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Where can I see my natural skin color?

Our skin color is an important part of our appearance and identity. However, many factors can alter our natural skin tone, making it difficult to see what our true complexion is. In this article, we’ll explore how lifestyle, sun exposure, skin care products, and makeup can mask our natural skin color. We’ll also provide tips on how to reveal your true complexion by removing those masking effects.

How Sun Exposure Affects Skin Color

One of the biggest influences on skin color is sun exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun causes tanning and darkens skin pigment. With frequent sun exposure, the skin adapts by producing more melanin to protect itself from UV damage. This extra melanin leads to persistent skin darkening and what we perceive as a tan.

Dermatologists refer to the darkest natural skin color absent of sun exposure as your “constitutive” skin color. Anything darker than that is considered facultative skin coloring – a temporary darkening caused by sun exposure. To see your true skin shade, you need to prevent as much facultative tanning as possible.

The amount of darkening depends on multiple factors:

  • Skin type – Some skin types tan more readily than others. Pale skin shows facultative tanning most clearly.
  • Amount of sun exposure – More time in the sun leads to greater tanning.
  • Use of sun protection – Lack of protective clothing, shade, and sunscreen allows more UV radiation to reach skin.
  • Time of year – Increased sun intensity in summer causes more tanning.
  • Geographic location – People living closer to the equator experience higher UV levels year-round.

To reveal your natural skin color, you need to prevent further facultative tanning. Use sun protective measures to cover up, seek shade, and use broad-spectrum sunscreen daily. Allow time for already tanned skin to fade – this can take weeks to months depending on your skin tone.

How Skin Care Products Alter Skin Color

Many skin care ingredients can temporarily change the appearance of skin color. Examples include:

Skin lightening products

Products aimed at reducing visible sun damage, age spots, acne marks, and melasma contain active ingredients such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, vitamin C, and retinoids. These fading products work by limiting melanin production in skin cells. With less melanin, areas of hyperpigmentation take on a lighter appearance. However, skin lighteners can also subtly lighten the overall complexion. Stop using them to reveal natural skin shade.

Self-tanning products

Self-tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which interacts with amino acids in the skin’s top layer to temporarily darken color. Although many people use them to look tanned without sun exposure, self-tanners mask the underlying skin color. Allow self-tanner to fully wear off before assessing natural shade.

Skin brightening products

Products containing ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide, licorice root extract, and antioxidants work to even out skin tone. They help reduce visible sun damage and brighten the complexion. However, this subtle skin lightening effect can also obscure natural melanin levels. Discontinue use to see unaltered skin color.

How Makeup Changes Visible Skin Color

When applied skillfully, makeup products can significantly alter the appearance of skin coloration. Examples include:

Foundation and Concealer

These base makeup products even out skin tone and cover perceived flaws. Choose a shade lighter than your natural skin color, and foundation can brighten and lighten your complexion. Alternatively, choose a darker shade for a tanned and bronzed look.

Contouring and Highlighting

Using makeup shades darker and lighter than your natural skin tone allows you to sculpt and shade areas of your face. Contouring with bronzer or powder creates shadows, while highlighting with illuminators adds light. Altering color in this way changes visible dimension and skin color.

Self-Tanning Makeup

Cosmetics like self-tanning drops can be mixed into moisturizers and foundations to impart a temporary glow. The DHA in these products reacts with skin overnight to gradually deepen color. The subtle darkening builds over time to mimic a tanned appearance.

To see your true skin shade, remove all face makeup. Allow a few nights without self-tanning makeup to reveal any color changes.

Tips for Revealing Your Natural Skin Undertone

Your skin undertone refers to tones of pink, red, yellow, peach, or blue in your complexion. While we can’t easily change undertone, it provides clues about our natural coloring. Here are some tips for identifying your true undertone:

  • Look at your inner wrist in natural lighting. Does it appear more pinkish-red (cool undertone), greenish-yellow (warm), or neutral?
  • Examine the veins on your wrist. Do they look blue (cool) or green (warm)?
  • Do you burn easily in strong sun and rarely tan (cool)? Or do you tan easily and rarely burn (warm)?
  • Does silver jewelry tend to look better on you (cool), or do you shine in gold (warm)?
  • Drape different colored fabrics near your face. Which seem to flatter you more – jewel tones (cool) or earth tones (warm)?

Identifying your natural undertone helps align cosmetics and clothing with your coloring for a harmonious look.

How to Reveal Your Natural Skin Color

Here is a summary of tips to reveal your true underlying skin color:

  • Avoid sun exposure – Prevent further tanning by using sun protection and covering up.
  • Stop skin care products – Discontinue any products temporarily lightening or darkening your skin.
  • Remove makeup – Take off products like self-tanning foundation and bronzers.
  • Exfoliate – Use gentle exfoliation to reveal fresh skin.
  • Moisturize – Well-hydrated skin shows true colors.
  • Wait – Give skin time to renew itself and show natural pigmentation.
  • Check inner wrist – The inside of your wrist provides the least sun exposure.

Refraining from color-altering products and sun exposure for several weeks can help uncover your beautiful natural complexion.

What Affects Natural Skin Color?

While sun exposure significantly impacts natural skin color, several other factors contribute to tone as well:


Genes play a major role in melanin production and baseline skin color. Ethnic background, hereditary conditions, and genetic disorders can affect natural pigmentation.


Melanocytes are cells in the skin’s outer layer that produce melanin pigment. People with more active melanocytes inherently produce more melanin, leading to darker skin tones.

Melanin Types

There are two types of melanin in skin that affect tone:

  • Eumelanin – This dark brown melanin pigment most affects brown and black skin tones.
  • Pheomelanin – This reddish-yellow melanin impacts lighter skin with pink undertones.


Blood flow to the skin also impacts tone. More blood flow from exercise or heat creates a flushed, reddish appearance. Lack of circulation appears bluish.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical issues like hormonal changes, autoimmune disorders, and vitamin deficiencies can temporarily or permanently alter skin color as well.

Skin Color Variation on Different Body Parts

Your natural skin color may appear slightly different on various areas of your body. Some of the variation is due to the factors below:


Thinner skin over veins and bony areas leave blood vessels and melanin less visible. Thicker skin like that on the palms and soles obscures them more.

Blood Flow

Areas of increased blood circulation appear redder, such as the face and chest. Limited circulation leads to dullness on thighs and buttocks.

Melanin Content

Parts of the body more exposed to sun contain more melanin. The face, neck, shoulders and arms are often darker than the trunk, legs, and back.

Pressure Points

Friction and pressure on areas like elbows, knuckles, knees, and shins can remove surface pigment, causing lightening.

Moisture Levels

Dryness on parts like hands, arms, and legs desaturates skin tone. Well-hydrated areas maintain richer color.


Your natural skin color results from a combination of genetic, circulatory, and environmental factors. Removing temporary color alterations reveals the beautiful tone determined by your unique melanin profile. Embrace the skin you’re in by getting to know your true colors.