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How To Describe Skin Color In Writing

by Lyndon Langley
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How To Describe Skin Color In Writing

How To Describe Skin Color In Writing

The human body is comprised of different types of tissue in varying amounts. Skin takes up the majority of the body’s weight and covers approximately two-thirds of its total area. Its purpose is to protect other tissues from damage by external elements. It also acts as a barrier between internal organs and the environment. Skin color varies according to ethnicity; however, there are only three basic categories — white, black or brown. The primary function of skin is to act as an organ for protection, regulation and sensation. Therefore, how we describe skin color can affect how others view us.
Skin texture refers to our skin’s surface condition. Ideally, skin should be soft with a smooth, even texture, but it’s not uncommon to have skin that feels rough and uneven. This occurs when your skin has been damaged by sun exposure, acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. When you’re describing someone’s complexion, consider the following factors:
* Texture – Is the person’s skin thick or thin? Are their pores visible?
* Tone – Does the person appear pale, dark, bright or pasty?
* Pigmentation – How does this person tan? Do they burn easily?
* Complexion – What kind of facial features do they possess (e.g., freckles, wrinkles)?
* Quality – Is the skin healthy looking or dull?
* Moisture – Does the individual sweat easily? Dry skin is another factor to consider.
* Appearance – Is the person’s skin shiny or matte?
* Age – As people age, they often develop fine lines and wrinkles, which change the appearance of their skin.
To determine whether your description is accurate, take photos of your subject so you can compare them to images on the Internet. You may want to ask the person if they would like to participate in any photo shoots you plan to conduct. However, most individuals will agree to these sessions because they feel more comfortable being photographed in relaxed settings than posing alone in front of a camera lens. For those who prefer privacy, use a cell phone to snap pictures of your subject during social gatherings at home or out in public places.
Once you’ve taken several shots, review each image carefully. Ask yourself questions such as:
* Am I comparing the same areas of the face in each photograph?
* Is my subject facing me directly or at an angle?
* What part of the face am I focusing on?
* Which parts of the body do I see clearly?
* What colors am I seeing?
* How many objects in the background stand out?
* What angles do I shoot from?
After taking enough photographs, you’ll begin to notice inconsistencies. Make sure you don’t overlook anything that could convey inaccurate information about the subject’s appearance. If you’re uncertain about what you see, consult a dermatologist before making any final judgments.
Next, let’s discuss some tips for effectively using words to describe skin tone.
Tips for Using Words to Describe Skin Tone
If you’re writing a story about an elderly woman, then you might need to add additional descriptive details such as her hair style, clothing and jewelry. But if you’re creating a character with fair skin, you won’t include much detail beyond his or her physical appearance. However, if you were to write about a young man or woman with olive skin, you’d have to mention things such as their hairstyle, clothes and accessories. Below are some guidelines for selecting the correct vocabulary to describe various tones of skin.
White skin: White skin appears very light and clear. People with fair complexions usually describe themselves as “pale” or “fair.” They tend to avoid using terms such as “tan,” “olive” or “complexion” because they sound too heavy.
Pasty skin: Pasty skin is described as having a chalky look due to dryness or flakiness. A well-known example of a writer who uses the word “pasty” is Jane Austen. She used it to make characters with sallow complexions seem less attractive.
Dark skin: Dark skin looks deep and rich. People with dark complexions tend to use adjectives such as “dark,” “coffee,” “chocolate,” “tawny,” “dusky” and “swarthy.”
Bright skin: Bright skin is described as luminous and fresh. Terms such as “brilliant,” “shimmering,” “luminous” and “glowing” come to mind.
As mentioned earlier, skin color depends upon ethnic backgrounds. Hispanics typically have darker complexions, while Asians have lighter complexions. Native Americans tend to display skin tones somewhere in between.
On the next page learn why it’s important to choose the right words to accurately portray skin color.
Choosing the Right Words to Accurately Portray Skin Color
It’s easy to think that certain words automatically convey meaning without needing further explanation. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. Before you decide which words to use to describe skin tone, try substituting some of the words listed above until you find one that works best. Then, check in with your subject to get feedback. After all, you wouldn’t write a story about someone wearing blue eyeshadow unless you wanted your readers to know exactly what the makeup was made of. So don’t neglect to pay attention to your reader’s perspective and give him or her every opportunity to understand what you mean.
Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind when choosing words to describe skin tone:
* Use words that reflect the tone of the skin rather than the color. For instance, if you’re describing a Hispanic male, say he has “a ruddy complexion” instead of “red” or “ruddy.” Also, if you’re referring to a Caucasian female, say she has “a tanned complexion” instead of “tanned” or “brown.” When you use phrases like “goldish” or “bronze,” your reader may assume that the skin tone is closer to yellow or orange.
* Avoid using words that can confuse your audience. For example, saying someone has “a green complexion” sounds strange because in English it means something close to “greenish.” Similarly, using the phrase “creamy-white” suggests milk and not skin.
* Choose words that match the skin tone’s intensity. If someone has “a golden complexion,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is extremely wealthy. On the other hand, “golden” describes a strong tone and implies health or happiness.
* Be careful of overusing specific words. Don’t inundate your reader with excessive descriptions about skin color. Instead, focus on conveying general characteristics through language usage. For example, saying someone’s eyes are “blue-gray” is preferable to saying they have “olive-colored eyes.”
When you use words correctly, your reader will receive the message you intend.
For more articles on topics related to beauty, read the links below.
Aging changes the appearance of skin. Here are 10 ways to slow down signs of aging:
1. Eat healthy foods
2. Exercise regularly
3. Manage stress
4. Drink plenty of water
5. Maintain proper hygiene
6. Sleep adequately
7. Find support
8. Reduce alcohol intake
9. Limit smoking
10. Practice moderation
Learn more about beauty products and cosmetics on the next page.
Beauty Products and Cosmetics

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