Finding the best colours for your skin tone: Our Style Panel weighs in with 14 ways to dress for your shade

Best colours for skin tone Style Panel
Best colours for skin tone Style Panel

For those who gravitate towards neutrals time and time again, embracing colours can be quite the challenge. Greys, blacks and whites are safe choices but for Spring 2013, clothing is coming up colourful and we’re ready to get risky with bright pieces.

Selecting the best colour for your skin tone can be a challenge and a variety shades must be tried and tested before finding the right palette that not only flatters your skin but is also on trend for the season. For Spring 2013, colours were bright and many designers opted to show primary tones like at Michael Kors and Stella McCartney.

Because we’re all about embracing the trends as they come, we asked our Style Panel contributors to help us out with how they found the best colour for their skin tones and their favourite ways to toss some bright pops into their outfits. Boy, can they do wearing colours justice.

The latest lady to join the panel, Cee Fardoe of the Paris-based blog Coco and Vera, took a page from Dries Van Noten’s Spring 2013 collection and tossed on a red plaid button-up with a very ladylike beige striped skirt. The combination of girly and grunge is an ideal look for spring. And we applaud Zoe Smythe of Zoe’s Fashion Feed for taking the plunge into the colour pool and wearing a bright red coat and bag with a blue and green plaid dress underneath—she takes wearing colours to a whole new level.

While taking risk with colours can seem like a daunting task, our style gals have some top tips for finding the best colour for your skin tone. May their tips inspire you to take the colour wheel for a spin!

Question 43: How do you know what colours work for your skin tone? How do you incorporate them into your wardrobe?

Best colours for skin tone Elodie Parthenay

Elodie Parthenay, 26
Montreal | Hello Elo

After a lot of trial and error, I finally admitted that some colours make me look washed out (at best) or sick (at worst). The colder blues, greens and reds are NOT my best friends! Shades of brown and black, however, are instant mood-boosters.
I think the best way to figure out which shades suit you best is to get clothes of various colours, put them right next to your face and look in the mirror. Does that colour wash you out? Or does it make your eyes pop out and your complexion glow? Memorize which ones are good, bad or neutral.
Tip: Don’t let go of the colours that don’t make you look your best, if you happen to love them. Just wear them on the lower half of your body!

Best colours for skin tone Barbara Anne Solomon
Photography by Trevor Negin

Barbara Ann Solomon, 25
Toronto | Barbara Ann’s Style Blog

During the winter months my skin tone gets to be so white that it actually becomes translucent, with undertones of pink—I’m one of the girls who could redefine pale. Being super light-skinned, I’ve always had colours that completely wash me out, and there have been a few colours, like a neon orange shirt I wore in a class picture in grade 6 that made my skin glow. It’s been hard to define my look and build a wardrobe filled with every colour in the rainbow, but with the tones that suit my skin. It is all about tone, how to mix in the nudes and pale pinks with brighter colours. A big colour for me in every aspect of my life is red, from my hair, to my car, my beauty choices, and even my living room, red is bold and powerful while being sexy and quirky.

Barbara’s wearing: Shirt, San Souci. Tank, Joe Fresh. Pants, H&M. Necklace, Liana Marie. Shoes, Michael Kors.

Best Colours For-Skin Tone Zoe Smythe

Zoe Smythe, 30
New York City | Zoe’s Fashion Feed

Finding colours that flatter your skin tone can be tricky, and while there are exceptions to every rule, I find the following to be true most of the time. Most skin tones, no matter how light or dark, have pink or yellow undertones. If your skin has a pink undertone, you will look better in colours with more of a blue or purple influence. On the other hand if your skin has a yellow undertone, you will look better in colours with more of a yellow or orange influence.

For example, my mom and I have very similar colouring. While we both have pale skin and dark hair, my skin is pinker while hers is yellower. As a result, we look best in a very different range of colours. She looks great in colours with yellow or orange undertones that I cannot wear, such as olive green, burnt orange, ocre and brown. I look best in colours with purple and blue undertones, such as scarlet, kelly green, pinks, purples and navy blue.

Red can be a great litmus test to check if your skin has pink or yellow undertones. If you love red, but don’t feel like it complements your colouring, try playing with different shades. Scarlet reds are in the orange family while crimsons have deeper purple or blue undertones. Anyone can wear red—you just need to find the right one.

Thankfully there is also one universally flattering colour—coral is the happy combination of orange and pink and has a little something for everyone.

Best colours for skin tone KD Faustino
Photography by Faby Martin

KD Faustino, 28
Calgary | The Girl With the Messy Hair

Being from a tropical country, I have always had a natural tan. I’ve always noticed that olive-skinned girls can get away with bright (royal blue, black, white, red) and soft colours (lemon yellow, fuchsia, pastel pink and green). The bright colours always enhance the cool inflections of an olive-skinned girl while the soft colours create a contrast and can compliment your skin tone. It is best to stand against a white blank wall and see how you look like in different shades of clothes. If you look glowing then that is the right shade for you but if you look dreary then it is not the one that suits you best.

