What color clothing should I wear to downplay blotchiness from acne?
March 13, 2013 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I have some redness and scarring on my face left over from old acne. I know there are colors which bring out other colors, and colors which do the opposite, but I have no clue how this works. For example, a friend told me I shouldn't wear yellowish-green clothes with my complexion. What color clothes should I (a) wear to minimize the appearance of redness, and (b) avoid? (I'm white, male, brown hair, blue-green eyes, if any of that info helps.)
posted by zeri to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I share your coloring predicament, as well as your ignorance about color theory (so shall follow this thread with interest), but have found browns to be a reliable ally.
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2013

Certain shades of green are great with ruddy complexions. (In makeup, green-tinted coverup is used to mask redness.) With your eyes, hair, and coloring, I think you'd look great in green. Look more toward the cool or heathered shades of green (teal, moss).
posted by nacho fries at 11:45 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Red--avoid red. For women, red lipstick is to be avoided when one has uncorrected redness in their skin (not balanced with foundation, etc.). By that same token, it can enliven a face by bringing out any traces of redness or flush which might be there but not obvious without the highlight.

By extension, for clothing, you would avoid anything with a red undertone. Next to a white piece of paper or white shirt, if it looks pinkish or red, that is what you would want to stay away from. So, salmons, pinks, tomato oranges, rusts, etc. Yes to blues, greens, blacks, cooler browns, grey.
posted by oflinkey at 1:16 PM on March 13, 2013

If you look on a color wheel green is opposite of red. Green helps balance out red quite well. You can also use the colors on either side of green (blue-green and yellow-green) and any of the variations within these three hues to minimize the redness.

A pattern or a bright color will move the eye away from the face. A tie in the green tones can help you pull off wearing a shirt which is in another hue and still balance your ruddiness.
posted by cat_link at 1:43 PM on March 13, 2013

Best answer: No. No. No. I would be VERY careful about greens. Depending on your source, greens or blue greens are the true complement of red. When complements are mixed or layered, they neutralize, but adjacent complements "pop". Or, as good old J. Itten said, "They incite each other to maximum vividness when adjacent; and they annihilate each other to gray black when mixed - like fire and water."

Anecdotal: I used to wear a well-loved aqua sweater all the time years ago because it definitely brought out the pink in my cheeks.

I'd recommend neutrals (greys and browns), most blues, cool purples, maybe some yellow tones. You might find that some reds, greens and oranges may work (if your base colouring looks good with them), but only if they're relatively dull tones.

Get a friend with a good eye to check out how you look with various colours. They may also, very rightly, point out to you that the red doesn't show up as much as you think.
posted by maudlin at 1:56 PM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Agreeing with Maudlin. Moss and teal indeed used to suit my coloring -- prior to the acne. Now, I avoid. It's true that green-tinted coverup masks redness, but only if you use it OVER the scar, not NEXT to the scar.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:58 PM on March 13, 2013

A lot depends on your underlying skin tone, apart from the acne redness and scarring. It's not just a matter of whether you should wear green or red: the effect of blue-toned reds and orange-toned reds can be quite different.

The safest thing to do is test it out. Try out some matching pairs of cooler/warmer coloured sweaters or t-shirts and see how they look in a mirror: navy versus versus khaki, black versus brown, white versus cream, pine green versus olive green etc.

It the cooler colours consistently look better (which is what sounds likely from your girlfriend's opinion) then go for colours with bluer undertones and avoid ones with yellower undertones. If you want red, pick a purplish wine-red; for green, an emerald or pine green, and so on.

(For reference, I had a fair bit of acne scarring when I was younger, and I don't wear makeup, so I put a lot of effort into colour co-ordinating my clothes to balance that out. In my case, even with some redness, my underlying skin tone was set off much better by orange-toned, warmer colours.)
posted by Azara at 2:06 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Azara: another trick is having a hairdresser hold up a silver and a gold piece of cardboard next to your face in turns, to see whether you're a 'warm' or a 'cool'. (Salons that offer hair dye are more likely to have such gadgets lying around.) The difference in my case was obvious, and unexpected.

In further support of the "don't make it pop" theory: one color that looks good on me despite zits or zit scars is acne-scar color -- sort of a wine-stained reddish-purple. (I once had a friend with seriously bad acne who dyed his hair that color, and his handsomeness quotient zoomed upwards. It didn't make his zits harder to see, exactly, but it made them look right.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:15 PM on March 13, 2013

I'm standing by my recommendation for greens. In my experience, what happens is that the overall effect of the green is to trick the eye into not seeing the redness. There is the reflection/refraction of light on the multi-dimensional "canvas" of skin/clothes, which is a bit different than painterly color theory (flat pigment on flat paper).

But yes: your underlying skin tone, and exact shade of green (or other color), will ultimately be the defining combo of factors.

You can go to a store, grab a bunch of shirts, stand in front of a mirror, and see for yourself what works.

You might find subtle patterns, as well as textured weaves, help balance out your overall look. Fabrics with a shiny finish will probably work less well.
posted by nacho fries at 2:34 PM on March 13, 2013

Maudlin has the color theory right. Complements add themselves to adjacent areas. Interestingly enough, a more saturated version of the color you are trying to neutralize in an adjacent area will subdue that other area. For example, wearing a very bright red shirt would subdue the ruddiness in your skin.

Does it work in practice? Not so much, I have found.

Mr. Nanook and I both have lots of red in our skin but quite different coloring, and we both find white a good color. Not sure why. But ultimately you need to get various different colors clothes and have some with a good eye tell you which ones work best for you.
posted by nanook at 5:27 PM on March 13, 2013

Like Azara and others have said, you can get away with green if you stick to darker shades that are closer to blue than yellow. I think yellow, more than other colors, is likely to bring out redness (and add a weird pallor) to white-blotchy skin. I also agree with wine-red/purple being a flattering color. Generally, blue/greens, dark colors and greys work for me. (Source: I am very pale and have acne scars)
posted by perryfugue at 7:01 PM on March 13, 2013

I learned a trick from a makeup artist: When you wear red or pink lipstick, it makes the other rednesses in your face recede. And I don't own a shred of green clothing because it makes me look leprous. (I have rosacea)
posted by Deodand at 9:34 PM on March 13, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I guess there's no simple answer to this like I had been hoping, but I'll try some of these suggestions. Thing is, I have a terrible eye for this kind of stuff; I can't tell which colors make my scarring more noticeable because to me it's always noticeable. And it would be a bit embarrassing to invite a friend over and subject them to vision tests of the form "Do I look blotchier in one... or two?" That's why I was hoping there was a simple rule.
posted by zeri at 12:36 PM on March 14, 2013

« Older best online GIS mapping tool   |   I need helping identifying the era of this... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.