What Colors Look Best On You, Based On Your Skin Tone

Blue might be your favorite color, but for some reason, your blue shirt makes you look pale and washed out. What gives?

By Simone Sydel7 min read
shutterstock 1399694168 (1)

If you clicked on this article, chances are that:

  • You’re frustrated by feeling like you don't have anything to wear.

  • You have a wardrobe full of clothes you don't wear because they don't look great on you.

  • You’re tired of wasting money on stuff you don't feel comfortable wearing.

If any of these are the case, you came to the right place because we have a solution for you, and it's as simple as finding out your skin undertone and matching it with the right colors!

Learning what colors compliment and clash with your natural coloring will definitely save you a lot of time and money, not to mention the frustration of constantly feeling like the clothes you wear don't belong on your body. And while sometimes the cut can also play an important role in how the clothing piece fits, trust us, most of the time, it's the color.

But how do you figure out your skin undertone? And how do you know which colors will make your skin look radiant? Let's start by separating the two most important things:

Skin Tone vs. Skin Undertone

First, it’s important to understand the difference between skin tone and skin undertone as they’re often mistakenly referred to as the same thing, which just confuses people even more. Skin tone is the actual color of your skin, while skin undertone is the hue that lies beneath the surface. You can have a light, medium, or dark skin tone, but your undertone will most likely be one of four hues: warm, cool, neutral, or olive.

Additionally, another difference between skin tone and undertone is that the skin tone can change under certain conditions, such as when you get a tan or when you have a sunburn, or if you are a long-time smoker, but your undertone will remain the same regardless of the circumstances.

Skin tone can change under certain conditions, but your undertone will always remain the same.

When choosing pretty much anything, including accessories, jewelry, clothes, and even makeup, you should always consider your undertone, not just your skin tone, as this is how you can put together a full look that makes you feel most confident.

Determining Your Skin Undertone

Since the undertone isn't as obvious as the skin tone, here are a few pointers on how to accurately determine it:

Examine Your Veins

This is the quickest and easiest way to try and determine your undertone. It doesn't always work for everyone, but it can at least give you an indication.

To make the most out of this method, you need to look at the veins on your wrists in strong natural light. Blue or purple veins usually indicate a cool undertone, while green veins usually indicate a warm undertone. If your veins are somewhere in between or you can't quite tell, it could be that you have a neutral undertone, but it's worth trying other methods to help you make sure.

Examine Your Nailbeds

Examining your nailbeds under natural light is another way of determining your skin's undertone. If you have a pinkish hue to your nailbeds, you likely have a cool undertone. On the other hand, if your nailbeds have a yellowish or golden hue, it's more likely that you have a warm undertone. Again, if you can't quite tell or your nailbeds are somewhere in between, it might be that you have a neutral undertone.

Use the Paper Method

This is probably one of the most reliable ways to determine your skin's undertone. To do this, you need to hold a white piece of paper or a white shirt next to your face and see what color comes through. If your skin looks grayish or ashen, you most likely have a cool undertone. If your skin looks yellowish or sallow, you most likely have a warm undertone. And finally, if your skin looks normal and natural with the paper or shirt, it means you most likely have a neutral undertone.

Try the Neutral Clothes Method

Neutral-colored clothes can also help indicate your undertone. For example, a true white tends to favor cooler undertones, making those with this undertone look good and natural in white clothing. On the other hand, warm undertones tend to look better in off-white or beige colors because this undertone favors brown hues, unlike cool which tends to look better in black.

A true white tends to favor cooler undertones, while warm undertones tend to look better in off-white or beige.

However, when doing this, make sure you’re looking at the outfit in natural light because some neutral pieces can have a cooler or warmer undertone that's not so obvious under certain lighting (such as that in a fitting room.)

Try the Foil Method

The foil method is another great way to try and identify your undertone. To do this, you need to hold a sheet of gold foil in front of your face so that it reflects light back on your skin and observe whether it makes you look grayish or washed out or if it enhances your skin. You can then do this with a silver foil as well and compare the results. 

If the gold foil looks best, you're more likely to have a warm undertone. On the other hand, if the reflection from the silver foil makes your skin glow, you're more likely to have a cool undertone. And finally, if both foils look natural and flattering, you likely have a neutral undertone.

Think about Your Skin in the Sun

Knowing how your skin reacts to the sun can also help determine your undertone. For example, cooler undertones tend to burn in the sun easily, while warm undertones tend to tan easily and become glowy and radiant.

Look for Ashen or Gray Undertones

If your skin appears more ashen or gray, then you could have a natural olive undertone. Olive undertones aren't as common as warm, cool, or neutral but are a combination of undertones that make the skin appear ashen, gray, or sallow. This is because olive skin has both neutral and warm undertones along with green and yellow, often making the person appear "sickly" and washed out, especially when wearing colors that don't compliment this unique undertone. 

So, if you've been asked if you're sick on more than a few occasions, this might be due to your undertone. But don't despair! Despite the unique struggle olives have, certain colors can truly compliment this undertone and help make your complexion appear radiant rather than dull.

The Particular Shade of the Clothing Item

Before we discuss the most flattering colors for each undertone, let's talk about the shade of the clothing item for a moment. So, we know that we have color, which is the main thing we see when we look at our skin or a piece of clothing. However, just as we all have a skin color, we also have a shade, and choosing a clothing item that has a shade that matches our skin is what will ultimately save us from disappointment when trying on the piece.

The shade of a clothing item is the lightness or darkness, and you can use this concept to your advantage while shopping for the perfect outfit. The first thing you need to do is understand what colors work best for your undertone (which we’ll get to next, I promise!). Then, you need to find these colors in various shades, so you can experiment with lighter and darker versions until you find the perfect shade for you.