KD’s wearing: Sweater and Pants, JoeFresh. Shoes, Zara. Shades, Ray Ban. Necklace, Forever 21. Watch, Michael Kors. Bracelet, Sewsephine. Lips, MAC.

Best Colours For Skin Tone Melanie Morais

Melanie Morais, 24
Edson, AB| BornLippy

I’m not shy when it comes to colour and I love experimenting with them. What I’ve realized by going through my closet is that the best colours for my olive skin tone are bright rich shades such as yellows, greens, pinks etc. I feel like these colours bring out my dark hair and eyes and give my skin a good glow. I tend to stay away from beige since I feel like these are too close to my skin tone and wash me out (which is never a cute look). All it takes testing out colours and experimenting. I love flipping through magazines and looking at outfits I would have never thought would work out. It’s a great resource!

Melanie’s wearing: Sweater & jeans, Joe Fresh. Shoes, Aldo. Watch, Michael Kors. Sunglasses, Ray-Ban.

Best Colours For Skin Tone Kayla Short

Kayla Short, 26
Halifax | Short Presents

Choosing the appropriate colour for your skin tone can sometimes be a guessing game at best. For a long time I had no idea what I “should” be wearing and literally just wore whatever I wanted and/or whatever was “in” at the time.

What works for some might not work for others, and so the best thing to do is to drape different coloured scarves across your chest one at a time and see how each colour changes your appearance. Isolating colours against your face is a great way for you to really see how certain tones play up or down your features.

Look for colours that make you feel vibrant, youthful, and healthy. I tend to lean towards a very specific colour palette, and it’s often very bright colours (like the blouse seen above) because I identify the most with the energy and how I feel in them.

I love the colour yellow especially on people with darker skin tones, and/or people with blonde hair, but I absolutely cannot wear it near my face. Bright yellow near my face sucks all the life out of me. I am, however, able to wear mustard yellow because it is a warmer shade and so it is less abrasive against my skin. I owe major thanks to the man with the Clockwork Orange makeup that works at Bloomingdale’s in New York City for educating me on this, as he so kindly noted: “Oh honey no! We want to warm up your skin tone; that blush is all wrong”.

Kayla’s wearing: Blouse, Vince Camuto. Trousers, H&M. Clutch, PB & J Boutique. Necklace, Kohls. Sunglasses, Joe Fresh. Shoes, Marc Fisher.

Best Colours For Skin Tone Iva Grbesic

Iva Grbesic, 37
Toronto | One Chic Mom

I love colour and have never shied away from wearing it. That being said I know many people do not feel the same way and to be honest I’m not okay with that. I think we should wear colour. I don’t mean you need to look like a box of crayons or a colouring book picture my five-year-old coloured or stay away from black and white. Just mix it up a bit. Start with accessories like bracelets, belts, shoes or scarves.

Wearing a blazer or blouse in a pretty yellow or green will do your face a service and take years off. Don’t like yellow or green? What about red, blue, pink or orange? I know there is something for everyone. You just need to find it. Hell, I’ll settle for navy.

I look better in bold colours like this bright yellow blazer and tend to stay away from earthy tones. I can’t wear mustard yellow on top but mustard yellow pencil skirt paired with a navy blouse is perfect.

Iva’s wearing: Blazer, H&M. Top, Ann Taylor. Jeans, J Brand. Heels, Prada. Earrings & Bracelet, Cocoa Jewelry. Watch, Michal Kors. Handbag, Rebecca Minkoff.

Best Colours For Skin Tone Cee Fardoe

Cee Fardoe, 27
Paris via Vancouver | Coco and Vera

When it comes to wearing colour, I’m a bit shy—my wardrobe looks a little like it’s a pencil sketch because it’s mainly an array of blacks and greys. But when it comes to bright shades, I know what works for me–and it’s not green (although if you want to wear a colour that doesn’t suit your skin tone, it can be done; just keep it away from your face. I have a green skirt that I love!) My dark hair and fair skin have more than once been called Snow White-ish, and the vibrant reds and deep blues the Disney princess is known for wearing are the most flattering for me, too. I absolutely love red hues and I’ve almost convinced myself that red is a neutral colour. The rich shade of this plaid shirt appealed to me instantly. It was a bit of an impulse purchase, but it’s proven to be super versatile—casual enough to throw on with jeans, but classic enough to pair with a tea-length skirt like this one.

Cee’s Wearing: Blouse, Hollister. Skirt, Club Monaco. Shoes, Lela Rose for Payless. Bracelet, J. Crew.

Best Colours For Skin Tone Cara McLeay

Cara McLeay, 28
Vancouver | A Fashion Love Affair

Colour can instantly change your outfit—if you choose the right palette for your skin tone and hair colour, a dress that may otherwise be categorized as nothing special can suddenly transform into a must-have! With my blond hair and olive skin, I find shades of red and pink work best.

