“Color that perfects the skin.” That got my attention. I am always looking for natural beauty practices and products.
The idea that all humans fall into one of 12 color palettes or “tones” fascinated me for other reasons than instant rejuvenation. Coloring is a key piece of Mien Xiang (diagnostic facial diagnosis), which is a critical part of my practice. I also have a love of systems. This drew me to Sci-Art Color Analysis and the pages of Christine Scaman’s blog. She practices in Canada but she referred me to her teacher, Terry Wildfong, in nearby San Jacinto, CA.
A Little Background
The 12 tones are based on the Munsell color system (book available here). It is a research-based system that describes how the human eye responds to color. Our eyes process colors in terms of chroma (soft/bright), temperature (cool/warm), and value (dark/light). There are 12 color families created by variations of these color properties as shown in the diagram below:
When I made the appointment, I was a self-diagnosed True Winter. This was largely prejudiced by my snow white combination of dark hair, pale skin, and blue eyes.
I walked in ready for anything. The analysis room looks like a mini studio with bright lighting, a neutral background, and a large mirror. There was a stand holding endless beautifully colored drapes in every hue and texture. Terry explained color theory to me and how we see colors in relation to one another. The purpose of color analysis is to find harmony between ourselves and the colors we wear.
The Terry began using different drapes to find negative and positive reactions. The drapes are truly magical. Our eyes have trouble seeing how a single color affects us, but when we compare 2 colors, the difference becomes distinct. The facial features actually appear to morph, the skin changes color, we change age, and even our personality appears to shift. In this way, through multiple comparisons of chroma (soft/bright), temperature (cool/warm), and value (dark/light) we arrive at the exact recipe of the undertones of our skin. This not about the hair color, eye color, or the overtones of the skin.
Autumn colors combined with the gray headscarf made me look like a long suffering peasant from the set of Anna Karinina.
We quickly ruled out warm and muted (i.e. Autumn). The brightness of Spring (warm and bright) uplifted my features mitigating the fact that the warmth of the colors turned my skin yellow. I was clearly a cool, either a Winter or a Summer. This is where it got tricky, so much so that I came back for a redraping.
Two weeks later I returned. Terry was on a mission. She covered not only my hair, but also my brows, in the lovely gray head covering you see pictured. There would be no distractions. We revisited the 4 finalists, all cool or cool neutral.
The purpose of the test drapes is to cause a reaction in the skin. These will most likely not be your best colors, but they will cause strong, noticeable reactions. In the pictures below you cannot see the dramatic shifts in energy that you see in the studio, but it gives an idea of the process.
True Winter is tested against True Summer. We had gotten stuck between the two during the first draping. I felt like I was in between the two. On Day 2, Winter was the winner.
True Summer (cool/muted) – The boldest blue greens, fuchsias, and blue violets of the palette were really good, but the neutrals turned my features to mush. My skin became more blotchy. I wasn’t sure if I looked soft and feminine or feeble and near death.
True Winter (cool/saturated) – These colors were starker and colder in person than I had imagined them to be. I couldn’t tell if I looked powerful or harsh. Some of the colors thinned my face, but not in a flattering way. The colors did clear my complexion.
Bright Winter (cool/neutral/bright) – One look at the makeup colors online (shocking pinks and maraschino reds) and I ruled it out, but seeing the drapes in person was a different experience. By far the most flattering neutrals on my skin. I felt the balance of intensity and softness that neither True Winter nor True Summer fulfilled. My skin lifted and became more uniform.
Light Summer (cool/neutral/light) – Bright Winter is tested against Light Summer as they have much in common. My eyes loved the pinks and aquas, but the rest of my face disappeared. Clearly a “no”.
Really, Bright Winter?
I wasn’t ready to allow the Bright Winter lipstick near me. Terry, who at this point in her career is part psychologist, didn’t even try. She knew I was a low to no makeup kind of girl. Instead, she showed me how some of the Light Summer and True Summer cosmetics provided a more gentle effect while still staying in the cool/neutral playground. (Terry carries both Mary Kay and the 12 Blueprints line of makeup in her studio).
Emmy award winning makeup artist (and dear friend) Dale Bach, taught me how to adapt makeup to my features and personality. For me, that means using small, strategic placement of color. I am also inspired by the Korean makeup styles (many of which suite Bright Winter coloring). I can express my Fire in colorful clothes and eccentric accessories, but in makeup I am pure Metal element. I want minimalism and purity that doesn’t distract from me.
Because Bright Winter is cool/neutral, there is a cool to slightly warm spectrum to the palette than can be explored in makeup as I detail below. I found the 12 Blueprints True Summer eyeshadow palette too dusky and muted, but Light Summer worked.
Orchidee Light Summer – 12 Blueprints cosmetics are highly saturated. What I like about this blush is that I can apply as heavily as I want and on my coloring it still looks like a natural glow. It is the strongest of the Light Summer blushes.
Flowergirl Light Summer – This glossy pink lipstick is very delicate but is great for daytime when I want to look polished but not made up.
Bijou True Winter – I had purchased this gloss when I thought I was a True Winter. It is like a MLBB shade and goes well with both cool and cool/neutral colors.
The heart is a highly tuned instrument that reads electromagnetic waves. Different frequencies are read by the heart as emotions, just as visually they are read as colors. That is how Stephen Harrod Buhner describes it in perhaps the best explanation of the heart’s functioning to a Western audience.
