When I turned sixteen, in what was probably a last-ditch attempt to turn me into a girl, my grandmother gave me her copy of Color Me Beautiful. Obviously this didn’t work on a gender level, but as the Hyperbeam regulars can tell you, I did wind up absorbing the contents of this eldritch tome, and today I’m going to share them with y’all.
Color Me Beautiful is the book that kicked off the, uh, discipline known as Seasonal Colour Analysis (SCA). If you’ve ever heard someone described as a Summer or a Winter, it’s that. At the most basic level, SCA is an application of colour theory used to find clothes and makeup in colours that most flatter your natural skintone, eye colour, and hair colour. I have no idea if it actually “works” on a scientific level, but I’m sure most of us have worn things that made us look like zombies or made our hair look a weird colour, and I’ve found that the results this thing gave me at least avoid that.
Regardless, I enjoy any opportunity to systematize things, so as a Group Activity, we’re going to find our seasons!
SCA categorizes people into seasons by where they fall on two axes: hue (warm/cool) and value (light/dark). We’ll start with value, since it’s a lot easier to figure out.
Hair colour is very simple. Look at or think about your natural hair colour. If your hair is grey, try to use your previous colour. Any shades of blonde, light reds, and light brown are light, while dark browns, dark reds, and black are dark.
Eye colour and skintone are a little different; instead of being judged along one scale, it’s by shade within subgroups. For eye colour that’s simply light brown vs. dark brown or light blue vs. dark blue, etc., but for skin tone it can be more difficult to determine where the divisions begin and end. Light skintones can be anything from very white to light beiges to light browns; dark skintones range from deep ivories to dark beiges to dark browns. Check the slideshow at the end for a visualization.
A quick note: there are two exceptions to these rules, both concerning Winter. While it’s a dark season, people with platinum or white-blonde hair are often Winters, and it’s possible for them to have very light “icy” blue eyes. I don’t know why, don’t ask me.
You are a light season if two or three of your answers were light; you are a dark season if two or three of your answers were dark.
One last note: if you scored in the middle of all of these categories and don’t know where you’re supposed to fall, don’t worry! That’s just as helpful as a definite light/dark answer, and you can move on to the next step.
The defining factor of whether you are a warm or cool season is the undertone of your skin. A warm season has a yellow undertone, while a cool season’s is blue. Before we get into how to figure it out, a note: the original Color Me Beautiful was very much aimed at white people and didn’t really consider darker skin, assuming all such shades fell into Winter, but the revised system has thought about it more. Just in case you decide to fall into this rabbit hole and look up further information.
Determining your skin’s undertone can be a little difficult, but the various SCA enthusiasts have come up with several tests. And you might already know, especially if you wear makeup like foundation or concealer. All of these tests should be performed in natural light without makeup on, and preferably when (or where) you don’t have a tan.
- Test #1: Check the veins on the inside of your wrist. In a warm season, they will appear greenish; in a cool season, they will appear blue or purplish.
- Test #2: Hold a piece of pure white fabric or paper next to your face and either have someone evaluate the results or take a picture. If your skin appears yellowish, orangey, or peachy against the white, you are a warm season; if it’s bluish or pinkish, you are a cool season.
- Test #3: Put on some gold-toned jewellery and then some silver-toned jewellery. If the gold is more flattering, you are a warm season; if the silver is, you are cool.
- Test #4: The most involved test. Collect a bunch of pieces of fabric (clothes, blankets, curtains, whatever) and drape them across your chest and shoulders, looking for the colours that flatter you the most — it can vary from person to person, but you’re looking for colours that make your skin look even, your eyes look bright, and your hair look like something in a shampoo commercial. A good rule of thumb is that the “right” colour draws attention to your face instead of your clothes. Once you’ve found them, compare the colours you look good in to the palettes at the end.
Hair and eye colour are less of a guarantee than skintone, but they can still provide clues to your colouring’s hue. Red hair, or hair with obvious red tones, indicates a warm season, while ashy, mousy, or greyish shades indicate cool. Note that actually having grey hair does not make you a cool season; almost everyone’s hair does that eventually! There’s a reason I suggested using your pre-grey hair colour. Grey or greyish eyes are a sign of a cool season, while warm seasons have more of a yellow tone – the blues are often more of a turquoise, and the browns are often amber.
Just like with value, if you have two or three warm answers, you are a warm season; if you have two or three cool answers you are a cool season. If you really can’t tell, as is entirely possible, the best way to find out is Test #4, especially if you have something orange and something in a cool purple to compare.
Now that you know where you fall on each axis, you can receive your season! If you were light/warm, you are a Spring; if you were light/cool (or medium/cool), you are a Summer; if you were dark/warm (or medium/warm), you are an Autumn; and if you were dark/cool, you are a Winter.
The revised SCA system breaks each season down further into three sub-seasons, but this header is long enough already and I’m not covering it. A quick google search for “seasonal colo(u)r analysis” will bring you to a bunch of sites that do, if you’re curious. I’ll give a quick rundown of the main seasons before we conclude.
Named for the bright, clear colours that look best on this season, reminiscent of the flowers and happy little trees you would find outside in the spring. You look best in colours like corals, leafy greens, and light turquoise, while dark colours and pastels wash you out. Spring is a good season to be because its palette has a good variety of colours, but it can be difficult to find just the right shades.
Famous Springs include Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Amy Adams, Taylor Swift, and Owen Wilson
Picture an Atlantic-coast beachfront yacht club c. 1984. That’s Summer. You look best in colours like pale pink, lilac, light yellow, and baby blue; you can’t really pull off dark colours, earth tones, or anything very bright. Basically, you want any colour diluted with a lot of grey, or just grey itself. Summer is a good season to be because its colours are fashionable and easy-to-find right now, but it’s also the palette with the least variety.
Famous Summers include Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Emily Blunt, Daniel Craig, Cara Delevingne, Michael Ealy, and Margot Robbie
Probably the easiest season to grasp on name alone, Autumn’s colours include many deep reds, burnt oranges, golden yellows, and warm browns, alongside a couple greens and blues. This palette avoids pastels and bright colours. It’s good to be an Autumn because it combines good colour variety with easier-to-find shades than fellow warm season Spring.
Famous Autumns include Jennifer Lopez, Oprah, Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Mindy Kaling, Drew Barrymore, and Jidenna
Last but definitely not least, the most populous quadrant! Winter favours many colours, including jewel tones, bright and saturated shades, and very light, icy colours. Some Winters can even pull off neons, which the rest of us sure as hell can’t, and you’re the only ones allowed to wear black, you lucky ducks. You’re only really discouraged from earth tones, so the sky’s the limit, Winters!
Famous Winters include Lupita Nyong’o, Lucy Liu, Zachary Quinto, Zooey Deschanel, Anne Hathaway, Daniel Dae Kim, and Jennifer Connelly
I’m a Summer, as was the grandmother who gave me the book that started all this (she lived and died by this palette, btw — so much mauve). So, Avocados: what season are you?