Cara’s wearing: Dress, Windsorstore. Necklace, Maya Brenner. Heels, Pour La Victoire.

Best Colours For Skin Tone Marta Tryshak

Marta Tryshak, 24
Toronto/Montreal | With Love Gabrielle

Selecting colour is all about personal preference. What matters most is that you feel confident wearing whatever you choose. Naturally, there are particular tones that are better suited to different complexions. In my case, pastels and naturals such as beige and white seem to look best especially when I go for deep red hair. Most of my colour pops more from accessories and in particular purses and shoes. Not all women are comfortable in bright clothes, but most can rock a red purse.

Marta’s wearing: Sweater, Alexander Wang. Skirt, BCBG Max Azria. Purse, Kate Spade. Heels, Tory Burch. Ring, YSL. Sunglasses, Kate Spade.

Best Colours For Skin Tone Krystin Lee

Krystin Lee, 26
Toronto | Suburban Faux-Pas

As a fair blonde (imposter – yes), I’m often told that yellow hues are to be avoided but being one of my favourite colours, I find it impossible to resist! I personally feel that mixing yellow with darker patterns such as this leopard print cardigan mute the brightness of the tone and allow it take on more of a brown-ish colour In the summer months, I’ll mix yellow with dark denims, deep violets and bright emeralds to create a fun contrast of colour.

Krystin’s wearing: Sweater, Old Navy. Skirt, eShakti. Shoes, Zara. Necklace, See Jewelery. Bag, Coach. Watch, Micheal Kors. Sunglasses, Karen Walker. Bracelets, Luxe Craving and Stella and Dot.

Best Colours For Skin Tone Amber Desilets

Amber Desilets, 30
London | Canadian Fashionista

Many people have a hard time finding the perfect foundation to match their skin tone: am I cool or warm? Do I have yellow or red undertones? Those are the million dollar questions asked by so many ladies.

There is a simple test that can help you decide what your skin tone is; start by looking at your veins on the inside of your wrist, if you have blue-purple veins you’ll tend to have more of a cool skin tone, if you have blue-green veins you’re more on the warmer skin tone scale. Another great way to get an idea of what skin tone you are is by looking at gold and silver jewellery. If you look better in silver jewellery chances are you have cool undertones, if you look better in gold jewellery then you probably have a warmer undertone.

Since I have a cool skin tone, I look for colours with a blue base; vivid red and other clear colours such as hot pink, yellow and emerald green look extra flattering on me. I can also get away with wearing bold shades of black and pure white than someone with a warmer skin tone. I do tend to wear more silver jewellery and “jewel” tones clothing as it really makes my complexion pop!

Amber’s wearing: Dress,H&M. Watch, Guess. Necklace, Cocoa Jewelry. Belt, Smart Set. Blazer, H&M. Shoes, Wal Mart.

Best colours for skin tone Stephanie Koch

Stephanie Koch, 27
Kelowna | Inherited Jeans

No matter how nicely put together your outfit is, the wrong colour for your skin tone can make it go wrong in a hurry. I haven’t found that there is any specific formula for choosing a colour other than experimenting and finding the ones that really bring out the best in your face. However, I do find it very important to get your makeup professionally matched for winter and summer, to ensure that your foundation is bringing out the best in your natural skin tone.

My personal favourite shade is cobalt, but since some of my other posts have involved it I thought I would go with a close second in olive green. It warms up my skin immediately, even when I am pale. If you really love a particular shade, or if there is one that is currently on trend that you know doesn’t flatter you, try wearing it in other ways like accessories or shoes where the shade itself isn’t right up against your face.

Stephanie’s wearing: Hat, Club Monaco. Scarf, Wilfred Free by Aritzia. T-shirt, Wilfred by Aritzia. Jacket, Joe Fresh. Necklace, Love Always Couture. Sunglasses, Michael Kors. Bracelets, Luxe Craving and Stella and Dot. Ring, Stella and Dot

Best colours for skin tone Kristin MacDonald

Kristin MacDonald, 27
Fredericton, NB | Doll Parade

Being the proud ginger that I am, I often rely on jewel tones to compliment my colouring. Sapphire, ruby, or garnet seem to jive well with my freckles and fair skin, and here: a blanket coat in emerald green with some complimentary gold detailing. I kept the rest simple for this, sporting a LBD, coordinating camel booties, and a big ol’ flower pin in mint, an alternate shade of green. Green is also considered to be a colour of rejuvenation, or, as Leatrice Eisemangreen (the executive director of the Pantone Institute who, ironically enough, chose emerald green as the colour of the year) says, “something that talks of new life”. With Spring hiding off in the corners of these bleak last weeks of Winter, this is a sentiment that I will most certainly get behind. So my tips for colour coding are as follows: take on colours that not only jive with your skin tone & colouring, but with what your psyche may be in need of. Colour you happy, so to speak.

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