While skin tones vary greatly – we all share one of three undertones: cool, warm and neutral. Knowing your undertone is key to looking your best. Certain colors flatter warm skin tones while others do the same for cool. Understanding the general rules of color theory and how it intersects with skin tone will allow you to wear colors that make you glow.
Finding Your Undertone
Now you may be asking, “how do I know my undertone?” Cool undertones make the skin appear slightly blue or pink while warm undertones make the skin appear yellow, peach or golden. Here are a few helpful hints to figure out whether you have cool, warm or neutral skin.
Check Out Your Veins
Take a look at the veins on the inner side of your arm, what color do they appear? If they look more blue or purple there’s a good chance that you have cool undertones. If they look more green, you probably have warm undertones. Have a combination of these colors? You likely have neutral skin.
Grab Your Jewelry Box
Make sure you have a mirror and are standing in a well and naturally lit space. Now try on some of your favorite jewelry. What flatters your complexion best, silver or gold? Cool skin tones tend to glow paired with silver jewelry while warm skin tones will look best paired with gold. If you are having trouble deciding you might have neutral undertones and look good in both silver and gold jewelry!
The Paper Test
Grab a sheet of white printer paper and hold it up next to your face in front of a window. This stark shade of white will either accentuate your features — making your skin appear bright and rosy or washing you out making you look tired and yellow. If the paper flatters you, you most likely have cool undertones. If the paper washes you out, you most likely have warm undertones. If you are unsure of your answer you might have neutral undertones.
Examine Your Coloring
How light or dark your skin is has no indication on undertone, however, the color of your hair and eyes might. It is not a steadfast rule, but typically people with cooler features also have a cool undertone. For example, icy blonde and raven black are both cool-toned hair colors. Blue and gray are cool-toned eye colors. Similarly, people with warm features often have warm undertones. This means hair colors like honey blonde or auburn and eye colors like golden brown or green.
What To Wear
Now that you know your undertone you can choose to wear colors that will make you look radiant. These decisions on what colors will flatter you are greatly based around color theory, specifically color harmony. The most important facet of color harmony when dressing for your skin tone is analogous color schemes – a color palette consisting of colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel.
Before you can use analogous color schemes in your wardrobe, you must place your undertone on the color wheel. This does not need to be exact, but cool undertones will fall somewhere in the blue-purple category while warm undertones will fall somewhere in the green-yellow-orange category. Using analogous color theory, it is safe to assume that the colors placed next to your undertone on the color wheel will be flattering.
Based on this theory, cool skin tones will glow in royal blues, deep purples and emerald greens. However, people with cool skin tones are not limited to these colors. A rule of thumb when choosing outfits for cool skin is to select colors that have cool bases. For example, while red is generally considered a warm color, it can have a cool or warm base.
Cool skin tones look great in pale pinks, violets, blues, grays, silvers and stark whites. This tone typically avoids strong colors, oranges and yellows. Zooey Deschanel, Lupita Nyong’o and Emma Stone can be your inspiration for cool skin tone looks.
Warm skin tones look great in warm colors such as orange, red and yellow. However, it is important to make sure you are choosing the correct shades as there are many shades of these colors that have cool bases. In order to look radiant, warm skin tones should make sure they select truly warm colors.
Warm skin tones look great in burnt oranges, taupes, deep reds, browns, golds and ivories. Those with warm tones tend to avoid chilly colors, pale grays and stark whites. Get inspiration from celebrities including Rihanna, Gigi Hadid and Lucy Liu.
People with neutral undertones are lucky in that there are many more colors they can choose from that will flatter their skin tone. If you have neutral undertones, you will look particularly good in neutral colors. You should be careful, however, of colors that overwhelm you. These are the strong colors that are specifically suited for people with very cool or very warm undertones like royal blue or burnt orange.
Neutral skin tones look great in dusty pinks, mauves, champagnes and jade greens. Many with this skin tone avoid bright reds, bright yellows and royal purples. Get inspiration from celebrities such as Selena Gomez, Kerry Washington and Sandra Bullock.
Tag us on Instagram, @VALLEYmag, with pics of your favorite, skin-tone-flattering looks!