, finding your makeup is easy.

Recreate the light you already cast. Make the wavelengths that you synchronous with the ones you are. To the viewer, it feels persuasive.


27 Thoughts on Soft Autumn Darkness Adjustments

  • "; ?> Helen

    I’m always glad to see any new information on soft autumn – I hate being one!!!! I can’t do dark in any shape or form, anything definitely coloured makes my face look dark and my skin look like old leather, and my face tends to go the colour of anything I wear. The only options are the nothingy colours… beige, stone, ivory and more beige. Most of the things in the pictures would be too heavy and dark, I couldn’t wear anything there other than the raincoat. Lipsticks are an equal nightmare, everything turns brown and looks nothingy and heavy, or looks too bright and clownish. Soft is so difficult to do!

    • "; ?> Christine Scaman


      We all had to become students of our Season and adjust to some aspect of it – its coolness, its softness, its darkness. When you move the furniture, it takes awhile to feel at home. I feel distressed by your trouble with the gentle, natural glory of what Soft Autumn can be. I can’t think of anyone (can you?) who really can only wear “nothingy”, or neutral colours. Not being contrary, but I’d have to see it to believe it. Are you sure you’re SA? Do you have a Colour Book? I certainly see SAs who have to very careful of darkness in makeup, and too much heat is a problem as well. But I have yet to see one who can’t manage at least medium darkness in clothing. If the trench is the only thing you feel right in, and because there are such similarities in these Seasons, could you be a Light Spring, maybe? Or have you had a proper analysis?


      I don’t know those technical colour levels. Words, I’m ok with. Think of caramel, toffee, butterscotch. So warmer than taupe but not as hot as copper. Big darkness variation in this group, and there’s never a one-size-fits-all formula. The Soft concept carries to hair too, so no big jumps between the lightest and darkest level. These women usually (not always) sense some lightness works, but the generic blonde is not right. Needs to be warmer, maybe what they call “golden blonde”, which looks like a rug on a Spring head, far too earthy and heavy. You might ask friends who you know will not just tell you what you want to hear (pick the Darks or a True Winter :))

      Mary Steele,

      Yeah, ay? I see this less attractive (I’m being very nice here) choice on many, many (Barbara Walters comes to mind) but, my word, I feel almost sad. Did you see some of the pictures when she had True Autumn hair colour? Was fabulous. I mean, how can they not see this?

  • "; ?> Esther

    Thank you so much for your hard work and thought on this topic Christine. As a Soft Autumn, I find that there are always many layers to understanding my coloring and ‘getting it right’. I often forget that color blocking doesn’t work well with my season, and get bored with a monochromatic look. But I am reminded of how stark contrasts in color don’t do me any favors each time I see pictures of myself in an outfit with contrasting colors (even though they might all be in my palette and follow color wheel rules for matching colors). I do much better in colors that are next to each other on the color wheel (within my palette) or outfits made up of colors that are tones of each other. One question – what level of hair color do you recommend for soft autumns (like what the professionals go by – 5,6,7) and can you name what some of the colors might include – words like ‘chocolate’ ‘caramel’ – things that a soft autumn could take with them to ask their hair stylist for?

  • "; ?> Nynd

    Esther, there’s an article here called “true autumn’s best hair colour” which touches on this – seen that one? (Actually, it went quite some way towards making me finally understand and accept that I mightn’t be one – those colours weren’t in my hair at all: too warm).

  • "; ?> Mary Steele Lawler

    I don’t usually comment on celebrities, but this one is so odd she has remained on my mind: Kathy Lee Gifford has gone blondine. I understand using a blonde wash to cover gray, but her new platinum locks have rendered her features unrecognizable and even made her admittedly overly chirpy commentary sound disconnected from her person. A light nutmeg hair color could put her back in the realm of the believable……..why, oh why did her stylists suggest that she shoot for cougar glamour rather than vintage earthiness?

  • "; ?> Renata

    I think the maintenance is too high once your hair has really gone gray or white to keep it two or three shades darker/warmer, so women go for the pretend blonde. White looking roots frighten people.

  • "; ?> Lauren

    Esther, I have a lot of familiarity with haircolor and I think some good options for soft autumns would be dark bronze blonde/ light bronze brown/medium bronze brown, gold-neutral dark blonde, light gold-neutral brown. I wouldn’t use the word “chocolate” because chocolate browns tend to be quite cool summer or winter browns with a hint of red or purple. Caramel is fine though…

    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Also want to say that the woman at the top has light eyes, so light hair works better. Even medium warm or dark makeup is too dark on her, though she can wear any colour within her palette just fine. A Soft Autumn with deep avocado green eyes or brown eyes, will balance darker hair better. So the base colour is quite variable. The thing to remember and tell the stylist is that there should be no sudden or extreme colour transitions. Soft means colours blur into one another. Light blonde highlights are never right, but a warm apricot to warm toffee brown can all work, keeping them only 2-3 shades away from the base colour for a tone-on-tone effect.

