The “World’s Ugliest Color” Is Actually a Gorgeous Makeup Shade

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There’s been a lot of buzz lately about an olive-brown hue called “opaque couché,” also known as Pantone 448C if you want to get technical about it. After surveying thousands of people, market research agency GfK officially declared it the “world’s ugliest color.” Its search for such an offending hue had a purpose: The company was tasked with creating anti-smoking messaging on cigarette packaging and many respondents replied that Pantone 448C reminded them of “dirt” and “death.” Wrapping cigarette boxes in such a widely unappealing color to deter people from buying them seems to make a lot of sense. See below for a swatch.


But when I first came across the hue, my reaction was not to recoil at how hideous the color was. Instead, it reminded me of my first eye shadow purchase—a shimmery, half olive/half brown powder that I had read was the “most universally flattering shade” on a makeup board and saved up my high school job money to purchase (It was Chanel, OK?). How could it be possible that the same color so many people associated with “death” could be the exact shade that so many others were calling their holy grail eye shadow? Celebrity makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor explains.

“While Pantone is great at identifying straight, flat color, it can’t address texture, shine, grit, or opacity. While Pantone 448C looks muddy at best when it’s a flat color swatch, if you add metallic mint shimmer to it, you get a hologram effect that has a true ’70s glam factor that looks especially good on brown and blue eyes. The color, while not 100-percent universally flattering, looks gorgeous against ivory, caramel, tan, and deep skin tones. I would avoid it on anyone with a rosy skin tone, which will make it look too olive and the skin look red, and skip it on espresso skin tones, too, on which it might look muddy.”

If your skin tone doesn’t fall into the rosy or espresso category, check out the below picks for how to rock the color. This might actually be one of those cases where something is “so ugly” it’s actually beautiful. 

You May Also Like: The Unexpected Makeup Trend for Spring

1 / 6

Chanel Les 4 Ombres Multi-Effect Quadra Eyeshadow in Tissé d’Automne ($61)

The brown shadows flatter many skin tones while the olive hue adds depth and richness. 

2 / 6

MAC Cosmetics Eye Shadow in Sumptuous Olive ($16)

A light shimmer gives dimension to a hue that looks gorgeous lightly applied during the day or intensified for night.

3 / 6

NARS Dual-Intensity Eyeshadow in Pasiphae ($29)

A medium-brown base topped with olive shimmer, this holographic shadow is blendable and soft and makes your eyes pop.

4 / 6

bareMinerals Velvet Eyecolor in Velvet Green ($15)

This shadow is super smooth and super blendable and gives a unique textured “foil” look when applied wet. 

5 / 6

NYX Hot Singles Pro Shadow Refills in Spellbound ($4)

Priced at less than $5, this highly pigmented option is the easiest way to give this trend a whirl without committing. 

6 / 6

L’Oréal Infallible 24 HR Eye Shadow in Gilded Envy ($8)

A powder/cream hybrid formula, this shadow leaves behind a velvety texture that lasts up to 24 hours.

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