Skip to content

How to find the best hair color for your skin undertone

Chart of skin undertones

Hello again! Hopefully you've taken a moment to check out the article here to help you determine your skin undertones, because now we're going to dish about strategies that will help you say what you want with your hair color (without saying a word). This is a bit more of an intermediate level skill and we're going to walk you through it step-by-step.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's important to discuss the two major strategies that professional stylists use when determining colors for their clients and the slight generational divide between them.

Two Main Strategies

Two paths diverge in a hair salon. Are you the kind of adventurer who wants the path less traveled by? Or, are you more comfortable traversing well-trod territory?

The Popular Path: The prevailing wisdom for ages has been to select hair colors that match your undertone. So, if you're warm, wear warm colors; if you're cool, wear cool colors, and so forth. Let's consider this the Popular Path, because it is the one most people feel safest choosing, and it tends to be the direction stylists lead their customers to avoid upsetting them. This is the safest and most conservative of the two paths to follow. It is also the default path of choice for most women "of a certain age", who tend to follow this path because it has been the conventional wisdom for most of their lives.

The Maverick Path: A newer set of notions and rules about this have taken hold in recent years. Instead of selecting colors that are naturally flattering because they match your undertone, in this path you select complimentary colors because they will clash with your skin, neutralize some of your undertones, and help you stand out dramatically from the crowd. This is a path that requires bravery and cunning, but the results can be very unique, beautiful, and personalized. Do you enjoy statement hair colors and tend to choose the path less traveled by? Congrats, My Friend. You are a Maverick. This has been the prevailing wisdom for hair color selection since KUWTK first hit the air. (The Kardashian women may not have pioneered this hair color path, but they -- and the emergence of Instagram culture -- most certainly helped popularize it.) It is also considered a more modern way to select a your hair color, but it isn't always easy to pull off. (Which is probably part of the appeal.)

Color Theory Crash Course

This concept of complimentary colors requires a little more explaining, just in case you never got to take art in school. "Complimentary" colors aren't colors that look good on you. This terminology is much more specific than that. In color theory, complimentary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel.

A color wheel with complimentary colors

This notion of complimentary colors can be really tricky. In a nutshell, folks who pick the maverick path are intentionally choosing colors that would otherwise clash with their skin undertones, and folks who chose the popular path chose colors within the same color family as their undertones.

The Problem with Pinks

Do you get confused about why pink is considered a cool color and not a warm one? This can really confuse a lot of people who aren't familiar with color theory, as their inclination might be to consider pink part of the red family, and therefore a warm color. This is not the case, though. Keep reading for a brief explanation.

Just keep thinking about paint and how you can make many colors with just a few to mix. You can theoretically make any paint color with just five shades of paint: yellow, red, blue, black, and white.

All roads lead to brown colors

Red + yellow = orange (the ratios of each change the hues)
Red + blue = purple or violet (the ratios of each change the hues; if it's got more red, it's a violet, and if it has more blue, it's generally a purple)
Blue + yellow = green (the ratios of each change the hues)
Black + white = grey (the ratios of each change the hues)
Black + any color = makes it a darker version of that color
White + any color = makes it a lighter version of that color
Red + yellow + blue in equal amounts = brown
Orange + green + purple in equal amounts = brown
If you mix any color with its complimentary color on the wheel, you end up with brown

Pink is NOT a blend of red and white, nor is it a paler version of red. Pink is actually a blend of violet (IE: a red-blue blend with more red than blue) and white, which means that there is always some kind of subtle blue in it. The more blue is in the violet before you add white, the cooler the pink. This is actually how pink ends up a "cool" color and how some reds can actually appear to have cool undertones. (If the term "blue-based red" has ever confused you, the best way to think of these is that they are reds with violet mixed in, while "yellow-based red" has a little orange mixed into it.)

Fun Fact #1: The word "orange" is relatively new in the English language. Before "orange", the color used to be referred to as "yellow-red."

Fun Fact #2: If you struggle with blending your makeup because often the undertones end up looking "muddy", keep in mind that this is going to happen any time you mix colors that have different undertones. (Remember and reference the color theory cheat sheet above.)

Now it's time to pick your path . . .

Scroll through the options below. Use your knowledge about your skin undertones and pick the path you want to travel by to be directed to a page full of options for you based on our expert recommendations.



select your skin undertone below

select your skin undertone below





Blog posts