In this article we’ll be discussing how to formulate the perfect hair color to match skin tone, eye color and your preference.
Salon consultation is one of the most important parts to achieving a perfect color. This is something we should be doing with every hair color change.
This is also a really great opportunity for hair colorist to give professional recommendations that you might not try otherwise.
Table of Contents
How to Match Hair Color to Skin Tone and Eye Color
We all have unique characteristics that are very specific to us, so these are things that we should be identifying in our profile.
Some of the characteristics for your canvas include:
- Your natural level
- Your desired level
- Your desired tone
- Percentage of gray
- Integrity level of your hair
Additional things we should be considering are those natural features that really stand out. This includes eye color, skin undertone, skin surface tone and your complimentary influence, contrasting influence and preferential influence.
A pro tip each hair colorist should keep in mind when doing consultation is to remember that the technique should fit the client rather than the client having to fit the technique. This is truly an opportunity to make color services really unique to each person.
It is defined as the tonality that exists under the surface of your skin. This is a great way to identify the overall tonality of the color we’re looking to achieve and it can usually be identified as warm, neutral or cool.
This typically doesn’t change and stays pretty consistent over your lifetime.
My favorite way to identify the undertone of the skin is to take a look at the inner wrist because this is the most undisrupted area of the skin and think of the veins as your indicator.
The veins to the human eye appear blue and you’ll think of your skin over that area as a filter.
Your tone is typically either gonna have green influence or violet influence. So if you’re looking at your veins and you see that the blue has a little bit more of a green hue, you know that your undertone is more of a yellow or warm tonality.
If you’re seeing a little bit more of a violet hue this means that you have more pink influence to your undertone which is typically a cooler tonality.
If you’re not seeing strong influence either way that might just mean you have a neutral undertone tonality.
A pro tip to remember that’s been really helpful for me when identifying the undertone of a client’s skin is to remember that these are just benchmarks. So everything is very specific and relative to you.
If you’re thinking of warm undertones, think of that peach gold or yellow influence. If you’re thinking more of a cool undertone, remind yourself that those are gonna be pink, blue and violet influential tones.
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Skin Surface Tone
Next let’s talk about the surface tone of your skin.
This is a little bit different from undertone being that this is what exists on the outermost portion of our skin.
So think of this as the level of lightness or depth your skin have and also think of the characteristics that make your skin unique; these are also gonna exist on the surface tone.
A pro tip to remember about the surface tone of your skin is that this can absolutely change based on what we expose our skin to. This is why it’s so important to evaluate the surface tone of your skin every time you come into the salon, especially when the seasons change.
Next let’s talk about eye color.
This is one of my favorite natural features to discuss and consultation because this is really powerful to bring out in each client.
The best way to bring out your eyes is to figure out what their complimentary influence is. Typically complimentary influence in this instance is going to be the color opposite to it on the color wheel.
Now that we know how to identify your unique profile, it’s time to use that information.
Let’s give examples of exactly how we take our client profile to perfect that formulation for every one that comes in the chair.
In this case we’ll be using the terms complimentary influence to focus on what will complement natural features.
Contrasting influence is gonna be the opposite. This is gonna be what we’ll contrast what you naturally have.
Keep in mind that just because you formulate something that contrasts your natural features, that doesn’t always mean it’s gonna look bad. Sometimes the most striking end result exists on someone who has contrasting influence.
So let’s do a couple examples and showcase all this information.
Starting with your skin tone and undertone, we want to figure out the overall tonality. I love having my swatch book ready so that I can hold up specific tonal families to my clients skin tone to figure out exactly what’s gonna work best for them.
Pro tip for utilizing skin tone and undertone is remembering that this is a great opportunity for colorists to make professional recommendations. They can show you what naturally complements you and what naturally contrasts with your features but then make a recommendation of what they think will look best.
If your overall influence is warm, the tonal families that will complement it best will also be worm.
There are so many amazing shades that support the warm influence. Some of my favorites include copper series, copper gold series, gold series and gold brown series.
If your skin tone is more on the cool side, the compliment is gonna also be cool tones. There is a great variety of options to support cool tone. These include ash series, double ash series and also natural ultra ashes.
If you have more of a neutral influence, a variety of shades will complement you really well. Some of my favorite tonality that works for neutral skin include silver metallics, violet metallic, bronze metallics and rose metallics.
If you want to formulate contrasting your natural influence, all you have to do is formulate opposite to your influence on the color wheel.
One of my favorite pro tips when creating contrasting influence for really striking end results is to play around with level change.
So when you’re taking a look at your natural level, some really striking end results are dark features with really light hair or really emphasizing that difference. So keep that in mind as you’re playing around with contrast.
Typically with eye color our strategy is to formulate its opposite or its complement on the color wheel.
The word complement is a little bit different when we’re speaking to eye color. This is when we’re speaking to colors opposite to one another on the color wheel.
Typically these neutralize one another in terms of color theory but when you place them next to one another, they really stand out.
To make eye colors really pop and really be accentuated, we want to formulate with its complement.
Taking a look at the color wheel as reference, if you have blue eyes, copper is going to be you complement. If your have green eyes, red or pink fleshy tones will be that compliment.
A pro tip to keep in mind is to assess the lightness or darkness of your eye color. This is really important to include in formulation so you can really make them pop.
If you have light brown eyes, this typically has some gold influence to it. So usually cool violet bases are gonna be a great complement for that tonality.
If you have brown or deep brown eyes, typically lighter influences or accents will really help bring out your contrast.
If you’re choosing to do face framing or accent work to bring out those deep rich brown eyes, a pro tip is to take a look at the innermost portion of that eye and see if there’s any specs. Usually that spec has warm or cool influence and this can really help you formulate according to your natural feature.
Hazel eyes typically have a light brown base with some green influence. So based on your skin tone and your personal preference, you could either formulate cool, blushy hues to really bring that out or some violet based tones as well.
A pro tip for artistic formulation is that hazel eyes are one of my favorite features to formulate Rose Gold or Mauve Rose.
If you have gray eyes, these tend to be complemented by really vibrant shades or dark rich shades.
Remember that these are totally just benchmarks and a gray eye feature can be brought out in a lot of different ways.
It’s so important to keep in mind that eye color is very unique to each person. So if your eye color exists outside of these examples, just do your best to use the color wheel to formulate with its complement to really bring it out best.
Any time I’m using this information and consulting with my client, the best advice I’ve ever been given is to under promise and over deliver. With every client there are gonna be some limitations that exist that may or may not stop us from creating that perfect end result.
It would be really nice in a perfect world to wave our magic tip brush and give our clients exactly what they want but some limitations that we need to be aware of include.
- the integrity of their hair
- the maintenance that that clients can hold
- what they’re comfortable with achieving in terms of their preference
Samantha is a hairstylist with over 12 years of color and stylist experience. She enjoys using her knowledge to create what her clients really want when they sit down in her chair. Her passion is creating unique looks that her clients feel great in.