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How do I know what hair color goes with my skin?

Choosing the right hair color for your skin tone is crucial to achieving a beautiful, natural look. The wrong shade can make you look washed out or too flashy. When selecting a hair color, you’ll want to consider your skin’s undertones as well as your eye and hair color. Read on to learn tips for choosing the most flattering shades for your complexion.

What are warm and cool skin undertones?

First, determine if your skin skews warm or cool. Hold your arm next to a white piece of paper or cloth. If your skin looks more yellow or peach, you likely have warm undertones. If it appears pinkish or reddish, you probably have cool undertones. Neutral skin falls somewhere in between. Here are some more clues about your skin undertone:

  • Warm skin: Tan more easily, may have freckles, look best in gold jewelry
  • Cool skin: Burn more easily, may have rosy cheeks, look best in silver jewelry
  • Neutral skin: A mix of warm and cool characteristics

Best hair colors for warm skin tones

Those with warm undertones often do best with warm-toned hair colors. The pigments in warm shades complement your skin’s yellow and peach hues. Consider these colors:

  • Gold and honey blonde: Warm golden highlights brighten up olive and darker warm complexions.
  • Strawberry and copper blonde: Flattering choices for fair or medium warm skin.
  • Golden brown: Rich chocolatey browns with warm red and gold mixed in.
  • Auburn: Looks gorgeous against tan warm skin.
  • Red: From bold cherry red to subtle strawberry blonde.

Best hair colors for cool skin tones

People with cool pink and blue undertones tend to look best with cool-toned hair shades. The ash, platinum, and beige tones complement your skin instead of competing with it. Go for hues like:

  • Ash blonde to platinum: Flattering on very fair cool skin.
  • Mushroom brown: Has an ashy gray/brown tone.
  • Chestnut brown: Deep cool brown with no red or gold.
  • Black: Crisp true black rather than warm black.
  • Silver: Stunning on some medium to tan cool complexions.

Best hair colors for neutral skin tones

Since neutral skin has both warm and cool characteristics, you have more flexibility in your color selection. Still, it’s best to avoid shades on extreme ends of the color spectrum. For a natural look, aim for hues like:

  • Beige blonde: A muted sand blonde tone.
  • Soft brown: Medium cool brown with subtle warmth.
  • Dark chocolate brown: Deep rich brown with a hint of red.
  • Dark chestnut brown: Slightly cool dark brown.
  • Caramel brown: Warm mid-range brown.

How eye color affects your choices

The color of your eyes is another factor in selecting your most compatible hair color. Cooperating instead of clashing with your eye color creates a unified, harmonious look. Here are some guidelines for different eye colors:

  • Brown or hazel eyes: Warm copper and chestnut browns bring out golden flecks.
  • Blue eyes: Cool platinum blonde and ash brown enhances blue tones.
  • Green eyes: Warm auburns and honey blondes make eyes pop.
  • Gray eyes: Soft contrast with subtle warm browns or red.

How natural hair color affects options

It’s wise to select shades within 2-3 shades of your natural hair color. Dramatic color contrasts can sometimes look harsh. Here are suggested hues if your natural color is:

  • Black: Blue-black, espresso, dark chocolate brown.
  • Dark brown: Chestnut brown, auburn, caramel highlights.
  • Medium to light brown: Beige blonde, cream soda blonde, strawberry blonde.
  • Dark blonde: Warm golden, butterscotch, ash wheat blonde.
  • Light blonde: Rose gold, creamy beige, platinum.

Tips for gray hair

Gray hair is tricky to color because the pigments are more porous and absorb color differently than other hair. Go subtle with weaved-in highlights or lowlights to match your natural regrowth color. Avoid contrasting shades like jet black or platinum blonde. Talk to your colorist about toning shampoos to reduce brassiness between salon visits.

How to choose highlights and lowlights

Highlights and lowlights add dimension that flat single-color dye jobs lack. Follow these guidelines:

  • Lighter skin looks best with fine highlights in warm shades like honey blonde.
  • Medium to dark skin can handle bolder highlights and lowlights.
  • Cool highlights like platinum complement a warm base shade.
  • Warm caramel streaks brighten up a cool dark brown base.

Aim for a natural “grown out” look by keeping highlights close to your base color value.

Longevity of color by hair type

How long your color lasts depends partially on your hair texture and density. Here are general timelines:

Hair Type Color Longevity
Fine 4-6 weeks
Medium 6-8 weeks
Thick 8-10 weeks
Treated or damaged 4 weeks

Using color-safe shampoo and limiting washing to every 2-3 days will help extend your color’s vibrancy.

Temporary vs. semi-permanent vs. permanent

You have options when choosing how long you want your new hair color to last:

  • Temporary: Lasts 1-2 shampoos. Great for trying out a fun color.
  • Semi-permanent: Lasts 4-8 weeks. Minimal commitment with less damage.
  • Permanent: Lasts until your roots grow back. Most dramatic but harsher on hair.

Talk to your stylist about your lifestyle and willingness to touch up roots when considering permanence.

How to do a strand test

Before committing to all-over color, do a strand test of the shade you’re considering. Here’s how:

  1. Choose a section underneath your hair to test.
  2. Apply petroleum jelly around the strand to avoid staining your skin.
  3. Use the same hair color product you plan to use on the single strand.
  4. Once dry, examine if you like the color against your skin tone.

Evaluate the strand in natural lighting. This gives you a preview before major change.

Consult a professional colorist

While at-home kits are tempting for their lower cost and convenience, getting your hair colored by a professional is worth the investment. A stylist will:

  • Expertly mix customized formulas for your needs.
  • Know techniques like balayage and ombre to mimic natural growth.
  • Account for your hair’s current condition and damage.
  • Advise on cut and style to complement new color.

Schedule a consultation to discuss your skin tone, eye color, lifestyle and expectations with a colorist. They can suggest shades to bring out your best features.


Finding your ideal hair color requires assessing your skin tone, eye color, and natural hair shade. While trends come and go, choosing the most flattering hue for your complexion will always give you a radiant look. A professional colorist can take your coloring into account to create a customized shade. With the right color selection, you’ll look naturally gorgeous.