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The term "bad complexion" generally refers to acne or other skin diseases. It has nothing to do with the color of the skin. Dark skin is just as good as pale skin - possibly better, since it protects against sunburn.

Words and phrases often change meaning and also his wife Madame de Staël was found to have had 'bad complexion,' and 'too swarthy,' which explains us bad complexion in the meaning of that time.

A song by Gilbert and Sullivan of a girl with bad complexion is not about acne. Next there are images that show a dark, black complexion in both cases. Renee Weingarten in her de Stael bio published an image of Benjamin Constant and Germaine de Stael, a drawing by Friedrich Tieck.

However, other depictions of Constant and de Stael do not show them as being dark in complexion, any more than others of the time.

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Q: When you read that Benjamin constant had very bad complexion does it mean his colour was very dark?
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