How To Tell The Difference Between Warm and Cool Lipsticks

the difference between warm and cool lipsticks

Hello, Red Apple Lipstick readers! In this post, I wanted to share with you all about how to tell the difference between warm and cool lipsticks.

I have to mention skin tone first, briefly. You might already be familiar with what I am about to say, but just in case – here goes.

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right lipstick shade, and one of them is your skin tone. If you have a warm skin tone, you should look for lipsticks with warmer shades, such as reds, oranges, warm berry shades and warm pinks. If you have a cool skin tone, you should look for lipsticks with cooler shades, such as purples, cool pinks, cool berries and blues.

One method to discover your skin tone, look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they appear greenish, then you have a warm skin tone. If they appear blueish, then you have a cool skin tone.

Once you know your skin tone, you can start shopping for the right lipstick!

But – Let’s take a look at a color wheel for a moment…

using a color wheel for How To Tell The Difference Between Warm and Cool Lipsticks

The color wheel can be a helpful tool.

When looking at a color wheel you’ll notice pinks, reds, oranges, and yellows fall into the warm category. While purples, blues, and greens fall into the cool section.  This is just the starting point though.

Colors are complex. Colors have an overtone which will be your basic color and then there’s the undertone.

It’s the undertone that you’ll want to pay attention to when deciding if a lipstick is cool or warm.

The color wheel can be helpful in understanding the difference between warm and cool lipsticks.

Warm colors are those that contain yellow or red undertones, while cool colors have blue or purple undertones.

To find out if a lipstick is warm or cool, look at the color wheel and locate where the majority of the color falls. If it falls on the side of the wheel with yellow or red, it is considered a warm color.

If it falls on the side of the wheel with blue or purple, it is considered a cool color.

Here is an excellent article on makeup color theory used in the training of makeup artists.

red lipstick How To Tell The Difference Between Warm and Cool Lipsticks

How Do You Know If A Lipstick Is Warm or Cool?

Short Answer: Check the lipstick shades undertone. This short video will show you how to see the undertone of a lipstick and know if it’s warm or cool in 5 seconds flat!

The undertone of a lipstick is the color that shows through when the lipstick is applied. I think it’s easiest to see the undertone of a lipstick by spreading it thinly onto white paper or card stock. You can do this with a cosmetic spatula, or even just a finger tip.

check a lipstick undertone for How To Tell The Difference Between Warm and Cool Lipsticks

If the undertone of a color is red, pink, orange, or yellow it’ll be warm and if its green, blue or purple it’ll be cool.

There are some nuances to this though. Especially when it comes to red and pink lipstick.

Technically all reds are warm because red is a warm color. When it comes to finding your perfect shade of red lipstick, though, you’ll be looking at its undertone.

A warm red lipstick will have an undertone of either pink (not purple-pink…that’s a different story), orange or yellow. While a cool red lipstick will have an undertone of either purple, blue or green.

Pink is another great example of this since it’s a shade of red. So a warm pink will have a red, orange, or yellow undertone while a cool pink lipstick will have an undertone of purple, blue, or green.

cool and warm lipstick swatches

I’ve done a couple of swatches for you.

You can see here Risqué is a warm-toned red because of its orange undertone while Ravishing is a cool-toned red because of its purple-blue undertone.

Note* Arm swatches are really only good for telling what a color might look like with your skin and to give you an idea of a color’s undertone. Colors can change when applied to your lips because of your base lip color and occasionally your body’s chemistry. So if you notice a cool lipstick turns pink or orange or a warm lipstick turns purple this is why.

The color wheel applies to other lipsticks, eyeshadows, and makeup as well so the color it’s a great thing to keep in mind when you are trying to find your perfect shades.

To summarize: 

Warm Lipstick Undertones: Red, Orange, Yellow
Cool Lipstick Undertones: Pink, Purple, Blue

How Do I know If I Need A Cool Or Warm Lipstick?

I have three methods for you to suggest.

The first method is simple and has to do with skin tone:

  • If you have cool undertones – wear a cool lipstick color.
  • If you have warm undertones – wear a warm lipstick color.
  • If you have neutral undertones, you can wear both cool and warm lipstick colors.

There are some exceptions to these skin tone rules. For example, if you have rosacea you may want to avoid reds and pink if they’re cool-toned EVEN if you are cool skintone since those will enhance the redness in your skin. Instead, opt for a warmer lipstick with an orange undertone. This will look more like you have a warm skin tone without overdoing the redness. It’s the orange undertone that will tone down the pink and redness in your skin.

Another exception to this MIGHT be as you get older if you find that the cool or warm-toned lipsticks you once wore now look dull. You may decide to branch out and try the opposite of what you used to wear to liven up your skin and give you a healthy glow. I noticed this in my mom actually. When she went gray the cool-toned lipsticks she used to wear started to make her skin look washed out while warmer toned lipsticks gave her skin the warmth it needed.

A second method some love to use to determine if they would prefer a cool or warm lipstick shade is their natural lip color.

If your lips are more on the pinkish side, then you will likely want to go with a cool lipstick. If your lips have more of a peachy or brownish hue, then you will probably want to choose a warmer shade.

And yet a third method may help guide you in your quest for either a warm or cool lipstick, and this is to simply consider your overall skin tone.

If you have fair skin, you may want to stay away from very dark or bright lipsticks, as they can make you look washed out. Instead, try shades that are closer to your natural lip color. For those with medium or olive skin tones, most shades will look good, but you may want to avoid very pale colors. And if you have darker skin, then you can pretty much go with any color lipstick you want!

How To Pick The Best Lipstick For My Skin Tone?

The simplest way to determine if you are cool or warm is to think about what jewelry looks best on you.

Put your personal preference aside for jewelry color aside for this test.

  • If you look amazing in gold jewelry – you have warm undertones – go with a warm lipstick.
  • If you look great in silver jewelry and not at all in gold jewelry – you have cool undertones – go with a cool lipstick.
  • If you can rock both gold and silver – you are neutral and you can wear lipsticks that fall in both categories.

If you’d like to learn our specific lipstick recommendations for your undertone look no further:
Lipstick Colors for Cool Skin Tones
Lipstick Colors for Warm Skin Tones

Do you wear warm or cool lipsticks?


Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Warm Lipstick Colors?

Warm lipstick colors typically have tones of orange, red, or yellow. These colors can brighten up your complexion and make you look more awake. If you’re looking for a warm lipstick color, consider shades like peach, coral, or brick red. This would include warm berry shades – those that have a reddish undertone when spread thinly.

What Are Cool Lipstick Colors?

Cool lipsticks shades are more tricky to define. Nudes, Light Pinks, Pink, Purple, and Blue Based lipsticks fall in here. But, Shades like Pinks and Browns are found in both variants. There are cool pinks, and warm pinks.. there are warm browns and cool browns. 

The difference is in the base. Red, Orange or Yellow base = Warm / Bluer Base = Cool.

What Color Lipsticks Should An Older Women Wear?

We have written an entire blog post on this subject -> you can read it here.


  1. I will NEVER get the whole skintone, undertone and the others! I have to go to a makeup counter. I know I’m cool but only because the girl at the MAC counter gave me NC44 years ago. I just don’t see it. I understood what you said because I’ve been reading. I need help…😜

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Jodi, I’m here to help 💖 Color is complex in the best way possible and I think really what it comes down to is that everyone sees color differently. So that can make things a little tricky as well. Any questions you have let me know 🙌 🙂

  2. Green_beauty_love says:

    I definitely prefer cool toned lipsticks and eyeshadows too, colorather tend to pull very warm on me so if I use a warm shade they end up looking very bad.

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