Let's take a look at the significance of shade when choosing the perfect outfit. An excellent example is Blake Lively, a gorgeous woman with a warm undertone. Even though she’s wearing colors that are supposed to flatter warm undertones, Blake Lively can sometimes get her shade wrong, so the piece looks a little off.

On the other hand, when she is wearing a softer shade of a similar color that truly compliments her, the color almost melts into her skin, and it doesn't look out of place.

Another great example is Rihanna, who has a deep skin tone and a cool undertone, wearing two true red dresses with different shades. The first one looks like it's made for her and perfectly compliments her shade, while the second one still looks good but not great because the shade isn't right for her.

To sum it up, keep in mind that the particular shade of the color is just as important as the color itself. So next time you're at the store, make sure to get a few different shades of the same color and figure out which one is the most flattering for you, just like you usually do with foundation!

How To Choose the Perfect Outfit for Your Skin Tone

No matter what your skin tone or undertone is, you can wear any color you want with success, as long as it's in the right shade. That said, it will help if you look for outfits with colors that complement your tones, as this is a good place to start if you’re unsure about what will look good on you. But you certainly don't have to settle for a few colors you like and stop experimenting and discovering new flattering colors. So let’s get into what colors are the most flattering for each undertone.

Best Colors for Cool Undertones

If the base tone of your skin is pink, red, or blue, you likely have cool undertones, and your best color matches include bright blue, ice blue, pink, emerald, deep purple, and frosty shades of lavender. If you want to warm things up, turn to bright rosy red, pale yellows, or ruby. If you want to keep things neutral, opt for cool gray, true white, and navy.

On the other hand, avoid anything that's too warm such as orange, tomato red, copper, intense yellows, and muted greens and browns, as these can clash with your undertone. Additionally, don't forget that you will still need to find your true shade match, but experimenting with the color palette listed above is a good place to start.

Lastly, you can always see what celebrities with cool undertones are wearing and what looks good on them, and what doesn't. Some celebrities with cool undertones are Cara Delevingne, Adele, Liv Tyler, Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman, Lucy Liu, Lupita Nyong'o, Octavia Spencer, and Mindy Kaling.

Best Colors for Warm Undertones

If the base of your skin is yellow, gold, peachy, or olive, you likely have warm undertones, and your best color matches include red, peach, coral, orange, amber, yellow, copper, gold, and warm brown. If you want to cool things down a little bit, look for warmer versions of cool colors like olive, orchid, violet-red, and dusty rose. As for neutrals, cream, caramel, taupe, mushroom gray, and chocolate brown are always good choices. On the other hand, avoid colors like icy blues or jewel tones like turquoise, sapphire, or amethyst, as well as anything silver or black, as these can make you look washed out and gray.

Your celebrity undertone twins include Taylor Swift, Blake Lively, Jessica Alba, Eva Longoria, Zendaya, Beyoncé, Viola Davis, Ciara, and JLo.

Best Colors for Neutral Undertones

As a neutral, you can pretty much pull off any color on the color wheel; however, it's best to go for a softened or muted shade instead of their brighter versions. For example, instead of hot pink, opt for dusty pink, or instead of ice blue, opt for lagoon blue. The same goes for purples, as soft violet is likely to better compliment your skin tone than a bright fuchsia. For neutral colors, turn to off-whites, coffee, and mid-range grays such as cool white with purple undertones or warm gray.

On the other hand, avoid wearing oversaturated colors like electric blue or magenta, as they can overwhelm your neutral skin tone, and they won't look quite right. If you go for a strong color, opting for a bold, true red can actually look amazing on your neutral skin tone.

Sydney Sweeney, Gigi Hadid, Miranda Kerr, Jennifer Aniston, Kristen Stewart, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Selena Gomez, Kerry Washington, and Willow Smith are a few celebrities with a neutral skin undertone.

Best Colors for Olive Undertones

If you have an olive undertone, you might find that your skin tone shifts depending on the season. In the summer, you might have more of a golden undertone, while in the winter, your skin might look more green. Either way, your best color matches are similar to those with warm undertones, and they include earth tones, jewel tones, and rich autumnal colors. Some specific colors that look great on olive skin include chocolate brown, peachy or dusty pink, sky blue, rich plum, coral, and olive green. When it comes to neutrals, tan, camel, and oatmeal are always good choices.

As for what to avoid, anything that's too yellow or green can make you look washed out, so steer clear of those hues. Additionally, avoid wearing black and silver as it can make you look too harsh. Lastly, avoid intense colors such as icy blue, strong gray, hot pink, bright purple, and electric blue, as they can be too overwhelming.

Celebrities Emilia Clarke, Olivia Palermo, Madison Beer, Salma Hayek, Meghan Markle, Freida Pinto, Michelle Rodriguez, and Alessandra Ambrosio can all be considered medium olive-skinned, while Thandie Newton, Zoe Kravitz, and Zoe Saldana are gorgeous examples of celebrities with deep olive skin tones.

Flattering Colors for All

There’s a handful of colors that will look great on any skin tone when the shade is right, as they provide a perfect balance of warm and cool that won't overwhelm or clash with your skin. Colors such as pure white, pale blush pink, teal, eggplant purple, navy blue, and of course, red are all excellent choices that can flatter any skin tone.

Closing Thoughts

Now that you know how to figure out your skin tone and what colors look best on you, it's time to put all that knowledge to use! Remember, the best way to find out which colors work for you is to experiment and have fun with them. So don't be afraid to try new shades and see what looks best on you. This way, you can fill up your wardrobe with clothes that you will actually wear and feel confidently beautiful in!

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