How Your Colouring Changes as You Age

Imogen, can you please do a post on this, how one’s colouring might change as we age? It doesn’t happen overnight, does it, so how quickly does it happen? I’d also be interested in whether there is a neutral, ie neither warm, neither cool colouring? And whether some people are only a little warm (what does that mean, what clothes should they wear?) while others are very warm (or cool vice versa).

Colouring is a fascinating topic.  We are hugely influenced by colour.  In fact studies have shown that we remember a coloured experience much more vividly than an achromatic one.  Think about when you meet people, it will be a coloured object or garment that helps you remember them – the woman in the purple glasses, the man with the red shoes etc.

So how fast does colouring change?

There is not definitive answer to this question, it’s a bit of a how long is a piece of string. That string can be shortened by:

  • an unhealthy lifestyle (drug taking, drinking too much, too much sun exposure etc.)
  • genetics (how fast your family ages will most likely influence your ageing)
  • race (many from parts of Asia and Africa seem to age much slower than Caucasians)

From adulthood, we tend to start losing pigment slowly.   We lose it not only from our hair (as it goes grey, then white) which is the most obvious sign of ageing, but also from our eyes and our skin will also change.  On average, I would suggest that you reassess your colours every 5-15 years, as depending where you are in your ageing process.  Things like menopause can change your colouring more quickly as the change in hormones and the loss of estrogen ages your skin fairly quickly.  I would generally advise people to have a colour analysis every 5-10 years, and sooner if you’ve just had:

  • A radical hair colour change
  • Gone grey and stopped dying it
  • Gone through menopause

Many people will know that their colouring has changed, from early childhood to adulthood – they may have gone from a platinum blonde to dark blonde (mousy brown).  Or they may have had strawberry blonde hair as a child and been covered in freckles, and then by the time they are 40 or so, most of their freckling has disappeared.

from warm to cool

Kim was warm in her teens and is now cool in her 50s

I’ve also met people who have changed from having warm colouring when young, to cool colouring when they are over 45.  How does this happen?  Well if you think about grey – how do you make it?  If black and white are both cool, then grey is overall a cooler colour.  When you lose your hair pigment and your hair goes grey, for some they are also losing their skin pigments that have made their skin warm, and they become cooler with age.

Skin colouring changes – it’s something I’ve noticed in my own skin over time.  I remember when I was in my early 20s I couldn’t find a foundation colour that was pale enough for my porcelain skin.  Now in my 40s I’ve noticed that it’s darker than it was (plus a few melasma spots too) and I have no trouble finding a foundation.  It’s not dark, but I no longer have the snow white colouring of my youth.

Eye colours change too.  Many people who had brown eyes in their teen years, may have more of a dark olive green or hazel eye colour in their 40s and beyond.  Eye colour is made up of either blue or brown pigment, or a combination of the two.  The brown pigments that were so intense in their eyes is fading away so their blue pigments are becoming more obvious (still covered with some of the brown pigment, but not so heavily, so they look more green).

Plus those eye pigments fade, just as our hair pigments fade away.  The intense colours of youth dull down with age.  I have a friend who when I met her in her late teens had the brightest, blue eyes, 25 years later, they are still blue, but don’t have the intensity they once had. Eyes of an 80 year old tend to look glassy and it can be hard to see the colour.  When you look at someone who is in their 80s you will find that you can’t figure out what colour their hair may have been when young, as all the other colour markers have disappeared.

I’ve so far never met anyone who has completely neutral colouring.  I’ve met many who are not obviously warm or cool.  Understanding this will be the topic of tomorrow’s blog post!

Here are a couple of videos that I made with Jill Chivers talking about how colour changes with age.

 

 

Comments

  1. Remember that student I told you about who arrived in New Zealand with a cool deep colouring and within 5 years of a new country, new diet and especially change in lifestyle, she started doing triathlons, she morphed into a deep and Warm colouring. Shorter turnaround than I had ever seen client do.

    Never let anyone say you will stay the same or even stay warm or cool. Lifestyle and diet can have as much affect on us as age and sun.

    • how intriguing, so it is possible to turn from cool to warm! but how did this person’s diet change and how did their starting thriathlons make a difference to their skin, eye and hair colour?!

