Why Does Makeup Change Colour On Your Face? Thumbnail

Why Does Makeup Change Colour On Your Face?

Why Does Makeup Change Colour On Your Face?

access_time 2010/06/19 account_circle chat_bubble_outline 22 Comments
Reason 1: Because not all the pigments in the makeup can find a match in your own skin. Those that find a match just blend away into your face. Those that don’t sit on top, separate from the rest, looking like a colour change happened.


We have all put on cosmetic colors that turned orange or bubblegum pink. Why?

When I got my colour analysis makeup colours, I soon realized that the colour change (everything used to turn orange) stopped happening.

When makeup and skin colours harmonize, the cosmetic virtually disappears. It fuses with the face. Even with a heavy application, the makeup seems to mesh with the face because those are the colours already in the face. As soon as my lipstick purchases were at the same warm-cool level and my own colours, products no longer changed colour.

Reason 2: Your own lip or skin colour will come through and affect the cosmetic colour. A woman with very pigmented lips and another with pale lips, though they be of the same Season, will not wear the same lipstick to best effect. The first one may choose from the brighter end. The second  may find lipsticks become too bright or a particular colour seems to prominent, and she will choose a different colour, perhaps closer to a flesh tone or a colour her warmer neighbour Season might wear.

Reason 3: Skin temperature and pH. Cosmetics have ingredients that change colour based on body temperature and skin pH. How often this happens, I do not know. I don’t recall any woman who had to find all new makeup when she began on a certain medication.

Reason 4: Lighting. Colour looks bluer in morning light, for example. In general, I think our brains adapt for that, just as they see white walls as white, though they’re usually influenced by light or furniture. I don’t recall seeing a lipstick and feeling it would work in the afternoon but not the morning. Certainly, darker or brighter colours work better at night but that’s a dimness issue more than a colour one.

Reason 5: Other variables, such as hair and clothes? Maybe. Every colour affects every other colour. Perfect hair colour will never look as good in wrong-coloured clothing or makeup. It is most important to have your right hair colour when you buy makeup or tie it back if it is a work in progress.



22 Thoughts on Why Does Makeup Change Colour On Your Face?

  • "; ?> Kathy

    Honestly, I think there more variable at work, other than just “the color isn’t already in your face.”

    “Your own lip or skin color causing a bizarre combination color? Sheer gloss maybe. Not likely though, other than what I described above. The concentration of pigment in skin can’t compete with a cosmetic.”

    If you have heavily pigmented lips, yes. Mine are red, like “just sucked on a popsicle red” — naturally. Unless the color is as vivid as my own lip color, regardless of shade, it turns red. My own color bleeds through, so to speak.

    ” Color-change lipsticks have ingredients that change color based on body temperature and skin pH. “
    Powder foundation is notorious for changing color. Actually, it doesn’t really change color, it just gets darker. Think of what happens when you add oil to powder: it becomes more intense. I guess saying it changes color is misleading, but MAC especially is guilty of this. A lot of people say their foundations “turn orange.”

  • "; ?> Jes

    I noticed that sometimes cool-coloured lipsticks started to look warm on me and a warm-coloured lipgloss started to look cooler. Weird.

  • "; ?> Adriane

    You theory very much makes sense to me. Thanks for the excellent explanation! I don’t have any added insights, except to wonder, perhaps, over the phenomenon of soft autumns and pink-toned lip colors. It seems that even neutral-appearing pink shades which match the swatch book can sometimes appear to sit too “pinkly” atop the lips. I don’t exactly know why, though.

  • "; ?> Jo

    Since wearing makeup that is my season, and since finding a mineral foundation that actually matches my skintone (now I know what my skintone is!), the ‘disappearing makeup trick’ has been a constant pleasure to me. I certainly broadly agree with your statement Christine, however, there seem to be definite exceptions:

    Lighting: I put my makup on by either natural indirect light or by ‘daylight’ lamps. I am pleased with the effect. Then I wander into the bathroom and look ghastly. The walls are cornflower blue, and my skin is warm toned. The effect is… post mortem. So lighting definitely DOES make a difference.

    There are also some brands which contain ingredients (Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation is a prime example) that react to camera flashes and fluorescent light. EL DW goes ghost pale. I am sure there are other brands and other types of makeup (lipstick, blusher, etc.) which change colour – lighter, darker, different pigments reacting to different light wavelengths.

