Young fashionable woman in yellow top and red skirt

Many people have quite a distinct comfort zone when it comes to the colors that they wear. Once you find a color that suits you, it can be easy to fall into a rut and stick to just a couple of shades, rather than experimenting with the rest of the spectrum. 

Can you relate to this? 

Well, it’s time to mix things up a bit…

The key to finding colors that truly flatter you is by ensuring that the shades you pick are complementary to your skin tone. 

How do you go about doing this? 

By following these guidelines: 

What’s Your Skin Tone and Undertone?

Before you can begin looking for colors that work with your skin tone, you need to first identify what your skin tone is. 

Simply put, your skin tone is the color that you see when you look at the surface of your skin. 

It will usually fall under one of these categories: 

  • Fair 
  • Medium 
  • Olive 
  • Dark 

Those categories can be broken down even further, but a general idea of your skin tone should be all that you need when it comes to picking complementary colors. 

Illustration of different skin tones

Now on to undertone…

What is your skin undertone? 

It refers to the subtle hue that lies just beneath your skin’s surface, and can be categorized as one of the following: 

  • Warm – veins are greenish, skin tans easily, eyes tend to be either hazel, amber or brown 
  • Cool – veins are blue/ purple, skin burns or turns red rather than tanning, eyes tend to be either green, blue or gray
  • Neutral – you fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to the above

The Best Colors for Fair Skin Tones

If you have fair skin, there are a couple of other clues that can help you to determine your undertone…

Those with chestnut, golden, strawberry blonde or red hair, as well as those with freckles, likely have a warm undertone. Those with darker colored hair and a lack of color in their cheeks are likely to have a cool undertone. 

Let’s begin with fair skin and warm undertones…

You will find that earth-colored shades really flatter you well. These include: 

  • Shades of brown, from dark to light 
  • Shades of green, from a light lime green to a rich emerald 

woman in teal dress

Ivory and navy will also work well on you, with all of these shades bringing out the warm, peachy undertones in your skin. 

Another way to highlight these reddish undertones is by choosing red and orange shades, but making sure that these are on the light end of the spectrum. A few examples would be rose pink, apricot and peach. 

Which colors should you avoid? 

Black will be too dark for your skin tone, while white will make you look much paler. Bright shades, especially neons, are also best avoided. 

What if you have fair skin with cool undertones?

Berry shades will be extremely flattering, as these will help to add a touch of color to your complexion. Everything fom deep purple to raspberry pink will provide a beautiful contrast with your skin tone. 

Jewel tones will also work well, with rich and vibrant emeralds and turquoises being especially flattering. 

The Best Colors for Medium Skin Tones

When it comes to medium skin tones, there is one key thing to keep in mind…

Make sure that you never wear colors that are the same shade as your skin tone. 

Why? 

Because this will only wash you out, rather than highlight your features. 

This means that you should stay away from: 

  • Beige
  • Brown 
  • Caramel 
  • Orange 

How about pastel shades? 

This depends…

Deeper and darker pastel colors may work, but any light pastels should be avoided. These can often give a gray tinge to medium skin tones, which, as you would likely agree with, is not something you want. 

Instead, opt for colors such as: 

  • Deep jewel tones, including sapphire, ruby and emerald 
  • Shades of blue 
  • Shades of pink
  • Shades of red
  • Shades of green  
  • Deep purple 

The Best Colors for Olive Skin Tones

Olive is quite a unique skin tone, and also has its own undertone. 

This could make things quite complicated, but, luckily, those with an olive skin tone can pull off just about every color. 

Young woman with olive skin in a yellow top, sitting by the beach in California

Of course, there are some colors that will be especially flattering, with the top one being a vibrant pink. This will cast a warm glow over your skin, making your complexion appear radiant and fresh. 

Since your undertones feature a mix of both yellow and brown, other colors that will work well for you include: 

  • Shades of orange will give you a healthy glow 
  • Shades of red. Bright reds will make your complexion pop while deep reds will soften your appearance 

Are there any colors that you should avoid? 

Well, as always, avoid colors that are too similar to the color of your skin. For olive skin tones, these colors would be mustard, olive, mocha, and similar shades. Green and yellow can also be tricky, so be careful if you choose to wear these shades. 

The Best Colors for Dark Skin Tones

People with a dark skin tone have have quite a few choices when it comes to flattering colors…

Rich and bright colors will really work well on you, such as:

  • Shades of purple 
  • Shades of pink 
  • Shades of yellow 
  • Shades of red 
  • Metallics, particularly copper, gold and bronze 
  • White

Wondering if there is anything you should avoid? 

