4 ways to determine your skin’s undertone and how it affects hair color

skin, skin undertones, aveda, hair color, color, hair, salon, spa, austin, maximum fx salon spa, maximum fx

Photo: http://arsaromatica.blogspot.com/

By:  Erica Colon, Director Of Education

Here is a quick guide to help you determine if your skin has cool or warm undertones and what hair colors work best with each.

1. In natural light, hold out your arm. If the veins on the inside of your elbow look green, you have warm undertones. Blue veins means cool.

2. Hold a piece of gold jewelry and a piece of silver jewelry up against your arm and see which one “pops” or looks better. Gold means warm and silver means cool.

3. Try on baby blue, white, cream, and rust colored clothing. Baby blue and white will look great on cools while cream and rust will look better on warms.

4. If you are really lucky everything looks good on you and you are a neutral.

So what does this mean in terms of hair color?

Cool undertones in the skin lend themselves to cooler hair colors. Colors that have blue, violet,and ashy tones. Reds will work but should be of the red violet or blue-red variety. Blondes should stay away from peachy or golden tones; stay closer to ashy or neutral. Brunettes should also have an ash base to neutralize warm tones.

Warm undertones (you guessed it!) lend themselves to warm hair colors. Golden or peachy blondes, orangey reds, auburn or golden browns.

!!!! Ruddy complexions beware. Stay away from reds and platinum blonde. Red will bring the red in your skin to the forefront and platinum will just look harsh. Slight red tones can be corrected with a make-up primer or concealer with a green tint.

Neutrals can go either way, but I would recommend a hair color that incorporates eye color or clothing color preference.

Remember that these are guidelines for anyone looking for a change and not knowing where to start. Rules can sometimes be broken and create amazing results. The most important thing is that you love your color!

So what color is your natural skin tone? Are you looking to change up your color and not sure what color is right for you? Leave me a comment below. I’m interested in knowing.

Comments

  1. Jeni says:

    So- for ruddy complexions, what would be best?

    • lonestar_elc says:

      Hi Jeni! You can still do warm or cool tones of hair color, but if you decide to go warm I would stick with soft golden tones.

  2. lana says:

    Hey :) I have pretty fair skin with red undertones..I love red hair on me I find its the only color that suits me..I would really like to change it up but I’m not sure what color..I was thinking lighter brown..what would you think?

    • Erica says:

      Hi Lana. I would recommend talking to your colorist if you are thinking about a drastic change from red to brown. But if you LOVE your red hair, maybe you should stick with it and ask for a different color application like some lowlights or block color.

  3. Alexandra says:

    I look best with reddish copper hair colors, but t want to change to a soft blonde. Its been hard trying to find the right tone of blonde that looks good on me. My face complexion is fair, I can tan usually without burning. I look great with copper red but not yellow or orangey, nor ashy blondes. Any suggestions?

    • Erica says:

      If you look great with copper tones then a soft golden blonde should work great on you! Still in the same tonal family without the orange. A great colorist can achieve this without making you feel like you have yellow hair.

  4. cindie pappas says:

    i have fair skin light blond hair color most of childhood blue arm veins pinkish yellowish skin tint i burn before tanning i now have extra light blond highlights and dark brownish lowlights my face looks very washed out and pale please help

  5. cindie says:

    i have fair skin tones with red or pink or yellow undertones veins are blue i sunburn first has real light hair in my youth turned to dirty blond later in life my complexion in winter is ruddy blah i now have light blond highlights and brown low lights what colors could i use to help with complexion so not to look so pale ???

    • Erica Colon says:

      Cindie,
      Sometimes if I have a guest with fair skin it helps to do a medium brown base color with some blonde highlights. The richer base color usually brings the pink tones out in the cheeks and helps make eye color pop. If you are adamant about staying blonde, a lightly tinted lip gloss and a little blush go a long way towards brightening a pale complexion. Hope this helps!

  6. Missy says:

    I have been using a medium neutral brown and love the color when I first do it but it fades to a muddy color that I don’t like. Should I use a dark neutral brown with soft ash undertones or just a dark neutral brown? I used good shampoo and conditioner and wait 48 hours after coloring to shampoo.

