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How do you figure out what colors are flattering on you?

A repeat from yesterday, but trial and error will go a long way! The skin can be so nuanced in tone, clarity, and color, so there are always things like warmer tones tend to work better on warmer skin tones that can work as a guideline, but you might find that true yellow undertones make you sallow while peachy tones do a better job at brightening.

— Christine


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Pearl Avatar

For makeup, I do okay with picking out colors, just not combinations of colors – that’s where I typically need a second opinion as far as transition or crease and the darker accent color. As for clothes, when I’m out shopping I still need to hold it up to my face in front of the mirror because it’s hard for me to get a read on undertones and all that (unless of course it’s black, white or jeans!), I wish I could just eyeball it and know, but I guess that’s what trial and error is for.

Nancy T Avatar

A resounding”Yes” to what you said above about yellow and warm skintones!!! ??
There are some colors that are easy no-brainers for me. Most shades of red, purple, plum, teal, green, coral, warm neutrals, black work on me very well. Other colors I may need to do on a shade by shade basis with a bit more scrutiny. Like yellow, gray, blue, pink or some cool neutrals. Usually just trying something on will do it for me, and if I’m truly uncertain, no shame in asking others nearby or take a selfie wearing it and send it to one or two of my trusted friends!

erica Avatar

Generally it is from trying and trusting your gut. If you like something together, it is flattering. If you feel good, it is good. The one thing I can say is I know ME. I know what I like and what I don’t. I do the whole Pinterest thing for inspiration but really I gravitate towards colors/combinations I like on me. Isn’t that the most important thing? You know in a minute if it doesn’t work for you. Just like Mac’s Satin Taupe bc it pulls so cool and greyish/purple on me, I cannot wear it or I look like a corpse. I am neutral but I lean more warm and prefer warms to cool colors. Don’t have to tell me twice when something does not work!

Helena Avatar

I am fair with cool undertones. On my eyes I tend not to follow any rule: they are blue-green-grey with an orange heterochromia around the pupil. Depending on what color I want to bring out, I use different shades. For my lips and blush, I have a strong tendency towards cool tones, even purples. My lips are very pigmented and have a lilac rose tone so I like reds, fuchsias and berries. Good nudes for me are hard to find, but there is a lot of trial and error and mixing involved. For blush, cool pinks are the best, even cotton candy shades look quite natural. Sometimes, to break the rules, I use a bright pure orange on my lips and the contrast (which is absolute) is more flattering than more subtly warm colors, like corals, peaches, browns, etc.

Julie Avatar

It sounds like we have virtually the EXACT eye & lip color!!! Well, except my lips aren’t very pigmented! And I’m also fair/cool. I tend to follow similar color schemes, except for the orange. Now I’m kind of curious if I could pull it off…

Helena Avatar

What I find works really well for me is to pair a bright orange lipstick (I love Sweet Nectar by Milani) with a very clean complexion (no contouring whatsoever): light pink blush, highlighter and navy blue eyeliner. Pair it with minimal blue clothes (a denim shirt or a navy jumper) or a white shirt. The key is looking fresh and healthy to let the bright colour pop without washing you out.

Julie Avatar

Interesting. Except for the orange lipstuck, that’s my go-to basic makeup look when I’m not in the mood/too much of a hurry to do a full eye look (I LOVE UD Sabbath as the eyeliner!), but I usually pair it with a fuchsia or red lip….I will see if I can find that Milani shade! Thank you!

Katherine T. Avatar

Yes, blue shadow and orange lipstick go well together for me too! It sounds scary, but you might be surprised, in a good way. The 2 colors are complementary to each other on the color wheel, and the combo really brightens up my face. Or if I want a more muted look, blue shadow with Maybelline Nude Nuance, which is a peachy orange brown on me.

Julia Avatar

Yep, trial and error! It’s like clothing… you can make a guess just looking at it on the hanger, but you have to try it on to know for sure! I am often surprised at what really can work on my skin/coloring… and what doesn’t do me any favors.

Gillian Avatar

I just have to try them on and see what they look like! When I was first starting out with makeup I believed that I was warm-toned and stuck to only using warm colours. It wasn’t until I had a bit more knowledge that I branched out and discovered that I actually looked good in cool tones as well, since I’m actually pretty neutral. So yeah, try everything just in case something turns out to look surprisingly good on you despite your initial thoughts!