    Oil: As the resigned owner of a LOT of over-active sebaceous glands I can tell you that it definitely has an impact on the colour (and sheen) of makeup. Foundations and powders darken and their pigmentation intensifies. I have to allow for this, because by midmorning my mineral powder has darkened at least one shade and the colour, whether pink, yellow or orange-based has been enhanced.

    What I CAN say for certain is that if the makeup I am wearing is one of my season’s colours, then any colour change is LESS OBVIOUS because it merges with my natural colouring.


    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Kathy, Jo, Nanina,

      I agree that there it feels like there should be other variables at work here, and probably are. Powders getting darker, for instance, absolutely happens.

      This point about ‘colors already in the face’ can just add to the conversation, in a meaningful way.

      Perhaps one of those other factors is at the root of Adriane’s observation. When I look at a color, the first question I ask myself is “Is it clear?”. That’s not always cut and dried. There may be a bit of grayness or earthiness, but on skin, there’s not enough to make it Soft Autumn’s, so I usually give it to Light Spring. When you look at the entire Soft Autumn palette, there is an absolute feeling of dullness, for want of a better word. This is the lowest key colours come in. Not “earthy”, that’s Autumn. This is gentle and dull – trying to come up with a visual here, but not succeeding. Looking at 1 color at a time, it becomes more difficult to judge clarity. My guess, Adriane, is that the colors that come up pink may in fact be too clear. You may have the level of neutrality correct from a warm-cool perspective, but needs “duller” color. Pinkly is a rather lovely word, by the way.

  • "; ?> Nanina

    Wow, I totally had this a few years ago. I bought a beautiful berry lipstick (it was either Maybelline Water Shine Diamonds Raspberry Shimmer or Sequin Ruby) and on my lips, it turned orange! I was horrified and gave the lipstick to my mum. On her lips, it looked a perfect berry pink, just the color I had imagined it to be. That had never happened to me before and hasn’t happened again since. I think my mum is a summer of some sort, while I am not sure about myself, but I guess I’m in some neutral category. Still not sure though 😉

  • "; ?> Adriane

    I don’t mind, “duller” at all. 🙂 I think you’ve hit the nail on the head–this is an epiphany and so useful. Thanks for explaining what happens when clear colors come into contact with a muted, grayish surface. They create quite the visual ripple.

    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      And sadly, Adriane, it happens all the time. The makeup company wouldn’t commit to either clear or muted, so they made something that satisfies neither. Trying to keep everybody happy will never make you as many friends as taking a stand, as we both know, but consumers have trouble telling the difference, so they get away with it.

  • "; ?> Claudia

    Hi Christine — A very informative article. May I tell you about my experience yesterday and today trying on different (deep vs. true) winter makeup colors?

    Yesterday, I stopped by the mall and decided to try a blush and lipstick. The blush was the Lancome aplum. Looked alright, but nothing to write home about. Didn’t really show up on me, to be honest, even in daylight. I tried the EL plumberry lipstick, thinking it might work for a deep winter. Wow, it was a statement on me. Is it more deep or true? I had also tried Clinique brandy apple before and it looked quite orange on me, so I figured I would quit for the day.

    Anyhow, undaunted, that night I copied my makeup colors carefully from your cool winter article on agreenertea so I could try them on at the mall the next afternoon. My first stop the next day, after applying a YSL powder foundation, was the Chanel counter. I thought I would start with the eyeshadow quad in mystic. My first thought, looking at the quad was that the colors were lovely but had quite a bit of shimmer. I don’t mind some shimmer, but in every color but the deepest? I let the MUA place the shades on me, and we used the deepest shade as a liner. Hmmm …. looking in the mirror, too soon to tell. Maybe it could work? And who can really tell in those ghastly mall lights? I mean, REALLY, someone should do something about that. My guess is the money spent on appropriate lighting would be more than compensated by the fewer returns being done at the counters, but I digress.

    So, next was blush. Should I try the NARS sin or the MAC colors, coygirl or pink swoon? I glanced at the NARS sin. “Wow, what was Christine thinking? How could she possibly think that dull grey-ish purple color would look great on anyone?” So, I quickly made a bee-line for the MAC counter. “Ooh, pink swoon is pretty, though bright. Where is coygirl?” I looked at coygirl. Again, it seemed very dull to me.