  7. tiffany says:

    I have blue veins but I look great in all colors. Sometimes I look a bit ruddy. I recently dyed my hair light golden brown. I’m not sure if I like it but everyone else does. What should I do?

  8. Kim says:

    Hi – I am trying to locate a professional colorist who can tell me my complexion and skin tone. Do you know what I should be searching for? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  9. Rachelle Miller-Hicks says:

    I find that my fair skin’s undertones favor more cools and neutrals and some warms(the browns and olive greens mainly). Both gold and silver jewelry look good. Most colors look good on me but not oranges and bright yellows. I started dying my naturally dull medium brown hair a spicy cinnamon red in high school and loved it until it started looking eggplant like. I went blonde one time with a colorist and HATED it. I went back to red and have tried all red colors and they all suit me well. I have blue veins and green eyes. My hair was dyed a dark auburn color and it’s okay but I’m looking to spice it up with copper, ash blonde highlights and maybe some violet. The problem I have is the maintenance because as I’ve gotten older(now 35) I’m getting more and more grey. Well, actually more silvery white that presents itself front and center. What do you recommend that I do to do something different? I heard a new color glaze would be coming out in March at mass distributors.

    • Erica Colon says:

      Hi Rachelle,
      Copper, ash blonde , and violet highlights might be a lot if you are trying to keep maintenance down. The idea of a copper highlight with some violet/ burgundy lowlights sounds kinda awesome. In regards to the silvery white at the front, I would talk to your stylist about root touch up options. We have a three week touch up for our guests with that problem. If you do get highlights, you don’t want to put a glaze over your hair unless its clear. Any glaze with color will change the tone of your highlights. I hope I covered everything!

  10. Vivianne says:

    Hello there, Lovely article of course. Lol. I might have a slight problem though, I have no idea if I am cool or warm toned. Dark Red (violet/purple) hair like the ones sometimes seen on Rihanna suits me a lot but when I wear strawberry blonde hair, it just seems to wash me out. I don’t really do well in chesnut brown also so I tend to stick with black or dark brown coloured hair. Only recently did I discover that reddish-purple hair suited me. I have always believed that I had a warm under-tone since I assumed that all olive toned people were, but now, I am not so sure. PS. I am Nigerian with a dark olive/tan complexion.
    Vivianne recently posted..PRODUCT REVIEW: NEUTROGENA OIL-FREE ACNE WASH (PINK GRAPE FRUIT FOAMING SCRUB) FOR COMBINATION/OILY SKINMy Profile

    • Erica Colon says:

      Vivianne,
      If you look better in red violet and stay away from chestnut and strawberry blonde you probably have cool undertones. Over the years I have learned that an olive complexion does not necessarily mean warm undertones. Also remember that these are general guidelines; some people can do either warm or cool.

  11. Meg says:

    Hi Erica,

    I have naturally really dark blonde, mousy hair and have been adding highlights for a while. I’ve liked the lighter color and have had a lot of compliments every time I lighten my hair (from people that used to know me pretty dark). Since this has been going well, I figured I’d go a step further so two days ago, I had my stylist go even lighter with the color and add even more highlights so it’s more blond than ever. I’m pretty sure I’m a cool (light bluish gray eyes) and I look better when the blonde is more ashy than golden. But my problem is that every time I do lighten it, and now even more so since it’s so light, my skin looks kind of reddish or something. I’m not sure if I just need to get used to it, but what’s the best way to counter that and does that mean I really shouldn’t be this light? Thanks for your help!

    Meg

    • Erica Colon says:

      Hi Meg,
      If you are naturally dark blonde you should be fine going way lighter. As for the reddish skin, remember that anytime you change hair colors your skin will look slightly different because the color framing your face (your hair) affects the perception of the color of your skin. Kinda confusing I know. You will most likely adapt to this, but if not I would recommend a green tinted face primer before you put on your foundation. The green will cancel some of those unwanted red tones. Hope this helps!

