Redefining Nude

My latest project got me thinking about how flesh tones are conventionally named on the market. From art supplies to contemporary fashion, “nude” or “flesh tint” is commonly used to describe the pale, peachy skin colour among those of European origin. That is despite the fact that the Western world is becoming more and more ethnically diverse. With this shift in consumer demographics, perhaps it is time to reconsider the Eurocentric way of naming flesh tones.

To consider another example: ballet dancers with darker skin tones like Eric Underwood and Chyrstyn Fentroy had struggled to find ballet shoes to match their skin colours.  It really dawned on me that the limited range of nude shades is an industry-wide problem from idea generation (drawing, painting and sketching) to end use (garment manufacturing).


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From porcelain to dark brown, “nude”  is in the eye of the beholder.



Nude is not a single shade but encompassing a wide range of shades. Therein lies the problem. We can’t possibly call any one shade nude, since there is a nude shade for every flesh tone. There are two fairly common solutions. First, the numbering system. In cosmetics, skin tones are often sorted by undertone (in alphabets such as N for Neutral) and shade (by numbers). If one had to be nit-picky, I have noticed that lighter skin tones seem to be named first. Starting with 1 being associated with porcelain skin tones. This is not to say that manufacturers are biased, but it does suggest some sort of priority that starts from light to dark. The second method is to associate flesh tones with the names of commonly known objects. How about naming Eastern Asian skin with yellow undertones “lemon biscuit”? If the love of food is universal, then using fruits, nuts and spices to name skin tones is a promising sign.

Thanks for dropping by readers of all shades and sizes. Until next time!