Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Tone It Down May 18, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:32 pm

Figuring out if my skin has “warm” or “cool” undertones has always been confusing for me. I tend to gravitate toward the same colors again and again clothes-wise (black, white, and khaki with an occasional pop of red, pink, emerald green, or cobalt blue), but are those the colors I should be wearing considering my skin tone? And what about lipstick and nail color? Pinks or reds? Neutrals or oranges? Are you wondering too? Then read on my fellow wonderer.


Skin tones1

Under Not Over

Before we get started, it’s important to know the difference between your skin’s surface tone and its undertone. When talking “cool” or “warm” we’re not talking about the color of your skin; we’re talking about the color underneath the surface of your skin: its undertone. You can have the same skin color as someone else but have an entirely different undertone. Scarlett Johannsson and Anne Hathaway are both cool undertoned, while Jennifer Lopez and Nicole Kidman are each considered warm undertoned. I know, confusing right?


There are generally three undertones: cool, warm, and neutral. If you’re lucky enough to be in that last category, yay for you as you can wear just about any color. For this blog’s purpose though, I’m focusing on just warm and cool. But how, you ask, do you know which one you are?


Those with warm skin generally have yellow, peachy, or golden undertones while cool-toned people have more pink, red, and blue undertones. Your goal in buying everything from shirts to lipsticks is to match your skin’s undertone. Yeah, right.



Pass the Test

One method of determining which colors look best on you is to look at your veins. If the ones on the inside of your wrist look more greenish, you have warm golden undertones. But, if they look more blueish, you have a cool skin tone. (Interestingly, if you are “warm,” you don’t really have green veins, they look that way because you’re seeing them through yellow-toned skin and it all goes back to color mixing: yellow and blue make green!)


Another method is to press your thumb against your inner forearm for a few seconds then release it. Keep note of whether the spot has a flash of yellow or a flash of pink before the blood rushes back. If more yellow, you are warm. If more pink, you are cool.


Jewelry is another good indicator of your skin’s undertone. If you look better in silver and platinum metals, you’re probably cool toned while warm-toned girls tend to look better in gold. Keep in mind it’s not the jewelry metal you prefer or like better, but the one that looks best on your skin.


Do you sunburn easily and watch it turn pink or do you turn golden brown in the sun? A burn that turns pink first is a good indicator that you are cool toned but someone who can boast a tan to be envied is likely warm-toned. Either way, stay out of the sun and wear sunblock!


Naturally, your natural eye and hair color reveal hints as to your skin’s undertone. Again, your natural hair color! Most cool people (skin undertone speaking only!) have blue, gray, or green eyes coupled with blond, brown, or black hair but with blue, silver, violet, and ash undertones. On the other hand, someone with brown, amber, or hazel eyes and strawberry blond, red, brown, or black hair with gold, red, orange, or yellow undertones is more than likely warm toned.


Finally, do you look better in bright whites and true blacks or off-whites and more tan and brown shades? The former means you’re probably cool-toned while the latter makes you warm.


Okay, so now what? Now you can go shopping!



Color Me Happy

If you are a warm-toned reader, head straight to anything yellow, orange, brown, yellow-green, or warm red. My cool friends should lean toward blues, greens, pinks, purples, blue-greens, magentas, and “blue-based” reds.


When it comes to make-up, if you have warm undertones, choose yellow or peach-based foundation and coral or peach blush. Cool-toned girls need to stick to pink-based or neutral foundation and rosy or pink for their cheeks. Lipstick can be a little more tricky, which I painfully recently discovered in Dallas.


In search of a good, solid neutral lip color, I visited a reputable high-end cosmetic counter, sat down, tried on color after color, and walked away with not one lipstick. Neither warm nor cold, I was simply a hot mess. Turns out the ones I order through a Mary Kay rep are just right for me. Good to know.


In general, warm undertoned ladies look best in orange-reds, brick-reds, peaches, peachy pinks, and corals while those with cool undertones are complimented by lipsticks in the blue-based red, cranberry, wine, pink reds, and rosy pink spectrum. Consider the photo below exhibit A. Both are red lipsticks, right? But, the one on the left is a “cool” red while the one on the right is a “warm” red. Case closed, next case.




To make it easier, here’s a little clip and save cheat sheet to keep with you:


Warm Undertones

Green veins

Silver and platinum jewelry looks best

Tans doesn’t burn in sun

Eye are brown, amber, or hazel

Hair is strawberry blond, red, brown, or black hair with gold, red, orange, or   yellow undertones

Neutrals: off-white, brown, tan

Colors: yellow, orange, red

Foundation: yellow or peach-based

Blush: coral or peach

Lipstick: orange-red, brick-red, peach, peachy pink, coral


Cool Undertones

Blue veins

Gold jewelry looks best

Burns in the sun and burn turns pink

Eyes are blue, gray, or green

Hair is blond, brown, or black hair but with blue, silver, violet, and ash undertones.

Neutrals: white whites and true blacks.

Colors: blue, green, purple

Foundation: pink-based or neutral

Blush: rosy or pink

Lipstick: blue-based red, cranberry, wine, pink red, and rosy pink



If you’re like me, you may still be questioning what tone your undertone really is. I thought my veins looked more blue than green but I have brown hair and eyes and I rarely sunburn. I rarely wear yellow, you can’t pay me to wear orange, but I do love a good red. I am also obsessed with black and white but not so much ivory and brown.


Guess I need to underwrite an undertone expert.


Interesting sidebar: cool colors of blue, green, and purple will infuse a sense of calm and peacefulness into a room while warmer reds, oranges, and yellows work to express feelings of welcome and coziness as well as stimulation.





One Response to “Tone It Down”

  1. Blanca Says:

    Carla, I’m a little of both! Does this mean I’m a neutral, or am I just wearing the wrong shades? Please blog about neutrals. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s