  12. I almost never leave comments, but i did a few searching and wound up here 4 ways to determine your skin
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  13. Annina says:

    Hi Erica!
    Do warm redheads have also green veins? I have a light, pinkish skin color (like Christina Hendricks), but blue veins, golden seems to enhance the ruddyness and I believe silver looks better on me. I have some freckles in the summer, too, but ash (or mousy) light brown hair and blue-grey eyes with a dark ring around the iris. So I’d say that I’m cool, but I got a lot of compliments when I dyed my hair red. The ash brown hair suits me, but I find it a little bit boring.

    • Erica says:

      Hey Annina,
      I must have missed this in April but here goes. Red can work on cool or warm; it just has to be the right red for your skin tone. I have found that light, pinkish skin (Christina Hendricks) can pull off the reds with more orange in them better than someone with too much yellow in their skin. Blue eyes, pale skin, and freckles make me think you would be an amazing redhead! Hope you got this soon enough to help.

  14. alicia says:

    Hey There!
    I have lots of red undertones in my skin and my veins are GREEN. What would be my best color?

  15. Tia says:

    Hi Erica,

    I am of a half-white and half-Asian (Indian) ethnic background, have tanned skin and naturally black hair. I’ve been told by other people that I suit any colour (of clothing) but I’m pretty sure I’m warm as gold jewellery does look better on me (although my veins are a blue/green colour!). Sometimes with my black hair I can look quite pale, with chestnut brown hair I looked more tanned, but there is a strong yellow tinge to my colour, which sometimes looks unhealthy. I want to dye my hair a bright pink colour (I have tried a deep/bright red in the past which suited me) but am determined to go pink. I’m hoping to go for a cerise colour (I know baby or candyfloss pink won’t suit me), but I was just wondering if this shade of pink would be advisable? I know I won’t get a ‘natural’ look with pink hair but I would like to avoid emphasising my yellow undertones – could you give me any advice?
    Tia recently posted..I’m Engaged – What NOW?! A Salon FAQ for BridesMy Profile

    • Erica Colon says:

      Hi Tia,
      This one is tough without actually seeing you, but I think the cerise color would look pretty. If you still aren’t sure, have your colorist put a streak of it in your hair near your face but not directly next to it. Then you can hold it next to your skin to see if you like the color enough to have it on your whole head. (Also, this is gonna be some serious maintenance for all over color) Hope this helps!

  16. Nefertiti says:

    Hi Erica,

    I have been studying color analysis extensively for the last couple of days and I really like you twist on the topic but I still need some help. So I have gray eyes (sometimes confused for blue and extremely rarely for green), relatively fair skin (not Celtic fair but pretty fair), and burning before tanning is a must, but I can tan. I think I am warm but not really sure because of an overall appearance, that is, if I look at myself long enough I think I see a yellowish or rather ocher undertone – best visible at dim light. The veins on my forearm and palms are bluish to purple, but all the others (on any other part of my body!) are greenish. No color in cheeks and the only color I’m sure I love wearing is gray, though white and cream are both fine. I have medium to light brown virgin hair with no undertones at all (no yellow nor red) and I was thinking about going for natural Nordic blonde, but now I don’t know if a strawberry blonde would be a better option since it seems that I am warm. A little help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Erica Colon says:

      Nefertiti,
      It sounds like you could go either way. A good tie breaker is to look a little closer at your eye color. If you have gold or brown flecks go strawberry blonde; black or grey go Nordic!

  17. Stacey says:

    Hi! I am hoping to get a suggestion for a hair color that would really look good on me, but I’m at a loss.
    I believe I’m cool-toned, my veins look more blue than green.
    I have fair skin, I usually go for the lightest or second lightest foundation in the drugstore.
    I really don’t like gold jewelry or colors like yellow or orange on me-but maybe that’s just personal preference…
    I have hazel eyes. They’re primarily green with some grey (some dark blue-grey) and yellow-brown flecks. But mostly olive green.
    My natural hair color is a medium brown.
    I like very light blonde colors and reds but I guess I’m bored of having my boring brown hair.
    How can I like less plain-Jane?

    • Stacey says:

      PS: I can email you a picture if that’s easier. I have some of me outside in the daylight.

