Tasty skin colors

I quite often start feeling peckish when I’m in the middle of reading a novel, and I’ve finally figured out why. Authors have a love-affair with comparing skin colors to food.

How often have you read about a peaches-and-cream complexion? Milky or creamy skin (which always makes me think the heroine may have a skin condition)? How frequently are people of color described as being the color of coffee, mocha, or dark chocolate?

What about wine-dark nipples? Nipples like strawberries? Or cherries?

I’m guessing food is a popular comparison for a couple of reasons. First, “white” and “black” are not just inaccurate but sound crass. Humans can be so many shades of brown that the word becomes meaningless as a description.

Second, I imagine a lot of authors feel the names of real colors aren’t creative enough. And if you’re going to describe something, you usually want to compare it to something most people will understand and be able to picture easily.

Only white men seem to escape the consumable skin color. They can be pale, tan or ruddy-cheeked depending on whether they’re the hero or the villain.

Can you think of other ways to describe skin color without relying on food? Have you read any books that stick out for being creative and interesting in the way they describe skin? Are tasty skin colors mostly prevalent in romance?


  1. You know, I don’t think I realized that until you pointed it out. How true! Sex and food tend to go together so I can see why writers would do it (<—unintended pun. Sorry).

    Off hand I can't think of any others. I'm trying. Oh, nipples like ripened raspberries. I did see that.

    Good post. Consider yourself stalked 🙂 You are now in my BEST DARN BLOGS EVER! file. I will be back (after Hawaii). I promise.

    ~Angela Scott

  2. Hello, I saw you on Freshly Pressed and became nosy. Interesting blog 🙂

    I like this post, and would like to be able to say something constructive in response, but I think you’re right… I’m having a really hard time coming up with any other adjectives. Caramel, chocolate, cream. Even things that don’t make sense, like ‘honey’ seem to be common. (I mean, really, honey? That suggests jaundice, surely…)
    Ooh, porcelain! Is that one? Or is that just me?

    As a fellow English graduate with interests in writing and trying to work out what to do with an English degree, you may here from me again 🙂 If you’ve no objections, of course 😛

    1. No objections whatsoever! I’m honored to know my blog’s connecting with people. Good luck finding out what to do with an English degree!

      Porcelain’s a good one, but I’ve tended to think of that as describing the texture/smoothness instead of the color. Maybe it’s the color too, though. And you’re totally right about honey. I’ll never be able to read it again without thinking the person’s ill!

      Look forward to seeing you here again!

  3. I don’t think i’d read a sentence with “as white as paper”, but it’s very common in my language (Indonesian). Should we start writing “as white as paper”?

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