      • Susie,
        The lady above had moved from the UK, over there she lived a sedentary lifestyle and clearly different diet in a different country. We were not expecting the colour shift. She came as a model for a training I was running and I sat back expecting a cool determination from my student. Hearing the warm determination, brought me over so that I could ask her more.
        Once she arrived in NZ she started training for triathlons, so there was the change in lifestyle. It may just be that her skin was now more tanned, but there was no way that she could wear the bold cool deep colours any more. they was clashing with her.
        I know that lifestyle and diet can change eye colour as my own eyes have changed colour from my 20’s-40’s as a close friend has noted the change. My lifestyle is much healthier than the one of my youth and it must be showing in the lightness and clarity of my eyes. they used to be a deeper hazel, now they are a lighter sage.
        Diet and exercise can bring clarity to the eyes and diet and health can change the colour they eye appears as toxins and the removal of toxins from the body can colour the eye.
        We have all heard the saying that the eyes are the window to the world. It is not just an emotional barometer, it is a health one too.

      • Much more sun exposure (tanning) and probably way more carrots (carotene) which makes you appear more orange/yellow. THis is a very unusual case (or possibly she was warm all along and her first colour analysis was wrong – which is also possible)

  2. This is fascinating, thanks so much!

    1. so is it not at all likely that someone with cool colouring would turn warm as time passes?

    2. children and young people will suit brighter colours than older people. that is why older people don’t tend to look good in black? I suppose I do wonder about the intensity of colours sometimes, I can see the difference now between softer and brighter colours, but I’m guessing there are many in-between – something I’m not too adept at identifying. If we take you as an example, you suit bright colours, but when you will be 65, you will probably have to change to more muted colours? But will they be AS muted as for the 65-year-old that never could wear bright colours to begin with and always suited a more subdued colouring?! pondering about the differences between a very muted colour and a slightly muted colour…

    3. Re eye colour. Both my granddad and my boyfriend’s dad are 80ish and they have the clearest bluest eyes. They are v striking, as their hair and skin are white, so the eyes really stand out. In their youth when their hair colour was not white, the eyes did not stand out as much as they do now! My dad is 55 and has grey hair now and again his green eyes are more noticeable now than when he was younger and had dark hair and eyebrows and brighter skin to actually distract from the colour of his eyes! Hmmm… they are all outliers?

    • Susie – I’ve personally never seen anyone turn from cool to warm. But I do know from experience that when I went on Roaccutane in my mid twenties (very high doses of Vitamin A – carotene) I did look more tanned than I had ever looked, and it did probably warm my skin tone up for a short time, but as soon as those very high doses were out of my system I reverted to my regular undertone.

      2 – really depends on where they started to where they end up. SOme people are more muted throughout their lives, others are brighter and mute quickly, others mute slowly.

      3. – yes sometimes when you pass through the ‘grey’ stage and into the white stage you can become brighter again. But it’s skin tone that really does influence the most – you have to make the skin look healthy as that’s the largest organ and when our skin looks pallid or sickly, we don’t look great – even if that colour makes our eyes look a little brighter.

  3. While I agree that color tends to soften as one ages, I do not agree about how the eye color becomes nondescript in one’s 80’s. I often see people with quite vivid eye colors at this age. Many women in their 60’s, 70’s and beyond continue to dye their hair to flattering colors instead of going gray. Therefore there is still contrast between the skin and hair which can be enhanced wonderfully with flattering and subtle makeup.
    I had my colors done at least 20 years ago and was told I was a winter. Now in my late 60’s’ while I have added some subtle highlights to my hair, I still favor more vivid, blue based colors (and black!) rather than pastels.

    • Rebecca – some people retain their colouring much longer than others! There is no definitive age that you change. I never said you have to wear pastels. But you may find that rather than wearing really bright colours that the slightly more smoky ones suit you better. You may have a personal preference for bright colours still because that is also what you’re used to (I know this is something I’m currently struggling with with my change of hair).

      • I agree that it is best to tone down colors as you age but to keep the necessary level of contrast for flattery so that you don’t become faded and invisible. I also think toned down colors are more sophisticated and interesting.

        I have been following your change of hair color and although the latest color is lovely on you, still wish for a little more contrast.

        Do you have any suggestions on color analysis in NYC?

        • Rebecca – Yes contrast is oh so important! Interestingly, I once read that the Japanese call those toned down colours Sophisticated! They are more subtle, difficult to create and interesting than the bright colours. When we think about kids and kids toys, it’s all bright colours, smoky colours are way more sophisticated and intriguing!

