Am I warm or cool? How can I tell?

by Paris B on · 43 comments

in Discussions,Tips

The perennial question that arises whenever anyone talks about foundation or colours is this:-

How can I tell if I’m warm or cool toned?

Well, you know what? When I choose my foundation or my makeup I don’t consider colour tones. This is because I always try to buy my foundations and makeup in person and I always choose a colour that looks good on me irrespective of “tone”. This way, you don’t have to wrestle with the question of whether you are warm or cool and which foundation or colour will suit you.

But these days with online shopping being the norm, it might be useful to know whether you are warm or cool so here is a general guide. Please don’t take it as gospel. It isn’t, because at the end of the day, we are all usually a nice mix of warm and cool tones and the question really is “Am I warmer or cooler toned?”

A general guide to tell if you are cool toned:-

  • You have pink undertones to your skin – Usually this translate to a rosy outlook.
  • You burn easily instead of tanning.
  • Your eyes might be blue or gray and you may have blonde, brown or black hair – not applicable to Asians.
  • You look good in strong colors of blue, red, pink or purple or jewel toned colours
  • You look better with Silver jewelry
  • You look good wearing white
  • In sunlight, your visible veins have a bluish tint

A general guide to tell if you are warm toned:-

  • You have yellow undertones to your skin – The common perception is that if you are Asian you are warm toned. Not quite true. Many Asians are neutral toned.
  • You tan instead of burning.
  • Your eyes may be brown or hazel or green and you may have brown, red, black hair – not applicable to Asians.
  • You look good wearing browns, yellows, orange, yellowish greens or lime greens.
  • You look better with Gold jewelry
  • You look good wearing ivory or cream
  • In sunlight your visible veins have a greenish tint

However, do note that the above is just a general guideline. Unless you have very obvious pink or yellow tones to your skin, you are likely to fall into the neutral category.

That is the category I fall into – neutral.

I look good wearing most colours, but due to my lighter colouring, I look best wearing jeweled tones in clothing – royal purple, aquamarine, emerald greens, bright reds etc. I can take these colours well in makeup too. I can also carry off yellow green shades and browns but yellows and orange depends on the shade. Ditto makeup. I try not to go for colours that are too warm i.e. colours with strong red, yellow, brown or orange tones. That said, I can pull off a coral lipstick hence I must be pretty neutral 😛

Do note however, that even clothing colours have subtle undertones to them so it isn’t quite a cut and dried technique – you’d know what suits you once you put it on and you know you look good 😉

I can wear both silver and gold jewelry but I look better wearing cream as opposed to stark white which enhances my yellowish undertone. This might prompt you to think I’m “warm” but I burn easily instead of tanning which is a “cool” trait. My veins are both purple and green – about as confused as I am LOL…

So what does this mean in terms of makeup and clothes? Once I learnt that I was neutral, I then worked out also that anything too warm did not look good on me. It had a tendency to make me look “dirty”. If I wear something too cool, I look a little ashen – like a zombie.

So, I take the middle path and I’ve learnt that I can handle many sorts of colours – I can even wear purple eyeshadow now provided I find the right purple tone i.e. a blue based purple or lilac and lavender. Similarly with blushes. A strong peach blush is a no-no for me. But a pink peach blush or a straight pink suits me just fine. Yet if a color is too cool like plum, I look like someone punched me.

At the end of the day, don’t crack your brains over whether you are warm or cool – pick a colour that looks good on you. With technology these days able to create colours from the whole spectrum and all the different shades in between, there is a shade for everyone in every colour :)

Does it bother you to know whether you are warm or cool toned?

Paris B

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[ 42 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

March 16, 2010 at 9:10 am

I would think that I’m a neutral, but my veins are green hehehe. Somehow, I do not really care about colors, haha. I have a blue-toned pink lipstick that works for me too… ^.^

have a great day!


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Yeah so long as it looks good on us, who really cares if we are warm or cool eh? Strangely though, I can’t wear pink lipstick. One of those things I guess


Maria August 31, 2012 at 9:20 pm

What about Olive? Can Olive be neutral? I have hazel eyes and natural medium brown hair with gold and red undertones. I’m half Sicilian, the other half of European descent with some Native American in there, lol. I swear my veins change color. I feel like too much orange makes me look dirty too, and too blue makes me look like I’m sick!


