Are Your Favorite Colors Making You Look Bad? Don't Worry, There's An App For That

Yellow can be a tricky color. Here's how to find out if any shades of it are you in your custom palette.
Yellow can be a tricky color. Here's how to find out if any shades of it are you in your custom palette.

Yellow can be a tricky color. Here's how to find out if any shades of it are you in your custom palette.

Look around your living space or glance into your closet, and you’re sure to see one or two colors predominate. Those colors may be your preference, but they may not be doing you any favors. To help you make better choices, a new slew of apps, consultants and services have popped up leaning on expert guidance to help you make more flattering choices.

Welcome to the re-emerging discipline of finding your color palette, power colors, knockout colors or even, in an echo of the “Color Me Beautiful” boom in the 1980s, your “season.” Back then, color consultants insisted that the right colors can make the difference between looking washed-out and looking radiant. These days, fueled by social media, a new breed of consultants and online services is ready to help you narrow down your perfect palette, shades and tones. They offer warnings about how the wrong colors can make you seem washed out or listless, along with advice on how the right ones can help you sparkle and shine. (And it might make a great holiday gift for someone you know.)

Here’s how it works

If you’re wondering what this “personal palette” is referring to, style and fashion expertNikki Steele has a simple explanation: “A personal palette is a color scheme that’s supposed to be the best colors for a person to wear in clothing and makeup — colors that will bring out their best self,” she said. “Often, the color palettes are described seasonally and referred to as winter, spring, summer and fall colors, all ranging from cool to warm tones.”

There are many of these types of these services online, includingShow My Colors,Colorwise,My Best Colors andDressika. Usually, you’ll be asked to upload selfies, then compete color testing. Some services will even send fabric to you and ask you to upload photos with the swatches next to your face.

Other services, likeHouse of Colour, are in-person only.Allison Crandall, a House of Colour consultant, explained it this way: “During a color analysis appointment, we use the principles of color science and a sophisticated, time-tested process to discover the best color palette for your wardrobe.” It needs to be in person, she said, because it relies on “natural lighting and precision-dyed fabrics to determine a person’s undertone and seasonal palette.”

No matter how they work, most of the services make a similar promise — that, once you know your ideal palette, you’ll be able to shop smarter, select wisely and look your absolute best in every outfit you own. “These can be a good starting point,” Steele said. “but results should be taken with a grain of salt, as you’re the one who knows yourself best.”

DIY it with the vein test or at-home selfies

If you want to try this on your own, there are all kinds of home-grown methods to determine you palette. “A great way to start learning your palette at home is to look at the vein color in your wrists in an area with good natural light,” Steele said. “If the veins are blueish-purple in color, then you have more of a cooler undertone, and if your veins appear more blue-greenish, then you naturally have a warmer undertone.”

But that trick won’t work for darker complexions, notedLindsey Myers, founder and CEO of the color analysis and style companyCreated Colorful. “A big reason I started my company is because a lot of what’s online for determining skin tone is centered on white skin and isn’t accurate for people of color.”

Expert consultation can come in handy when the vein test doesn't apply.
Expert consultation can come in handy when the vein test doesn't apply.

Expert consultation can come in handy when the vein test doesn't apply.

She offered this test as a better option: “If you want to know which colors look best on you, actually hold different colors up to your face when it’s makeup-free and in natural light,” she said. “See how your eyes, skin and hair react to those colors in real time. Then drape clothing items of different colors across your shoulders and snap a selfie of each.” She suggests a friend-lifeline to help you decide. “Send a few friends a screenshot of your camera roll, with the grid of color selfies. Where their responses overlap will reveal some of your best and least flattering colors.”

It’s not necessarily scientific, but it can be helpful. “This method will at least give you a bank of flattering colors you can rely on for special occasions, photo shoots and whenever you want to feel vibrant. It will also help you avoid investing in colors that are going to wash you out and drain your glow.”

How aging affects your palette 

Once you know your palette, it will stay pretty much the same for many years, experts said. “In most cases, your coloring and palette are stable from your late teens until around the time of menopause,” Myers said. “Our skin tends to cool slightly with age, and as our hair grays, it adds to this cooling effect.

“As they get older, some people in warm palettes might drop some of the warmest shades that previously flattered them, like pumpkin oranges or golden yellow, and start to add in some neutral blues, greens  and pinks to the rotation. But the majority of their best colors will remain constant.”

Your palette extends from your wardrobe to your makeup bag

Stylist and fashion directorZadrian Smith said, “A personal makeup palette should be your go-to shades that will stick with you for all time. I love my personal palette that defines me and the color of my skin, leaving me feeling confident and strong.”

Wondering how to translate your new palette knowledge into makeup choices?Jeanine Lobell is a makeup artist and founder of theNeen cosmetics brand. “Lucky me, I know how to do makeup, so I don’t personally need a lot of help, but TikTok is your friend,” she said. “Find an artist whose look is something you aspire to, and just kick back and watch.

If you’re still struggling, Smith suggested in-person consultation: “I’m a firm believer that in-store contact for cosmetics is the way to go, because you can see the products in person and try them on,” he said. “Online services are great for the people with ‘no time,’ but you won’t perfect your perfect shade via a screen.”

Is it worth it? Yes, say the experts

Steele said this is a topic worth considering. “I can’t emphasize enough to find a color or colors you love, then seasonally or annually, start incorporating these colors into your wardrobe and makeup,” she said. Soon you’ll have curated your own personal color palette, and you’ll be wearing colors you love. That always makes a person shine their brightest, no matter what the shade.”