I think a lot of people have trouble looking at a color and knowing if it’s warm or cool. (I wouldn’t even say I’m great at it, but I’ve had a lot of practice looking at colors.) And knowing whether your own skintone is warm or cool? That’s advanced studies.
Eons ago I had this idea to do a post — with warm browns and cool browns, warm greys and cool greys, warm reds and cool reds, to illustrate the differences. It was such a massive undertaking that I never finished it. But since I was recently swatching warm and cool red lipsticks anyway, I thought maybe taking on one color family at a time would be a good way to get that project done.
Warm reds (sometimes called yellow reds) have orange tones. I tried to swatch shades that were still red, without crossing over into being orange. (Hourglass Raven, for instance, is so warm it’s nearly orange.)
Cool reds are blue-reds. I’ve gotten to the point where I can usually swipe a lipstick on my skin and see the blue around the edges. But a good way to check is to swatch it next to something you KNOW is warm or cool. It’s like holding a pair of pants up to something black to see if they’re black or navy.
I dislike the term “true red,” because I’ve found everyone uses it to mean something different.
And warmness or coolness is a spectrum, not a binary decision. You can have two warm reds and one will probably be slightly cooler than the other. I’m sure we could also find shades that are neutral (not particularly warm or cool), but I can’t think of one off the cuff.
So which red should you be wearing? One of the most common diagnostic methods recommends looking at the veins in your wrist to see if they’re blue or green. Well I’ll be damned if mine don’t look blue-green. I find the “jewelry method” a lot more helpful. Think of your necklaces. If you look better in gold, you prefer warm tones; if you wear silver, you look better in cool. I prefer gold jewelry, and sure enough, blue-toned lipsticks make me look like a vampire (not the cute kind).
Does that mean a warm girl can’t wear a cool lipstick? Of course not. And just because I like warm reds doesn’t mean I like every warm red. Lady Danger is very warm, but it’s so bright that I feel it overwhelms my (fair) skintone.
You could write a book on warm and cool colors, or how to choose a red lipstick, or how to wear that red lipstick once you’ve chosen it. There’s a lot more to talk about, so I hope you’ll consider this post part of our ongoing discussion.