Colorful Insights

This article was originally published in the March 2012 issue of Skin Inc.

  • A fresh, healthy complexion is a big trend for spring/summer 2012, and more beauty companies are developing foundation products that look more like skin and less like makeup.
  • Blush and bronzers are offering encouraging flushes of color in cosmetic applications, further contributing to a healthy glow.
  • Cosmetic colors for eyes are running the gamut from dynamic to intense to romantic shades, and metallic accents are lending a reflective element.
  • Semigloss is a big trend in lips, with consumers seeking out long-wearing hues in a variety of shades.

Spring always brings with it a feeling of newness; of hope and light and new possibilities. After shaking off the stupor of a long winter’s rest, people tend to look with a renewed vigor at their world, and many seek to express this feeling through makeup. This spring, consumers aren’t hard-pressed to find the exact color to fit their moods, whether it be romantic nudes and pastels or bright, vibrant shades that say “Look out world; I’m out of hibernation!”

Makeup is an easy and relatively inexpensive way for consumers to liven up their wardrobes and put a new face to their world.

Although many of the hot colors for spring may seem out of reach for the everyday woman, their influence can be seen in more mass products, as well. “Remember that runway looks are meant to be theatrical trendsetters, and that women who want to look current may not necessarily want to, or be able to, rock what a runway model can carry off,” says Emily Katz, celebrity makeup artist. “Employ realistic options while creating a feel for what these looks are now.”

The color palette for spring 2012, from color authority Pantone,* includes a plethora of fun, bright colors, as well as those that are more subdued for a more neutral look. “The colors that will be hot are tangerine and neons and other bright colors, and some of the nudes and softer colors,” says Teresa Paquin, makeup artist and owner of Anika Skincare & Makeup Studio. “Spring is a time of renewal, and these colors can be made wearable for every [consumer] of every age.”


“Something those in the skin care world have been waiting for is happening this spring—skin really is in. Because of this, sheer coverage is key this season,” says Katz. Taking a departure from the heavier coverage of fall/winter 2011, flawless, lightweight coverage is all the rage for spring. “I’m excited about getting back to the complexion,” states celebrity makeup artist KJ Bennett.

“It’s all about gorgeous skin again. We’re paying homage to skin. Many makeup companies are making foundations that look like skin and not like makeup. It’s all about coverage and perfect skin with highlights and gorgeous finishes—the kind of skin that makes people say, ‘How the heck does her skin look that perfect?’”

Kate McCarthy, national artist and educator for Glominerals agrees, “Spring will return to having a fresh, no-makeup complexion. This will be achieved with a more full-coverage foundation that has a dewier, satin finish.”

According to Tricia E. Campbell, director of education for Jane Iredale, “People are looking for coverage, but they’re also seeking sheer-looking texture. Many want a matte finish on the skin, but they don’t like the feel of that heavy foundation.”

According to corrective makeup artist Donna Mee of Donna Mee, Inc., much of makeup success comes from the right foundation. “Most people don’t know how to match their foundation to their undertones ... they need to compare the shade to the color of their neck and chest. The whole purpose of foundation is to cover surface tones and bring out undertones.”

Blushes and Bronzers

Once that perfect complexion has been established, color can be added to enhance the bone structure and offer a livelier look for spring. “People are getting away from the spray tanning and are using bronzers more often,” says Bennett. “That way, [there is] a subtle color to the body and the face. All the colors are more on the rosy side than on the orange side.”

McCarthy agrees, “Bronzers are going to offer a sun-kissed, warm glow. I’ve been doing a lot of light contouring, placing the bronzer on the face where the sun naturally hits, like on the hollows of the cheeks, at the hairline and on the sides of the nose. It adds warmth and shape to the face.”

Blush is another major player in spring 2012’s vibrant look. Whether consumers are leaning toward a more natural or a bolder look, blush can play a big part in adding a hint of color. “The cheek is very soft with a sheer pink or peach blush to go with a lot of spring colors,” explains Paquin. If a consumer is going with a either a nude look or intense color, she says, a soft, sheer pink can be used on the cheek with a sheer neutral on the lip.

Katz agrees that sheer pink or peach is the way to go. “A very light beige or rose pink or peach are best to keep blush from looking too clownish.” Adding blush to bronzer can really add a touch of sun to the face, says Bennett, noting that consumers are apt to do a flush of color over the bronzer on the apples of the cheeks for a sunny glow with the bronzer, and the infusion of spring colors precludes anything murky or muddy-looking.


