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8 Makeup-Application Tips for Pale Skin, According to Beauty Pros

model with pale skin I Dermstore Blog

As someone whose foundation shades range from “porcelain” and “ivory” to “fair” and “fairly light,” I’m no stranger to the unique struggle that is having pale skin. For those of us who are naturally fair-skinned all year round or those who lose pigment during the winter months, feeling and looking “pale” can be quite the challenge.

Celebrity makeup artist and hairstylist Danni Katz—whose clients include Priyanka Chopra, Lea Michele and Cara Delevingne—understands that pale skin tones can be tough. “In the winter, we lack that sun-kissed glow,” she says, which is so commonly associated with health and beauty, so it’s easy to look washed out.

And then there’s the fine line you can cross between defining your features and looking like a clown, which Dermstore esthetician and makeup artist Christine Walsh (another pale-skinned beauty) understands, firsthand. “Pale complexions can be challenging because the colors can often be too pigmented and harsh,” says Walsh. “When it comes to foundations, they can often look too pink or too yellow. And most bronzers are often too red or too intense.”

Below, Katz and Walsh share their tips for every step of your makeup application so you can embrace or counteract your pale skin and achieve a beautiful, natural finish.

  1. 1. Choose a primer that also protects
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    1. Choose a primer that also protects

    While fair skin is less prone to hyperpigmentation, its lack of pigment and thinner structure makes it more vulnerable to sun damage and photoaging. That’s why Katz recommends beginning your makeup application with a skin-protecting primer like Dermalogica AGE Smart SkinPerfect Primer SPF 30. Not only does this primer create a smooth and even canvas, it also firms and regenerates skin—all while defending skin from UV rays.

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  2. 2. Mix your foundation with skin care for a natural glow
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    2. Mix your foundation with skin care for a natural glow

    This tip isn’t limited to fair-skinned beauties, but for anyone looking to achieve a flawless complexion. Katz calls this cult-favorite foundation by Kevyn Aucoin her “holy grail” for a “full-coverage, natural glow.” Mix it with a facial oil like Sunday Riley’s U.F.O. Face Oil, a hydrating serum or liquid highlighter for a beautiful finish that lasts all day.
    Katz also advises against the heavy “Instagram-filtered” look. “Instead of adding on layers of foundation,” she says, “apply a light layer and go in with a cream concealer and cream bronzer to add dimension. I promise you it’s a better look—especially for daytime and photoshoots!”
    Another way to avoid overdoing it on your foundation is to take advantage of color-correcting concealers, which help you balance your skin tone without your makeup looking caked on.

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  3. 3. Skip the powder highlighters
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    3. Skip the powder highlighters

    Powder highlighters “can look too heavy and separate, especially in daylight,” says Katz, who recommends a cream or liquid highlighter for most skin types and tones. “You get a more natural and dewy glow that looks like your own beautiful skin!” She recommends COVER FX Brightening Booster Drops, which can be “mixed with or applied before a foundation.” These customizable drops blend beautifully with liquid foundation, moisturizer or face oil to add life to your skin.

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  4. 4. Your eye makeup mantra: less is more
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    4. Your eye makeup mantra: less is more

    For fair skin, eye makeup isn’t so much about color as it is about the application. Since most shades will pop against your complexion, your fair skin can be both a blessing and a curse. The downside? It’s easy to overdo it. The upside? Your makeup will last longer than your tan-skinned friends because you don’t have to use as much product.
    When picking a formula, consider a creamy eyeshadow like RMS Beauty Eye Polish. “Cream eyeshadows are my latest fave,” shares Katz. “They blend seamlessly and last all day.” The texture makes it easy to gauge how much you’re applying, while the many metallic hues are designed to flatter any skin tone. “Metallic adds a fun pop without adding too much pigment or color,” adds Walsh.
    When considering other eye makeup colors, Walsh suggests pastels, greens and purples to make your eyes pop. Try to avoid colors that contrast too heavily with your fair skin tone. Walsh warns against deep earthy tones, gray, black and white for this reason.
    As for brows and lashes? Opt for something other than black. “Soft taupe for brows and brown for liner and mascaras will enhance the eye area naturally,” says Walsh.

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  5. 5. Apply your blush gradually and be sure to blend
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    5. Apply your blush gradually and be sure to blend

    Katz (like many of our shoppers) is “obsessed” with RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek in Paradise for creating a buildable, blendable and natural glow. Because you can start with a subtle hint of color and build up to a more dramatic look, the many shades are flattering on all skin tones. Give your cheeks a subtle flush or add a pop of color, depending on how dramatic a look you’re going for. A coral or peachy colored blush will give you a natural flush, says Walsh.

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  6. 6. Embrace the many shades of nude
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    6. Embrace the many shades of nude

    While lip colors are mostly about personal preference, you can’t go wrong with a classic nude lip. For the most flattering shade of nude, choose the one that closely matches your lower lip. Pro tip: If you’re opting for a darker or flashier shade, let your lips take center stage and keep the rest of your makeup simple.

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  7. 7. Opt for a cool-toned bronzer, especially in the winter months
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    7. Opt for a cool-toned bronzer, especially in the winter months

    While bronzer is a great tool for contouring, warming up the complexion or adding a subtle glow, Katz recommends stepping away from the warm tones (to avoid looking orange) and reaching for a cool-toned bronzer instead.
    Katz notes a cooler tone is “good for your skin and not too orange for even pale skin tones!” The formula is very concentrated, so you only need a little bit to achieve a natural glow. For a more subtle bronze effect, mix a few pumps into your moisturizer or serum and apply as desired.

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  8. 8. Invest in a good self-tanner
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    8. Invest in a good self-tanner

    Whether to combat lifeless winter skin or to up our game for a special occasion, we’ve probably all had our moments when we’d like our skin to have a bit more color. Though self-tanners are great for these times, they can also be tricky. You want to find one that doesn’t smell weird, is easy to use and won’t stain your clothes or sheets.
    Not only does Vita Liberata’s pHenomenal 2–3 Week Tan offer those benefits, it also helps you avoid the dreaded streaky or orange finish. And I can say from personal experience, your “tan” will actually look natural. I used this twice in the week leading up to a big event and I looked like I had just spent a couple hours at the beach—a subtle, healthy glow. Not sure how to apply it? We’ve got you covered.

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Community Manager

Kaitlin Willow

Kaitlin Willow is Dermstore's Community Manager. She lives and breathes words—reading as many books as possible and writing her own novel, too. Kaitlin also has a sliiiight obsession with her dog, Benny. Learn more at