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How to determine your skin tone and best colours to wear with it (including hair)

Updated on June 18, 2013

Are you Cool, neutral or warm?

The first step to determining what colours suit you best with clothing and hair is to find out what kind of undertones are in your skin. Ever wondered why yellow drains you? Black is too harsh? That brown eye make up makes you look sickly? It's all in your skin tone, skin tone does not mean colour it means the shades underneath and everybody has them. If you are of African colouring it doesn't mean you are warm toned, if you are white you aren't always cool.

  1. First steps to finding out your skin tone. There will be three ways you can do this, I recommend doing at least two. The vein test #1

Turn your hand and inner arm over and look at the palest part of your arm, inner elbow to wrist you should be able to see somewhat of your veins. Now, is this area including the veins prominently blue, pink, without any tone, blueish-green, green or have golden hues?

Cool undertones: The physical traits that usually accompany cool toned people are: born unusually white with dark hair that does not contain any red colours with blue, grey or pale green eyes. Hazel flecked with blue or dull blue-green eyes are all traits of a cool toned person. If you are naturally a very light blonde such as white or close to platinum, ash browns and cool usually dark reds then you are falling into this category. If your inner arms tones are blue, pinkish or have a difficult to tell tone then you are a cool person.

Neutral: Congrats you have blue-ish green veins, very dull veins that do not stand out and skin that tans fairly easily. You are likely to have light brown hair, hair flecked with red tones, dirty blonde, honey blonde or medium brown hair. Eye colours in this category are hazel flecked with green, blue-green, very light blue, standard brown. If dark or strong colours wash you out a little then you are neutral. Neutral tones can wear almost any colour but I will explain that later.

Warm: golden, bronze, olive tints to skin, warm brown eyes, green eyes or very dark eyes are most common in this category. Hair includes black, warm browns, chocolate browns and golden blonde. Warm toned people tan very easily and are washed out by cold and dark colours.

If you could not figure out or would like to double check please move onto the next step below:

2. The t-shirt test. Pull on a plain white t-shirt and stand by a window in natural daylight. Look in the mirror, does the t-shirt drain you? Make your skin appear bright and cool? Or look standard settled against your skin tone as in it does not bring it out or drain it? If you answered that it makes you look paler and your skin very cool or it brings out the blue/pink tones in your skin you are cool toned. Does it drain you and make your skin ruddy? You are warm toned. Or if it is the last option and is settled normally without having much effect on your skin you are neutral.

3. Try this third step if you are still unsure. Take a silver piece of foil and a gold one, hold them against your skin. A cool toned person will be washed with gold, your skin will not look bright or as though it is glowing especially if you are pale. If it dulls you down or washes you out it you are cool. If you are warm this colour will bring out the warm hues in your skin, your skin will look healthy and bright. If like with the t-shirt it doesn't really do either and looks normal you are neutral. Silver, if it brings out the pale tones, blue/pink veins and makes your usually unusually white skin glow slightly you are definitely cool. If it washes you out, makes your skin dull and makes you look ruddy or sickly you are warm, if it does not do either and does not really compliment or hinder your skin then you are neutral.

  • Colours for clothing on cool toned people:
  • You are one of those people in winter that look very delicate, if you are really white you will understand, if your skin is darker it will take on a bluer hue, as in cooler. Your best colours to wear are; Black, white, ice blue, ice green, ice pink, purple, lilac and silver.
  • Try wearing a white vest top with a black one underneath if you feel you are too pale for white, the contrast will really bring out those tones and even if you are dark skinned or really vampire white (I am so white I look blue in daylight) it really makes your skin glow. Yes, you, even pale skin can glow healthily.
  • If you don't feel safe in colour then try coloured layering like with the vest idea above, wear flashes of colour and mostly black, this is very good as cool toned people are capable of pulling off some very dramatic looks, you can be daring.
  • COLOURS TO AVOID: Bright red, gold, bright yellow, fluorescent colours apart from purple. Browns, pea green and orange. These colours will make you look sickly, pink and sometimes even sweaty. They make cool skin ruddy and dull it down. Use your cool tones to your advantage and have that beautiful unique glow whatever skin colour your are.
  • Warm toned people step right this way:
  • Warm toned people are best complimented by chocolate browns, golds, reds, small amounts of orange, even yellow can be pulled off by your warm lot. Don't be afraid to experiment with those summer and earthy browns as they will compliment you fantastically.
  • Ideas include using smoky brown make up, try out that bold red dress, wear those gold heels and try for summer all year round. You are most likely a little tanned if you have very dark skin you can pull one better and go for very bold colours and make a statement with them. Colour is a powerful tool for you guys so use it.
  • Colours to avoid: snow white as it can drain the warmth from your skin and make you sickly especially a white t-shirt or dress. If you require white then try an off white such as cream or even go to beige it will be much softer for your skin. Black can be very harsh on warm toned people and suck the colour out of them, blue is also a poor option along with silver and grey's.
  • Neutral people this is your option:

