What Is Olive Skin? The #1 Factor that Sets Olive Skin Apart

Knowing exactly what type of skin you have not only can help at the makeup counter. It can help you find the right products specifically for your skin tone.

But what if you’re not sure?

It’s not uncommon to confuse olive skin with a golden tan. And not all medium-brown skin tones possess that green tinge unique to olive-skinned beauties.

So then, what is olive skin? Does the term include all women with naturally-tanned complexions? Where do you draw the line?

What Is Olive Skin? The #1 Factor that Sets Olive Skin Apart

It’s time to stop the guessing game. Here’s what you need to know about super cool olive skin.

Exactly, What Is Olive Skin? Do I Have It?

As always, knowing your skin tone is the first step to finding the best colors for your complexion. The two distinctions that best define olive skin are golden undertones and slight green tinges.

Olive skin can also include light brown skin tones between pale and dark – but not always. Where light olive skin may have cream to beige tones, dark olive complexions can vary from moderate brown.

What really sets olive skin apart is the natural green pigment (mixed with shades of red and yellow) slightly visible on the surface of the skin. For some women, these olive hues can give the skin an almost gray or ashen appearance.

The skin on the cheeks, nose, and chin are more likely to possess olive tones. But these complexions can also be found on the neck, shoulders, upper back, arms, hands, and legs.

Here’s where it gets interesting..

You may have olive skin if you resemble any of the following women: Rooney Mara, Freida Pinto, Halle Berry, Elizabeth Taylor, Nia Long.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the undertones beneath the surface.

Skin Undertones and What They Mean for Olive Skin

Stand in the cosmetics aisle and you’ll find foundations and concealers – even blush – categorized based on your skin’s undertones (whether cool, warm, or neutral). But some brands don’t show a true range of undertones in their shade collections. Instead, they rely on the standard color wheel to make assumptions about your skin color.

So where does olive skin fall in?

Most olive women have neutral undertones (a special mixture of warm and cool) beneath a blend of green, red, and yellow pigment. But because the pigment has a slight green tint to it (unique to olive skin), it may be difficult to find the right foundation to match.

What About the Fitzpatrick Scale?

When you think of olive skin, you probably picture a bronzed complexion. But did you know there are actually many different shades of olive?

Even though olive skin tones may have a slight green tint, you probably fall somewhere in the middle of the Fitzpatrick scale.

The Fitzpatrick scale is a numerical classification system used to define human skin color based on melanin content.

It ranges from type I (extremely fair with red hair and light eyes) to type VI (deeply pigmented dark brown to black skin).

Where your skin fits will all depend on the amount of color-enhancing melanin your body produces.

Olive skin typically falls in the Type IV and Type V range on the Fitzpatrick Scale – an effective way to classify your skin based on genetic attributes and your skin’s reaction to sunlight. But while olive skin can tan reasonably well, it often runs into hyperpigmentation problems (we talk about these in another guide).

Fitzpatrick Scale

The Fitzpatrick Scale is an excellent tool to determine how best to care for your unique skin type – even if you’re not olive.

(There are six Fitzpatrick skin types)

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 1 : Very fair skin with red or blonde hair and light-colored eyes. You burn easily in the sun, but have little risk for increased melanin production . Your greatest threat for skin cancer is sun damage.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 2 : White skin with blond or red hair and blue eyes. You burn easily, but more likely tan to a light brown color in the sun. Your risk for increased melanin production increases slightly after too much sun exposure.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 3 : Cream white to pale skin with blond or red hair and blue, hazel, or green eyes. You burn easily and tan to a golden color after too much sun exposure. Your risk for melanoma is still low, but it’s the most common skin cancer in this group.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 4 : Fair skin with brown or black hair andbrown eyes. You can tan to a moderate brown after too much time spent in the sun, and you’re at risk for increased melanin production . It’s important to be diligent about sunscreen use and wearing protective clothing.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 5 : Moderate skin with brown hair and black eyes. You tan well, but can developsunspots and increased melanin production after too much sun. It’s important to take extra care of your skin to avoid hyperpigmentation problems, which is common in this group.

Fitzpatrick Skin Type 6 : Dark brown to black skin with dark brown eyes and either black or very curly hair. You naturally produce more melanin thanother types. You can get a bad sunburn, but it’s not likely because of your increased melanin production .

Olive skin typically fits in the Fitzpatrick Four or Five range. This means you don’t burn very easily, but may develop additional pigment with too much sun exposure.

So, I Have Olive Skin. How Does It Affect Me?

We’ve talked about what olive skin is and characteristics of women who have it. But olive skin does come with its own sets of problems, from oily skin to discoloration.

Oily Skin

Here’s the thing about olive skin, though: it tends to be dehydrated. This is because excess oil can make your skin look dull and dry. But what exactly does this mean for you?

It might seem counterintuitive, but if you have oily skin , you should still use a moisturizer with an SPF of at least 30. This will prevent your skin from being too oily.

Too much oil may be problematic for you, but that doesn’t mean you have to live under an umbrella in the sun all summer long. The fact is this: without sunscreen, your skin will dehydrate and become dry over time . To combat this, use a moisturizing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

The only other thing you need to do is find a skin-brightening product that will allow your skin to maintain its healthy appearance no matter how much sun exposure it gets. Look for ingredients like vitamin C, arbutin , and kojic acid .


Olive skin has a unique ability to produce more pigment with sun exposure. This is what causes dark spots on the face, arms, chest, or shoulders. Since this pigmentation occurs in these areas of the body that are most exposed to the sun , they are also most likely to show signs of aging .

There are two elements at play here, pigment and sun damage . Your skin holds pigment in the upper layer. Sun damage occurs when this upper layer is lost, allowing pigment to seep into the lower layers of your skin.

Combating this means addressing both issues head on. If you want to remove excess pigment , your best bet is a product that contains hydroquinone . And if you want to prevent further sun damage, look for a sunscreen with either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide .

What Else Should I Know About Olive Skin?

It can be tough finding the right cosmetics amidst a sea of pricey concealers, mineral makeup, and facial cleansers – especially when you have olive skin.

On Olive Skin Beauty, we’ll help you…

  • Unleash your natural beauty, eliminate acne, and erase dark blemishes with best skin care practices and routines designed specifically for olive skin.
  • Find the right foundation, concealer, and blush to flatter your complexion (and learn about which cosmetics to stay far away from).
  • Bring out the natural colors of your eyes with advanced eyeshadow techniques and eye-popping makeup shades you can apply day or night.
  • Discover dozens of sultry lip shades, from glosses to lipsticks and lip liner pencils, and learn how best to apply them.
  • Complement your personal style with professional nail design tutorials you can do from home.

Hopefully now you have a better idea of what olive skin is and how it affects you.