Are You Warm or Cool?

Knowing your best colors will do shopping and getting dressed a much easier task. But how can you tell what your best colors are?

The scarf above is an excellent example of warm colors. I would look washed out and tired if I wore this scarf because it is not in harmony with my cool coloring.

The scarf above has cool vivid colors. It would make me appear well-rested and happier.

Most people have a warm or a cool undertone to their skin. One way to determine your skin tone is to look at the veins on the back of your wrist. The photo above is a scan of my wrist. You can see that the veins look blue. That is because the red is being seen through my skin that has a blue undertone. I look best in silver-tone jewelry. If you have olive or golden skin, your veins will appear to be green. That means you have a warm golden undertone. You will look best in gold-tone jewelry. There are a few people who have a neutral skin tone. Your veins will appear brownish but not so much blue or green. Those folks can make almost any tone work for them.

I found an example of me wearing a color that isn’t right for me early last year. This pale aqua is too dusty for me. Notice how much healthier I look in royal blue.

You can also look at the iris of your eye to determine which colors look best on you. My eyes are bright blue without any hint of gold flecks. That is why vivid royal blue looks better on me. In contrast, olive or camel worn near my face makes me look as if I have been sick in bed for a week. Royal blue is in harmony with my coloring. When I wear red, it needs to be a clear blue-red with no orange or gold hint.

I do not consider the color of my hair when determining what colors are best for me. Hair color changes throughout our lives. I had pale blonde hair as a toddler, and it got much darker as I grew up. In my twenties, it started to turn gray. I now have mostly silver-gray hair. If you color your hair and it is like mine, it will grab a brassy tone that will always conflict with your cool skin tone.

Your best colors are those which harmonize with the colors found in your eyes and skin. When you blush, do you see pink or peach in your checks? That will help you to determine lip colors and blush that will look most natural on you. If your eyes have flecks of gold or a ring of gold in the iris, you will look best in colors that have a golden undertone. Consider colors such as mustard, olive, cream, paprika, camel, orange, and brown. If you see no hint of gold in your eyes or your skin, steer clear of anything that appears golden.

The main reason to wear your best colors is that you will appear well-rested and happy. When I wear colors in the beige or gold family, the shadows around my eyes, nose, and mouth appear much darker. My hair seems dull and lifeless. I don’t feel very confident when I know I don’t look my best. Another reason to find your best colors is that they are in harmony with your natural palette of colors and work well with each other to make mixing and matching your wardrobe much easier.

  1. I couldn’t agree more! For some reason, when women get older, they insist on wearing the dreaded neutrals, especially beige, and it just makes them look so washed out, tired, and old. I see this at work all the time. I just want to grab them and say please put a little color near your face!

    I too have a cool tone and look best in jewel tones. I once bought a light colored animal skin type of top (it looks better than it sounds) and when I would wear it, I would look like death. In contrast, when I put on a jewel tone top that is right for my coloring, my skin literally lights up and it looks like I have put on all this makeup.

  2. Thanks for this guide. I have very fair skin and green eyes. For years, I put golden blonde highlights in my hair because I had been a blonde child. When I allowed my natural hair color to return I discovered I liked it better. I also found that certain brands of clothing seemed to be designed for my coloring – Lilly Pulitzer and Ivanka Trump, yes but Tory Burch and J. Crew, no.

  3. I love the red you are wearing in the last picture. These are my exact colors. But the right red
    is not always easy to find. Lovely, my dear.

  4. Thank you for this post. I studied the classification system from the 80s to determine whether I was warm or cool. I still struggle with this sometimes and have placed myself in the neutral range and I can wear the dusty muted colors – either Summer or Autumn according to “Color Me Beautiful”. I look horrible in black so I have to base my wardrobe on other neutrals such as gray or brown.
    I think you look beautiful in all colors, Susan, but I love that dusty aqua on you!

  5. Susan, I am very “cool” like you. I know I am supposed to wear navy instead of black, but i don’t find nearly the selection in navy as in black. Do you wear black?

  6. Very helpful demonstration on determining whether you are warm or cool! However, within each family, there are also variations, such as light, muted, clear. So this may be a little confusing to some readers; the beautiful aqua is a cool color. (So not a comparison of warm vs. cool in using the aqua photo) I think you look great in it as well!

    1. You are correct Cindy. It can become very confusing. I haven’t bought anything in gold tones in forty years, so the light dusty aqua was the most wrong color I could show as an example of a color that isn’t right for me.

