HARMOCROMY: Personal Colour Analysis

Alessandra Barlaam insieme a Giannantonio Negretti

In recent years, the world of Beauty and Well-being has become increasingly interested in Colour Analysis, especially with regard to the most suitable colour combinations for each individual. Colours possess, express and manifest functions that are not only connected to the purely visual and sensory sphere, but also play an aesthetic role. They have always been a great ally of every woman’s beauty.

Each colour has its own physical and symbolic identity that can influence the wearer and the beholder. In recent years, many professionals in the world of hairdressing, aesthetics and make-up have approached Personal Colour Analysis to offer their clients a more complete colour consultancy service, capable of going beyond their own expertise, involving physical, somatic and personality characteristics. It is impossible to consider the face without the hair and vice versa.

Nothing can change the image and perception of one’s body as much as switching from one colour to another that is very different from the initial one: from brown to blond, from red to black. Let’s go and see with Alessandra Barlaam, a well-known Beauty Expert, Make-up Artist and Creative Colour from the world of show business and fashion, what exactly Harmocromy is, how it is used in the professional world of Beauty, what its scientific basis and limits are.

GA: Alessandra Barlaam, what do you mean by Harmocromy and what is it based on?

AB: Harmocromy is a discipline which, by analysing the combination of eye, hair and skin colour, defines the ideal colour palette for each person. It was first developed in Anglo-Saxon countries where it is known as Colour Analysis. Harmocromy is based on colorimetry, understood as the systematic study of colour involving multiple disciplines.

It is fundamentally based on the theory of the colours of the four seasons, which have precise characteristics of hue, value and tone intensity, to which further seasonal subgroups have been added over time. The aim of achromia is to objectively direct people towards “ideal colours”, regardless of personal taste. Palettes differ from person to person as they enhance the chromatic characteristics and natural colours of each individual. Friendly’ colours are those which tend to brighten skin and hair, giving youthfulness and enhancing the beauty of each woman to the maximum. Enemy’ colours, on the other hand, are colours that contrast with a person’s natural colours and tend to grease, harden and mark the features to the point of creating negative visual effects

GA: There have been numerous publications by expert image consultants who have developed tools to make colour analysis accessible to an increasingly wide audience. You talked, for example, about differentiating colours according to the four seasons. To whom do you owe the intuition of using the colours corresponding to the seasons as a parameter of personal characterisation?

AB: We owe the birth of Harmocromy to Johannes Itten, a painter and teacher at the Bauhaus, who thought of grouping colours into “families” to help his students in the portraiture course. These colours correspond to the different seasons and can also be seen in the complexion, eyes and hair of the subject being portrayed. He attributed warm, vivid and light colours to spring; light and cold, muted colours to summer; warm, deep colours to autumn; and cold, bright colours to winter. This close colour correlation was also observed and used in the world of film. With the development of Technicolor technology in the United States, colour took on fundamental importance, becoming a valuable tool.

The first real image consultants were the costume designers of the Hollywood film industry, who, in collaboration with the directors of photography, created personalised palettes for each individual actor. In the 1970s and 1980s, colour-themed publications abounded, such as that of the American stylist Suzanne Caygill who published “Color: The Essence of You”, in which she defined a study of colour with reference to personality traits, the body and the face. Or the American cosmetologist, Bernice Kentner who defined in “Color Me a Season”, one of the fundamental rules of Harmocromy: the colour of the skin strongly defines the season it belongs to. The theory of the 4 seasons is still studied and taken into consideration as a preliminary approach in Harmocromic tests, and has recently been relaunched in Italy, revisiting it in method and tools, by Image Consultant Rossella Migliaccio.

GA: Through the skilful use of colour it is possible to emphasise the look and the smile, correct skin dyschromia, brighten the complexion of the face by adopting a new hair colour or rejuvenate by dyeing white hair. The use of colour becomes almost therapeutic as long as it corresponds exactly to one’s personality and ideal colours.  How do you identify which season you belong to?

AB: There is a protocol for approaching the test which varies depending on the method and tools used. Adequate lighting in the room where the test will be carried out is essential. The light should be natural, as the presence of warm or cold dominants could alter the chromatic perception. The preliminary phase consists of gathering information regarding skin, eye and hair colour, with specific observation of the colour of the iris, sclera, ears, gums, teeth and hair roots, in order to determine the natural tone of the person. Next comes the empirical test using 80/120 cloths (or cards) of different colours, which are placed under the face, following a specific sequence, to record the different reaction of the skin to one colour compared to another. Each phase aims to identify a datum (skin undertone, intensity, brilliance, contrast, luminosity) that together will go to make up a reference colour palette that will respect the chromatic characteristics of the person and that can be used to choose the ideal make-up and hair colours.

Harmocromy is a very controversial discipline, because although it is based on scientific data, it does not have a standardised method of analysis as each image consultant uses different tools and methods, which are too personalised. This does not make the empirical analysis scientifically valid as it cannot be repeated by others. However, it can be considered an excellent method for determining the colours that best harmonise with those of the eyes, skin and hair and represent a guide to give confidence in colour choices without fear of using colours.

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