If you’re looking for a hair color to complement your medium skin tone, suffice it to say that you’ve got options. While hues ranging from pale blonde to deep indigo (and honestly, just about everything in between) can flatter your complexion, there are two determining factors when it comes to picking that perfect shade: The vibe you’re after, and your skin’s undertones.
“When choosing a color, considering your undertone is important because it will either complement or clash with your skin tone,” says hair colorist Jamie Wiley. “You want to make sure that the tone you choose will complement the underlying pigment in the skin.” Generally speaking, Wiley notes that complexions with warm undertones will have hints of peach, yellow, or gold, while cool undertones are indicated by pink or blue hues.
“You can also [look] at the veins on your wrist to determine your undertones,” Wiley adds. “Warm complexions will usually have veins that appear green, cool undertones usually have blue or purple veins, and if you have neutral undertones, you’ll notice a mixture between the two.” If you fall into the latter category, your options are pretty endless, and you can veer between warm and cool tones as you please.
HAIR COLORS FOR MEDIUM SKIN
CHOOSING A SHADE: Make sure to pick a color that matches your complexion’s undertones versus your skin tone. “Skin tone can change depending on whether it’s winter or summer and if you have a tan, but your undertone will never change,” says O’Connor. “Looking for the secondary color or tone is, in essence, looking at the undertone of your skin, and we all lean a little more one way—whether warm or cool—than the other.”
MAINTENANCE LEVEL: Maintenance varies depending on if you’re doing a single-process hue, highlights, or a complete shift in your shade. Certain color techniques can be low-maintenance and require less frequent salon visits, so if that’s what you’re after, opt for styles that feature your natural color at the root so that it looks good while growing out.
PRICE: Varies depending on the color, salon, and technique you choose. Generally speaking, a single-process color can range between $50 and $100, whereas ombre, balayage, and highlights can start at around $150.
Once you’ve found your shade, consider just how much maintenance you want to put into your look, especially taking your base color into consideration. Color techniques like balayage or ombre, which typically leave a dark root, require less frequent salon visits and can often look better as the color grows out. Additionally, by keeping your base color at the root, you can push the boundaries when it comes to complementary cool and warm tones. “If a warm-toned client absolutely has their heart set on a cooler tone, we may keep your base deeper and warmer then gradually create and add streams of cooler tones toward the middle and ends of the hair,” says hairstylist Michelle O’Connor.
Single-process colors and glazes relatively close to your own base color are also pretty low-maintenance, but if a dramatic shift in shade running from root to tip is more your speed, that option isn’t completely off the table. You’ll just have to abide by those undertone rules a little closer, incorporate color-preserving formulas into your rotation, and schedule touch-ups accordingly.
To show off exactly how much range you have with your hue, we’ve rounded up 15 hair colors that flatter medium skin tones. From baby blonde to rich indigo, keep reading to find your new shade, and for expert tips from Wiley, O’Connor, and hair colorist Rachel Bodt.
MEET THE EXPERT
- Jamie Wiley is a hair colorist and the founder of the industry platform Hair Boss.
- Michelle O’Connor is a hairstylist and global artistic director for Matrix.
- Rachel Bodt is a hair colorist and Matrix brand ambassador.
According to Bodt, honey blonde hues like Ciara’s flatter complexions that veer toward the warm and neutral sides. “The gold brings out the warmth you already have,” she says.
Especially for warm-toned complexions, a deep chocolate shade like Shay Mitchell’s is extremely flattering, Wiley says. If your skin tone is on the cooler side, opt for a taupe-based brunette.
Golden butterscotch hues like Natalie Morales’s are the move if you want your blonde ambitions to flatter your warm complexion. “You want to think in terms of colors that give your skin a natural-looking radiance and that complement each other,” Wiley says. “Rich warm colors always work well together and give your complexion a natural glow.”
According to Bodt a soft peanut butter tone that walks the line between brunette and blonde, like this shade seen on Michaela Jaè Rodriguez, is an ultra-flattering option for cool skin.
Want to err on the side of creative color? A strawberry blonde tone like Jasmin Savoy Brown’s is one way to do it. “A strawberry blonde will give you the best of both worlds by carrying hints of red and copper while pairing it with blonde to reflect the warmth usually found in the eye color of someone with warm skin,” says O’Connor.
Gemma Chan’s chestnut brown is ideal for cooler-toned complexions, according to Wiley. “It plays off the softer side of cooler undertones, but avoids any clashes in color,” she says.
“If you are opting to live in the brunette lane with a cooler undertone, then you want to lean toward browns that have a more neutral purplish tinge, or even a black that’s blue-based,” O’Connor says. “Those tones will offset the cooler complexions well.”
Feeling especially bold? Follow in the lead of Amandla Stenberg, who carried her rich indigo tone into her highlights, resulting in stunning cerulean and denim shades.
Great news: If you’ve been wanting to channel serious Marilyn vibes, a baby blonde tone like Saweetie’s is a true neutral that works with both cool and warm complexions. Plus, it can be tailored to better complement your undertones if you choose. “If you want to add more warmth to your complexion, lean on the gold side,” Bodt says. “If you want to be cooler-toned, veer toward ashy beige tones.”
If you’re opting for a rich, red-based copper—like the hue model Niki Wu Jie has here—ask your hairstylist to incorporate variations on the tone to add extra depth to the overall color. “Adding dimension will help balance out the flatness and washed-out effect that a single-toned shade can create,” O’Connor says.
Consider a mid-toned brunette like Zendaya’s to be a one-size-fits-all color, regardless of where you fall on the cool and warm undertone spectrums. “Medium brown is the perfect tone for medium skin with neutral undertones,” Wiley says. “It’s also flattering on all skin tones and all undertones.”
The golden hints in Vanessa Hong’s flaxen hue enhance the warm tones in her complexion. “Work with your undertones to add to or bring out what you already have,” Bodt says.
A little bit blonde, a little bit brunette, the bronde color trend was one that became Jennifer Lopez’s signature. According to O’Connor, it’s a great choice for medium complexions on the cooler side.
Channel your inner Jessica Rabbit and follow in Jorja Smith’s lead with a bold red. Opt for blue-based options when pairing colors with a cool complexion, and for warm skin tones, incorporate hints of copper and orange.
“If you’re searching for a subtle change with a lot of impact, a soft caramel highlight can add brightness to a medium complexion,” Wiley says. Case in point: The warm ribbons adorning Sofia Vergara’s layers.
If your complexion is on the cooler end like singer Giulia Penna’s, a purple tone could be a creative color option for you, especially if you’ve been there and done that with red. “Medium to deeper skin tones with cooler leaning undertones should opt for cool red, purple, or even burgundy,” says O’Connor.