  7. I’ve never had my colors done but I’m thinking that like you I must be cool My veins are definitely blue appearing. I’ve never worn yellow near my face because years ago my mom said it made me look washed out. But otherwise I’ve not paid attention to what colors work. From now on, I’m going to look more closely in the mirror keeping your suggestions in mind.

  8. Hi, I am a cool colour (Summer season ) and my friends tell me that light softer colours look good on me. I have light blue eyes.
    The basis of my wardrobe is navy or softer greys and with accents of soft blues,pinks,lilacs and purples. Ivory in summer rather than beige.
    I rarely wear black as I find it too harsh. Jewel tones also are too much for me, so how to balance cool colours without too much contrast ? Blended colours or a column of colour is what I try for.

    Please can you give any tips on cool colours that work well together and what to avoid.
    Also would love more of your outfits for casual everyday looks, running errands and meeting for a coffee or lunch type of styles. Especially using grey or light wash jeans or jeggings etc. Thanks.

  9. This came at just the right moment for me, Susan! Thank you! I am a warm tones redhead with brown eyes. Unfortunately the colors I love are NOT the colors I am supposed to wear. Oh well. Another thing I think women our age do way too much is wear unrelieved black near the face. You always wear a pretty scarf or jacket that looks so good. We can all take that lesson from you.

  10. Your explanation is the best I’ve ever heard, thank you. I have olive skin, dark brown hair colored not sure about going to grey that is now happening @ 58, brown eyes no gold flecks. I am happiest, most confident and love jewel tones and silver jewelry. Would you say that is what matters the most?

  11. Some good tips Susan. I can also highly recommend Imogen Lamport (Inside Out Style Blog) for great information on color typing. Her system the Absolute Color System is an 18 color type system based on Albert Munsell. Years ago I was told I had winter coloring as per the 4 Seasonal Color Me Beautiful palette. To me, this older system was very limiting and incorrect because it failed to take into account the many variations of coloring and lumped people despite these variations. Imogen also gives great tips on value and color contrasts which also expand your knowledge of what and why colors look a certain way on you.

  12. I have blue veins, but blue eyes with lots of gold flecks. I can’t decide if I’m warm or cool, but I get complements when I wear different shades of light blues, turquoise, teals, pinks and corals.

  13. I love that red jacket from IC Collection (the photo on your Facebook posting) and have been thinking about buying one. Do you mind telling me how the sizing runs? I usually wear a Medium in tops, but their sizing seems generous. You always look beautiful and I’ve discovered some new brands thanks to you!

  14. As always Susan you look wonderful. Thank you for the lesson and I love you in the red outfit. Can I ask what lipstick you have on.

  15. The late image consultant, Sandy Dumont, had an interesting theory. She thought everyone looked better and more authoritative wearing jewel tones.

  16. This topic is always so confusing for those of us who don’t fit neatly into the categories. I am (was) a natural redhead with blue eyes. My eyes have gold flecks and appear aqua when I wear green or purple. I have freckles. My skin is pale with a pink undertone. My veins read blue. I am not one of those autumn redheads. I am a “spring” under the old color system.

    I can wear gold or silver jewelry. I can wear black, orangey red and bright yellow. I must wear bright, clear colors, never muddy or dull. Brown isn’t in my repertoire. Jewel tones work very well. Coral lip color is ghastly on me, but coral clothing works well.

    I love to wear a column of black or grey with a colorful scarf near my face, or a colorful jacket or cardigan. I used to be able to wear pastels as well, but these don’t work for me since my hair color faded. I still choose pastel pink as a neutral for shoes and purses. It is to me what tan and taupe are to others.

    Going grey was a real challenge, because it made me realize that some colors I could wear just don’t work with minimal makeup. We can all wear just about any color if we play tricks with makeup and hair color, or keep our best colors near our faces. I’ve gone back to the colors I favored as a young child, because children have an innate sense about color.

    “Try it on” is the best advice. It’s easy to be tricked by store lighting, so take along a sheet of white paper. Hold this up to your face when you’re wearing an item of clothing in the fitting room (or take a pure white item in with you). I find this helpful to see how true a color reads, and how much the bad lighting can distort perception. It’s the undertones in colors that often throw things off. Still unsure? Leave it there. If it really works, it should pop!

  17. I am a blond haired, green eyed winter. People ofen want to put me in warm toned make up and clothing. Like you I look best in true strong colors like red, white and blue, black and no yellows or oranges of any kind. Muted colors like pastels and mauve also do not complement my skin tone.

    It is an important aspect of building your wardrobe. If there are items in your closet that you never wear, check to see if they are the wrong coloring?