Wednesday Avatar

Ditto: whatever has not worked through trial and error with makeup is spot on clothing wise with the ability to brighten or drag down becoming that much more obvious as clothing covers a lot more skin real estate. But clothing is more about personal aesthetic for me than about right or wrong colour. So I wear mostly neutrals which fit into my clean line simple tastes. I’m 5’10” tall and lanky. I’d feel ridiculous with too much noise or clutter on my tall frame: large patterned clothes, too many pieces of jewelry, brights, etc. If I want a hit of colour, I do it with my makeup either eyes or lips. My wardrobe is muted neutrals, white, black, grey. Occasionally I will wear reds, maroons, emerald green, navy (deep saturated cooler colours). I do not gravitate to yellow, orange, and sadly most greens; they tend to clash horrifically with my skin.

Fran Avatar

Bottom line: I try it on, look at it, and decide if I like it or not 🙂

Only thing is, some colors look radically different on me depending on what other colors I’m wearing at the same time, so it really helps to experiment with colors, in both makeup and clothing, over time and in different combinations.

I love the way bright pinks look on me, but not pale pinks. Blue-reds but not orange-reds. Yellow-greens right next to my eyes, blue-greens in clothing. Icy and very pale yellows can be good next to my eyes, but nowhere else. Whites can really light up my face if they’re bright whites, but are totally blah if they’re ivory or cream — unless they’re eyeshadow. Greys from pale to very dark are wonderful if they’re cool, but khaki is hideous no matter how it’s served up. So I agree that color is nuanced and complicated!

One reason why I asked this question is because so many of us have experienced very strange foundation matching by MUAs at makeup counters. Because of my brown hair and eyes I’m often assumed to be “warm-toned”, “golden”, or “an autumn”. Most MAC-trained artists see the cool undertones under the effects of many summers lived outdoors without sunscreen when I was a child, but a lot of others don’t. I think a lot of people are given bad color advice, which ends up just confusing them more, when they don’t like how they look in the recommended colors. Since I want to learn makeup artistry, I hope I can learn to help people figure out their undertones and what colors look good on them, and not be one of those MUAs who just add to the confusion.

Judy H. Avatar

The only MUA I have ever gotten a good match was one from Pur Minerals and she hit it right on the dot. Unforunately, I’ve had to stop[ wearing their pressed powder foundation as I’ve gotten drier. Since then, I have NEVER gotten a good match from any MUA at any brand counter. Most of them have wound up being way too light and too yellow.

Lindsay Avatar

I am an eyeshadow-holic, so I don’t really care what looks “good” per se, I just wear what I want! If I want just a pretty neutral type of look, I will use neutral colors, but when I am going for a colorful look, I just pick what I love – I think you can look gorgeous if you are confident with what you’re wearing. As far as blushes, I don’t have a ton so I just play it safe with 1 peachy blush or 1 pinky blush. If I’m wearing cooler tones, I use the pink, if I’m wearing warmer tones, I use the peach. For lips, I also play it safe and usually just do a light sheen of gloss or something.

Jen Avatar

I already knew that beige washes me out and orange tends to make my skin look gray. To narrow it down further, I had a personal color analysis done (where you sit in a gray room and are draped with different colors) to confirm that I look best in very bright, cool colors (cobalt, cranberry, amethyst, emerald, fuchsia), black, and white. All of those work really well as clothing colors, but I’ve found that for makeup, red works far better on my face than pink, and anything even slightly brown looks harsh or dirty.

Erin Avatar

As you said skin is complex. For me as someone who is neutral to cool in tone I can wear things with a cool yellow base but am less likely to be successful with a warm yellow or golden base. The less my rosacea is acting up the more I can wear warm tones other than on my cheeks.

As for the eyes, always go opposite the eye color or an undertone that’s opposite. For me this is hard because I have red, blue, and green based dark circles and green eyes with both amber and blue heterochromia so I really need to selected my shades based on the day and the opacity of the concealer or correctors or foundations I’m wearing.

As for lips, I also have to be careful as they are a medium red violet/mauve shade and my teeth are a bit yellower than I’d like from fluorosis.

Then you have to consider the composition as a whole too! When in doubt use the color wheel!

