Spring-warm or winter-cool? Personal colour tests, the latest beauty craze

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Spring-warm or winter-cool? Personal colour tests, the latest beauty craze

Spring-warm or winter-cool? Personal colour tests, the latest beauty craze


Are you warm-toned or cool-toned? The current craze for South Koreans is to take personal colour tests — or consultations that provide recommendations for people’s personal colour types.

The tests, largely held offline for accuracy, have professional analysts evaluate whether people fall under the category of “warm-tone” or “cool-tone,” by scrutinizing their skin tone.

According to the tests, warm-toned people generally have a yellow-base skin undertone, while cool-toned people harbour a blue-base skin undertone.

The South Korean personal colour system breaks it down further into four colour types: spring warm, summer cool, autumn warm and winter cool.

Spring warm-toned people are generally suited for yellow undertone colours that are light and pastel-toned, while autumn warm-toned people are best styled with deep and darker yellow undertone colours.

Meanwhile, summer cool-toned people are to be styled with colour palettes which include cooling, soft and bright colours — whereas deeper, striking colours with blue undertones like forest green, wine red and black are recommended for winter cool-toned people.

Personal colour types are determined for an individual after they go through consultation sessions such as draping and pouch analysis.

During the draping portion of the testing sessions, fabrics of multiple colours are draped across the shoulders of the customer to see the effect of each colour on a person’s general style.

The drapings discern the colours best suited for each customer and work as the evaluation tool for analysts to determine each person’s personal colour type.

A person tries on different colored fabric swatches during a personal color test. (Colorazit)A person tries on different colored fabric swatches during a personal color test. (Colorazit)

Next, customers’ makeup pouches are analyzed, and the analysts look through the makeup items most often used by the customer to advise them on the type of cosmetics they should or should not use.

Diagnosis reports which elaborate in detail about the person’s general style are finally given to each customer after the session is over.

Then, where did these personal colour tests come from?

The basic theory for warm and cool-tone differentiation stems from American artist Robert Dorr’s colour key system theory, which underscored that colours were most harmoniously used when using the same undertone of either blue or yellow.

Fashion designer Suzanne Caygill applied Dorr’s system to people’s physical traits, determining a person’s personal colour after examining an individual’s colour of skin, hair and pupil.

Expanding on Caygill’s idea, colour consultant Carole Jackson classified human images by the four seasons in her bestseller “Color me beautiful” — which became the origin of inspiration for multinational beauty consulting companies in the United States and Europe, to commercialize the process of personal colour diagnosis for international consumers.

The tests entered the South Korean market for the first time in 1993 and gradually became a hit.

Continuing the momentum of its popularity, a slew of South Korean beauty companies have too released personal colour system-related goods as a part of their marketing tactic.

South Korea’s first personal colour-related goods started with Espoir, a cosmetic brand under the nation’s beauty and cosmetics conglomerate Amorepacific.

Tonework (Amorepacific)Tonework (Amorepacific)

Named Real Eye Handy Palette, the eyeshadow palettes are composed of selections of colors centred around each personal colour season.

Releases of a series of goods and services followed, such as AI-based personal colour analysis applications and personalized cosmetics that analyze a person’s skin tone prior to developing the product.

For one, Amorepacific’s cosmetic manufacturing technology “Tonework” customizes makeup products based on colours most suited for consumers. It measures the colour of a person’s face using AI algorithms and has robots manufacture customized liquid foundations, cushion compacts and lip products based on a person’s personal colour type.

The most popular Snapchat-like camera app in South Korea, Snow, operated by Naver, also offer diverse personal colour type filters for its consumers to use.

Then why did these personal colour tests become such a hit?

Experts pinpointed an increased interest in self as one of the factors.

“Before, people were eager to follow what the celebrities had on as part of their makeup,” said Yoon Jung-ha, CEO of Zamface, an AI-based app that allows users to take personal colour tests on their own. The virtual personal colour test-dedicated app recorded 1.7 million users as of December.

“People used famous makeup products whether or not it suited themselves, but now more focus is being spent on whether the makeup products suit their own style,” she added.

The comfort of belonging to a certain group also contributed to its popularity.

“People tend to seek for a certain sense of belonging during uncertain times. The personal colour system, in that aspect, could have provided people with a category in which to fit,” said Lee Young-ae, a professor of consumer science at Incheon University.

She cited South Koreans’ affinity for MBTI tests and the tests which categorized individuals based on blood type, noting that people like to be “classified” into certain groups.

She further mentioned that with increased online shopping, people needed to be certain if the colour of the makeup products would suit them without trying them out in person, saying that a personal colour system provided consumers with a standard upon which to fall back on.

However, the results of the personal colour system should not be trusted blindly, experts also added.

“The personal colour system itself is based on a sound scientific theory,” said Shin Hyang-seon, the president of Korea Color Industry Specialist Association.

She said people’s skin undertones, which are determined by three elements including haemoglobin, carotene and melanin, are defined by genetics and will never change, emphasizing that, in that matter, there will always be colours best suited for an individual from the moment they are born.

“However, skin overtones can change based upon factors such as sun exposure, the type of food a person eats, and natural ageing — leading to a more difficult assessment of a personal colour system as a person ages,” she added.

Moreover, she stressed that the current personal colour system market is filled with analysts who are not qualified enough to be giving out recommendations.

“Personal colours are best diagnosed by colourists (specialists in colour). But people of different occupations such as makeup specialists and stylists are currently giving out personal colour tests, which could lead to a potentially inaccurate diagnosis of personal colour types,” said Shin.

Moreover, with the test initially designed for foreigners, for higher accuracy, a separate uniform system for personal colour needs to be established specifically for Asians, Shin added.

“South Koreans have taken the personal colour type theory and tests possibly the furthest out of all the countries in the world. The tests could become a foundation stone for the growth of the nation’s beauty market,” Shin said.

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