How To Dress for Cool Versus Warm Skin Tones

If you are at all into fashion or style, you’ve probably heard about the difference between cool versus warm skin tones and how to understand what to wear according to your skin tone. These can be good guidelines and we think we all might know what colors do and don’t flatter us. However it can get more complicated than that, especially when you are figuring out what colors work for you!

How To Dress for Cool Versus Warm Skin Tones

color me beautiful
Color Me Beautiful, Unabridged, April 12, 1987 by Carole Jackson

You’ve also probably heard of “getting your colors done” and may have even read the old school “Color Me Beautiful” book and its system of seasonal hues – you were either a Summer or Winter if you had a cool undertone, or a Spring or Autumn if you were warm. Generally, Summers and Springs had lighter complexions while Winters and Autumns had darker ones, or at least darker hair. 

Of course, that book left out POC almost entirely and and it’s definitely flawed and a product of its time. So we don’t recommend that exact set of guidelines.


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Cool Versus Warm Skin Tones

Here are a few quick ways to tell if you have cool or warm skin tones. These are general concepts, and like most rules when it comes to fashion, they are not always definitive.

  1. Take a look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they are more blue you are more cool-toned and if they are green you are more warm-toned.
  2. If you tan when you are in the sun, you are warm-toned, but if you burn easily or turn pink you are cool-toned.
  3. What color jewelry do you like to wear? If silver looks better, you are cool-toned and if gold looks better you are warm-toned.


Cool Versus Warm Skin Tones green top fountainof30
CeCe Ruffle Tie Neck Top, $79

Contrasting Colors

Sometimes the best way to flatter your skin tone is to create some contrast. For instance, darker women can look amazing in bold brights, while paler women rock jewel tones well. That said, something like this green top from CeCe (available at Nordstrom) would potentially be gorgeous on most skin tones. A deep oxblood red or a rich royal blue are also fairly universally flattering. 

blush pink Cool Versus Warm fountainof30
Express Ribbed Puff Sleeve Sweater, now $30

And pastels can work on everyone – just make sure that you choose the right undertone – for instance, pick a blush pink like this ribbed sweater from Express if you are warm toned versus lavender like this BB Dakota sweater for cool tones. 

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BB Dakota Knit’s A Look Funnel Neck Sweater, $89

Matching And Flattering

If you want to soften things up, heathered shades or more muted versions of colors work well – think olive versus bright spring green or mustard as opposed to bold yellow. 

Warm Neutrals Versus Cool Neutrals

You probably already know which neutrals you prefer, but it makes sense to understand which ones work better with cool and warm skin tones. For instance, grays tend to go better with cooler colors and skin tones while taupes and camels work better with warmer colors. That said, even shades that we normally think of as neutrals can have warm or cool undertones – think a heathered gray that can look more taupe or blue.

Another thing to point out is that softer colors such as charcoal gray versus black or various other soft hues instead of stark white tend to work better if you want something that flatters your complexion.

Gold Versus Silver Jewelry

Generally, warmer complexions work better with gold-hued jewelry and cooler ones do better with white metals or silver-toned metals. That said, mixed metal pieces like these All Saints pavé earrings work for any complexion, so when in doubt, mix it up! 

cool versual warm 2 tone jewelry fountainof30
AllSaints Two-Tone Pavé Hexagon Link Linear Drop Earrings, Now $54

And where do other metals fit in? Rose gold, oxidized silver, copper, and any other of the many materials that jewelry can be crafted from are all subject to your skin tone and perhaps more importantly, your own preferences. Rose gold and copper tend to work excellently on warmer skin tones while darker silvers work on almost everyone – and always consider the stones or other hues even if the metal isn’t the “right” color for you.

prints and patterns blue top fountainof30
Velvet by Graham & Spencer Yuelle Cotton Printed Top, now $71.40

Prints And Patterns

It might go without saying, but if a print speaks to you and you love it, then you should get it. There are always ways to incorporate them into your wardrobe, and even if they are not the “right” colors for your skin tone you can always mix them with other pieces. Plus, even if only one or two colors in the print are your colors, it definitely still flatter you, particularly if you draw those colors with accessories. For example, a multi-colored floral piece like this one from Velvet by Graham and Spencer would work on a warmer skin tone with a coral or pink necklace or statement earrings, while something like this yellow blouse from Halogen could be cooled down with some deep blue, turquoise, or green jewelry.

Halogen V-Neck Top yellow
Halogen V-Neck Top, now $35.35

Making Colors Work

So you might have a piece in a color that you recognize doesn’t work for you but you still love it. Pants or skirts are easy to deal with here and the same goes for shoes or bags since they are not close to your face. Tops or dresses in colors that don’t necessarily flatter you – but you still want to rock – can be livened up with scarves or jewelry as well. Earrings and necklaces in colors that complement you are an easy styling trick as well.

One thing to keep in mind that figuring out the right colors for you isn’t an exact science. It takes time to determine what you look and more importantly, feel awesome wearing.

–Jaqueline Zenn


You may like to read more of Jacqueline’s styling posts like How To Decide If An Online Purchase Is Worth It and How To Do Business Casual When You Are Over 40.

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