  • You may find you suit Earthy browns, greens, medium blues, pinks and creams the best. Neutral skin means neutral colours. Colour that do not stand in outrageous contrast you are in the middle of the scale and can push towards either side but be very careful not to go for that fire engine red dress or that jet black one instead because they are borderline harsh for you.
  • Ideas to try: a brown top layered over a cream one with blue jeans, little or no make up as your skin is very balanced and can handle the lack of it. Colours for spring are also a good try. Those baby colours will look adorable on you e.g. baby pink and blue.
  • Colours to avoid: harsh jet black, it will look okay but it can be very draining on neutral and warm tones. Vibrant yellows and reds, these can equally drain someone of the cooler tones in your skin away so you are left with less balance.


Cool: Platinum/silver blonde, light ash brown, dark cool browns, jet black and heck you guys no matter how pale have the strength to pull off the most dramatic of all blacks, blue-black. Don't be afraid of it, it may look a strong contrast especially if you are white but those cool tones will spring to life by the harsh colours of black and silver and they will glow perfectly. Dark cool blue-based reds (avoid bright reds, pale reds and pinks) darker shades of purple, dark almost dirty blonde, honey blonde. Colours to avoid: peroxide yellow blonde, chocolate brown, vibrant red, bright ginger, warm brown, medium brown, golden brown/blonde. These colours suck the life out of cool skin particularly the reds and golds as the golden hues can easily look sickly against your icy skin. If you want to go to that ultimate blonde you will have to go through the yellow stage but try to manage it with toners and dyes that leave a white or silver hue that wash in and out until it is there. Don't be afraid to take on the harsh cold winter colours, as with your make up, play to your darker strengths.

Warm: Chocolate browns, golden brown/blonde, peroxide blonde, light browns and anything sun kissed. Very pale soft red is okay too. These colours will perfectly compliment your sunshine skin tone, explore the warm earthy colours which will bring out the bronze or golden tones in your skin. Colours to avoid: jet black in particular is a problem for you, it will drain your skin desperately, If you have brown eyes never dye your hair darker than your eyes as this will suck the life from them too. Vibrant red, ever seen those people on TV with tanned skin and pillar box hair? It isn't a good look it is just too hot and can overbalance warm skin, also avoid white hair and platinum blonde as they are too harsh.

Neutral: dirty blonde, light brown, medium brown, near white blonde any any natural colour you can think of including red and ginger will perfectly compliment your balanced skin. Colours to avoid: jet black as it is very harsh on your guys, platinum blonde as it is just that bit too pale and deep dark browns your skin usually does not overly suit harsh or dark colours you can fall in any of the gaps between though so you have the most options. You have a very natural look anyway.

That is how you determine what undertones you have in your skin. Have fun and play around but remember if you really love your favourite item of clothing but it does not fall in your category it doesn't mean you shouldn't wear it even if it does drain you, accessories and have fun with it until you get it just right. Don't be afraid to try on lots of different styles and even pick yourself a new one until you find those colours that really make your skin no matter what colour or tone to shine!!


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Could a neutral skinned person do a lilac color for their hair? Because I've been thinking about a lilac color but I'm neutral skinned and I don't know if I can do if...

    • ILoveMice profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from England.

      I completely agree and you have to really train your eyes for detail to pick out the rich, warm or golden tones in a dye when it doesn't state on the box. This is why I prefer home colouring to the hairdressers I have been hundreds of times and asked for cool ash toned browns, blacks, no reds and every time I get a hot reddish brown. Cool skin and hot colours don't mix

    • Mrs Jil Manning profile image

      Mrs Jil Manning 

      6 years ago from Sussex, England

      Useful hub! I wrote a similar one last year about choosing a hair colour to suit skin colouring. The right colour makes all the difference!


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