If you are referring to the tone of a person's skin and wanted to specify whether it is light or dark, is it correct to use 色白 and 色黒 or do those words sound unnatural?

  • What do you mean by 'wanted to specify'? Maybe it's better to add an example sentence where you would like to use those words.
    – sundowner
    Dec 10, 2023 at 1:51
  • @sundowner I guess it's just a way to formulate the question in order not to sound racist, as in "wanted to specify [the tone of a person's skin for a particular reason]".
    – jarmanso7
    Dec 10, 2023 at 14:48
  • 1
    The perception that mentioning skin color can evoke racism may be strong among Westerners, especially Americans, but such a sense is very weak in Japan. As far as political correctness goes, there is really no difference between saying 服が黒い, 髪が黒い and 肌が黒い in Japanese.
    – naruto
    Dec 11, 2023 at 3:43

2 Answers 2


See this article about how to use eye shadow effectively.

ベスコス総合大賞受賞!「アディクション/ザ アイシャドウ」

The article has pictures that illustrate the typical image of 色黒 and 色白.

enter image description here

As you can see, 色黒 and 色白 are used to refer to skin tones that are slightly lighter or darker than the average Japanese person's skin color.

They can also be used to describe someone whose skin tone is relatively lighter or darker compared to others in a group of black or white people. For example, in a picture like this, the girl on the left might be described as 色白:

enter image description here

However, it's not common to say something like "Africans have 色黒 skins in general" or "Japanese people are more 色白 than Africans". In such cases, you can simply say アフリカ人の肌は黒い, etc.


You can, so long as you are referring to variances within the “base color”. E.g. you can’t describe a white person as 色白 in general. If what you mean is they are especially pale within that population then it’s natural usage.

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