Skin Tone Dressing: Complete Guide On How To Find Your Colors

By Kaia Saunders / November 2, 2016
Celebrities with cool skin tones

What skin color do you have? It’s an easy enough question, right? Well, not, if you’re trying to make the most of your natural coloring and look your absolute best. There’s a trick that professional stylists and makeup artists have perfected to determine which colors perfectly bring out the shades and nuances in your natural complexion.

It’s known as skin tone dressing and centers on finding clothing that accentuates and complements this natural coloring. But if you thought that means matching your clothing with the shade of skin you were born with, you’d only be half right. It goes a little deeper than that.

Getting The Basics Right: What Is An Undertone?

So just what is skin tone then? Let’s start with the basics. The “tone” that we speak of is the color right beneath the surface of the skin. Think of it as a shadow just below your outer layer of skin.

This is why it’s so important to get yours right, because even though the top layer of skin might change over time by sun tanning or prolonged sun damage, the undertone never will. No matter how light or dark your complexion may be, each of us falls into one of three categories: warm, cool or neutral.

It helps to think of the seasons of the year. You get those seasons associated with warm, luxurious colors – Summer and Autumn, and then you get those with crisp, cooler colors – Winter and Spring. Generally, the colors associated with those seasons are the colors most likely to enhance the beauty of your skin tone. So, if you’re a Winter, for example, cool winter colors like blues, purples and silvers will make your skin sparkle.

Cast your mind to the clothes in your closet. Are there certain items of clothing that guarantee you compliments whenever you wear them? Maybe it’s a dress that always manages to turn the heads of passersby and even get you the odd wolf whistle. Chances are that when you’re wearing it, your skin may seem more tan than usual, or give you a radiant, healthy glow. Then there’s the direct opposite – those clothing items that make your skin look washed-out, bland or dull. You may even have been asked if you’re ill or whether you’re tired. Hardly the reaction you’re ever after!

Once you start to recognize which colors truly work best with your skin tone, you will find yourself naturally gravitating towards those colors when shopping. Before you know it, you will be a pro at coordinating outfits for yourself that are truly flattering without even really thinking about it. It will become like second nature.

A quiz to find your Skin Tone?

So, let’s get started. Keen to discover your skin tone? Find out in this quiz:

1. You’re at the beach and realize you’ve forgotten your sunscreen. How would your skin most likely react?
a) You’d develop a golden brown tan.
b) You’d turn red and end up burned to a crisp.
c) It depends. Sometimes you tan, but after a long time in the sun, your skin could become red and swollen.

2. What color eyes do you have?
a) Light brown, hazel or green. In a certain light, you may even notice specks of gold in them.
b) Dark brown, black, blue or gray.
c) Deep brown

3. Look at the veins along the inside of your wrist. What color are they closest to?
a) Bluish-purple
b) Dark green
c) A mixture of blue and green – you can’t really distinguish one definite color.

4. What color jewelry do you tend to go for?
a) Gold
b) Silver
c) Gold and silver. You love them both and like to mix it up.

5. What color was your hair as a child?
a) Golden or strawberry blonde, or brown with reddish streaks here and there.
b) Ash blonde, very dark black, or brown without any red highlights whatsoever.
c) Somewhere between brown and black.

6. When wearing white clothing, which of these would look best on you?
a) Beige, off-white or ivory
b) Pure white
c) It doesn’t really make a difference. Both look the same on you.

7. And now think of yourself in a yellow T-shirt. What do you look like?
a) Your skin is radiant and absolutely glowing.
b) It does nothing for you and actually makes you look a little sick.
c) It looks okay, but not amazing.

8. Ask one of your friends to peek at the bit of skin right behind your ears. What color is it?
a) Yellowish
b) Pinkish
c) They can’t really tell.

Alright, here we go:

Mostly A’s: You’re Warm

Yellow and golden crop fields along with warm color palette

Warm color palette – is this your undertone?

