Choosing the best hair color for your skin tone might seem like an extra consideration you didn’t want in your life – can’t you just choose whatever color looks best on the model in the box? Unfortunately, that does not always work.
A color might look gorgeous on one person, and not suit another person even a little bit. This is because hair colors work differently with different skin tones (as well as wardrobe or even eye color), so choosing colors with undertones that will work with your skin is key.
Surprisingly, how dark or light your skin is has less of a bearing on the best hair color for your skin tone, while your skin’s undertones make the biggest difference.
In this article:
- How to Figure out Your Skin Undertone
- Best Hair Colors for Fair Skin with Cool Undertones
- Best Hair Colors for Fair Skin with Warm Undertones
- Best Hair Colors for Light Skin with Yellow Undertones
- Best Hair Colors for Medium Skin with Cool Undertones
- Best Hair Colors for Medium Skin with Warm Undertones
- Best Hair Colors for Olive Skin
- Best Hair Colors for Tan Skin with Orange Undertones
- Best Hair Colors for Dark Skin with Yellow Undertones
- Best Hair Colors for Dark Skin with Red and Orange Undertones
- Best Hair Colors for Dark Skin with Blue Undertones
- Best Hair Colors Season to Season
How to Figure out Your Skin Undertone
There are a few different ways to figure out what undertone your skin has, while telling if your skin is light or dark is actually pretty easy. The usual differentiation is between cool undertones, which include lots of red or blue, and warm undertones, which include lots of yellow and green.
Some people are perfectly neutral, while some might lean towards orange, which is usually classified as cool. Learning to see undertones is a skill you can develop, but having a professional makeup artist or hair stylist help might be easier.
At home methods for figuring out your skin tone (if just looking doesn’t work) include:
- Look at your veins. If they seem more green, you are warm toned, with either yellow, or olive undertones. If they seem more purple, you are cool toned. If they seem mostly blue, you are neutral.
- Hold up different colors against your skin, including yellow, green, blue, red, and orange. If you have lighter skin, opt for pastels, but if you have darker skin opt for darker hues. Which color seems to blend in and match best? That color would be the predominant color in your undertone.
Best Hair Colors for Each Skin Tone
So now that you know your skin undertone, it’ll be easier to pick a hair color for your skin tone. Below, you’ll find every detail about choosing the best hair color according to your skin tone and undertone!
Best Hair Colors for Fair Skin with Cool Undertones
The wrong hair color paired with cool skin can make your skin look overly fragile or irritated. That is why choosing flattering hair colors is so important.
If you prefer lighter hair colors, opt for blonde shades with an ashy-tint to them – in other words, blonde hair colors that seem a little bit more blue. These blonde shades will downplay the coolness in your skin without matching it or contrasting with it.
Golden-toned blonde hair colors aren’t the perfect options for fair skin tones, as they might end up giving a red tint to your skin, making you look more pink.
If you want to go brunette, feel comfortable knowing that you can go as dark or as light as you want – after all, Snow White was a fair, cool-toned beauty. The key is to avoid shades of brown that have red tints to them, and instead stick to more blue-based, taupe, and neutral browns. Dark brown roots balayaged with ash blonde will be a great way to enjoy the best of all worlds.
When your skin already has a lot of red to it, a flattering red hair color is a little harder to find. A lot of natural redheads have fair, cool toned skin, so you can always go in the natural redhead direction, with an orange-gold hair color. If you want a vivid red, however, a hint of auburn in it will go a long way towards balancing your skin, while a very cool burgundy-red is less likely to flatter.
If you want to try unnatural hair colors, avoid both colors that are too warm or too cool. Purples seem like the perfect balance that won’t emphasize or match any redness or blueness in your skin. If you are into pastels, be happy knowing that they are subdued enough that almost any pastel will look demure yet unique against your skin tone.
Best Hair Colors for Fair Skin with Warm Undertones
If you have a lighter skin tone with tints of gold and yellow in it, your undertone is warm, and any ashy hair colors aren’t the best options for you.
When it comes to the best blonde hair colors for fair skin with warm undertones, think golden and honey blonde shades, ditching all those cool blonde shades instead. Strawberry and caramel blonde hair colors will bring out the beautiful glow in your warm skin undertone.
If you want to be a brunette, rich brown shades are your best friends! That can be a rich black-toned brown or a fawn color.
Amber, copper red, rust and auburn are the best red hair colors for those with a fair skin tone with warm undertones. On the other hand, pink and blue-based reds aren’t the most recommended shades of red for your skin tone.
