How to Choose a Hair Color, PART 2: Find Your Color


(See PART 1: Color Wheel)

Color theory doesn’t stop with the shades in your hair – it also applies to the tones in your skin and face. The right hair color can brighten your face, even out your skin tone, and even give you a natural glow.

Always keep the color wheel in mind when you’re picking out a hair color. Not every hair color will work with every face. In fact, there are probably a limited number of shades that actually flatter your face and skin. But once you do find that complementary shade, it can work wonders to improve your complexion and make you look younger.

Skin tone

First, you’ll want to figure out what your natural skin tone is so that you can match it to your hair color. Skin tones can be in one of two categories: warm or cool. The undertones in your skin determine which category it is.

You have warm skin if you can see yellow, golden, or peach undertones in your skin.

You have cool skin if you have pink, blue, or beige undertones in your skin.

One way to find out your dominant undertones is by putting on a white shirt and examining your face in the bathroom mirror (the white shirt makes it easier to isolate your color). Another trick for finding your skin tone is looking at the veins on the inside of your arm under natural light. If the veins appear green, then you have a warm skin tone. If the veins appear blue, you have a cool skin tone.

Match your color

Once you know your natural skin tone, you can match a hair color that will complement it the best. Using complementary shades creates the best overall effect, because it looks natural and blends your natural tones without making a harsh contrast. But if you use an unflattering shade, it could bring out the wrong undertones in your skin and make you look older or sallow.

Warm: In general, if you have a warm skin tone, a cool hair color will be the most flattering and natural looking. Some good color options for you are honey, strawberry, copper, golden brown, dark browns, and mahogany, or other colors with violet, blue or neutral tones to cool down your skin.

Cool: If you have a cool skin tone, you’ll generally look best with a warm hair color. Some common warm color choices are champagne, cream, coffee, fawn, mid-level blonde, flat browns, auburn, and other golden or red tones to warm up your skin.

Keep in mind…

In general, your most flattering tone will be within two shades of your natural hair color. If you color your hair too far above or below that, you risk harsh color contrasts or washing out your features.

If you have

  • Pale skin: you can choose almost any hair color. If you have blue eyes, a blonde color should be a good choice.
  • Pink skin: you’ll look good with neutral tones like beige blonde and chocolate brown. Avoid shades of red and gold.
  • Yellow skin tones: you’ll look good with dark, rich colors, such as deep auburn.
  • Medium skin: you can pull off dark blonde and copper tones.
  • Dark or olive skin: a darker hair color will usually look good on you. You may be able to pull off a dramatic violet or mahogany.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rules and in the end it all depends on what fits your personality and style. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to consult a colorist who understands complementary colors and the color wheel.