The undertones in your skin lean towards golden, yellow or peach – this means you absolutely radiate in gold jewelry. When it comes to clothing, go for colors like olive green and all earthy tones (browns, burnt sienna and orange-based reds).

Makeup in peach- or yellow-based colors suit your complexion to a tee. The makeup shades that you generally go for comes in shades like caramel, golden, chestnut and tan. You may have either a Summer or Autumn undertone. Find out which in the section below.

Mostly B’s: You’re Cool

Sea shore, water and sand, along with cool color palette

Is your undertone as cool as a sea?

Your skin has red or pink undertones to it (a dead give away for Cool tones – they blush easily!) No matter how dark or fair your skin may be, your complexion has a naturally cool tone to it. This means you look best in rich, jewel colors like emerald green, royal blue or rich magenta, as well as reds with a blue undertone.

Similarly, when deciding on makeup to buy, look for anything that is pink-based or neutral usually in shades like porcelain, sable, rose or cocoa. Find out whether you’re a Winter or Spring in the section below.

Mostly C’s: You’re Neutral

Lucky you! You get the best of both worlds. Your skin has no overpowering tones of pinks or yellows and so your natural skin color reflects your true shade.

Makeup shades you go for are usually labeled as nude, buff, ivory or praline. Your neutral complexion means that you look equally good in both cool and warm colors. For this reason, look specifically at your hair and eye color to find colors that will make you really stand out.

Dressing based on your true colors

Summer

Celebrities with summer skin undertone

Summer undertones

You’re a Summer if:

  • Your hair ranges from subtle ash blonde to medium ashy brown.
  • Your eyes are either hazel, blue, green or gray.
  • If your skin is light, you most likely have a yellow or ivory glow. Dark skin, on the other hand, will seem more olive.
  • Summer tones can best be described as having a subtle contrast to their appearance – this means that your hair, skin and eyes all fall into the same color palette without any jarring contrasts in color (think of Lauren Conrad with her light hair, light eyes and light skin).

Tips for Summer Tones:

Your skin has a built-in golden glow. Highlight these yellow hues with eye shadow in earth tones like olive green, copper brown and honey gold, as well as shades like teal green and rust.

Your cheeks come alive in shades like soft peach, coral and bronze.

Your jewelry choices should consist of copper, yellow gold and bronzed brass.
When it comes to lipstick, go for anything orange-based like coral, red or bronzed gold.

Let your clothing complement your skin tone by going for muted pastel shades and neutral colors. Think mint greens, soft turquoise, apricot and aquamarine but stay away from anything too harsh like heavy black and dark gray, especially when worn together.

Celebrity examples: Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Middleton, Lauren Conrad, Jessica Biel.

Autumn/Fall

Celebrities with autumn skin undertone

This is what characterizes autumn undertone

You’re an Autumn if:

  • Your hair color falls anywhere between dark brown, auburn or red with natural golden/red highlights.
  • Your eyes are either dark blue, dark brown, green or hazel.
  • The undertones in your skin are peach or yellow.
  • Your skin rarely ever gets red, tending more towards a golden, brown tan.
  • Much like Summer tones, your skin tone falls in the muted contrast category, meaning there is less difference in color between your hair, skin and eyes, Your color palette matches perfectly with no one standout color overpowering your appearance.

Tips for Autumn Tones:

When choosing colors of clothing to wear, you’re best advised to go for earthy autumnal colors – think olive green, rust, dark brown and copper. Your coloring is not very different from Summer tones due to your muted shading. But, unlike Summers though, bright colors don’t flatter your skin tone as well. Colors like luminous yellow, bright pink and sky blue can be too harsh against your soft skin tone.

Jewelry choices for you lean towards the warmer colors, like yellow gold, bronze and copper.

Makeup in similar earthy shades is your best bet, particularly bronzer wherever the sun naturally catches your skin. This will deliver a radiant, healthy glow to your already tanned skin.

Celebrity examples: Gisele Bündchen, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock, Leighton Meester.

