15 January 2016

How Come That Lipstick Doesn't Look Like That On Me? - An Explanation

One of the comments I come across a lot on makeup pages and especially on Instagram is "that lipstick doesn't look like that on me." And every time, I think, well of course not!

There are a huge number of reasons that a photo of someone wearing a lipstick looks nothing like how you look wearing the exact same thing, and none of them have to do with inconsistent lipstick formulas.

To start with is something we all should know by now: different lighting has different colour temperatures. The biggest ones to note are that incandescent lighting has a yellow cast and flourescent lighting has a blue or green cast. Natural light (on a bright, sunny day) is universally acknowledged to be the most neutral, and even that has a slight yellow cast! Our eyes also perceive blue-white as "brighter" than yellow-white.

Colour perception is also affected by surrounding colours, which is incredibly important in lipstick choices. Is your undertone pink or yellow? Are you paler than alabaster or dark as ebony? The colour of your skin is going to dramatically affect how the lipstick colour appears on you. Even clothes and accessories can affect how a colour appears. Neutral grey affects colours the least. Since I started my print program at uni, I've started wearing ridiculous amounts of grey.

Even colour correction can only do so much. These colours must still be displayed on a device, whether it's a computer monitor, tablet or smartphone. For instance, my monitor is fairly balanced but a little blue, while my old laptop displayed everything horrendously yellow (I tried to fix it but it never worked). iMacs tend to display bluer in order to appear brighter. Even so, no two devices will display colour the same, even if they're the same model.

Different browsers can also mess with colours, as most of them now have a built-in system to manage colour. There was a time when Chrome didn't, and therefore tended to oversaturate colour (very old post warning). Based on what I've read, it seems like Chrome does colour manage now so it should no longer be a problem.

And finally, each person's visual system processes colours differently from any other person, meaning that no one actually perceives colours the same way. While we may all call lavender "lavender," what it actually means to us can vary.

Here's a few photos in various lighting of me wearing one of the Internet's most controversial shades: Kat Von D's Lolita liquid lipstick. Is it brown? Is it rose? Is it mauve? Does it even count as a nude?

L-R: dull yellow light | bright blue-white light | bright yellow light
Top: No edits, all photos taken with Samsung Galaxy S5 front camera.
Bottom: Edited using Photoshop's Auto Tone and Auto Colour features.

Conclusion, for me? No, not a nude. But it looks both brown and rose depending on the light. I keep forgetting what it looks like under natural light, though, but Canada at 5pm in winter doesn't have any natural light.

So what is the point of have online swatches at all?

The amazing thing about our eyes is that our visual system adjusts our colour perception according to the perceived white point of an image. This is how the whole fiasco with The Dress came about: different people had different white points which affected how they perceived the rest of the colours.

What this means in terms of swatches is that even though no image is ever technically "accurate to life" because of all the factors involved, our eyes and brain are clever enough to approximate the colours once our visual system identifies that white point.

Despite the amazing brilliance of our brains, it still doesn't mean that a lipstick is going to look the same on you as it does on someone else, even if they have a similar skin tone as you. Lighting makes a hell of a difference.

Enough of my rambling! I would still recommend to anyone to swatch a lipstick on the face before deciding whether or not it works for you. Shades don't have to be designated flattering for your skin tone or hair colour before you decide you like it on yourself.

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1 comment:

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