Skin care and makeup tips for fair skin

  • Fair skin is the lightest complexion possible.
  • Because fair skin has less melanin, protecting it from the sun is especially important.
  • We spoke to a dermatologist and a makeup artist to understand the specific concerns of fair skin.

Knowing your skin tone and undertone is one thing, but understanding the specific skin issues that come with your skin tone is another. As with any complexion, taking care of fair skin requires special attention. Understanding how fair skin reacts with the environment, what it needs, and what color palette enhances it can help you choose the right skincare and makeup products. Read on for the inside scoop on clear skin care from a dermatologist and a makeup artist’s tips for making fair skin glow.

What is a fair complexion?

Usually considered the lightest natural shade, fair skin contains less melanin, or pigment, than olive skin tone, dark skin tone, or other shades. Because melanin helps protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays, fair skin has much less innate protection. “Melanin functions as a broadband UV absorber that also has antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties,” says Jessica Weiser, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University. “Therefore, in fair skin, where the skin cannot protect itself at all, liberal application and reapplication of broad-spectrum sunscreen and UV protective clothing is essential to prevent sunburn and sun damage.” Broad-spectrum sunscreen — doctors generally recommend a formula with an SPF of 30 or higher — should be worn daily and reapplied throughout the day, even if you’re indoors or in the car.

Common skin concerns for fair skin

Fair skin tends to have more redness than dark skin, says Dr. Weiser. Redness can be caused by a variety of reasons, including rosacea, acne, or a form of dermatitis. Fair skin is also prone to pigmentation and freckles due to UVA absorption from sun exposure. For a punch, look for a multitasking product, such as Paula’s Choice Redness Relief SPF 30 Mineral Moisturizer for Normal to Dry Skin ($26, originally $31), that both protects fair skin from the sun and helps to minimize redness.

Another thing to consider: exposure to UV rays accelerates collagen breakdown and photoaging. Since fair skin has less organic protection, it may need some help. “It may be helpful to use a topical retinol or retinoid at bedtime to boost collagen production and topical antioxidants in the morning to prevent oxidative damage,” says Dr. Weiser. Vitamin C-rich formulas, such as SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic ($169), have both protective and brightening benefits. If you’re new to retinol, start by applying a formula like Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream ($74) every other night to see how your skin responds.

How to Match Fair Skin Colors

When pairing fair skin with products like foundation, it’s important to look at your complexion as a whole, says New York-based makeup artist Matin Maulawizada. “The face, where the skin is thinner, can be on the pink side, and the body can be neutral or even yellow,” he says. It is therefore essential to choose a shade that complements the face, neck, chest and exposed skin. Another pro tip from Maulawizada: keep the color you wear in mind, as some clothing colors reflect very pale skin. “I would choose a neutral or warm shade if you’re wearing something pink,” he says. “Then choose a pink or neutral tone when wearing something green or yellow.”

Flattering colors for fair skin

Gone are the days of designating specific makeup shades as good or bad for certain skin tones — any color can work with a fair complexion. If you’re unsure what to do with your makeup, highlight the eyes or the lips, suggests Maulawizada. When in doubt, apply medium, neutral shades (think: honey, peach, or brownish-pink) to each stroke. Consider Tarte’s Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Shade Seduce ($29), Ilia Color Block High Impact Lipstick in Amberlight ($28), or Nars Mini Voyageur Eyeshadow Palette in Copper ( $32).

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