    • Erica Colon says:

      Hey Stacy,
      It sounds like you could go either cool or warm. A sandy blonde and platinum highlight mix or golden blonde and copper blonde mix; either would probably look fantastic on you. If you are still torn on which way to go, look at your make up palette. If you veer towards pinks go with the sandy blonde/ platinum mix. Earth tones I would go the other route. Hope that helps!

  18. Kellin says:

    Hi Erica,

    I have never colored my hair before, but I’m looking for a change so I am considering it. I have naturally light brown/dirty blonde hair, with turquoise blue eyes that sometimes look grayish/green, and really fair skin with pink undertones (I sunburn easily, rarely ever tan.) I followed the steps above to determine what undertone I am, and I’d say that I’m mostly neutral, but closer to having cool undertones. Anyway, I love red copper hair, and recently I’ve been wanting to dye it that color, but I’m not entirely sure if that would look right with my coloring… What do you think? Thanks!

    • Erica Colon says:

      Kellin,
      I say go for it! In my experience women with your coloring look gorgeous with bright copper hair color. If you are still on the fence look up Deborah Ann Woll or Christina Hendricks. Both fair skinned women who look amazing with that copper hair.

  19. Bella says:

    Hi Erica,

    I am pretty confused on finding out my skin color. I am Asian, Malay to be specific. I fall under the medium category but I was wondering if you could determine my undertone. I am probably on the olive side, but I look better with silver and golden brown hair makes me look washed out.
    Thanks! would be great if you can help since I am planning to change my hair color.
    link below would be my photo:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200833358333686&set=a.1559418582811.74433.1155661977&type=3&theater

    • Erica Colon says:

      Bella,
      Sounds like you have cool undertones. So if you go with a red make sure it’s a red violet or a true red that falls more on the cool side. For browns you can stick with just cool or mix cool and warm browns together, just make sure the warm browns highlights aren’t placed too close around your face. For example, look up celebrities with ombré or balayage. Some of them would look awful with golden brown all over, but it works as an accent color when the golden brown starts below their chin and a deeper neutral color frames their face. Hope this helps! Great photo btw:)

  20. Taylor says:

    Hi Erica,
    So I have been thinking about dying my hair for quite some time now but I cannot come up with a color i want. I am fairly pale with red and pinky undertones. I have green eyes and my hair as of now is my natural color. It’s a mousy brown-dirty blonde mixture. I absolutely hate it. Anyways I truly have no clue what to dye it. Any suggestions?

    • Erica Colon says:

      Hey Taylor,
      If you aren’t drawn to any particular color I would go with highlights. That way you can try different colors without the commitment of all over color. If your red undertones are really strong, I would stay away from reds, but otherwise have fun. Sometimes it helps to look for celebrities with a complexion similar to yours and see what works for them. hope this helps!

  21. Teresa cervantes says:

    I have medium light skin and blue eyes . I had very light blonde hair as a child . As I grew my hair darkened . As a dark blonde I would lighten it . But I like brown hair and are afraid to try it . Wondering what would be a good color for me . I am 58 years old. So I’m concerned about looking too harsh . My veins appear to be blue. So help .

    • Erica Colon says:

      Teresa,
      If you are afraid of going darker you could always do lowlights to “try on”a color. This way you are not committed to sticking with it. Just make sure you stay with a medium brown instead of dark brown which can look too harsh. If you love the lowlights you can always go to all over color next time.

  22. Michelle Brown says:

    I have medium brown hair with a reddish tint in the sunlight. I have never colored my hair and now that im getting older I have noticed some grey creeping in. I have no idea if im a warm or cool, but I look great in baby blue and cherry red (not burgundy’s and such). I am trying to find what colors will look good for highlights in my hair. My skin tone is a lighter golden almost I have hazel eyes that change color. They are a darker green with hints of blue and brown. Also on rainy days they look bluish grey. So since I’ve never colored my hair im really nervous about changing it and I want to find the right colors for me.

