Whiter Shade of Pale

October 14th, 2014

October 14th, 2014

header-5 header-4-japanese

It seems like forever that the debate’s been raging in the cosmetic world about the shades of foundation, or rather, about the choice of them.  Reaching a crescendo since in the ‘90s over shades for women of colour, and the very real decry that mainstream manufacturers simply didn’t cater for the nuances of darker skin the same as they do for paler complexions – not surprising really, when there was nothing but flat, ashy foundations that failed to understand the incredible variation in undertones in ethnic skin.

This has been addressed somewhat with collections from the likes of MAC and NARS and more recently Illamasqua, Laura Mercier and Sleek, yet even so it’s really only been in the last couple of years that dark skinned women feel their skin tone is truly catered for – bear in mind that YSL only launched their darker Touch Éclat shades in 2011.

header-3 header-6-chinese

So what about the shades from the other end of the spectrum?  Finding the perfect porcelain shade for the palest of pale skin tones was just as tricky back in the day, and to be honest, still is, unless you know where to look.

The chances of the those with the fairest of complexions finding their foundation just ever so slightly orange once applied was an occupational hazard.  The lightest shades just contained too much yellow pigment and were termed vanilla or red, and they were the rose shades.  For those who truly had the most alabaster of skin colour, neither was ever going to match.  The world of cosmetics seemed to genuine believe that the majority of women’s skin was a sandy beige and manufactured accordingly, and you had to hope you could blend it all the way down the neck.

But the times, they are a changing, driven by improvements in technology and increased demand.  The porcelain shades will still have a little bit of yellow or a hint of red, mixed with white, green or blue, so suddenly there really is a foundation for the fairest of the fair.

When examined close up, most truly fair skin has red undertones, so the old school ivory shades that would add a little red to the yellow simply highlighted that.  The very best shades for pale skin combine white or green pigments and reduce down the orangey red for a perfect porcelain shade, though it’s still relatively new to find pure porcelain that isn’t either something you’d wear at Halloween or one that does a good impression of a bad fake tan.

Warpaint rounds up our absolute fave palest foundations:

Dior’s DiorSkin Star Fluid Foundation (£32) in Ivory or the slightly pinky Porcelain.  Infused with hollow silica beads, this weightless fluid makeup is focused on brightening and illuminating without leaving a shine.  Skin tone imbalances are neutralised by colour-filter pigments, whilst specific skincare ingredients help reduce the appearance of dark areas, pigment spots and redness.


Chanel’s Vitalumiere in Limpide (£36) has the lightest of textures.  The fluid gives a slightly satin finish, for a radiant, natural, youthful-looking makeup.



Illamasqua’s shade 115 (£30) is the white pigment base and the rich liquid base can also be mixed easily with other shade to add pink or sand undertones.  The brand also has a pure white (shade 100) for the whitest of skin tones.


Estee Lauder’s new Perfectionist Youth Infusing SPF 15 (£37) is part of the age defying foundation revolution, with more brands fusing anti-ageing know how into their bases.  Ivory Nude is the palest and, whilst not the whitest of undertones, is a paler one of the rose tones.


Clarins Everlasting Foundation in Ivory (£27) promises 15 hours of coverage and formulated with a high-fidelity system – a light, invisible veil sets the foundation, leaving it looking perfectly even, while the Light-Optimising Complex instantly captures, diffuses and magnifies light.


Ellis Faas Skin Veil in Light/Fair (£55) is a foundation for Caucasian skin with a neutral undertone.  To achieve a porcelain, even skintone, Skin Veil minerals diffuse light across the skin’s surface, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.


NYX Stay Matte Not Flat in Ivory (£10) provides medium to full coverage and a light texture for easy application.


Guerlain’s Tenue de Perfection (£37) is a velvety-soft foundation, the palest shade beige pale 01 isn’t in the UK, but Beige Clair 02 is, still very pale though 01 can be shipped in very easily.


MAC’s Matchmaker Foundation in 1.0 (£28) is a perfect pale.  It uses new technology using translucent pigments to enable a fully personalised finish influenced by the subtleties of the skin’s undertone.