Yes. Browns and blacks won’t provide enough contrast with your skin tone, and you would be best off opting for something lighter or brighter instead. This doesn’t mean that you need to completely avoid all browns and blacks, but just try to make sure that they aren’t a dominant color in your outfit. 

Colors That Flatter All Skin Tones

There are a few colors out there that work with all skin tones, and this is because they feature a combination of both warm and cool hues, making them universally flattering. 

These shades include: 

  • Teal – has a good balance of both blue and green, and is great for both summer and winter 
  • Eggplant Purple – not too dark and not too bright, eggplant purple is actually quite neutral 
  • Blush Pink – referred to by Pantone as Mellow Rose, this pink has touches of peach in it, which makes it more of a neutral shade 
  • True Red – while other shades of red tend to be cool or warm, true red sits in the middle of the spectrum

Woman in red off-shoulder dress and long red earrings

Many would say that true white also works well for every skin tone. 

Is this true? 

Yes, but true white is hard to find. It was mentioned above that white should be avoided if you have fair skin, and this is because white usually contains a warm or cool tint, and this can be difficult to identify. However, if you manage to find a garment that really is a true white, then this will likely complement your skin, no matter your skin tone. 

Changes in Your Skin Tone

While you may have worked out which colors suit your skin tone best for now, these colors aren’t always going to work well for you. 

Why? 

Because everything from aging to sun exposure can cause your skin tone to change. 

This means that you will need to keep assessing your skin tone, not only as you progress through life, but also with the seasons. If your skin is darker in the summer months, then your summer wardrobe will likely need to feature different colors to your winter wardrobe. 

In terms of age, your skin will likely take on more of a redder tint as you grow older. 

Why? 

Because the capillaries in the skin turn more fragile with age, resulting in them breaking and giving the skin a redder appearance. For this reason, shades of red, as well as pastels, will become harder to wear as you age.

Wondering if your skin undertone changes too? 

No, this stays the same no matter what, making your life at least slightly easier! 

Understanding the Color Wheel

Now that you know which colors are most complementary to your skin tone, you probably have a better idea of what the main colors in your outfits should be. 

But what about the rest of your outfit? How do you make sure that all of the colors you wear work well together? 

This is where the color wheel comes in, and this is something definitely worth having to hand by your wardrobe. Being able to quickly refer to it when putting together an outfit can be a huge time saver. 

Illustration of the color wheel

Now, when it comes to using the color wheel to choose colors that work well together, there are three ways of going about this…

Complementary Colors

Begin by picking any color on the color wheel. Then, move your hand to the color that lies directly opposite from it. This would be the initial shade’s complementary color, with one being cool and one being warm. 

Not only do these two shades complement each other on the color wheel, but they will also work well together in an outfit. This is especially the case when it comes to accents and small pops of color, as complementary colors contrast beautifully. 

Analogous Colors

Pick a color on the color wheel and then take a look at the colors directly on either side of it. These are known as the initial shade’s analogous colors. 

These two shades will work well with the initial shade in an outfit too, as well as on the color wheel. 

This is a good technique to use if you need a more restrained and muted look, such as when putting together an outfit for work. 

Triad Colors

Triad colors are three colors that are an equal distance away from each other on the color wheel. If you were to draw a line between these three, you would create a perfect triangle. 

The same applies to your outfit – wearing triad colors together will create the perfect amount of harmony and balance in your look. 

Going with triad colors is a good technique if your outfit features multiple elements, as these will enable you to properly balance all the colors within them.

What About the Primary Colors?

The primary colors are red, blue and green. 

When these feature too much in an outfit, they tend to be too vivid. There is nothing wrong with wearing primary colors together in an outfit, but perhaps use them for accents rather than as a main color. 

After reading all of this, you’re probably thinking…

I have so many colors in my wardrobe that I don’t see on the color wheel!

This is where shades and tints come in…

Each color on the wheel will also have multiple shades and tints. For example, a soft red, a bright red and a burgundy would all be classified under red on the color wheel. 

All of this color theory may sound complicated, and, in fact, it really is. Color theory is a science, but understanding the basics of this will help you to put together the perfect colors. 

Ever wondered how someone has managed to pull off an unusual color combination in their outfit? 

This is likely due to them understanding the color wheel, as this really does give you an edge when it comes to fashion. 

Of course, you can still experiment with other colors, just keep the color wheel in mind as a basic guideline the next time you are putting together an outfit. 

Now that you understand which colors complement your skin tone, you should be able to put together some truly show-stopping outfits. Whether dressing for work, for a day out, or for a night on the town, keep this guide handy the next time you are choosing or buying an outfit.