  • "; ?> Jeannie

    Great article. If my consultant did not say med-dark colors for me, I would question being a soft autumn, the example of Kelly MacDonald made me look twice or even Renee Russo. Thanks for including Renee Russo in examples 🙂
    Features wise I seem to correlate to SA. Rust red is better vs terracota but it is still good. Is there such a thing as a Dark Autumn being on the soft side? It may be a style issue…It may just be that it is summer, my hair is lighter and my skin is tan…
    love to hear your thoughts,

  • "; ?> Amy

    Love hearing about facial structure tied into season. Along with this body type and eye formations, too! Keep up the great work, Christine!

  • "; ?> Helen

    Thank you for your reply and I apologise for what on re reading is a very negative post, I’m very sorry to make you feel any distress as I very much enjoy the blog and its detail and expressiveness. I look forward to every new mention of SA to extend my understanding of it, and reading and enjoying the article triggered all my frustration since I love these colours… just not on me! The SA label comes from a UK seasonal analysis session, not Sci/Art, although I look like a fairly stereotypical medium light muted. I’ve wondered before if the group characteristic of what I feel comfortable wearing and which doesn’t turn my face muddy or beige is ‘light’ but I don’t by any means have the clarity of skin or delicacy of colouring that light seasons seem to have. I feel comfortable in white and in silver as well as gold jewellery if it is light/bright and whatever I am seems to be quite neutral. My sister was decided to be a deep winter by this same system and I’ve never thought that was quite right, but then both she and I have significant facial scarring and thickening from scar tissue on the cheeks and forehead, which I’m sure makes it harder to analyse. As you have often mentioned in your articles, it’s very difficult to look at yourself with impartial eyes, or be sure what biases you are seeing through. I’ll live in hope of Sci/Art reaching the UK!

  • "; ?> Christine Scaman

    Jeannie, my dear friend,

    Until I or a Sci\ART colleague gets you analyzed, I just can’t comment. You have been a bafflement to me from the start. Tell you what, if we ever meet, your PCA is on me. 🙂


    There are 2 Sci\ART analysts going to the UK. Nikki Bogardus was there in early June doing PCA. Cheryl Lampard visits as well. Both native Brits, if I’m not mistaken. Contact info in the directory above, in the right sidebar.

  • "; ?> Jeannie

    LOL!!! I just may have to come for a visit 🙂
    I am a mix of body shapes too…I am very active but can find pants so I have more of a feminine style. I am ALL mixed up. hehe I am pretty sure I am a DA…I did some color tests today but I learn towards the feminine styles vs. dramantc. Elea Blake had a picture of a DA on Facebook that I could relate to. I do think the coloring of the Soft Autumns is just gorgeous.

  • "; ?> Denise

    Interesting article. Would a “darkness adjustment” in terms of makeup mean coordinating the color of lipstick/blush with darkness of hair and eyes?

    I’ve been looking for lipstick and blush in the darkest of the most pinkish (cooler side) shades of the palette. I would appreciate any suggestions!

    Do different people within the same season have different “best” colors within the palette?


    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Good questions, with “it depends” type answers. I like lipstick to balance the intensity of hair, but intensity is a non-specific word. Also, Soft Seasons can look great in a light lip, though lips the colour of skin or lighter only look good in magazines, IMO, whatever age you are. So, I guess it depends on the person.
      One of the deeper reds – Shiseido Sheer Natural Red?
      Yes, I think different people look better in some, and also like some better.

  • "; ?> Laura


    I have a suggestion for a topic. Would you explain the blue category in the soft autumn palette? I know that soft, medium to medium dark periwinkle and teal are good, but are there any other colors in the blue family that we should be on the look out for?

  • "; ?> monica

    I am in the same boat with Helen. I have very mousey brown hair, small hazel eyes and light skin with freckles. I had my colors done and was declared a soft/neutral autumn. I do not like the autumn colors. They are just so dull and boring. I love high contrast black and white. I would dress from head to foot in black or pure red if it didn’t make me look like death on a cracker. I have pictures of myself in colors other than the very low contrast ivory and beiges and it’s like I don’t have a face. You can see my hair and clothes, and if you look real hard my eyebrows but that’s all. I can’t even wear dark chocolate browns, they are just too dark for me. Needless to day clothes shopping fills me with dread. I also have the most difficult time finding makeup, especially lipstick.
    Are there any makeup tricks to make a soft autumn look fabulous in black?
    I love reading your articles, even if I hate being a SA.

    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Fabulous in black? No trick that I know.

  • "; ?> Jo

    Hi Folks!

    Jeannie, yes, there is such a think as a soft autumn/dark autumn hybrid – I seem to be one.