As for the best unnatural hair colors for fair skin with warm undertones, you should steer clear of blue and violet-based colors, instead giving your preference to warmer shades.
Best Hair Colors for Light Skin with Yellow Undertones
Yellow undertones can seem beautifully golden, or a little sallow, depending on what you pair them with, and hair colors are no different.
If you favor blonde hair, you want it to be warmer, with a golden sheen. A hint of copper in your blonde will be extremely flattering, as well, as it will make your skin healthy and glowy. You want to avoid blondes that are overly yellow, as those will increase the look of sallowness in your skin.
If a brunette mane is what you seek, once again you want warmer undertones. Caramel hair will look astounding with your light or medium skin tone, along with darker and red and purple variations on it like auburn and mahogany. You can go as cool as ash-brown or taupe-brown with your hair, although a dark brown with a blue undertone will begin to clash, making your skin look sallow and unhealthy.
You have a ton of options if you want to opt for red hair colors, since when it is a strong predominant color, any hints of coolness or warmth will rarely have an impact on your skin tone. This means that the world is your oyster, with orangey-reds, eggplant-reds, and anything in between likely looking phenomenal on you.
The opposite of yellow on the color wheel is true purple, which is the only shade you should make sure to avoid if you’re trying more extreme hair colors. Blues, greens, yellows, and pinks will all look awesome. If you really want a purple shade, try a warmer magenta that’ll sit a little closer to yellow and won’t make you look sallow.
Best Hair Colors for Medium Skin with Cool Undertones
If your skin might seem a little beige, or even slightly pink, but it is still deliciously tan, then you, my friend, have medium skin with cool undertones. Embrace your status as a rarity, and rock all of the best hair colors of medium skin with cool undertones!
If you are feeling dangerous, you can give platinum blondes a try, although remember that they might be a little bit too light for your skin. You are better off with darker ashy blonde shades, which can be easily achieved with a bit of purple toner. Combining them with some slightly darker streaks of mocha brown is a great way of giving your hair shine and dimension.
Your best shades of brown will also be either neutral or cool. The key is really to stay away from overly coppery or reddish browns. Blue-black hair will look really nice with your skin, and not overly goth. Rich chocolate browns, as well as browns with a bit of a purple wash will look really nice, as well.
Definitely stay away from orange shades of red hair, as these will make your skin look a little pale and unhealthy. On the other hand, cool blue-reds will look sinfully seductive, while eggplants and cool burgundies are a modern and sophisticated choice.
From turquoise to magenta, and anything in between, a ton unnatural hair colors will totally work with your skin. I think purples and pinks are by far the cutest, for a unicorn dream, but you can also fulfill a mermaid fantasy with cooler variations on green hair. Combining blues, purples, and cool-greens would make for an awesome analogous color scheme.
Best Hair Colors for Medium Skin with Warm Undertones
If you have yellow or golden undertones, and medium toned skin, you might find yourself preferring darker hair colors, but you really don’t have to stick to those! The best hair colors for medium skin with warm undertones would help your skin glow by providing a hint of contrast, which means you should stay away from lighter browns or darker blondes that are too close in darkness to your skin.
This means you can look beautiful in lighter blonde hair, as long as it is on the warmer side of things. Coppery blonde shades are guaranteed to stun, as are blondes with a lot of gold sheen to them. Stay away from cool ash blonde shades, as they will simply clash with your skin!
Your choices for darker black or brunette hair colors are diverse! As long as you avoid overly blue or gray-based variations on black and brown hair, you can easily be a brunette.
Darker brown shades should be rich and woodsy, while honey almond is the perfect warm medium brown for you. Darker auburn hair might make your skin too yellow, so tread with caution.
Variations on red that end up being the best hair colors for medium skin with warm undertones are usually on the orange side of red, rather than the blue or eggplant-based side. While carrot red might be a little too light for your medium skin, copper and rust would be incredible choices.
The best unnatural hair colors for medium skin with warm undertones would be on the warm side of the color wheel, meaning greens, turquoises, reds, and even warmer magentas.
For medium skin, it is better to have darker shades of these unnatural colors, or you can have colormelt techniques, blending darker and lighter shades. If you really want a colder unnatural color, perhaps have it in your hair as streaks or tips next to a more neutral brown.
Best Hair Colors for Olive Skin
Olive skin has a slight greenish tint – I’m not talking shrek-life, but more about a beautiful, mediterranean hue. I tend to think of olive skin as warm-toned, although sometimes it is categorized as neutral or even cool. No matter how you categorize it, the easiest way to find the best hair colors for olive skin tone is by using the color wheel.
