What Colour Best Suits Your Skin Tone?
Unlock the secrets of beauty. It starts with finding your best colours and learning how to make them work for you.
Historically, red has had some of the most powerful associations, including courage, strength and gentility. “Red is the colour of the first chakra, the root of all colour, associated with physical strength, confidence and vitality,” says Rosamund Kavander, owner of Roomworks, a colour and interior consulting firm, and member of the Color Marketing Group. That’s why it’s a particularly influential shade to paint on your lips, your greatest point of communication.
“I think red has always had a positive connotation and been the ultimate colour of beauty,” says Trinidad Rivas, director of education for Make Up For Ever Canada. “It represents femininity, elegance, sexuality and power all at once.” The original red pigments were sourced from South America, where they were highly sought after and painstakingly created using the blood of cochineal beetles.
“Red is a lifeblood colour,” says Kavander, who uses the power of a red dining room to stimulate appetites and a red lip to warm up and empower a tired face as examples. “It adds power, fire, stimulation and warmth.” Bright lips have trumped the runways for several seasons, which has created a resurgence in bright fuchsia and red lipstick spotted on women in everyday life – a trend that Kavander suggests is also part of the current women’s movement. “Red makes a statement,” she says. “I think it’s part of the trend right now for women to be more forceful and proud of who they are – to enjoy their femininity without being demure.”
Tip: If your veins look more blue than green, your skin probably has red undertones. Wear shades of pink and true-blue reds, and steer clear of coral or orangey hues.
Clockwise from top left: Joe Fresh Long Wear Lip Liner in Deep Red, $8; Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Shine Sculpting Shinr Lipstick in Empowered, $34; Rimmel London Oh My Gloss! in Ooh La La, $8; Formula X Nail Colour in Haute Sauce, $16
Green is a fascinating shade that has had many personalities throughout time. “It has one of the largest spectrums of colour choices, from blue to yellow,” says Kavander. It’s the yellow-greens that tend to have negative associations, including illness (you’ll never find the shade on a boat, plane or hospital) and the slimy monsters, snakes and things that go bump in the night from our youth.
On the flip side, green is the original colour of Earth, growth, rebirth and, of course, luck. “Green rules our heart chakra, which links it to giving, receiving, balance and self-acceptance,” says Kavander. Its calming nature has made it a pop-culture favourite in recent years thanks to the trend for getting back to nature and respecting the environment. When it comes to your face, green can also help you snag a fresh start with your makeup.
“Green primers are commonly used to neutralize any redness or reddish discoloration in your skin, which showcases your features in the best way possible,” says Rivas. Likewise, the exotic feeling of rich green eye makeup makes it a keen choice for swapping with brown or black when wearing a lush smoky eye.
Clockwise from top left: Dermalogica Redness Relief Primer SPF 20, $42; Sephora Collection Colourful Eyeshadow in Luxurious Boot Camp, $16; Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Pardon My Garden, $10; Kat Von D Metal Crush Eyeshadow in Iggy, $25
It’s easy to get happy in the face of a juicy shade of zesty orange, which can easily be considered the warmest shade of the spectrum. “Orange radiates with energy because it’s between red and yellow – there is no such thing as a cool orange,” says Kavander. Its happy demeanour is also fitting because it was originally considered the colour of love. “French brides used to wear orange blossoms in their hair and scent their beds with orange water,” says Kavander. Even though orange is often considered difficult to wear, hues that skew closer to brown and terracotta can be flattering and just as stimulating to your skin tone due to their element of red.
“Orange, in general, suits everyone because it can warm up anyone’s skin but is most flattering on those with warm undertones,” says Rivas. He adds that orange and coppery eye makeup look amazing on those with blue eyes because they are complementary shades and make each other pop.
Clockwise from top left: Revlon Nail Enamel in Uninhibited, $6; CoverGirl Jumbo Gloss Balm in Nectarine Dream, $10; M.A.C Veriscolour Stain in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, $29; Clinique Pop Glaze Sheer Lip Colour + Primer in Melon Drop Pop, $16
“Blue is the most popular colour because it’s associated with the sky and water, the two most important things for our survival,” says Kavander. “It’s a receding colour, which makes us feel like we’re staring at wide open spaces when we look at it.” While blue is often associated with loyalty, harmony and dependability (think blue jeans and the shade most favourably used by banks and other national corporations), too much of a good thing can be cool and melancholy (like “feeling blue” and a blue valentine). “The raging popularity of aqua and Tiffany blue over the past 15 years makes sense because this colour has our favourite blue hue combined with the warmth of green, which attracts us to its calmness and serenity in our often-frenetic world,” says Kavander.
If you’re experimenting with spring’s big blue eyeshadow or eyeliner trend, Rivas suggests pairing it with similarly cool-toned shades on the rest of your face for the most cohesive look, which means blush, lipstick or gloss in pink or fuchsia rather than coral or tangerine.
Clockwise from top left: NYX Color Mascara in Blue, $10; Quo by Orly Color Amp’d Flexible Color in City of Angels, $15; NARS Dual-Intensity Eyeshadow in Cressida, $36; Clinique Lid Pop in Aqua Pop and Surf Pop, $17 each
The original must-have shade, purple was first created with the mucus of sea snails. It was beyond rare and hard to source, with more than 300,000 snails needed to extract just one ounce of the coloured dye. “Its scarcity lent the colour an air of mysticism and pomp and circumstance that still exists,” says Kavander. The shade was often thought of as a protective talisman and so revered by royalty and religious figures that, for a time, it was illegal for other classes to wear it.
Fittingly, amethysts were also lusted after, and drinking out of amethyst glasses was believed to protect the drinkers from disease and evil thoughts. The unique shade is just as eye-catching to this day. “Violet and purple makeup are suited to everyone,” says Rivas. “It’s the most neutral colour, and it’s also the most complementary for all skin tones and eye colours.”
Clockwise from top left: Revlon Nail Enamel in Hypnotic, $6; Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Polish in Punk-ish Purple, $10; Maybelline New York Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid in Vivid Violet, $13; Smashbox Be Legendary Matte Lipstick in Violet Riot, $23; Almay Intense I-Color Party Brights for Brown Eyes, $11
“Yellow is a happy, luminescent colour that has the ability to reflect light without any sources of external light,” says Kavander. Due to its close association with gold, it also gives the idea of generosity, sunshine and divinity, which isn’t surprising since it was originally sourced from saffron, one of the most valued and expensive materials in the world – often more so than gold. While yellow is a brightening, youthful shade, those with aging skin should avoid the colour because it can bring out blue tones in skin, which tend to increase as we age. While it may seem like an odd choice for cosmetics, it can be surprisingly flattering and suit almost all skin tones.
“Yellow is considered a neutral colour in many respects,” says Rivas. “It has an especially harmonious effect on someone with a yellow skin undertone while adding warmth and youthfulness.” If you’re still wary of the sunshine shade, try something with a metallic or reflective finish. “Shine or shimmer can be added to yellow to create a gold effect, which translates into energy and richness,” says Rivas. “Gold looks fantastic on most skin tones and is bright and bold.”
Tip: Yellow is particularly useful in concealers and primers because it cancels out greyish, tired shadows and ramps up radiance.
Clockwise from top left: Make Up For Ever Artist Eyeshadow in S402, $24; Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer Radiant Primer in Yellow, $43; Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes Waterproof Eyeliner in 9L, $23; Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Mum’s the Word, $10