Gina January 12, 2013 at 3:53 am

Soft autumn for sure- us soft autumns & summers get confused because we don’t fit into the four main seasons.


March 16, 2010 at 9:11 am

I figure I’m pretty much cool-toned and have more or less figured out what colors I like. I stay away from oranges, yellows and peachy tones tho, as I think they make me look yellow-toned and a bit sickly. Anything/color that makes me look fairer is gooooood! 😛


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Yes I think you are certainly cooler toned and I think you look great in blue! 😀


March 16, 2010 at 9:17 am

Great writeup!! Like you, i don’t take into consideration whether i’m warm or cool toned. Instead, i go for the shade that matches me the best!

I’m confused as well!! Haha!! 😛 My veins are green but i burn easily and look better with blues than greens. Maybe i’m neutral!! Haha!! 😀


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Sounds like you’re pretty neutral to me! 😀 I’m guess most of us are – sometimes its the colours that make us look warmer or cooler 😀


March 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

very helpful post 😀
I’m so so warm that it’s irritating since now many foundation are made to be more neutral, making me look uncomfortably pink


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

And yes you are most certainly warm in skintone and warm in personality! LOL…


Monstro March 16, 2010 at 10:07 am

I think I’m neutral-warm. Hehe! Great post, I’ve always wondered about what skintone I am!


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Well, i’m sure it doesn’t bug you that much since we’d instinctively know what colours make us look best eh?


March 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm

i don’t know if i am warm or cool, but i think i am neutral? not sure cuz i am not that bothered anymore!

like rinnah, i stay away from oranges as those really really really look ugly on me. Orange blush gives me weird look, so I need something with a mix of pink or red in it. Blue tone reds always give me a radiant/ fairer look if worn on lips n cheeks! Haha!

But i suppose everything is a mix and pick what’s best for you, instead of just sticking to the guidelines, that’d be too boring, no? 😀


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Yup yup! Guidelines are just guides not gospel. Many people think its written in granite when it isn’t – whatever suits us best is what we should wear.


vivavoomz March 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Great entry. I’ve tried reading up on colour matching several times and the articles always leave me super confused. One school believes in warm toned people picking warm colours, the other believes in warm toned people picking cool colours to neutralize.


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Thank you. I don’t believe in neutralizing anything but in wearing something that will enhance your natural colouring. We’re made this way for a reason 😉


lazeny March 16, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I stopped caring whether I’m warm or cool toned. It just gives me a headache. I’ve been called “yellow”, “morena”, and “fair” by different people. I tan very easily. A couple minutes out in the sun then I will have very noticeable tan lines. But I can wear clothing of both warm and cool blue and warm and cool green, shades of yellow, shades of violet and shades of orange and pink but I can’t wear browns, grays and I look awful in white.

As for foundations, I normally stick w/ ones with yellow undertone (YO03 in Lunasol) but I can also wear neutral shades like (764/754 from Shu Uemura and BE-D in Coffret D’or). I can pull of cool blue eye shadow, as well as warm green eyeshadow, but I can’t wear a warm violet eyeshadow but I can pull off cool lilac toned eyeshadow. A dark brown smokey eye looks better than a black smokey eye to me and I can’t wear gray eyeshadows unless it’s paired w/ a cool lilac.

I can wear both a blue based and orange based red lipstick, but I steer clear of light pinks, I usually wear coral, warm brown and peach lipsticks so there LOL!

I’ve discovered and realized all that after many expensive mistakes, since I used to follow the warm/cool convention, and the big mistake I’ve made was I didn’t consider myself as neutral. I realized that the best thing to really test products is to actually see it in person, and what looks good in a computer monitor might not be good to my complexion at all.


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for sharing! There is so much in there that is similar to me yet so much that’s different LOL… We’re all pretty much a good mix of everything and yes, its always most beneficial to try a product in person. The only time that would be a hassle would be if we had no access to it which is when colour matching comes in handy as a guide :)


aichaku March 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

LOL! i’m always confused by this warm-cool thing. i’ve been told i’m warm cos i have hazel-y coloured type eyes with grey(?) specks inside the iris (gawd this was some colour analyst in some course i went to). but i don’t think i’m a true warm, cos some warm colours/too warm tones like orange or brown make me look like i put on fake tanning lotion or make me look too washed out. but too light pinks are terrible on me, i look like a vampire sucked out all my blood. so i think trying things on and keeping the current skin-tone in mind is v impt. cos when i was more tanned, warmer tones suited me better but now i’m fairer, cooler ones are better.