    • Erica Colon says:

      Michelle,
      From the info you gave me it seems like warm tones would work great on you. Golden blonde and caramel highlights, or if you want to stand out a bit more, play up the red tones with a copper blonde and some red lights! Since you are new to color ask for subtle highlights the first time. You can always go bolder in the future.

      • Mia123 says:

        Hi Erica
        I’m not sure which hair color will suit me best. I have medium skin tone, dark brown hair (which is my natural hair color) and dark brown eyes. Also, both gold and silver jewelry look good on me so my undertone is neutral.I’m tired of having brown hair, any suggestions? :)

        • Erica Colon says:

          Hi Mia,
          Here are a few suggestions. If you think you might get bored easily and want to change your color often I would suggest highlights. For my brunettes I look at eye color. If you have flecks of gold or green in your eyes, caramel (golden tones) really make them pop. If they are a really dark brown (think dark chocolate) with black flecks, maybe a darker brown lowlight and a dark red lowlight to give it contrast and depth. I also recommend looking at pictures online and finding people with coloring similar to yours and see what you are drawn to. Hope this helps!

  23. Nadine says:

    Hi Erica,
    Currently my hair is light brown with dark blonde highlights. I have very light brown eyes, olive skin and green veins. Gold jewellery looks best on me. I get the most compliments when my hair lightens. I’ve been wanting to dye my hair a solid colour for a while now, but I don’t exactly know which colour will complement me the most. I don’t want to dye my hair any darker than it is. What colours would you recommend I go for?

    • Erica Colon says:

      Nadine,
      An all over color, if you want to only go lighter, may not be the best idea for you. With your skin and eye color it could wash you out. Maybe instead you could talk with your colorist about different type of color placement or tone for your highlights. Golden tones will probably work best.

  24. Karen Spencer says:

    I’m really confused here …. LOL. I have dark blonde hair (some golden and some reddish tones to boot), hazel eyes (predominantly green with golden flecks and a few brown “freckles” in the iris), and ivory skin. Because of surviving child abuse, I have a few ruddy scars that will never fade. My veins show more greenish but a few show a bit purple. I’m not sure what this makes me other than weird. Oh yeah …. even with dark blonde hair, I have always had medium to dark brown eyebrows. Like I said, weird …. LOL. What am I?!?!?!

    • Erica Colon says:

      Karen,
      You would probably do best with warmer tones including reds.

    • Sandra says:

      Karen, I agree with Erica. You are a definite warm coloring. I have greenish veins also with reddish-brown hair, green eyes and ruddy cheeks, making me a warm also. In my twenties I dyed my hair blond until I found that I was a warm tone. Now I have my hair colored to the right color for me, I dress in warm colors and I get many compliments on my hair and the the colors of clothing I choose to wear. I am now a happy “warm” who for years thought I had to stay with blond hair because I was blond as a child. Our coloring changes as we get older and we have to adapt to our changes. Good luck!

  25. siobhan says:

    hello i believe i have cool skin tone because my veins are mainly blue. my hair is naturally brownish, not dark n not light, medium brown i would say. my eye color are somewhat of a light brown in the light but w/o light, they seem darker. i want to find what hair color would be good for me. please help.

    • Erica Colon says:

      Siobhan,
      With cool skin tones and medium brown hair I like to add dark lowlights. I find that it adds dimension and drama without washing out your complexion.

  26. Alana says:

    Hi!
    I was wondering if you can be ruddy but have cool undertones? I find it impossible to decide if my veins are blue or green in natural light, they are somewhere in between however I definitely have ruddy complexion through my face and décolletage though I also know I look better in blue, white and silver, like it balances out the ruddiness. The reason I’m asking this is because I’ve always really wanted to go white blonde, I have blue eyes and my natural hair colour is probably a mid-brown, (though at the moment I have a full head of blonde highlights which looks fine on me) I know that white blonde wouldn’t be my ideal colour but I love the look and if I knew I could at get away with it (that is if my hair doesn’t die from all the processing) I’d start tomorrow. I know it’s harder to tell just from a description but I’d love to hear any suggestions or advice you have, you sound like you know what your doing! Thanks!