    Now, for lipstick. Rebel swatched bright on my hand – maybe a good evening color? Plumful was pretty, but I wasn’t in the mood for that shade of pink, so onto sophisto. I had worn it before with half-red liner, and thought it looked nice. I swatched it on my hand. Wow, it barely showed up – just a wash of pink/plum shimmer. I decided to go with pink swoon, sophisto, and half red liner.

    I prefer to put on my makeup myself, but I went ahead and let the MAC MUA put on the blush. Well, she put on a LOT of pink swoon. I looked in the mirror. My skin looked pale against the obvious pink, but oh well, maybe it was the mall lights? She suggested I try blushbaby, something softer, but I was determined to stick with true winter colors so I could see how they all worked together with my skin. We proceeded with the lipstick – which she let me put on myself – and I peeked in the mirror again. Wow – what a difference. My face looked ALMOST put together. The blush still seemed bright. I thanked the young lady and began walking out of the store. But then, I had to to pass the NARS counter on my way out and I thought, “I wonder …” So, I stripped off the MAC blush with a tissue, and had the gal at the counter place a bit of sin on my cheeks. When I looked in the mirror, I could not believe it! The blush did not look grey or purple on me at all! It actually pulled … pinky-peach-plum? Really, I don’t know what color it was pulling, it just looked like blush. Very natural. I checked again. Nope, not grey-purple at all. But I knew the real test would be natural light. So I again thanked the girl and hurried out to my car.

    I looked in the rear view mirror. In daylight, my eyes didn’t look pale or tired at all to me. In fact, the shimmer picked up the amber lights present in my own brown eyes with a touch of hazel. The blush looked very, very natural – perhaps a bit too much so, as the MUA used a light hand – but it was still noticeable. The lipstick was very comfortable, not distracting at all. Was it too natural, too muted? I used the camera on my phone to take pics. (I know, not ideal, but at least the light was natural light). I compared those pics to others I had taken with other color palettes. And you know what I saw in the true winter makeup? Me. Not me with a lot of makeup, or a certain color on, but just me. It looked like the black/white photo I use on facebook, but in color. My features seemed appropriately defined, with nothing being overdone or one feature drawing attention at the expense of another. So interesting. I always figured true winters would look quite dramatic in their makeup, so I was looking for striking, as in looking like me but DIFFERENT (like Catherine Zeta Jones, LOL?) But what I could see in my phone pics was a sense of the familiarity that comes from looking in the mirror everyday. And when we are in our best colors, we aren’t trying to look different or like someone else. We are trying to let ourselves shine through.

    Another thing that struck me was the importance of lighting. In the mall lights, the true colors made me look quite pale and washed out. In daylight, they looked natural. In my bathroom, the colors looked on the orange side.

    I hope in the next three months while traveling to get draped either in Texas or California. It will be interesting to see the results of the PCA. I know that is THE ONLY WAY to know for sure, but the makeup swatching has been fun. Based on looking at pics of myself, as well as which winter colors seemed to ‘work’ for me and which ones didn’t, I would guess I am a true winter who leans a bit toward the deep winter spectrum, but not enough to wear the deep winter makeup colors and be at her best. I do not wear fuschias well, hence, my experience with pink swoon. But I do have lots of plums and purples in my present palette, and if it is correct, then that would explain why the NARS sin seemed so natural.

    I realize I could be wrong. I realize how hard it to be objective about oneself. The adventure continues.

  • "; ?> Ellen

    Jo: The foundations you are talking about most likely contain sunscreen. Handy if you’re walking around and trying to bounce harmful rays off yourself, but useless if you’re going to an event where you’re going to be photographed with flash.

    Also, I remember when I used to dye my hair a cool burgundy, I would look great with cool, clear purple/pinks. As soon as it started fading, the blue would come out first and the red would mix with my slightly yellow hair and turn kindof orange.. I would suddenly look a little terrible, and that lipstick would certainly no longer match.

  • "; ?> Jenny

    Great said, Christine. I think you are totally right.

    I had trouble for YEARS with makeup changing on me, and especially my foundation. Now I have no problems at all. As long as I stay with my Spring colors, the only thing that might happen is a slight fading after many hours.

    I tried all kinds of formulas, since I found lots of info about this on the Internet. But nothing helped until I got my colors right.

