sun tan

Does your season change when you tan?

I think this must be up there in the top ten questions asked of colour analysts. Even the most sunscreen-committed of us tend to see some variation in our skintone throughout the year – from winter’s palest shades through the first hint of colour as Spring appears and then on to our own personal deepest tan by the end of the summer. Personally I experience this in extremes, with my father’s fair Scottish heritage predominating during winter and my mother’s more olive-skinned genes taking over once the sun comes out, so as a client it was top of my list of questions when I had my own colour analysis and which my consultant gave an almost identical answer to the one I am going to give you here.

The – very – short answer is no. Not only does your season does not change throughout the year, it actually remains unchanged throughout your entire life, but that’s further than we need to worry about today. Colouring is determined by genetics, and remains unchanged regardless of (natural) tanning, scars, ageing etc.

Rather than ending there, I suppose it’s only fair to also give you the longer answer too. When you had your colour analysis, the chances are you were given some kind of ‘direction’ within your season, being described as a light Spring, or a deep Summer, or similar applicable adjective. So as well as being given a broader palette you will also have been guided as to what your ‘wow’ colours are within that palette.

When we are at our palest (and therefore often our least ‘bright’, regardless of how bold or muted our personal palette is), we often rely on our wow colours more, feeling less confident in other parts of the palette. However, as we get more colour in our own skin, some of those less good colours seem to start working too. The reason is that tan does some of the work, adding a bit of a glow and hiding some imperfections, so we are able to venture outside our wow colour comfort zone a little more and wear just ‘good’ colours as well as wow ones. As an aside, most people are more comfortable wearing brighter colours when it’s sunny and bright outside, so there is a psychological correlation between feeling confident with the brighter colours in warmer weather too.

So, in summary, a tan will never affect your seasonal outcome, but it may affect how you look and feel in some of the less wow colours within your palette.

A note about fake tan: almost all fake tan is warm (yellow) toned, and can seriously alter the outcome of a colour analysis, because it adds an artificially warm overtone to the skin. This is especially true, obviously, of cool toned people, but can alter the wow colour outcome even for the warmer toned among us.

Jet set colours

headerWhen I’m going through a client’s palette with them at the end of a personal colour analysis, they will often comment, “oh, I love that colour, but I could only wear it with a tan,” or, “that’s definitely one for the summer holidays.” As an analyst I can see that the colour looks amazing on the client regardless of her geographical location or how much sun she’s caught (obviously I am never going to promote UV damage to your skin in order to wear any colour), but there’s no denying that most of us feel more confident about wearing our brighter and higher contrast colours in the summer. Something about the holiday spirit, the brightness of the sun making everything seem cheerier, or perhaps just the joy of not being rained on for five minutes for those of us in the UK, means we’re all happier to embrace our more playful colours.

With that in mind, and with summer approaching (fingers crossed. Every other day I seem to read about the imminent ‘scorcher’ of a summer. Devon has not been noticeably scorched thus far), I thought it was high time to give you quick reminder of some of the colours and combinations which might have escaped your attention over the interminable winter.

So which colours should I be considering?


You’re never the shrinking violet on the colour front anyway, but warm weather is the perfect time to show off that light bright contrast that works so well for you. Pair light bright cream (Kettlewell’s soft white is perfect here) with buttercup, pink coral or aqua. And for extra boldness, add a splash of a second bright to really bring your beachside look together.


Lace camisole in CoralGathered V in Aqua, Square neck 3/4 sleeve in Buttercup


Despite being a soft season, there is still plenty of bold colour in this palette; go for ice pink or primrose, and add cerise, raspberry or spearmint to bring a splash of summer. Consider offsetting an elegant pale blue grey with cornflower or shocking pink. Keep your look down to just a couple of colours if you want to emphasise the brightness, rather than layering up several similar shades.


Camisole in Wisteria, Cotton V neck in Cornflower, Semi scoop 3/4 sleeve in Cerise


It’s easy to forget the brighter colours in the Autumn palette in the face of rich colours like russet red and olive green. But instead try lifting soft white with lime, saffron or leaf green. I’m also a fan of Autumn’s warm greys (like pebble grey) lifted with splashes of warm red shades shades like geranium or orange spice.


Long vest top in Saffron, Ruched Crossover in Lime, Scoop neck 3/4 sleeve in Poppy


You do contrast so well, but a lot of Winter’s colours lend themselves more to the cooler seasons than summer sun. For a fresher look, pair bright white or silver grey with hot pink or azure, or for a less obviously ‘winter’ look try acid yellow or iced aqua. Give the dark greens, greys and purples a rest while the sun’s out and embrace the lighter side of your palette.


Lace camisole in Cobalt Blue, Faux wrap in Blue Jade, Sleeveless Cowl in Hot Pink

Details of all other items can be found on the Kettlewell Polyvore page.