How to Choose Colors to Flatter Your Skin Tone

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Lori Taylor, pro lead artist for Smashbox Cosmetics, and veteran of Fashion Week Los Angeles and the MTV Video Music Awards, gives the scoop on how to choose colors that flatter your skin tone.
Lori Taylor, pro lead artist for Smashbox Cosmetics, and veteran of Fashion Week Los Angeles and the MTV Video Music Awards, gives the scoop on how to choose colors that flatter your skin tone.(photo: Jupiterimages/ Images)

There are a lot of pretty eye shadow, blush and lipstick colors out there. But which ones best complement what skin tones? Lori Taylor, pro lead artist for Smashbox Cosmetics, spoke to eHow about the basics of identifying your skin tone and choosing the colors that best flatter you. Taylor has worked with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Los Angeles and the MTV Video Music Awards, and has given her expert tips on shows such as “How Do I Look?,” “Extra!” and “Good Day LA."

eHow: What are the myths about picking colors to match your skin tone?

Lori Taylor: It’s not so much about the color, but about the tone of the color. There is a red lipstick out there for every skin tone. For example, tones that have more of a blue base tend to work best with fair or light skin tones. As we move toward darker skin tones, we look for a warmer red. Reds that lean toward burgundy or Bordeaux look best on women with medium-dark to dark skin.

eHow: So there's a color tone out there for everyone?

Find the perfect pink (photo: Paul Tearle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

LT: Definitely. I think we’re used to people saying, ‘Oh, you can't wear this,’ or ‘Oh, you can't wear that,’ but there are so many different tones now in shadow, cheek or lip, that there is the perfect pink and the perfect red [for anyone].

eHow: What are the main categories of skin tones?

Identify your skin tone (photo: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

LT: Skin tone is generally broken down into four categories: fair, light, medium and dark. From there you can go into sub-categories and sub-sub-categories. But to keep it simple, focus on the basic four.

eHow: Do hair or eye color also dictate what colors look best?

Rooney Mara (photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

LT: Yes. Also keep in mind hair and eye color. For example, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara are both fair-skinned, but Nicole has red hair and Rooney has dark hair. This affects what colors look best on them. It’s something to keep in mind when choosing colors.

eHow: How can color help or hurt your natural complexion?

Nicole Kidman (photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

LT: For example, girls with fair skin tone tend to have a lot of pink or red in their skin. You have to pick something to offset that color. Let's say you have more pink in your skin tone -- then you want something warmer, with maybe a golden undertone versus a very bright pink, rather than choosing a tone that magnifies the redness and pink in the skin.

eHow: Are the rules of color and skin tone steadfast?

Go with a bold lip color (photo: Jupiterimages/ Images)

LT: There are no rules. Rather, there are suggestive things. Generally, if you are fairer, you use softer colors. On the flip side of that, I like to see someone who is very fair and blond go with a bolder lip. It's all about your attitude and how you feel best.

eHow: How are colors broken down?

Play with color (photo: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

LT: This is where there are so many options. One example is gray. Certain grays can be neutral, while others are considered a bold color. Same with yellow. Would a woman with fair skin and blond hair wear a bold marigold yellow? Probably not. She would pick something a little bit softer, with a champagne tone. Now, someone with medium skin tone could rock a very bright, bold yellow. However, don’t put too many parameters on it. If you over-categorize this, you almost lose the thing that makes makeup fun, which is playing with colors.

eHow: With so many options, how do you shop for makeup without spending a fortune on products that won’t look good on you?

Experiment with inexpensive liners (photo: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

LT: There are several things you can do. If you have fair skin, start with colors that are softer and build up to bold colors. Also, start with one area of your face. Perhaps it’s an eyeliner or maybe something for your lips. Women with deeper skin tones have more options to explore deeper, richer colors like rust, orangey gold or even true gold. Also, it’s fortunate that we have drugstores where you can get budget-friendly brands. Another option: Instead of trying a blue in a $35 eye shadow, start with a liner that is less expensive in the same tone.

eHow: What’s the best lighting for testing what looks best on your skin?

Check your makeup in natural light (photo: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

LT: I like getting as close as physically possible to natural lighting, even if you spend most of your time indoors or at the office. If you are used to putting on makeup in your bathroom, take a mirror to your living room and check yourself out in natural light.

eHow: What colors are best for spring and summer?

Try bold lipstick this summer (photo: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

LT: Summer is a good time to experiment because skin has a warmth to it. Even women with fairer skin will have more warmth in their skin tone. This is a time to play with colors that you normally wouldn’t. Metallics are great. Gold, copper, ore…anything with a warmth resembling metal is really hot for the eyes. If you normally wear black liner and mascara, go for a light dusting of a bronze or gold shade this season. Summer is the perfect time for shimmer and bronzer for the face. Lipstick is making a big comeback. And now is the time to play with bolder lip color because your skin will have that warmth to it.

eHow: For this metallic trend, which colors best complement different skin tones?

Try metallics (photo: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

LT: The more rich, brown, coppery shades are good for light-skinned girls. Darker, more metallic ore colors are good for darker skin tones.

eHow: We have seen a lot more options in terms of playing with color on cheeks. What looks best on different skin tones?

Try different shades of blush (photo: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

LT: My favorite color for spring and summer is always something that has more warmth. I love a color that has a slight more orangey or golden tone. For fair girls, you want a natural, more warm blush because their skin tends to have a red undertone. The warmth of the blush can actually counteract some of the redness in the skin. Darker-skin-toned girls will always look great in something that has a little more burnt orange or coral tone.

eHow: What about lips?

Try a warm pink lipstick (photo: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

LT: I love more golden, soft and neutral tones for this time of year. I would pick a warm pink for fair women, not Barbie or bubble-gum pink, but something that has some warmth to it. Light to darker skin tones would look great with a more berry color.

eHow: In general, are there any colors to stay away from?

Learn what colors to stay away from (photo: Paul Tearle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

LT: For very fair girls, stay away from anything that has too much red in it, especially around the eyes or around the cheeks. If you have light to medium skin, stay away from anything too neutral. You want something that adds a pop, richness or luminosity to your skin. For darker skin tones, you don’t want anything to make you look bruised, so stay away from anything that’s too dark. In general, avoid shades that don't do anything to enhance your skin.

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