Hourglass Immaculate Foundation (£50) has a pale porcelain in their collection.  This innovative liquid-to-powder formula delivers a matte finish with real longevity.  It’s oil free and water resistant, applies smoothly and dries down instantly leaving soft, velvet finish that is ideal for oily or blemish-prone complexions.



Teint Couture (£32.50) in Elegant Sand is the new long-wearing foundation by Givenchy.  In pure couture spirit, its imperceptible and comfortable silky veil matches the skin to provide tailor-made coverage.


Lancôme’s Teint Idole Ultra (£28.50) comes in 18 shades, the palest Beige Ivoire or Beige Porcelain do a sterling alabaster job.


Tom Ford’s Traceless Perfecting Foundation SPF 15 (£62) is a natural finish, longwearing humidity- resistant foundation that hydrates and evens skin tone, creating a flawless, supple and pore-less canvas on which to sculpt the features.  Their palest is Ivory.

tom ford

Another anti-ageing foundation comes from the By Terry stable.  Their latest foundation, Densiliss (£75) in Cream Ivory for proper pale, is a hybrid of an absolute density fluid foundation with a wrinkle control serum.  The futuristic formula offers long-term anti-ageing benefits along with immediate correcting effects for a flawless complexion, while patented Mimetic Factor in the advanced mineral correction complex evens out skin tone.


Foundation is a truly fascinating and ancient commodity, and one that women have relied on for literally 1000s of years

Foundation facts:

First Foundation

Ancient Greeks and Romans wore versions of foundation containing high levels of white lead and mercury – a formula that caused lethal poisoning.  Nevertheless, extremely white skin remained popular into the 1800s and represented class and privilege.

Famous pale skinned red heads include Karen Gillen

Famous pale skinned red heads include Karen Gillen

Stage Presence: Greasepaint

Modern foundation has its beginnings in the theatre.  Carl Baudin, a German actor, mixed a paste of zinc, ochre, and lard to hide the joint between his wig and forehead.  Other actors liked his concoction so much that Baudin called it greasepaint and sold it commercially.

Famously pale, Dakota Fanning

Famously pale, Dakota Fanning

Pan-Cake Make-up

In 1914, Max Factor introduced his Pan-Cake make-up to make movie actors appear more realistic in close-ups.  His version of greasepaint looked more like skin and was the first make-up created for film.  Factor’s Pan-Cake eventually spawned other foundations and makeup for women who weren’t actors.


Gwen Stefani is pale and proud

Gwen Stefani is pale and proud

Base Camp: Foundation Ingredients

No matter what form it’s in – solid, liquid, or spray – foundation contains the same main ingredients:  moisturisers, colorants and fillers, while the base is usually water, oil, or wax.  Talc, which helps colour spread evenly and makes the product go on the skin smoothly, is the most common filler.  Pigments include iron oxides and titanium dioxide in various shades of red, yellow, and black to help re-create natural skin tone.

Porcelain skin and raven locks is Dita Von Teese's signature look

Porcelain skin and raven locks is Dita Von Teese’s signature look

Dual Purpose: Using Foundation for Skin Care

Certain ingredients in foundation can help treat some underlying skin issues.  Foundations that contain kaolin clay and absorbent powders such as silica, alumina, cornstarch, or talc will help control oil and prevent shine.  Dry skin will benefit from ingredients such as avocado oil, sesame oil, jojoba oil, squalane, or glycerides (look for them listed first in the ingredients). Ones containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide offer another way to fight blemishes.

Nicole Kidman has a red undertone to her pale complexion

Nicole Kidman has a red undertone to her pale complexion


Special Effects: High-Definition Foundation

The most recent advancements in foundation are HD products that claim to cover skin imperfections to get skin camera ready.  The main difference between these products and previous versions involves light scattering ingredients such as mica, silicone, crystals, or quartz.  Diffusing light creates an illusion of an even finish so you can’t detect the flaws beneath.  HD make-up formulas are often designed to moisturise because makeup can settle into cracks and creases, especially for those with dry complexions.  The hydration also plumps up dry skin to make wrinkles and lines less noticeable.



Abi Oleck on Summer Skin

July 6th, 2024
Read More →

Hot Off The Press

June 14th, 2024
Read More →

Posted In

, , , , ,


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By Warpaint Magazine

Leave a Reply