Hair Color & Skin Tone

Women with different hair colors and skin tones
Photo: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock
Q: When you talk about hair color, everybody says that it has to match to your skin tone. I'm looking for hair color ideas, but I never know how to match that tone. Are there some basic rules about the matching hair color to skin tone?
A: Yes, actually, there are basic rules to allow you to match your hair color choices to your skin tone. It all has to do with what color type you are.
For many years, stylists, make-up artists and fashion consultants offered to do women's color charts. However, the methods they used to determine what colors were suited to a particular woman were prone to errors and many women were incorrectly assessed and were advised to wear or choose colors that weren't suitable for their skin tone.
Today, we have an easier and more foolproof method for determining the proper color choices for an individual: It uses gold and silver to determine a color type. The process is simple. You take a piece of gold jewelry and a piece of silver jewelry (it can be an earring of each metal type, bracelets, necklaces, etc., so long as the jewelry is made mostly of the appropriate metal) and place the jewelry against the skin. Whichever metal appears brightest (or stands out the most) against your skin is the type you are.
Gold types are more suited to warmer colors. In hair color, these are the colors with bases of red, red-orange, orange, and gold (yellow). For Silver types, the color choices are cool tones. In hair color, these are the colors with bases of blue, blue-violet, violet and neutral (also called drab or green). Both of the metallic types offer colors in the full spectrum of light levels, from the darkest shades of brown and black to the palest shades of blonde, so you can achieve any shade of hair color you want.
The key is to find the appropriate color tone, although you will want to be careful about making dramatic changes in the light level of your hair. If you are naturally a light blonde (level 1, 2, or 3) you probably don't want to suddenly change to a dark color (level 10, 9 or 8) or it will look abnormal. The same is true for dramatically lightening your hair color. It is usually best to stay within 4 levels of your natural shade, which still offers you a wide range of color choices.
If for some reason you feel that determining your color type is too difficult, or you are unsure of your type, there is another way to determine what colors would be good for you. Simply take a hand-held mirror and stand outside in direct sunlight. Look closely at your hair as the sun is shining on it.
Look for the underlying base color that reflects off of your hair. If you see glints of red, orange or gold (yellow) you can choose hair colors with those base colors and feel safe. If the color glinting off your hair is bluish, purplish or greenish you will want to choose hair colors with the blue, violet, or neutral base colors.
Of course, it is easiest to consult a professional hairstylist or hair colorist, who is trained to identify the right colors for an individual and give ideas for hair color. However, if you prefer to color your hair yourself, these methods will serve you well.
See also:
Hair color choices and application techniques
The difference between warm and cold hair colors
The 10 different levels for hair colors