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm

You’re absolutely right about matching to your skintone of the moment. Different colours look good on us at different times. I can’t wear bronze shade or bronzer for example. I always look dirty no matter how I try :(


sildaria March 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm

thank you for the informative post :).
I find the warm cool distinction too arbitrary.. most people fit somewhere in between, able to wear some cool or some warm colours. besides the warmth and coolness of color, there is the saturation. a sheer wash of color can still suit me even when the foiled color is too stark


ParisB March 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm

That’s true too about colour saturation. I think categorizing oneself into warm or cool categories of colours just shuts you to other shades that might just work for you. Its time people learnt to look at the broader picture :)


Jamilla Camel March 16, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I have a yellow undertone, but I have a red overtone–I have very rosy cheeks. I normally wear yellow-toned foundations, but I find MAC foundations a bit too yellow for me.

I look good in jewel tones, and in stark white.

Go figure!


ParisB March 17, 2010 at 9:31 am

Haha… Most of us are a mix of warm and cool and I think that’s great! It would be so boring otherwise :)


Jyoan March 16, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I am definitely warm yellow toned. Even sales assistants immediately point out that a certain gloss suits me very well the moment I wear it. And they say nothing when I swatch the light pink ones.

I’ve read in a megazine that the best way to tell is simply see if you fit silver or gold better. That’s just one simple defining step. If you suit both, then you know you’re neutral.

I go very well with dark intensely coloured clothes, and look not as good in milky pastels. Those cool light pink and blue eyeshadows don’t even show up on my lids, much less say if they look nice or not! Cool lipsticks looks more like white on me, and makes me so pale and sickly.


ParisB March 17, 2010 at 9:32 am

Yep that gold/silver trick works best although I’d still say go with what enhances our complexion not make us look worse 😉


Indira March 17, 2010 at 11:40 am

I think I’m cool (tone)

Simply because I look great in pink/blue/gray makeup :)


bunny March 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

well i am ghastly yellow pale, not the veiny pale. so er, i tink i am dead-toned. therefore i would look good in whatever edward cullen looks good in. any recommendations?


ParisB March 18, 2010 at 10:16 am

Sounds like you’re warm toned. Golds, bronzes and corals might look nice on you to warm up the complexion? Can’t tell without looking :)


Chandra Jong December 17, 2011 at 8:43 am

I am just very confused. I’m trying to expand my knowledge in colors and it can be a tricky thing, or maybe I’m just making it more complicated than it really is. I struggle with choosing colors that suit me. I’m not quite sure why that is but my veins look both blue and green and there are really visible veins under my eyes that sometimes look VERY green and at other times blue/purple. I’m not sure what skin tone I am. I am Korean, but on the darker side. I tan very fast in the sun and have never been badly burned. Can you help me please?


Jory November 4, 2013 at 12:32 am

Your confusion is understandable. Trying anything new can be overwelming. A safe suitable environment in which to test out new looks and honest feedback are crucial. Everyone stuggles to evaluate the myriad products and claims. However, in your case, I feel the issue is one of “not fixing that which isn’t broken.” Your facial features and lines are so balanced and complexion so very fine. It would seem difficult to accent w/o taking away. I would suggest to have a friend, acquaintance, or ex-coworker photograph your trials. Would it not be relaxing to just goof off and judge the results another time?


Andrea March 13, 2012 at 3:58 am

I would so love some help. I am in the EXACT situation you described. I love this foundation but it’s online only and i can’t decide if I’m a 3 or 4 OR if I”m neutral or warm. I have used the warm just because I have olive skin and I tan and hazel eyes and all that, I FIT the description of warm. BUT my husband says (after I’ve worn it for months) that my 3 warm makes me look chalky. He says the neutral looks better. Do I trust a guy?? So nervous to make an expensive purchase like this.


Paris B
March 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I think if he tells you your foundation doesn’t look right, its best to trust him. Sometimes we may not notice it ourselves.


ashleyerika April 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm

i have a green vein, yellow undertone,black hair,olive,looks good in black and i have a black eyes too i’m so confused !! HELP


Moonstone April 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Finally, someone else who shares my problem! I was beginning to think I was crazy!