  18. I have been studying seasonal colors for the last two weeks in an effort to declutter my closet and keep items that are suited for me. As a young woman I was considered a winter and jewel tones complimented my coloring. My hair is silver and gray now and that was confusing me. Thank you for confirming that I continue to be a winter with this helpful article.

  19. Oh dear… I’ve always been confused when one would ask me “what my colours are”. I’ve never really known, but based on your very clear explanation, I must be a “cool” person (my sons would have a good laugh at that one!). But why do I love the gold and tan colours so much? I always gravitate to those racks at the boutiques. I will have to bring a photo of you, Susan, to force me to look at something else. I have never worn the royal blue that looks so wonderful on you. You are definitely an awesome influence on getting us to think outside the box! Thank you, Susan.

  20. Susan,

    You’re my “savior”. I used to be a striking winter (cold tones of course) but when I changed my hair color last year as well as due to my 65 years on being on this planet, my complexion is a little paler than it used to be so…. I didn’t know anymore which season or color I was. I thought I might still be a soft winter or a cool summer but was at lost about this particular subject.

    When reading your post I was so glad to read that you don’t take your hair color into account. My skin tone is still “bluish” and my eyes are hazel with some grey but the contour is dark brown. So, all this to tell you that I wish to thank you a hundred times as I will stop searching and continue to wear my actual wardrobe and will just soften a little my reds and blues, but not too much.

    Merci beaucoup.

    I’ve put a picture of me in my early 40’s on my facebook page. Feel free to look at it. My name is Denise Groulx. Hugs and kisses.

  21. Hi Susan, I have been following you from Brazil for a few months now. I think you dress beautifully. Right now I started my own blog, which is more or less about life when you are a senior and I would like to include fashion as a topic but I am not a good fashion follower, so I was wondering if I could post some of your photos (linking them to your blog, obviously). I know I could get some photos from pinterest but I assume I need authorization. My blog, which I just started is and it’s in portuguese. We are now in summer while you are in winter so I probably will be including some of your older photos. Thanks for your attention

  22. I had my colors done around the time “Color Me Beautiful” was popular. The gal who did my colors had been doing them as far back as the early seventies and used her own system. She classified me as a late Spring and was right on the mark. I still follow the color palette she suggested. Her recommendations made me realize why even though I liked the style of my mauve dress I did not feel good when I looked in the mirror. Out when the mauve, the black (only for pants now), the pinks and all the whites and the rest of the cool colors in my closet. I also used the warm colors when decorating my home. Another thing I did recently was minimize my wardrobe, pitching all the things I bought on a whim, didn’t wear and just took up space. That’s not to say my closet is empty, but now I can actually see what I have and am shopping in my closet. Enjoy your blog and have been following it since 2013 although I do miss the other format a little.

  23. Can I wear other colors and add a scarf near my face with the correct tones ? Seems the face and hair are the important factors .

    1. It is always good to wear your best colors near your face. For example, if you love khaki or olive, but they are too drab for you, wear those colors in pants and then wear a navy top with them.

  24. Hi!! Your colors look wonderful on you. I am a very pale hazel eyed 64 yr old. I had my colors done a long time ago. My veins are blue. I look fantastic in autumn shades….especially rust, olive green, orange, gold. I look sick in primary colors or pale pink, etc. I don’t seem to fit the norm of the color analysis! I do wear black though I shouldn’t but I don’t care…haha….I am new here so look forward to this new adventure in the social net world.

  25. Thank you thank you for making me see the light about colour. I am 67 and feel I had lost my way with what I was wearing. I had been analysing colours and types to death and still couldn’t come up with what type I was or what colour I should wear. Couldn’t decide if I was spring, autumn, or summer. Your blog made it so simple. I know I have a warm colouring so I would like to start building a new wardrobe with more warm colour using maybe brown or olive as my base colour. I love your simplicity of style.

  26. I am a winter season but I do have some gold in my eyes which is definitely not the norm I know. I look the very best in black, charcoal gray and many of the colors you wear. Since you have cool undertones, how can you be a “deep autumn”?

  27. I’ve recently been diagnosed as a warm, even with my graying hair. Never wore warm colors before. Now I find I’m not suppose to wear black or white! But I have lots of those basics in my wardrobe that I love. I’m enjoying the new warm colors but wonder if I should give up my black and whites. How strict are you following these color code rules? I believe I look just fine in non-warm colors, maybe just a touch better in my autumn colors. Help! I really want to look as put-together as you always do! You are by far my most favorite fashion inspiration.

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.