Cool Skin Tone Makeup

Crystal Schwanke
Woman wearing pink and plum shades of makeup.

If you have pink or blue undertones, the right makeup can make your skin come alive in a way that corals, golds, olive greens, and warm browns never could. It's important to match your skin tone to the makeup, and choose shades from the matching color family. There are a few exceptions, like warm tones contrasted against blue eyes, but these are used in small enough doses to avoid overpowering the overall cool-toned look.

Determining Your Skin Tone

Your answers to the following questions will help you determine if you have a cool skin tone.

  • Do you look better in silver jewelry than gold?
  • Does your skin appear to be more pink than golden?
  • Does your natural hair color have little to no copper-red or gold in it?
  • Do you look better in white than cream?
  • Do you prefer to wear jewel-toned clothing rather than earth tones?

If you answered yes to most or all of the questions above, you may be in need of the right makeup to match your undertones. If you're still in doubt about coloring, you can visit a makeup counter for advice.

Cool Tone Makeup Colors

Cool skin tone makeup colors include:

fashionable blond
  • Pinks
  • Mauves
  • Plums
  • Roses
  • Cool browns
  • Black
  • Navy blue
  • Bright blue
  • Teal
  • White
  • Gray

All of the "cool colors" on the color wheel fit in with this category, although you wouldn't wear all of the colors on every part of your face, of course. Blue-based colors work perfectly with cool skin tones. That includes blue-based red lipsticks, plum blushes, taupe shadows, and more. For your best look, stay away from yellow-based eye, lip, and cheek products. They'll drain the color right out of your skin.

Getting the Right Foundation

If your skin tone is cool, you may be surprised to find that you may not need an obviously pink-toned foundation. That sounds counterintuitive, right? After all, pink is a cool color. Don't automatically rule pink tones out, of course, but do take a moment to step back and consider your options before heading straight for the brands known for having the rosiest foundation shades.

If you can spare the time, don't purchase a foundation you've tried in the department store without first walking over to a window or back outside to see how the foundation looks in daylight. Your best case scenario is to ask for samples of a couple of shades and compare over the course of a few days before committing.

Determining How Rosy Your Shade Should Be

If your face, neck, and chest are all the same color and all have strong pink/cool undertones, you'll be fine heading straight for the coolest shades with pink undertones and match your jawline (not the inside of your wrist). Even when you're confident in your need for a shade with pink undertones, try two or three that look like they might work and see which one blends best and looks most natural in sunlight.

When to Look for a Neutral Base

different foundation colors

Sometimes foundations with strong pink undertones end up looking unnatural on top of an already rosy face, especially if your face has more pink tones than your neck. Matching only your face will accentuate the difference in color from face to body, exactly what you don't want when you're choosing a foundation.

If this sounds like you, look for foundations with more of a neutral base (similar to the color of your neck and chest) in order to balance out the pink in your skin and successfully match your face to your body. Don't go too yellow or warm, but think of your foundation shade as a very subtle color corrector.

Color-Correcting Foundations

If you have a lot of redness in your face compared to your neck and chest, consider using a green color-correcting lotion like Eucerin Sensitive Skin Redness Relief Daily Perfecting Lotion (under $20.00 at Ulta) prior to foundation application. This isn't necessary for correcting a very slight color difference in undertones, but those with cool tones and rosacea, for example, may find this to be a better solution than using makeup alone to create a cohesive look from face to neck.

Boost Your Look With Bronzer

Have you been wearing a shade that was actually too warm or too dark for you, but finally found the shade that best matches your skin? If what you're seeing in the mirror is so different from what saw before, you may feel it looks "off" or like you look a little pale or sick. If you still want that sun-kissed look warm skin tones seem to achieve so easily, you can still use a bronzer, but choose wisely.

Skip the bronzers with obvious golden tones (and if it looks orange in the pan, you definitely want to stay away!). Bronzers that look neutral (just brown or with the tiniest amount of pink), like Benefit Hoola (just under $30.00 at BenefitCosmetics.com) or Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer (around $30.00 at TarteCosmetics.com) can still look natural and gorgeous when applied with a light hand to the high points of the face.

Consider Depth

While most cool-toned girls will choose colors within the same color family, they won't always go for the same depth. As a general rule when it comes to eye, cheek, and lip makeup:

  • Fair skin looks best with lighter cool tones
  • Darker skin looks best with darker hues.

As always, there are exceptions to that rule when fair-skinned ladies mix it up with an edgy burgundy lipstick, or women with dark complexions sport light nude-colored lips.

Fair Skin Tones

Fair skin has plenty of choices in eye, lip, and cheeks colors for day and evening.

Lips and Cheeks

fair skin

Choose lighter pinks or mauves on the lips and cheeks for a daytime-friendly look.

Try:

Eyes

You could even go for pale pink on the lid with a gray-brown or plum in the crease. For night, try smoky brown or gray shadows with dark liner and lashes or burgundy lips with understated neutrals on the lids. Pale greens that err on the side of blue rather than yellow, and blues themselves, look great on the lids if applied sheerly.

Try:

Medium Skin Tones

Medium skin tones with cool coloring can play with a variety of colors, such as berry tones.

Lips

You'll do best with something a little darker and in the berry family for your lips. You may also love mauves and roses.

medium skin tone

Try:

Eyes

Any eye color can generally pull off plum, purple, and lavender shadows. Medium skin tones pull them off exceptionally well. If you have brown eyes, try smudging bright blue along the upper or lower lash line (or both for a fun summer look!). Revlon's Matte Eyeshadow in Venetian Blue is great for fearless makeup divas.

Also try:

Bronzes also look fantastic on eyes, lips, and cheeks; just stay away from bronzes that lean too far into the red territory. MAC's Bronze shadow is a good choice. If you have blue eyes, bronzes and browns will make them really stand out, but the eye shadow will still be subtle since it's a fairly neutral tone.

Dark Skin Tones

Ladies with cool undertones and darker skin look gorgeous in dozens of shades, ranging from deep plums to smoky charcoal.

Lips

dark skin tone

You can wear rich, beautiful burgundy shades on your lips whenever you like, or choose a medium-dark pink, plum, or pink-based nude.

Try:

Eyes

You can wear all of the cool skin tone makeup colors listed above, but do so with care. Don't choose an opaque, pastel pink shadow that a woman with a lighter skin tone may be able to pull off. Instead, opt for a sheer wash of a light-to-medium pink that won't be so stark against your dark skin. Your lids will glow, your eyes will stand out, and you will be center stage - not your eye makeup.

This goes for other cool colors as well. One of the perks of having dark skin is the ability to choose colors from a dark palette, like hunter green or navy blue, and use it in your everyday makeup looks. While a fair-skinned lady may only feel comfortable sporting navy blue at night, you can wear it on the lid, in the crease, in the outer V, or as a liner without a second thought about whether it's daytime appropriate.

Give these shades a try:

Special Tips for Blue Eyes

woman with blue eyes

When it comes to eye shadow, cool toned girls with blue eyes can often pull off warmer shades, like soft gold, bronze or coral, as long as the other shadow shades, cheek colors, and lipstick colors are cool-toned. It may even be worth it to branch out of the cool-toned territory for the amazing contrast you get when you pair a color that's at least similar to the opposite on the color wheel (orange) with blue eyes.

Get a Flattering Makeup Look

If you determine that you have a cool skin tone, choose matching cool-toned eye, lip, and cheek makeup for your most flattering look. You can create daytime and nighttime looks with cool tones that won't cause you to look washed out or tired, and you can even add in a hint of warmth here and there to make things even more interesting. Don't be afraid to experiment.

Cool Skin Tone Makeup