I’m a pale-skinned natural blonde with steel-blue eyes who burns in even mild sunlight. I look best in blue, purple, deep red, white and silver jewelry. You would think I was 100% cool, right?


I also look good in earth tones, brown, maroon, very light off-white and bronze jewelry. But I look horrible in creamy ivory, yellow and orange. I also look bad in a cool powder-puff Barbie pink, but I look great in a dusty pink. I seem to be a neutral.

The most frustrating aspect of this is trying to find my foundation match. Exactly as you’ve said, warm tones make me look like I have jaundice, some neutrals look too dirty and beige on me, and something too cool (very pink based) makes me look ashen and sickly like I have a terminal illness. The problem is that I seem to have complex skin, ruddy and splotchy, and also white/yellowish. Some of the most flattering foundations I’ve found are somewhat peachy (Purminerals Porcelain looks fantastic on me). If the foundation line is too flat in color, it just doesn’t work for me, despite the fact that I’m so fair-skinned.


Gina January 12, 2013 at 3:59 am

You are a soft summer. :) for sure! That’s what I am & we look good in the same colors etc. & sounds like you have neutral skin-


Nicole May 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I need help. I am light in complexion and had my hair dyed chocolate brown and thought maybe it was too warm. So I go in to change it to a cool brown, but I could clearly see my complexion change to pale and lifeless. Even with makeup, nothing helps.
So now I’m wondering if I am more warm after all. But if I’m too warm in hair color it’s not good either. So I have no clue what to do. My natural hair color is like a mousy light brown.
Any advice?


Gina January 12, 2013 at 3:52 am

Keep your hair neutral. Neutral tones will work best on you. :) your skin tone is also very neutral, that’s why it gets bumped out of whack if you go too warm or too cool. You are probably a soft summer-


Gina January 12, 2013 at 3:48 am

From the depcription of what colors you say you can & cannot wear, you most definately sound like a soft autumn. You have neutral skin, don’t look good in some of the stronger autumn colors, can also wear some spring colors as well which is common with soft autumns. I’m a soft summer with neutral skin & you sound a lot like me but a little bit opposite. If that makes any sense.. Anywho; google up a bunch of descriptions of soft autumn & I think u will see… :)


Cassandra October 24, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hello maybe someone can help me? I have hazel eyes that transition back and forth from light to a darker hazel a light clear olive with amber around the pupil ( at times I may have gold in them as well)
I have very fair skin (a family described my coloring as blue, pink, with a very slight olive tone to my skin
my hair is naturally VERY dark brown may lighten to med/dark in the sun (if any other tones are in the color it would be very slight)
colors that give my skin clarity are pure cool saturated colors blues, purples, grays/charcoal , cool pinks/bright, and berry tones
the biggest compliments I have received I was wearing navy, royal sapphire, and fuchsia
i can however sometimes wear deep dark chocolate brown, maroon, and coral
my worst colors rusty orange, tomato red, cream
my makeup has to be cool toned mauvy pink lip, deep blue red, bright or icy pink lip
i gave a lot of information in hopes it may help you help me

thank you!


Kelly April 23, 2014 at 11:11 am

I have no idea what I am. I\’m asian with light skin. I\’ve tried cool and warm colors and it\’s really hard for something to look good on me. Well for lip color atleast. I\’ve tried over 20 lipglosses and only a few colors suit me sorta. I think berries, and rosy colors. I\’m not really sure. I tend to look kinda green in the mirror sometimes so I may be olive too. My skin color varies throughout the day. In cloudy natural light in the morning I look super pale with pink undertones. In midday with the sunlight shinning through my window I look medium with a greenish cast. My skin tone always looks different :/


Leota February 21, 2015 at 7:13 pm

I enjoyed this site/post! I have medium brown hair that looks like it has red& golden highlights in the sun. I have blue gray/ green eyes with golden sunburst around pupil. I am very fair/ light skin with light pink undertones, and burn easily in the Sun. With my kind of warm looking hair…I thought i might be spring or autumn BUT my husband and I think I look better in soft deep jewel tones or berry tones, & purples of Summer. Help??!! I’d appreciate any emails or comments.


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