Nancy T Avatar

Not 100% sure, but doesn’t Poe have a greenish undertone? It looks like a warm navy, as opposed to MAC Matte Royal or OCC Technopagan, to my eye. I don’t get why Dominique or Poe would do weird things to how our tooth enamel looks, though. I recently found out that calcium bicarbonate as a main ingredient in toothpaste helps make tooth enamel less transparent also less sensitive, so I switched to Tom’s Anti-plaque & Whitening. After almost 2 weeks, my teeth seem to be starting to look better! And my mouth stopped being so dry and irritated, too!

Lulle Avatar

There’s no other way to figure it out than to experiment imo! Sometimes it ends up being a disaster, others I feel like it doesn’t look quite right but I can’t really point out what the problem is. And then a few times I tried something that I thought would look awful, and it ended up working incredibly well!
When it comes to undertones I don’t believe that rules work out so well. Okay, if you’re warm toned, don’t pick a cool shade of foundation. But beyond that, I really don’t think that one should stick to one’s undertones when choosing eyeshadow, lipstick or blush. I have slightly warm undertones, yet cool neutrals tend to look better on my eyes than very warm ones. That’s something I learnt by experimenting!

Rachel Avatar

Definitely trial and error. I have fair skin and the rule of thumb is that I should wear cool colors, but I find warmer eyeshadows and lip colors to be much more flattering.

RMW Avatar

It’s all about that “mirror, mirror on the wall…” Lol. Whether it’s makeup colors, clothes, ect. Try before you buy. It has to feel absolutely awesome, look absolutely awesome. I enjoy trying different shades in makeup and clothes, even hairstyles! But, it personally must move Me or make me feel better about myself. I try to just keep it simple, I don’t need to ask 100 people, 1 or 2 at most. It’s good to get some feedback, but I am picky and I like what I like and you can’t make me like something on myself that I just don’t like. 🙂

Rachel R. Avatar

The same here, mostly just a lot of experimenting. I’m fortunate in that I have a very fair skin tone with neutral undertones. Colors show up very true on me for the most part, and I can think I can get away with almost any color. Some colors I have to be careful as far as where and how much I use, but I think I can make anything work in combination with the right supporting makeup and clothing.

Hair color makes a huge difference, too. I can pull off warmer colors and vampy colors better as a redhead than I could as a brunette. My best colors were red and fuchsia as a brunette. They still look really good, but as a redhead, I think my best colors are red-leaning coral and deep teal. I can wear oranges and yellows much better as a redhead.

When I was in high school, I was in a home ec course that studied fashion, and they actually had a professional color consultant come in and give us color drapings, and determine our seasons. Color seasons were the latest, greatest fashion trend in the mid-80s. She verified that I leaned winter, but could pull off any of the seasons. She really showed that anyone can wear any color family, if the right shades are chosen. Like a color that’s not as flattering? You still can wear it. Just wear a top, jacket, or scarf in a color that is. Don’t want to do that? Wear what you love; it doesn’t hurt anything. She gave us good guidelines, but no hard and fast rules.

Art classes can be great for learning about the color wheel and color theory that apply to makeup and clothing, as well as painting and other art. Learning about color mixing can be lifesaver when you have a product you love, but it doesn’t quite look right. Or you need a shade for a special occasion and don’t want to drop cash for a new one.

Genevieve Avatar

It is about trial and error and sometimes the colours you like are not really the ones that suit you the best. Having red hair, fair skin and grey/blue eyes, I have looked to the colours in tartans from Scotland and these are the colours that suit me best. Autumn tones – browns, reds, olive greens, smoky and navy blue, greys and black.

Arpita Avatar

By trial and error method mostly. But sometimes, working with some color out pf my comfort zone has also taken me pleasantly by surprise

dotb Avatar

Had Color Me beautiful done years ago when I was younger ; About 2 years ago did Dressing Your Truth….both helpful , but also will wear something husband likes, even if the two programs say no.

BonnieJ Avatar

I’m an artist and understand color already. Sometimes I’ll note something in a photo that looks good or not so good on me and make a mental note.

Erin Avatar

I was 12 Blueprints draped a couple of years ago and it totally changed my color/makeup game. Instead of fighting with all of the light colors for fair skin that always looked dead, chalky, or didn’t show up on me that are supposed to flatter very fair skin, I learned that I actually need super bright neutral colors (Bright Winter/Bright Spring) in order to look my best. I think the biggest difference was going from pale pink blush to bright red or coral blush, which is totally counter-intuitive but works wonders.

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