Olive beauties fair best with very neutral and ashy blondes – although overly blue or platinum blondes might not work. The key is to avoid blonde shades with a red or copper tint, since they will contrast against the green undertone to your skin in an odd way.
The same goes for red hair – there is simply no shade of red that won’t make you look unhealthily green.
Opting for brunette shades will be easy – in fact, chances are that your hair is naturally a gorgeous cool black or dark brown! Browns with blue or yellow undertones will look lovely, as would ashier shades of lighter brown.
Make sure to avoid copper, mahogany, and auburn shades, as these will emphasize the green in your skin in an unhealthy way.
You might find it a little more difficult to find unnatural hair colors for olive skin that will do good things to your skin tone. You can get past a single color clashing by opting for a mermaid-style colormelt with a lot of cool, analogous shades – light blue, purple, and turquoise, for example. Neon yellows could also look pretty cool, and if you reserve your crazy color to the tips, then anything goes.
Best Hair Colors for Tan Skin with Orange Undertones
It is very common for those with normally yellow undertones to become a hint cooler when they tan. I’m calling it an orange undertone, but I’m not talking about oompa-loompas. What I’m really talking about is a hint of gorgeous copper-glow that comes from the sun exposure (or the best of self-tanners).
For tan skin with orange undertones, you want hair colors that will amp up the health and glow of your skin without emphasizing the orange too much. It is generally best to avoid colors that are overly cool, like platinum blonde, or blue-black.
Neutral and ashy shades of blonde, however, are perfectly fine, as are warm shades of blonde like gold and honey. Choosing shades of blonde that are lighter than your skin is risky – it can end up looking oddly washed out. I’m not saying not to do it… just, be careful, and maybe put on a wig first to test out the combination.
Similar principles apply for brunette hair colors for tan skin – any shade of brown, dark or light, should suit you well as long as you avoid anything too blue-toned. Neutrals and reds, along with mahogany, auburn, and even burgundy can look stunning. It is better to stay away from lighter oranges, as these might have a similar effect of washing you out as overly light blondes.
Purple hair combined with orangey tanned skin is one of my least favorite looks. Lots of people seem to love it, though, so you do you. I would recommend doing something different, though.
Warm pinks are especially gorgeous against bronzed skin, as are dark greens. A combination of sunset hair colors will work harmoniously with your tan skin, so that might be a great way to incorporate purple without hurting my eyes.
Best Hair Colors for Dark Skin with Yellow Undertones
When your skin is naturally darker, chances are your natural hair color will be a black or dark brown that will suit you well. However, you still can (and should!) experiment with other hair colors for dark skin, because the effects can be very beautiful.
Darker skin tones are not one-size-fits-all, and the undertone of your skin certainly still matters. POC celebrities with yellow undertones to their skin include Rihanna, Beyonce, and Priyanka Chopra.
Keeping it dark is traditional, although I find that overly cool hair is not flattering. Better stick to true chocolate browns, which can be softened with threads of bronze, or even golden blonde.
Blonde hair can actually be a fantastic choice for those with warm dark skin. Honey-blonde, at different levels of darkness and lightness, can be a sure success. I find that keeping the roots darker, or sticking to some brunette lowlights is generally the most flattering look.
Rihanna is a great example if you want to go red. I’ll admit that I didn’t like what the slightly cooler true-red she wore in 2010 did to her skin, greatly preferring muted, warm reds and gingers with her skin tone. In other words, keep your reds warm, but don’t be afraid of letting them get loud.
Much like those with lighter skin and yellow undertones, you also have the vast range of the color spectrum to rock on top of your head.
Best Hair Colors for Dark Skin with Red and Orange Undertones
Red and orange undertones in darker skin are not really cool or warm – they are somewhere in the middle. If you are having a hard time picturing it, look up a picture of the actress Nia Long. Much like with those who tan a touch orange, the color wheel is key to find the best hair colors for dark skin with red and orange undertones.
I would caution staying away from overly cool black hair – even if that’s your natural color, it is best to soften it with a wash of ultra-dark brown. Neutral brown shades like chocolate are a definite safe choice, but there is also room to experiment. Almost any color can work as a highlight if you want to soften a dark brown.
If you want to go lighter with your hair, stick to shades of light brown and blonde that have a bit of that orangey-redness to them, like caramel browns, and rich honey blondes. These shades are also gorgeous in sombres and balayage highlights, which will look much softer and more natural.
