Tone It Down

With all the different cosmetic color options to choose from, it would be a dream come true if every makeup shade looked perfect on every woman. However, reality bites! It’s never like that. Even though you can try makeup products on in the store, way too often we end up coming home, looking in the mirror and realizing that – sigh – it’s the wrong shade…again! The fluorescent lights of department stores are much harsher and less forgiving than natural light, which can cause you to select a shade that doesn’t work outside of hot, bright lights! So what’s a girl to do when she’s faced with the array of foundation products that are out for Spring? Believe it or not, there are plenty of tricks that aid in helping you find the right colors for yourself and it isn’t all that hard. All you need to do is find out what your skin tone is and then choose the shades that work best with that particular tone. Through our research, we’ve discovered that many makeup artists have differing and often opposing opinions on determining one’s skin tone – some believe that 2% of the population is a “neutral” tone and can wear any shade – we’ve come up with a guide to help you wade through those often murky and confusing skin tone waters.

Spring, Summer, fair, dark, olive, yellow – there are so many terms out there that are used for determining your skin tone. It may seem a bit confusing, daunting and intimidating in one fell swoop. But have no fear because many makeup artists agree that colors and skin tones can be divided into these two categories: cool or warm. But now you’re probably wondering, “What’s the best way to find out which category I fit into?” Even though there are all sorts of methods you can employ to determine your skin tone, such as which color clothes look best on you, there’s really no need to do anything overly complicated to figure it out. Simply look at the underside of your arm and check out the color of your veins. Are they bluish? If so, you are cool toned and will look best in the colors to the right of the chart. If your veins appear greenish in hue, then you are warm toned and can rock the colors on the left side of the chart. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

For those of you who are cool toned and searching for the right shade, you’re not alone. According to makeup artist Catheryn Marlowe (also featured in our Motives Custom Blend story this issue), 90 percent of people fall into the cool category. The first question you are going to ask is “What are the best colors that the majority should use to compliment the pink tones in cool skin and make it glow?” Rachel Gangemi, top makeup artist for New York City’s Valery Joseph Salon, suggests that you “apply jewel toned colors to the face, such as emerald, sapphire and ruby.” She also says that pearl shades are excellent for cool tones. Stila’s new Precious Pearl Palette combines the best of both worlds by using genuine pearl powder to add an ethereal shimmer to six jeweled shades. To balance, use a pale pink gloss, such as Kimara Ahnert’s Hush Pink Mint Lip Gloss, to play up your lips. Additionally, Marlowe explained that some people can be high or low intensity in their coolness. How do we determine the intensity? Easy! Through the following formula: If you look better in hot pinks and magentas, then you’re probably a high intensity cool. If dusty pink shades suit you best, then you’re a lower intensity cool. Stila products are available at or Sephora locations; Kimara Ahnert’s products are available at

When it comes to warm skin tones, Gangemi says that it’s best to “go for neutral colors, such as bronze, gold, brown and olive.” According to Marlowe, regarding the warm family of colors, if autumnal shades like olive and browns are stunning on you, you’ve got a higher intensity to your warmth. If you look best in coral shades, you’re a lower intensity warm. The warm family of colors enhances the peach and gold tones found in warm skin. The Moroccan Sunrise Palette by Sephora helps create a smoldering eye look and calls attention to the gold flecks that sparkle in the eyes of most warm-toned gals. You can also embrace the spring trend of coral cheeks. “Peach blushes go great with this skin tone,” Gangemi says. Masterpiece, part of the Smashbox Muse Spring 2009 Collection, is the perfect shade of grown-up peach. Besides being a great compliment for your skin, another plus is that this blush can easily be built up to make your cheeks pop for a dramatic evening look. Moroccan Sunrise Palette is available at or Sephora stores; Smashbox’s Muse Spring 2009 collection is available at Sephora or

We might not live in a perfect world of universal makeup colors – although, do we all really want to be the same color? – but we can still play and share alike. “Colors that work best for all skin tones are neutral colors, such as ivory, pink and peach,” says Gangemi. Laura Mercier’s line is one of Gangemi’s favorites, because of the large selection of neutral shades offered. The First Blush Face Palette has a great assortment of eye, cheek and lip colors to create an array of romantic looks for all tones. Available in fine department stores like Neiman Marcus and at

NARS Orgasm Blush is a cult product. We even chose it as one of our Icons in the May 2008 issue, given its enduring popularity and revered status by makeup artists! The shade has been adored – practically worshipped – by women everywhere for being such a universally flattering shade. It’s no surprise it’s another recommendation of Gangemi’s. NARS has taken this beloved favorite and packaged it into their The Love Set. Along with the pinky peach blush, the kit also features Pillow Talk, an azalea pink lip gloss, along with a Sex Machine Velvet Matte Lip Pencil. When used together, the products create a fabulous neutral pink color that can pretty up any pout. Available exclusively at

We know that determining your skin tone may seem confusing and quite a high maintenance process, but don’t let that deter you. Try talking to an experienced, trained artist at your local makeup counters and get a second and third opinion from other brand representatives. We’re confident you’ll be able to figure it all out and look fabulous while doing it. At the end of the day, if you test a product and think it looks fantastic on you and you feel sexy while wearing it, then you should, by all means, throw the rules out the window and wear it happily! Good luck.

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