    • Erica Colon says:

      Alana,
      Do it! A great colorist should be able to discuss the process and at home care needed for white blonde. Just remember that it is a high maintenance color. If you end up not loving it you could always have your colorist tone it down a level!

  27. Kacey says:

    Hey! I am having a really hard time finding my skin tone. The veins in my wrists are blue, but everywhere else they appear green. I usually burn before I tan, but I can tan. My skin is pale with a very small amount of pink undertones in my cheeks. I have green eyes with yellow around the pupil, blue flecks in the middle, and a grey ring around the outside. My hair color when I was little was golden blonde, but now it’s a dark ash blond (or dishwater blonde) I dyed my hair a dark red/brown in January, but it made me too pale. (though it did bring out my eyes) in march I got it highlighted with blonde, and over the summer all of it lightened up. I wanted to dye it either a medium ash blonde or dark cool pearl blonde. I really want to know if either of these would be good for my skin tone.

    • Erica Colon says:

      Kacey,
      This is a tough one, but in my experience most people are less than thrilled when they go with a med ash blonde. I would recommend sticking with a neutral blonde just because from your description you sound a little on the warm side. Hope this helps.

    • Sandra says:

      Hi Kacey…I think the lighter tones would be the best for you. It sounds to me that your have “cool colouring” to your skin, that is why the darker hair colour made you look washed out. Stick to the lighter blond colour and have your colourist add a few darker blond highlights to you hair. It should look beautiful with the colour of your eyes. Good luck!!

  28. Sage says:

    Hello,
    I have been trying to figure out what my skin’s undertone is but I still am unsure. I have fair/pale skin, dark brown eyes, and my natural hair color is dark brown. My face is acne prone and somewhat blemished. I also have freckles but not all over, some are spread out on my face but they’re mostly on my shoulders. My skin burns easily and if I do ever tan after burning then it’s subtle and rare. My current hair color is a mixture of light blonde and golden blonde. The veins in my skin range from blue to green. Is there a certain shade of hair color(s) that you would suggest for me? Thanks!

    • Erica Colon says:

      Sage,
      It seems like you already have complimentary tones in your hair. If you wanted a change maybe throw in some warm medium brown pieces for some extra depth!

  29. Cherese Erasmus says:

    Hi there, I have medium ash blonde to light brown hair. I want to dye my hair red but I noticed red makes my skin look pale. Which red dye would you recommend that wont make my skin pale?

    • Erica Colon says:

      When I was red I found that playing up my eye or lip color helped me from looking washed out. If make up isn’t your thing, then stick with lighter strawberry blonde tones.

  30. adriana says:

    Hi,

    I would be interested what hair colour suits to me as I have green veins but it seems that silver looks better on me. I am dark brown and my eyes are brown but have light golden tones. I am so confused when it comes to hair colouring.
    I would be grateful if someone could help me a bit.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Erica Colon says:

      Adriana,
      Brown eyes with light golden tones always make me want to stick with warm tones. Caramel if going lighter and dark chocolate if going darker. I always try to play up someone’s eye color when choosing colors!

  31. Faye says:

    I am definitely a winter cool and neutral.
    I wear silver, white gold, platinum, gun metal very well. Medium to deep purple, teal, baby blue to deep blue, white, medium green to forest green looks best on me; shades of reds, black, shades of grey look awful; my under tone is cool and I have ruddy cheeks so reds and pinks brings out the read in my face and makes me look like I have rosacea. My skin is fair/light and ruddy, hair is a dark chocolate brown w/ highlights of reds and blues, eyes are a hazel green. Got 5% silver/ white shiny strands.
    Make up I don’t wear much only on occasion, but lipstick I love when it is all organic, My favorite is clinique. I went on here to help my daughter’s BFF to determine her coloring since she has natural auburn hair, hazel eyes and a sparkly personality.

  32. Sandra says:

    I have reddish brown hair, green eyes and ruddy cheeks. I would like to know what I can use to tone down the color of my cheeks and what color eye shadow to use that will not clash with my hair color. I have been using a purple eye shadow to bring out my green eyes, but I am afraid with my hair color it makes me look clownish. Any suggestions? Thank you!

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