Skin 101: Understanding Skin Complexion Types

By Katarina V.| Last updated on January 26, 2024
skin complexion types
⏱️ 6 min read

Skin complexion has always been a topic of diversity and beauty in the world, so learning how to embrace it is key.

Read this article to discover everything about skin complexion types, determine your own, and learn how to achieve a glow personalized to your skin’s narrative.

What Is Skin Complexion?

Skin complexion is a mix of surface skin color, texture, and appearance. Understanding skin complexion means understanding the specific needs of your skin and tailoring your beauty and skincare routines accordingly.

What’s the Difference Between Skin Complexion & Skin Tone?

Skin tone represents the shade of the skin, varying from lighter to darker, depending on the amount of melanin in the skin.

Many factors can change the outermost shade of the skin and have an impact on your complexion, such as sun exposure or a specific skin condition, but skin undertones will always remain the same.

We classified them as follows :

  • Cool – pink or blue undertone
  • Warm – range from peach to yellow and golden
  • Neutral – pink and bluish hues
  • Olive – slight golden color (combination of undertones)

skin complexion types

What Is Melanin and How Does It Influence Skin Complexion?

Melanin is a substance that is often synonymous with pigmentation – the more melanin our bodies produce, the darker our complexion, hair, and eyes will be.

There are three types of melanin in the skin:

  • Eumelanin: It can vary in shades and is responsible for the black and brown color of the skin, hair, or eyes.
  • Pheomelanin: Recognize those beautiful red-haired girls with freckles? Well, this melanin is responsible for red and pink tones.
  • Neuromelanin is a dark pigment produced by some neurons in the brain. Its function still needs to be fully understood, and research is ongoing.

Lack of melanin also makes a difference in skin complexion. This condition is called albinism, and the people who are diagnosed with it are characterized by very pale skin, white hair, and red to purple eyes.

A lack of melanin can also be caused by an autoimmune disease called vitiligo and is displayed by patches of skin without pigment.

Why Do We Need Melanin?

Melanin absorbs the sun’s rays before harmful UV rays reach the sensitive skin cells. Thus, higher levels of melanin may have a beneficial function in intense sunlight.

This doesn’t mean that we should rely on melanin alone for sun protection. Find the right SPF for your skin from our top 11 product guide.

Skin Complexion Types

Although it seems that there are endless possibilities when it comes to determining skin complexion, the reality is that there are only 6 established categories, each as beautiful as the next one. So, let’s explore them!

Very Fair Skin

You belong to this category if you consistently experience sunburn and struggle to develop a tan while sunbathing. Individuals in this group typically have red or blond hair and blue eyes.

Consequently, their skin often exhibits pronounced signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, or redness. 

taylor swift fair skinImage source: Instagram @taylorswift

Fair Skin

If you are one of those who easily burn but are left with a tan afterwards, you probably fall into the category of fair skin. On the Fitzpatrick scale, you would be type 2.

People with fair skin often have light eyes that range from blue to green, along with a lighter hair color (blonde or light brown).

Self-reminder: the frequency of sunburns constitutes a risk factor for skin malignancies. Thus, it is essential to undergo regular annual dermatological examinations and consistently use SPF!

emma stone fair skinImage source: Instagram @emmastoneirworld

Medium Skin

This skin category describes an individual who tans easily but also develops mild skin burns. The main factors are the intensity and duration of sun exposure.

Individuals with medium skin most commonly have light brown hair and brown or hazel eyes.

It is a relatively broad category, which includes most people of Italian, Greek, Spanish, Cuban, Latin, and Asian origin. Many individuals of mixed race also fall into this category.

kourtney kardashian medium skinImage source: Instagram @kourtneykardash

Olive or Light Brown Skin

Are your skin, hair, and eyes brown? Do you tan more than average and rarely burn? If the answer is yes, you belong to this skin category.

The category includes a wide range of races and ethnicities, like the previous one.

meghan markle olive skinImage source: Instagram @meghan.markle.official

Brown Skin

This scale often describes people of South Asian or African descent. Such individuals rarely burn and quickly acquire a tan but are more prone to hyperpigmentation.

They mostly have brown eyes and naturally dark hair.

brown skin
Image source: Instagram @zoesaldana

Black Skin

Individuals who fall into this category have the highest melanin production. As a result, their skin is almost completely resistant to sunburns.

However, there is an increased risk of hyperpigmentation, scarring, and the development of white spots in individuals with black skin.

black skin complexion typeImage source: Instagram @naomi

Why Is It Important to Know Your Skin Complexion Type?

Knowing your skin complexion is a crucial step in maintaining optimal skin health. Thus, understanding it is essential when choosing the right skincare and makeup, or when choosing clothing and hair color.

Tips for Taking Care of Different Complexions

Regardless of your skin type, everyone should follow a few simple steps.

Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays. Learn how often to reapply your sunscreen for optimal sun protection here.

Not only that but remember to wear protective clothing (hats, sunglasses, etc.), especially if you have a very fair or fair skin tone.

Internal care is equally as important, so remember daily fluid intake! Speaking of which, moisturize your skin daily and practice other healthy habits.

How to Identify Skin Complexion Type

Identifying your skin tone can sometimes be tricky – you may even find yourself doing various online tests or asking your friends and family to help you figure it out.

We’re here to tell you that it’s actually pretty simple to do by yourself, so here are some useful tips and tests for determining your skin complexion:

The Vein Color Test

Green color indicates a warm skin tone, while blue or purple suggests that you have a cool skin tone. Green-blue veins can be an indicator of a neutral skin tone.

The White T-Shirt Test

Take a pure white piece of paper or even better, a plain white T-shirt and stand in front of a mirror in daylight. Hold the paper up to your face and compare the undertones.

If your skin looks pink in comparison, you have a cool undertone. On the other hand, if your face has a yellowish hue, your undertone is warm.

the white t shirt testImage source: Freepik

Can Skin Complexion Change?

The skin color you were born with stays with you forever (for most). However, skin complexion can change over time due to various factors, such as:

  • Age – decrease in melanin production, which can lead to a lighter skin tone
  • Hormonal changes – during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, hormone levels (estrogen) fluctuations can lead to changes in melanin production
  • Sun exposure – temporary tan/redness, sunspots, or pigmentation

To Sum Up

Everyone’s skin is gorgeous and should be celebrated (even the simple imperfections that truly make us who we are). Spots, pigmentation, and more are all everyday occurrences and nothing to stress over.

Instead, try to take preventive measures like regular application of SPF and limiting sun exposure.

Knowing your complexion isn’t just a fun way to determine which colors look good on you – It is a tool that will help you make informed choices and adopt healthy habits. So, let it guide you on the path to skincare tailored just for you.

Cover image source: Freepik



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