There Are No More Colour Rules When it Comes to Makeup

(And maybe even hair, too.)

Sometimes I think a lot of the so-called facts that we've come to accept as "part of the natural order of things" or "just life, man" are not facts at all but borderline ridiculous schemes designed to divide, confuse, part us with our wallets or all three. Take the Great Pantyhose Conspiracy, for instance. It's 2011. We put a man on the moon. Someone invented the Internet. Are you seriously telling me that they can't come out with a pantyhose that won't run after one wearing? It isn't right.

And it's the same with all of these rules about the colour of your makeup and hair vis-à-vis your skin tone. Just like everybody's an expert these days (including me—hah!), everyone also loves to tell other people what they can and (mostly) can't do. Avoid blue eyeshadow if you have blue eyes! Never go blonde if you have olive skin! Don't you DARE wear orange lipstick if you've got a cool complexion!

It's so exhausting, non? And maybe even wrong. I've been feeling for a while now—encouraged by interviews with such fearless colour trailblazers as Giorgio Armani makeup artist Reza Zaimeche and Clairol celebrity colourist Marie Robinson—that the beauty rules are a lot bendier than we think. Sure, there are still a few that hold up, but it's clear to me that we're entering a brave new world where there's a way to wear just about any colour whenever the mood strikes.

The Old Rules

There are so many. None of this will be news to you, but obviously the most basic is the whole cool versus warm complexion thing. Cool people are not only sought after throughout the world by famous VIPs, but also have skin with more of a pinkish undertone. Supposedly they look best in these shades:

Warms, on the other hand, are generally nicer, never need to sleep with the extra blanket, and have more yellow-based skintones. These are the colours that look ravishing on them:

You can get even more complex, should you so desire, with the whole Spring/Fall/Summer/Winter colour theory (which I showcased in this post about nail maven Essie Weingarten's musings on signature nail polish colours). But the question is, who would WANT to? I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do when I'm getting dressed or applying my eyeliner is to refer to a chart to make sure I'm doin' it rite. Some people take the fun out of everything—and I say this colour business has more to do with what you're naturally drawn to than some chart from the 1980s.

Not that it doesn't have some merit. Personally, I've always identified my colouring with the Summer area... and trust me, this is NOT because I enjoy wearing baby pink and baby blue. But I've also wondered, at times, if I'm really a Winter (when my hair was dark) or a Spring (now that I'm more strawberry). Just about the only colours I know I look ghastly in are the Fall ones—rust, orange, brown—and even then I don't think it applies to makeup and hair, because who doesn't look half-decent in brown eyeshadow?

So really, my colour philosophy is getting more and more simple by the day. For makeup, hair and also clothing, if you like it, find yourself drawn to it, think you look pretty damn cute in it? WEAR. IT.

Silly Rules Give Me the Sads

Let's pause for a moment here, and just think about what kind of world it would be if we had to stick to our prescribed "colours."

A very sad world indeed. This would not happen:

Nor would this (ignoring the fact that poor Rach needs a quick shot of Visine):

Or probably even this:

You know what? I'm actually starting to think that wearing the OPPOSITE colour of what the "experts" recommend actually looks cooler than getting all matchy-matchy on your skin tone. I mean, I am pretty sure that Natalie Portman is not a Summer, but this fuchsia lipstick, as we've already discussed ad nauseum, is fantastic:

Conclusion: Rules are kinda useless. Do what you want. The key is to just find the specific tone that flatters you within the overall colour family. This takes experimentation. For example, I'd been avoiding orange—since it's definitely not an "approved" colour—for my entire adult life until last year, when I realized it looked kind of amazing, especially with blonde hair. I just make sure to wear one that's more of a coral, with some pink in it, instead of a yellow-based orange. But you really do have to try before you buy.

One more thing will help, however. Make sure you still pay attention to...

The Great Equalizers: Blush and Foundation

None of this colour experimentation should apply to your SKIN. Breaking the rulez about wearing the right shade of foundation is never going to be a beauty "do." Please, for the love of God, get thyself a good mirror, a bright window and swatch your jaw 'til the cows come home—or at least, until you find a base that's an exact match to your skin tone. (If in doubt, go darker.) When your skin looks good—healthy, glowing, luminous good—then the rest of your makeup is 271 percent easier to pull off.

Blush helps, too, A LOT. Applied with a subtle hand, a healthy flush tones everything down and takes away any harshness that's happening on the eyes or lips. You'll look younger and fresher and of course, better—just go for your choice of a pink, peach or coral.

A Quick Word about Hair Colour

Remember when Charles Baker Strahan told us that everyone should do warm tones in their hair? I wholeheartedly agree, even though it's sort of against conventional hairdresser wisdom and, well, another rule (whoops!). Well, here's another gem, courtesy of celebrity colourist Marie Robinson. There is a way to do wear every hair colour, no matter what your skin tone.

I don't want to apply this to the extremes—black hair is pretty risky on the über-pale, as is blonde on the über-dark or Asian—but I think she's right. Just like there's a version of every lipstick shade that will suit you, it IS possible to find a hair colour that does the same. Just look at Emma Stone, for instance (who is one of Marie's clients). She effortlessly flips from auburn to blonde, as natural as can be. And J. Lo is a great example of how even olive skin tones can go blonde, as long as it's the right blonde.

You do need a good colourist for this. A good starting point is to go with what you're drawn to, and then expect a bit of trial and error from there. I've been experimenting with hair colour for, like, five years now, and I only JUST feel like I've finally got it right. (Turns out my instincts, which were to go a bit reddish, were correct—thanks to Marie for pointing it out and Tony Chaar for his fabulous execution. Getting rid of my ashy base colour and breaking free of the cool-toned blonde highlights was life-changing, I tell you. Really.)

So now tell me:

Do you follow certain colour rules when it comes to your hair and makeup?

Might you ditch them or are you a hard-core believer?

Will you or will you not try orange lipstick this spring?

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