Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Warm and Cool Toned Colors - What are they and how it works!?

One of my awesome readers asked the following question last week:
Well, since you asked and provided a very thoughtful answer to my first question, can you talk more about warm and cool colors? I pretty much understand what colors are cool and what colors are warm, but how does that apply to individuals? I could not tell you what I am and I certainly can't make color choices based on warm and cool. But I'm beginning to wonder if it has something to do with why I think certain colors look better on me than others. And yet you bought cool and warm for yourself... Thanks for being so helpful!  
My response to this question was pretty long, but I realized I needed to write a post about Warm and Cool colors since I have been raving about Mac's Packed To Go Cool and Warm Smokey Palettes. So here it is.

What are warm colors and what are cool colors?
Warm colors are usually earth tones, like golds, olives, corals, earthy reds, browns, etc. Cool tones are usually jewel tones, like purples, blues, emerald, ruby, pink, etc.

You look best in these colors:You look best in these colors:

How can you tell if you are have warm or cool toned skin?
Look at the veins in the underside of your arms, if they veins appear to be green, you have warm toned skin, if your veins appear to be blue, you have cool toned skin. If you can't tell what color your veins are because they are very much in the middle, then you are probably a neutral (which means you can wear both cool and warm shades with ease!)

Here is a another helpful chart for making the determination: 
Cool TonesWarm Tones
Looks better in pure white than ivoryLooks better in ivory than pure white
Can easily wear blackLooks washed out with black worn close to the face
My skin is:
Very dark brown with reddish or blue undertones
Brown with pink undertone
True olive (most Asians and Latinos)
Medium with no color in cheeks
Medium with faint pink cheeks
Pale with no color in cheeks
Pale with pink undertones
Ruddy-pinkish red
Brown or bronze when I tan
My skin is:
Very dark brown with golden undertones
Brown with golden undertone
Medium with golden undertones
Pale with peach or gold undertones
Golden brown, when I tan
Notable examples - 
Elizabeth Taylor, Demi Moore, Anne Hathaway, Courtney Cox, Sandra Bullock, Terri Hatcher, Kirstin Davis, America Fererra, Keira Knightley, Eva Longoria, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Hudson, Liv Tyler, Alexis Bledel, Megan Fox, Jennifer Connelly, Shania Twain, Brooke Shields Sophia Bush, Penelope Cruz, Candace Bergen, Sarah Chalke, Hillary Clinton, Heather Locklear, Britney Spears, Sarah Jessica Parker, Christy Brinkley, Reese Witherspoon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeri Ryan, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen Pompano
Notable examples -Nicole Kidman, Meg Ryan, Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Reba McIntyre, Julianne Hough, Sarah Ferguson, Marcia Cross, Calista Flockhart, Rebecca Romjin, Tara Reid, Renee Zellweger, Ellen Degeneres, Diane Sawyer, Amy Adams, Jillian Anderson, Amanda Bynes, Becki Newton, Nicole Richie, Kim Raver, Kristen Johnston, Leona Lewis

Why does it matter if I have warm or cool toned skin?
Well, you will not only notice it helps when it comes to picking out shades of colors to wear, but also when picking out foundations, powders, concealers, etc. The major point to remember is, a person with cool toned skin will need a foundation with pink undertones, whereas a person with warm toned skin will need a foundation with yellow undertones. For example, brands like Maybelline Fit offer lines of foundation, concealers and powders based on whether the customer has warm or cool toned skin. Buying the correct color foundation, concealer and powder shade will not only make your skin look amazing, it will make your makeup look better. However, just because you have warm or cool toned skin, it doesn't mean you cannot try the opposite shades on your skin. You just will need to think more about how you will make those colors bring out your natural undertones.

To better help everyone understand how undertones and foundation work, I created this helpful chart.

Foundation Shade Range Chart
ShadeWarm Neutral-Warm Neutral Neutral Cool Cool
Foundation ColorsYellow Based Foundation Neutral Base with Yellow Undertones Foundation Neutral Shade Foundation Neutral Base with Pink Undertones Foundation Pink Based Shade Foundation
Example Mac Shade ValueC2, C3, C4, etc. NC 20, NC25, NC30, NC35, NC40, etc. N2, N3, N4, etc. NW20, NW25, NW30, NW45, etc. W2, W3, W4, etc.

Something else to note, a lot of makeup artists will match you to shades that will neutralize your undertones so it's easier for you to wear both sets of shades. For example, every time I go to the Chanel counter and I get color matched, the makeup artists tries to pick out shades of foundation with cooler undertones, so that my warm skin tone will be appear more neutral and thus more attractive in a wider range of colors. So, if you are not feeling your super cool or warm toned skin, you can attempt to neutralize its natural coloring a bit by going for a shade that is neutral-cool or neutral-warm.

Whoa, wait one second. Why am I the opposite color in Mac foundation shades?
Mac uses a different classification system for foundations, concealers warm powders. Warm shades are classified as cool shades and cool shades are classified as warm shades. So, even though my skin tone in Mac is NC25 (neutral-cool), I actually have warm undertones in my skin, like golds. People with cool undertones will buy warm foundation shades from Mac because their color system. (these people have pink and purple undertones in their skin.)

So, does this mean if I have warm skin I can never wear pinks?
No. Even if you have warm skin or cool skin you can wear the opposite shades, you just need to think about how to incorporate those shades with other shades that flatter your skin tone. For example, I have warm skin so wearing pinks and light purples or blues is hard for me. To make it more wearable I have to mix tones that are easier for me to wear like golds, greens, and warm browns with pinks. However, you'll notice I still wear purples, pinks and blues, I just mix them with other tones that are flattering for my skin tone or I opt for an intense smokey eye in those shades to help balance my skin tone. Blues are actually notoriously pretty on brown eyes, so sometimes colors that you might not think you could wear because of the shade of your skin (warm or cool), actually can look really pretty if applied with other beauty rules in mind. But honestly, in my opinion rules about makeup hinder creativity. Don't be afraid to try something different. Trial and error is more fun and helpful when playing with makeup than following the rules! Hope this helps!


  1. :)
    Of course now my silly spelling flub (sense/since) that I noticed seconds after I posted, is forever posted on your blog. Great post, nonetheless.

  2. this was so helpful thank u so much

  3. BEST POST EVER...HANDS DOWN!!! Thank you so much! Mercedes