    I went through a regrettable phase of Colour Me Beautiful induced Clear Springness, and (for my sanity) moved into Deep Autumn. Then the lovely Nikki Bogardus analysed me on her last trip to London, and eventually pronounced me a medium/dark Soft Autumn.

    I confess that I had serious doubts – mainly because I KNEW that a lot of the Deep Autumn colours look great on me. However, she explained that I do best in the deeper half of the Soft Autumn palette. And she is 100% right!

    I can’t tell you what a relief it was to put on Clinique’s Berry Breeze lipstick, then Revlon’s Soft Rose, then Dior’s Rosewood and to see the perfect lips looking back each time.

    I really do agree with all of you who find the blandness of Soft Autumn challenging! After over a year of the depth and intensity of Deep Autumn, I am feeling rather blob-like and insipid. Using the Sci-Art/Spectrafiles palette there are virtually no ‘true’ colours, and no vibrancy. Every colour (and there are no real pinks, reds, yellows, purples or even greys) is a softened browned or greyed version of a colour. Like a photo that has started to lose its colour.

    Every so often I have to treat myself to some intensity by wearing a Deep Autumn outfit – and the fact that I get compliments suggests that I am still able to wear the deep purples, aubergines, stronger browns, navy and greens.

    I think I will be hovering on the borderland between the two seasons for a loooong time, even if I live on the Soft Autumn side.


    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Oh, screech and squeal, I have been most anxious to hear about this, Jo. I’ve been wondering, those lighter eyes…Simply fabulous result.

  • "; ?> sandra

    I am new to the 12 seasons color system. For the last 10 years my wardrobe consisted of blacks and whites. Ablosutley no color. I tried the spring colors they were to bright. I tried the autumn colors they were to dark. I just want to say thank you . Guess what, the soft autumn colors work amazing on me. I have had nothing but compliments since changing to these colors in the spring of this year. I removed all my black and white pieces from my wardrobe. Even my husband compliments me each and every morning. The one thing I am having an issue with is my hair. After years of highlites and coloring it blonde, I have finally decided to grow out my hair to its natural color. Mousy. Will let you know how this works.
    Thank you again for all your valueable information and please write more for us Soft Autumns.

    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Happy to hear how easy and comfortable it feels to meet yourself and like what you see. That’s what’s on the other side of a PCA resolution. I’ve had a request to write about SA blues which I will be working on next.

  • "; ?> Jo

    Hi Christine!

    How do you photograph eyes? I should send you a pic of my eyes for your album – they are NOTHING like the Soft Autumn eyes you have in the article – grin.


    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Got’ em, Jo. They’re great and gorgeous. I’ll be adding them next week.

  • "; ?> Soliwo

    I am rarely certain now that I may be a Soft Autumn after all, after believing I was warm for a very long time. I think the SA blues that were so horrible on me, may be in fact light spring’s blue. I thought it was too cool, but maybe it was simply too bright for me.

    Another reason that I thought I could not be SA is my dark hair. Blond is not option for me Especially my eyebrows look so deep that might look almost black. Yet me hair, though at the moment quite dark, has always been soft more than deep. Yet, all those celebrities that are designated to be SA seem to dye their hair blond. Could it just be that I am SA leaning warm? Warm autumn colours still suit me better than those of Soft Summer. sSu is not my best friend. Could it be? My eyes too, hazel but mostly green, are not as muddied or greyed as that of many soft autumn’s. Maybe they lean more towards sSu than TA?

  • "; ?> Tammy

    Gosh I so wish you were in the UK. Love reading your work and am on an eternal search, using your advice, to pinpoint or at least focus what season I am. I’ve swayed between a BW, SA and a BS. I have confusing skin tone which hairdressers often take for being warm, yet copper or gold in my hair can make me grey and sick looking. I know I can’t take extremes of colour so am aiming for the more neutral seasons, yet my mother always comes back with “you always look better in darker, brighter colours” (should I listen to her?)… I have very dark eyes, had a medium golden brown hair colour before dying it, that highlighted in the sun. I think on first glance it would be easy to say I’m dark season yet some things contradict such as not looking good in black, or at least when close to my face… Ah, a long post. I’m just offloading thoughts really. I will certainly continue to devour your wisdom and hope one day to get a light bulb moment. The quest continues. Thanks so much.

  • "; ?> F(labbergasting) R(eflections in a mirror)

    Hi Christine,
    Yes, the country could do with a lift, we need you in the UK.
    Reading of the gentle transition in Soft’s colours, & hair colours, wanting to correct my tinted hair, would you think a natural definite stripe of white hair around the face, the rest of the hair naturally medium to dark ash blonde, meaning it gives a very sharp transition., so would that rule out Soft? If left unmolested by tint the mid lengths of my hair Turn pale without sunlight. The white halo is a stripe as definite as animal markings.

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