If you want to try red hair, remember that combining two similar colors can have a very underwhelming effect. You want the red shades that you choose to be different from your skin tone.
If your skin is more on the orange side, darker auburn reds will look really beautiful. You can also experiment with burgundies and eggplant shades. Purple-reds will emphasize warmth in your skin, which might be beautiful but it might also clash – do be careful choosing your reds.
Much like those who tan a little orange, cool purples and blues should not be hair colors you adopt lightly. Instead, aim for warmer hair colors that are perfect for dark skin, like orange and magenta.
Best Hair Colors for Dark Skin with Blue Undertones
The go-to celebrity example for dark skin with blue undertones is the talented Lupita Nyong’o, who usually wears her hair dark, cool black. This is a classic choice that will perfectly complement your skin.
This is the only skin tone that would not be complemented by chocolate brown hair – it is simply too close to your skin tone and yet a little off, so it won’t give anything back.
A dark gunmetal grey hair color, however, would look incredible! If you want to spice up dark hair, I suggest avoiding browns, and instead experimenting with very dark eggplant shades, either all over or as a highlight.
If you want to go blonde, it would be better to keep them cool-toned. Ash blondes are definitely great for dark skin with blue undertones! A full-on silver-platinum blonde would be hard to achieve (and probably very damaging), so I would caution against dyeing your hair this color – a wig might be the better choice here.
If you want to try unusual hair colors, cooler greens, all types of blues, and purples instantly come to mind as flattering and inoffensive. A neon yellow could also be a fun, albeit dangerous choice – there is something about the color combination that is simply irresistible and loud.
Best Hair Colors Season to Season
While I don’t fully believe in following rules based on well… just about anything (although I do love giving gentle suggestions and guidelines!), I do think there is some logic to changing things up season to season. After all, it’s so easy to get bored if you do the same thing all year round!
I also think that colors greatly impact our mood, and that includes the colors we see when we look in the mirror. Having hair colors that are harmonious with each season’s weather and color scheme makes sense to me, so I came up with some suggestions.
Some suggestions are all about echoing the season you’re in, while others are about complementing it with a contrasting color.
Best Winter Hair Colors
If, like me, your winter is icy and cold, you want a hair color that’ll help you feel warm and protected without contrasting too heavily with the scenery. Additionally, winter is a great time to go a few shades darker with your hair color, and opt for really rich saturated hair shades.
A neutral chocolate brown or a deep red à la Melisandre in the Game of Thrones (assuming your skin isn’t olive toned) both come to mind as excellent winter hair colors.
For a really warm feel, balayages of darker and lighter browns can look very sophisticated yet cozy. If you want to echo the season, both cool and warm takes on platinum will keep you look icy.
Best Spring Hair Colors
Since spring is such a beautiful, colorful season, I think anything goes. This is the best season to experiment, since you can wear all of the hair colors and feel good no matter what.
Staying in the center of the light-dark spectrum does make a little bit more sense, with anything from dirty blonde to dark brown, along with all types of balayges and highlights meshing beautifully.
This is also a great season to experiment with unusual hair colors – especially pastels, which have been steadily gaining popularity in the last couple years.
My personal favorite spring hair colors are lighter variations on red and copper hair shades, along with shocks of blonde running through medium-brown hair.
Best Summer Hair Colors
For me, summer is the time to shed layers – it’s much important for me to stay physically cool, and the color itself matters less. The obvious choice in summer would be to go lighter – assuming the sunshine doesn’t do that to your hair naturally.
This is the perfect season to try blonde hair colors, with the type of blonde you choose based on your skin undertone! Caramels and ashy browns can also look lovely, of course.
If you are an avid swimmer, you should probably avoid pigment-heavy hair colors for summer, like reds, or any unnatural colors, since they rarely react well with pool-water (not to mention the constant sun exposure). If you are truly committed, then also commit yourself to sun-protection spray, hats, and a lot of hair conditioner!
Best Fall Hair Colors
The best fall hair colors, a transitional season much like spring, are varied and diverse. Since I heavily associate autumn with whatever Starbucks drinks are available at the time, I think chocolate browns, coppers, caramels, and oranges are a phenomenal choice.
Any hair colors that echo fire also help to keep things warm yet outdoors. If you have lighter hair, naturally, then autumn is a great time to go darker. If dyeing your whole head seems like too much, opt for lowlights or a reverse balayage.
What’s your skin undertone? Which hair colors do you like matching it with? Share your thoughts!
Photos via @off7thsalon, @mariohenriqueoficial, @telleish_hair_studio, @ryabchik.moscow