Winter

Celebrities with winter skin undertone

As cool as winter

You’re a Winter if:

  • Your hair is somewhere between blue-black, medium- to dark ashy brown or gray.
  • Your eyes are usually quite striking against your dark hair – green, blue, dark hazel or blackish brown.
  • Your skin tone has blue or pink undertones.
  • Being the direct opposite to Summer, Winter tones possess a noticeable contrast in the intensity of their features. There will be a clear contrast between the color of your hair, eyes and skin (just think of Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox with their striking eyes against their pale skin and dark hair).

Tips for Winter Tones:

Opt for eye shadows that have a blue base to them.

Bring some extra warmth to your complexion by choosing blush in pale pink, delicate rose and soft plum.

Jewelry in silver and white-gold look gorgeous against your skin. Add some additional color with aquamarine-colored stones.

Lipsticks in pink, rose red and purple are primed for your cool complexion.

If you’re looking for a new hair color, pay close attention to the makeup of the new shade. Brunettes should opt for a tonal chocolate brown closer to black that contains no red or yellow undertones. Blondes meanwhile should go for something ashy that contains no yellow but beige instead. Also, if you so dare, platinum blonde looks great on you!

Clothing in deep, jewel colors looks sublime on you. Go for navy blues, pewter grays and vibrant turquoise. Washed-out pastels, on the other hand, do nothing for your complexion (think orange, off-white and soft pink).

Celebrity examples: Angelina Jolie, Liv Tyler, Megan Fox, Eva Longoria, Anne Hathaway.

Spring

Celebrities with spring skin undertone

Spring undertones

You’re a Spring if:

  • Your hair color ranges from light golden blonde to soft brown with warm gold streaks.
  • Your eyes are usually either blue or brown.
  • Your complexion has peach or yellow undertones.
  • You may have freckles, and your cheeks blush naturally into a rosy pink especially after you’ve exercised.
  • Similar to those with Winter coloring, those with Spring tones will notice a definite contrast in color between their hair, skin and eyes, although not as dramatic as Winters. Your skin will also most often have a sort of translucent quality to it.

Tips for Spring Tones:

Hair color is where you really get to play. If you’re a brunette, go for rich browns like chestnut along with red or gold highlights. Blondes should consider darker, more buttery colors like caramel and honey gold. Steer clear of very light colors though like a platinum blonde to avoid looking too harsh and brassy. If you’re a redhead, have some fun with multi-tonal auburn and spicy ginger.

Clothing-wise, the colors that really work for you are pale, soft colors like baby pinks, soft greens and muted yellows. Stay away from anything too dark and contrasting, for example, dark purple worn with black.

Celebrity examples: Cameron Diaz, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Hudson, Taylor Swift.

Neutral

Celebrities with neutral skin undertone

Neutral undertone – somewhere in the middle?

Neutrals are an interesting (and fortunate) bunch. Basically, colors from both cool and warm seasons suit your complexion. For further tips, read through the seasonal profiles above to find your specific coloring.

You’re a neutral if:

  • Your hair is naturally dark brown (neutrals are most often from Mediterranean/Latin background).
  • Your eyes complement your hair and skin tone, i.e. there is no stark contrast anywhere (e.g. dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin).
  • Your complexion generally has no definite undertones to speak of; neither peach or yellow, nor red, blue or pink, but rather somewhere in between.

Tips for Neutral Tones:

If you have hazel or green eyes coupled with red or brown hair, play these up with Summer colors. Similarly, blue or gray eyes mixed with blond or black hair will really pop in Winter-colored clothing.

In terms of makeup, look for blush in apricot, peach or cinnamon to accentuate the green and blue undertones in your skin.

Lipsticks in vibrant colors like ruby red, deep berry and radiant coral will create a striking contrast.

As your complexion is so adaptable to all combinations, why not experiment with a new hair color? Deep burgundy with subtle violet lowlights are a trendy alternative to the usual copper shade.

Celebrity examples: Eva Mendes, Victoria Beckham, Kelly Clarkson, Drew Barrymore, Selena Gomez.