A Stylist’s Guide to Skin Tones and Color Palettes
December 18, 2019 | Filed in: Your Closet
For most women, understanding our skin tones and color palettes can be somewhat overwhelming. Which season are you? Which colors look great against your skin? How do you properly pair colors? We get it! It’s a lot to think about, but since you have #betterthingstodo, we’re here to steer you in the right direction with the help of our team members Samone, Maria, and Kailin. While we don’t have every skin tone covered here, we’re breaking down the fundamentals in a digestible way, from warm to neutral to cool. Now let’s get down to the basics, shall we?
How to Find Your Tone
First things first, it’s time to determine your skin tone. Are you a warm, cool, or neutral? Quite frankly, you’ve probably been aware all along without realizing it. The colors you choose to wear say a lot about what you (unconsciously) think works best for your tone. For example: Do you own more true whites (cool) or creams (warm)? If you’re still unsure, ask yourself these questions and you should find the answer:
- What color are the veins located on the inside of your wrists? You’re a cool tone if your veins look blue or purple, and if you’re warm-toned, your veins should appear green. Interesting, right?
- What kind of jewelry complements your complexion better: silver or gold? Silver usually works best for cool undertones, and gold does the same for warm undertones.
- What happens if you hold a warm-colored item (think olive green, mustard yellow, or taupe) then a cool-colored item (try deep purple, ice blue, or magenta) under your chin? If it washes you out, toss! If it brings out the best in your complexion, keep!
Samone: The Warm Tone
- Her skin has a golden undertone. Warm tones are usually golden, yellow, or peachy.
- Her brown hair color falls in the deep brown to strawberry blonde category.
- Her eyes are dark brown. Warm tones usually have a brown to hazel eye color.
Like Samone says, “I find that I look best in gold jewelry, which I know is an attribute of someone with a warm tone.” Ding ding! Along with gold jewelry, colors like yellows, oranges, browns, off-whites, and warm greens and reds work great for her, which is why the Ashley dress in brick red and the Joan top in mocha pair well against her skin. When it comes to dressing for your warm tone, think earth tones and other colors that will still allow your skin to glow regardless of its presence.
These M.M. colors work, too: bronze, topaz, saddle, dark olive.
Maria: The Cool Tone
- Her skin has a rosy pink undertone. Cool skin tones include both pink and blue.
- Her hair is blonde, falling into the bluish-black to silver-blonde category.
- Her eye color is green. Eye colors for cool tones are typically green, blue, or deep brown.
When we’re talking cool tones, lean toward blues, pinks, purples, cooler greens, and reds. Your physical features (complexion, hair, eyes) tend to pop with these colors, which Maria can attest to. “I love wearing blue, because it makes my hair so much brighter,” she says. Your color choices should enhance, not overpower, your skin tone. The Etsuko dress in pacific blue (rainforest, too!) and the Walker top in regent blue are go-to options for her because both complement her tone, rather than masking it.
These M.M. colors work, too: dark spruce, oxford blue, iolite, deep plum.
Kailin: The Neutral Tone
- Her skin tone has a peachy, but slightly pink undertone. Neutral tones typically have a mixture of both warm and cool, or are hard to detect.
- Her hair color is black to dark brown, with hints of a reddish hue, which falls in both the cool and warm category.
- Her eye color is brown. Neutrals could be any shade, from brown to blue.
If it’s almost impossible for you to confirm your tone, you’re a neutral. And in this case, your options are pretty much endless. Kailin’s cool features and warmish undertone place her in the neutral category. If you’re like Kailin, you might like to take colors from both ends of the spectrum and combine them in one look. Prime example: The Guilia top in saffron (warm) and Foster pant in monsoon (cool) make a great pairing for her tone, and the Para pullover in black (neutral) ties it all together. The key to keeping it neutral is making sure one color doesn’t take away from the other—or worse, you.
These M.M. colors work, too: rose heather, spruce, soft gray, cerulean.
And if you love a color that doesn’t work well for your tone, that doesn’t mean you can’t go for it. Take note of these easy style tricks:
- Choose items that will keep the color away from your face. Wear colored bottoms vs. colored tops.
- Tone down the boldness of a color by layering in neutrals. Remember: enhance, don’t overpower, your skin tone.
- Incorporate color accents. Opt for jewelry, shoes, belts, and scarves, rather than full looks of loud colors.
As we always say, we’re here to give you the tools, not the rules. Samone says it best: “I honestly don’t pay attention to the rules that surround warm, cool, or seasonal coloring. I just go with whichever colors I feel like wearing at the moment.” With that said, it’s your world—wear what you want and how you want. Our only ask is that you wear it well.
Photos by Yan Ruan.
Styling by Nyjerah Cunningham.