  • "; ?> Nanina

    Hi Christine, I had a PCA last week (based on another system though!) and was found out to be light, tending a bit to the warm side and rather clear. From what I understand that is a light spring, right? But what I wanted to say: My hair color changes with my clothes. I have both ash blonde and golden blonde in my natural hair color, and cool color bring out the ash, while warm color accentuate the golden. Maybe that is common knowledge, but I was surprised ^^ My lip color does that, too. It is rosé in cool colors and peach in warm colors. My color analyst said I could wear both warm and cool colors… The warm colors are slightly better though 🙂

  • "; ?> Nanina

    Oh, just wanted to add: Basing my PCA on another system was because the one you do is not available where I live 😉

  • "; ?> Danielle


    Thank you so much for your generosity with your expertise. I love reading this website. I (like many of the people that post here ) don’t live near a sci/art analyst. I have been analyzed as a deep winter based on photos. My question for you relates to a blush that I just love. Like the description you have above, it just seems to fuse with the colors in my face. The color is MAC blush in Peaches (http://karlasugar.net/2010/01/mac-blush-recap/). The only problem is that this blush color does not appear to be similar to any of the colors in the Dark Winter swatch book, which of course sends me into confusion. Does this blush appear to match a color in any of the swatch books? Thanks in advance if you are able to help.

    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Hi, Danielle,
      I’d have to look at the color IRL, but it never struck me as something I’d wear myself, also a Dark Winter, or put on say, Kiera Knightley, Mandy Moore, Winona Ryder, all potential Dark Winters. I can’t know what the hang-up is, unfortunately. You might be light for your Season. You might be unused to seeing what more cool, saturated color could do for your face, especially if eye and lip color don’t coordinate. Peach, salmon, apricot are colors that we often hear “flatter every skin tone”. But they are not the best choice. Anne Hathaway could wear salmon. All light-skinned people appear to have peach-pink tones in the skin. It just wouldn’t bring out the best, because the undertone isn’t visible on the surface. Not saying Peaches is wrong for you, especially from a photo (colors often look lighter than they are). The lightest swatches in the Sci\ART book look about like a medium coral-pink tulip.

  • "; ?> Danielle

    Thank you, Christine. I think you realized exactly what is going on — I have very light skin and am more of an Anne Hathaway type of Dark Winter. I guess it can be a little confusing to be a light skinned Dark season. I can see how the clothing colors work well, but I sometimes worry that the makeup colors are a bit dramatic (and then I veer off into color choices outside the palette). I appreciate your help!

  • "; ?> Rachel Ramey

    I think some people have the opposite phenomenon going on – something in their chemistry or coloring actually turns the color to a more complimentary one. My mother, for instance, turns lipsticks pink. She’s a summer. (True, I think, but hard to say as she was draped before 12-season PCA’s.) That’s actually beneficial to her, as lipstick is rarely too warm (unless it was REALLY a bad match to start with).

  • "; ?> Jan

    Thank you, Christine, for this informative post. Makeup tends to turn quite orange or quite pink on me. Sometimes, I almost feel like giving up on it but haven’t yet – LOL. I hope that you would consider revisiting this subject and perhaps giving us a few more clues to solve the puzzle.

    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Jan, the truth is that I could give out clues till the last shot’s been fired and you still wouldn’t know your Season (if that is the puzzle you’re trying to solve, or have I misunderstood?) Lipstick draping doesn’t work, my opinion. Cosmetics just vary too much. You might wear 2 warm reds inside your Season, and not 2 other warm reds, also inside your Season. You might wear a colour another Season also wears. Season is known by accurate and thorough draping only. After that, everything starts making sense, including finding that elusive lipstick that looks just fine and doesn’t turn anything 🙂

  • "; ?> Jane

    Liquid foundation tends to go chalky on me. I have tried using a darker foundation, still, amazingly, it goes chalky. Perhaps I need to go even darker? That would surprise me as my skin’s not dark to look at. But, every time a coconut. It’s expensive, even if you only buy cheap stuff, a lot of it you can’t test as it’s all packaged to hell and there are no testers.

  • "; ?> Jane

    Lol. I just looked this up on the internet, and it’s called “pulling an Eagle”, which is just so vulgar and excellent. Dark body, light face, pulling an Eagle is what happens when your foundy goes chalky. Nice.

  • "; ?> Jan

    Thank you for replying, Christine. I am fascinated by the way makeup changes colors after sitting on the skin for even a few minutes; especially the way color can “grab” or oxidize. Not looking for seasonal analysis; just wondering if there is more info on this subject or if it’s something you would consider addressing again.

    As always, your posts are quite informative and a pleasure to read.

    Best wishes.

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