Qi refers to the electromagnetic waves emanating from all life. Every cell in our body has Qi. Every organ system has Qi. Each person, animal, and plant emanates Qi that is the collective resonance of all their cells together.
The heart in Daoist philosophy and Chinese medicine is symbolized by the archetype of the emperor. The brain, and every other organ in the body are subjects of the heart.
When we feel the pulse, we are tapping in directly to all the electromagnetic waves of the body filtered through the heart. We are hearing the emperor speak.
The 6 Pulse Positions
There are 3 pulse positions on each wrist. Each position gives you information on the health of different organ systems. You will want to observe the pulse as a whole, as well as divided into position and depth to give you a complete picture.
How to Find the Pulse
You will use 3 fingers, 1 finger to feel each pulse position. These are your index, middle, and ring fingers. Line up the top crease of your middle finger with the bony part of your wrist closest to your hand. Then wrap your fingers around the wrist. See video here.
The Cun Position
This is the position closest to the wrist felt by your index finger. In a normal pulse it is the most superficial of the 3 positions. On the left it tells you the condition of the heart . On the right of the lungs.
The Guan Position
This is the central position felt by your middle finger. In a normal pulse it is medium in depth. On the left it tells you the condition of the liver. On the right of the spleen and digestion in general.
The Chi Position
This is the position furthest from the wrist a felt by your ring finger. In a normal pulse it is the deepest, but still strong and distinct. On the left it tells you the condition of kidney yin. On the right of kidney yang.
Qualities of the Pulse, and What They Mean
It takes Chinese medicine doctors a lifetime perhaps to master pulse diagnosis, but everyone can understand enough to help guide their own health. There are 29 official pulse types in Traditional Chinese Medicine, with endless combinations. Below I list the pulse types that are most common and relevant.
A normal pulse (ping mai) is smooth, even and forceful. The pulse is present at the Cun, Guan, and Chi positions and from superficial to deep. Its quality should not change very often or easily. There is a normal variation from person to person.
Superficial or Floating 浮脉 fú mài
Pulse is strong when barely touch the skin, but disappears with apply deeper pressure.
A superficial pulse most often indicates an exterior pathogen, i.e. the immune system is actively fighting off an invader attacking from the outside. The Defensive Qi of the body builds up at the borders to ward off the attack.
Less commonly deficiency syndromes where Yang Qi floats to the surface.
DEEP 沉脉 chén mài
The pulse can only be felt with stronger pressure.
A deep pulse indicates an interior pattern.
RAPID or FAST 数脉 shù mài
RAPID = 90 beats/min (5 beats/breath) or more
A rapid pulse pulse indicates Heat.
SLOW 遲脈 迟脉 chí mài
Slow = 60 beats/minute (4 beats per breath) or less
A slow pulse indicates Cold.
LONG 長脉 chǎng mài
Pulse is felt beyond the Cun position.
A long pulse indicates excess liver Yang, excess heat in the interior, or a strong pathogenic invasion.
SHORT 短脉 duān mài
The pulse can be felt at the Guan position but not at the Cun and/or Chi positions.
A short pulse indicates there is not enough Qi to move the blood, either due to Qi stagnation or Qi deficiency.
FULL or EXCESS 实脉 shí mài
The pulse is strong and forceful at Cun, Guan, and Chi positions.
A full pulse indicates an excess condition where both the Qi and blood of the body and the pathogen are strong, i.e. a big fight.
EMPTY or DEFICIENT 虚脉 xū mài
The pulse feels weak.
A deficient pulse indicates weakness in the body.
FINE OR THREADY 细脉 xì mài
The pulse feels fine like a thread but is distinct.
A thready pulse indicates Qi and blood deficiency, or yin deficiency. In yin deficiency, the pulse is typically fast and thready indicating heat + fluid deficiency.
WIRY or STRING-TAUT 弦脉 xuàn mài
The pulse feels tight and long like a guitar string.
A wiry pulse indicates that the liver Qi is not flowing smoothly due to imbalances in the liver and gallbladder organ systems, pain, or phlegm retention.
SLIPPERY or ROLLING 滑脉 huá mài
The pulse feels smooth, flowing, and uninhibited; like pearls rolling in a dish.
A slippery pulse indicates an accumulation of internal pathogenic factors such as phlegm-damp, food stagnation (indigestion), or excess heat. It is considered normal (ping mai) for women during pregnancy.
CHOPPY or ROUGH 涩脉 sè mài
The pulse feels rough and uneven, “like a knife scraping bamboo.” The opposite of a rolling pulse.
A choppy pulse indicates blood not flowing smoothly. This could be due to blood deficiency, blood stagnation, or Jing deficiency.
REGULAR IRREGULAR 代脉 dài mài
The pulse is relaxed and weak, stopping at regular intermittent intervals. These intervals may be strikingly long.
A regular irregular pulse indicates trauma or advanced heart disease. This pulse indicates a serious health condition.
KNOTTED (IRREGULAR IRREGULAR) 结脉 jié mài
The pulse is relaxed and slow, stopping at irregular intervals.
A knotted pulse indicates an excess Yin condition: Qi stagnation due to Yin excess, blood stagnation due to phlegm-damp, or blood stagnation. In Western terms , it indicates an irregular beat or palpitation stemming from the ventricle of the heart, but is less serious than a regular irregular pulse.