Dynamic and intense or romantic and neutral, the eyes are always a point of focus for application and color trends.

For those who prefer a more dynamic and intense look, “A beautiful tangerine-washed gold is a great eye shadow color for spring that can be worn by many different women,” suggests Katz. Other bold—even neon—colors can be used, including teal, turquoise, purples and ocean blues, according to Katz.

Along with intense colors, metallic colors for the eyes are gaining momentum this season. “Metallics are huge right now, but are not what you would expect—they are not the typical silver, gold and bronze. It’s metallic colors, and it’s so fresh and invigorating for the spring and summer. It isn’t a shimmery, glittery look; it’s reflective and shiny in a metallic way, and every color is being done—like pinks, purples and mint tones,” explains Bennett. “There is nothing more stunning than a metallic mint tone against bronzed skin. Pair that with a beautiful transparent tangerine glossy lip, and it screams happiness, sunshine, and evokes an unbelievable feeling of the season that it is.”

For consumers who prefer a more romantic and neutral approach to spring, there are beautiful options available, as well. “Everyday women really gravitate toward the natural look; women want their natural beauty to come through,” says Campbell. Sheer pink is a big eye shadow color for the more neutral look. “Eyes are soft for spring, and there are a lot of pastels being used. It’s going to be pretty sheer. For eye shadows, I’m seeing a color wash, where one color is used from the lash line to the brow bone. Rose petal, lilacs, mint greens and a dark black liner are keeping eyes soft, romantic and pretty,” says McCarthy.

To incorporate some of the spring colors in a more natural way, Katz suggests using eye shadows in golden tones. “Colors, especially light golden orange, can look beautiful without being harsh, along with nudes, beiges and light taupes. [A shimmer can be added] without having too much shine, which would inappropriately enhance skin texture. There are new formulations that blend well and are sheer, lightweight and easy-to-apply,” she says.

No matter which type of color palette consumers choose, liner, lashes and brows also play an important role this season, adding “An intense color of shadow, a little color under the brow and a nice dramatic line,” says Paquin.

Another look that has lingered from fall/winter 2011 is the winged eye, although to spice it up for the new season, and lots of thick, black lashes are still in vogue for this season, while eyebrows remain a strong feature as well. “Big brows are coming back,” advises McCarthy. Paquin agrees, saying, “Brows are thick and well-shaped. There’s a lot of attention on a full brow that is naturally shaped this spring.”


Although reds will always be in, the traditional red that graced the porcelain faces of fall/winter 2011 is transitioning into the new season. “The beautiful tangerine color can help transition the red lips of last season by taking red and infusing it with the tangerine giving it a warmer edge. It’s a gorgeous bridge,” says Bennett, who is also inspired by the lavender colors of spring. “A lavender lip is stunning, fresh and unexpected on the lips,” he says.

Although cream lipsticks are carrying over from last season, semigloss is holding its own this spring. “Lips are not high gloss this season,” says Paquin. “It’s a little more sheen than what was being seen in the fall. A sheer gloss really complements some of the looks this spring.” According to McCarthy, “Sheer colors for lips, such as berries and pinks, are in this spring.”

Along with semiglosses, lip stains are also a favorite. “People are looking for lip stains that are long-wearing with softer colors in nudes and pale pinks,” says Campbell. And lip crayons are providing the precision of a liner and the look of a lipstick with crisp and polished looks.

Making It Work

As most beauty professionals are aware, just because the color and application is trendy doesn’t mean that it is the right choice for everyone. Customization is also a key trend. Explains Katz, “Trendy isn’t always right for everyone. It’s good to go with what really works.” Every season gives beauty brands an opportunity to reinvigorate the relationships they have with consumers by introducing them to new makeup colors and trends. And this spring and summer offers a colorful reason to get back in touch with those who have been missing in action.

“Color affects people’s moods so much. It’s something needed, it’s refreshing and people need to be refreshed,” says Paquin. “Because of the trying times, consumers add color to their everyday lives, it brightens their moods. [Current color trends] are very wearable and are what people are needing.”

Cathy Christensen is the associate editor of Skin Inc. magazine, a business-to-business publication for the professional skin care industry and a sister publication to GCI magazine. Her work has been honored by American Business Media’s Folio: Awards, as well as the American Society of Business Publication Editors’ Azbee awards.

More in Color Cosmetics