          It’s very strange losing my contrast – I’m still playing with what works, what I can get away with with this new hair colour. I think my hair will be going lighter still next time I have it done. This is not the final result!

          As far as colour analysis in NYC I’d look up the bodybeautiful website and I think they list consultants there – good colours system, well taught.

          • Thanks for this great reply – I look forward to seeing the evolution of your new hair color!
            Unfortunately, body beautiful doesn’t have any consultants in NY or NJ. Oh well!!

  4. Deidre Tretsven says:

    I totally disagree, your skin undertone is the same no matter what your age, when your hair grays cool (summer, winter) will grey silver and warm (spring, autumn) will gray golden. Your skin can turn sallow from age, illness, exposure to sun but again the undertone is the same, you possibly can where some of the colors in your palette better with a tan then without but you will stay within your palette.!!
    In fact as you age or are sick it is even more imperative that you stay within your color palette.

    I have been doing color analysis since 1978 before the book on color by Carol Jackson was written and even specialized in the Black Woman because she incorrectly stated that all Black Women were winters.

    Many women do this without proper training, they go to a weekend class with a makeup company which does not care what season they put you in as long as they sell you makeup and now consider themselves experts.

    • You are welcome to disagree Deidre. I’ve also spent years studying colour and agree that a weekend class does not give you anywhere the insight. I have from experience discovered people who have changed colouring – and if you look at the photo of Kim in this post you will see that when she was a teenager she was warm and golden, and now in her 50s she’s become very cool.

    • I just had a PCA and the result based on my skintone was Bright Spring, a warm, bright palette. My gray hair is growing in mixed white and steel blue/gray, not warm at all. I am so confused!

      • I’m confused too – I’m surprised, unless your skin is still warm. I would have thought though that your grey hair meant that your skin has also become more subtle and muted and you’d need a softer palette – maybe still warm, or maybe cooler – without seeing you I can’t make any judgments.

  5. Hi Imogen, very interested in your posts on greying hair. You look so much softer with your new hair shade. You looked beautiful with the dark hair, but this is a new look. We really notice your face and not the dark hair framing it. As I am in my 70s and stopped tinting my hair because it always went orange (was an autumn when younger) I have found it difficult to find clothes in softer shades, there are so many bright strong colours out there, and I positively HATE black, burnt orange and khaki. Am enjoying looking for softer colours, maybe I should try making my own clothes in order to get the more flattering colours!! Don’t think my hair will ever be silver white, more the warm white.

    • All hair goes brassy when tinting – it’s the natural red pigments that peroxide shows up in our hair (it’s the colour of the keratin). Not sure where you can buy softer colours in Britain. I tend to find you get more of them in slightly more expensive stores than the cheaper end of town as they are more complicated to produce. But it also depends on the current fashion trends in colours too!

  6. Honestly, I’ve never liked color analysis. It seems like it never quite works. I can always find the colors and styles that work for me without that kind of help. I have no idea what ‘season’ I am, and it doesn’t matter.

    • Interesting Sophia – I see colour analysis working all the time. I really notice when people are wearing unflattering colours for them – it makes me feel physically ill. I don’t use seasons – the concept is simple and dated. I look at colour properties of the person and what will make them look lighter, brighter, younger and more vibrant. Colour is powerful. Maybe you’ve just not seen how.

  7. I’ve gone from being very cool in my youth to being warmer this last year. I suspect this is to do with overtones and undertones. My porcelain skin which clearly showed the blue veining in it as a child has been tanned, since I am spending so much time outside supervising my own children. The blue and pink undertones have gone for the moment as I am suffering from a reduction in red blood cells because of some health issues. My ash brown hair is now mostly white and I tend to just put a platinum dye through to even out the colour. Any dyed hair goes slightly yellow, so although I use ‘blue’ conditioner, it is still warmer than before.
    As I get older, I will return to my very cool colouring -less sunlight, the return of some red blood cells, and eventally, when my children are not so young, pure white hair. For the moment, I’ve invested in some tan accessories and boots to contrast with my mainly aqua and blue wardrobe and a coral orange cardigan. Its fun to be able to play with a few different colours even if it is just for (hopefully) a few more months until I am well again.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I wrote about how fast your colouring changes as you age. In the the question, I was also asked if you can have a neutral undertone – one that is […]

  2. […] when you’ve got it all sussed out, your coloring begins to change as you age. This follow-up post on understanding undertones is incredibly helpful, […]

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