An Asian American content creator is reminding fellow Asian Americans that it’s entirely possible they may not, to the surprise of many, have yellow undertones.
On May 25, Celine Pham (@theoutfitdiary) took to TikTok to address the misinformation that’s long been circulating about Asian American undertones. She, and likely many Asian American women, have long been told they have yellow undertones — which isn’t necessarily true.
“To whoever managed to convince an entire generation of Asian Americans that their undertone was yellow and had us buying yellow foundation, you deserve jail time and an award,” Pham jokes. “You had me walking around looking like this. Me thinking, ‘Yes, that is my skin. That is my skin tone. This is correct.'”
Considering the fact that Asia consists of 51 countries, to assume that all Asian Americans have a yellower complexion is an inaccurate generalization. While Central, Eastern and Northern Asians are thought to have lighter skin tones and South and Southeast Asians are thought to have darker skin tones, these categorizations are often defied.
Skin undertones refer to the natural, subtle color beneath the surface of your skin. Warm (golden, peachy or yellow), cold (bluish, red or pink) and neutral (a mixture of both warm and cool) are the three types of undertones. It’s also crucial to note that people with the same skin tone can have very disparate undertones.
“The global Asian community is much more colourful than we think, and not all of us have fair skin. What most of us do have in common is a golden yellow undertone, some leaning more towards neutral complexions, while others lean towards olive,” Yu-Chen Shih, the founder of Orce Cosmetics, a Los Angeles-based makeup brand that caters to Asian skin, told Harper’s Bazaar Singapore.
“I remember combing through drugstore aisles and department store counters in my search for a foundation that actually worked for my skin, only to be let down time and again. Japanese and Korean beauty brands tend to offer very narrow shade ranges that cater heavily to those with fair skin, while Western beauty brands never seem to nail the right undertone for me – their foundation shades are always too pink or too orange,” Yu-Chen continued.
“Y’all know how in the cartoons when a character gets, like, seasick, their face turns, like, a greenish yellow? That was me literally walking around for years,” she adds. “I looked seasick.”
Just two years ago, Pham decided to venture beyond yellow foundation — a decision that yielded groundbreaking results.
“It literally wasn’t until two years ago where I was able to break out of that mold and be like, ‘Hmm… maybe I’m not yellow undertone. Maybe I’m actually neutral,'” she recalls. “And ever since then my world was rocked.”
“Felt like that was an appropriate rant for AAPI Month,” she says.
‘It’s the racism and stereotypes saddd’
Asian American TikTok users have taken to Pham’s comments to share their similar struggles.
“SAME LMAO just recently realized that I also have olive in my skin,” @cakedbybabyk wrote.
“GIRL SAME. started wearing a neutral undertone foundation and i no longer look like i have jaundice,” @yellunhandygroin replied.
“It’s the racism and stereotypes saddd,” @linhhuynh5156 commented.
Hopefully, Pham’s video will embolden others who’ve subscribed to the yellow undertones myth to step outside their comfort zones and consider other foundations with varying undertones because doing so could lead to a better, more complimentary match.
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