Warm/Cool Makeup: How To Wear Opposite Tones

Kelly and Tamara swap looks to prove you can break out of your warm or cool tone palette.
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Publish date:
November 2, 2014
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nars, Revlon, perricone md, beauty rules, e.l.f., cool tone makeup, warm tone makeup

As Alle pointed out, makeup rules are often quite dumb. Yet, sometimes, we still find ourselves following those rules.

Case in point: Kelly and I both realized that we tend to follow the cool/warm color rule. You will almost always find me rocking some kind of gold or warm brown look, and Kelly favors cool tones. So, we challenged each other to break out of our comfort zones and try something new.

Kelly's Warm Tone Look

At first I was terrified of this idea. As someone with extremely pale skin, I’ve spent my life avoiding orangey bronzers and foundations. That said, it’s always good to get outside of one’s routine so I went for it.

And boy, did I go for it. I was shocked when I realized how many products I ended up using.

I’ll go into more detail later, but basically I used: e.l.f. brushes, mascara, e.l.f. Eyebrow Kit, two bronzers, highlighter, nude lipstick, lipstick as blush, primer, and my usual foundation and concealer.

I recommend always sticking with foundation and concealer that match your normal skin tone, be it warm or cool. I used my usual Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation in No. 1 and my beloved NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla. However, I did use a primer that has a really warm radiance to it, Pixi Flawless Beauty Primer. It’s like a peach-gold highlighter with subtle shimmer, except it’s a primer.

Since I seldom use bronzer, I only had two favorites to choose from, but I couldn’t decide, so I used both: Perricone MD No Bronzer Bronzer and Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer. The former is a liquid bronzer while the latter is a matte powder with a creamy consistency. They’re both warm brown but don’t end up reading orangey on me.

I used my kabuki brush to blend the Too Faced bronzer along my temples, jawline, and the edge of my hairline. Then, using my fingers to blend, I sucked in my cheeks and dabbed a few tiny dots of the Perricone MD bronzer from my temples to the middle of my cheeks.


Next I applied the warmest highlighter I own, Benefit Watt’s Up Highlighter, along the top of my cheeks and above my brows and top lip. For the apples of my cheeks I used Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm in Complex, a peach-toned nude lipstick that I prefer as a blush.

I wanted a smoky eye, but with brown and gold instead of my usual black and grey. I used bareMinerals 5-in-1 BB Advanced Performance Cream Eye Shadow in Barely Nude for primer--it’s a great base--and applied NYX Love In Rio on top. I blended the gold all over my mobile lid and the warmer brown shade in my crease and the outer corners of my eyes. For mascara I used Urban Decay Perversion Mascara.

The last step was to finish off the look with a warm nude lipstick: Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Nude Cream.


Voila: I went from vampire to beach babe with only, um, 12 products--many of which I almost never use despite how much I like them. It’s not exactly a low-maintenance look, but I loved it so much that I’m going to make an effort to do this more often.

Tamara's Cool Tone Look

I wanted a look that was slightly dramatic, but still appropriate for daytime office wear. I usually turn to my Lorac Pro Palette for this kind of look because it’s full of gorgeous, warm neutrals, but lucky for me the Lorac Pro 2 Palette is its cool counterpart. I stuck with my usual Revlon Colorstay Makeup and filled in my brows with a dark, cool brown matte shadow.

I primed my eyes with the E.L.F. Eyelid Primer and packed the shade Chrome (a silvery taupe) onto my mobile lid. Next I added a matte shade, Cool Grey, to the crease, moving my brush back and forth to really blend it out.

To diffuse the look even more, I went in with the shade Plum and a fluffy blending brush and swiped that on in windshield wiper motions, from crease to just below the brow bone. I used the shade Snow as a brow bone highlight. Since we’re busting out of the box a bit, I opted for a vibrant purple liner instead of my usual black (Jordana 12 HR Made to Last Liquid Eyeliner Pencil in Purple Fix) and coated my lashes with the L’Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara.

I realized as I was going through my collection that I didn’t have very many cool lip and cheek colors, especially on the blush front. I opted for the Sonia Kashuk Beautifying Blush in Flushed and the Revlon Just Bitten Lipstain + Balm in Lovesick (both cool pink).


I was really surprised at how much I liked all the cool colors paired together. For me, the key was to make sure the look was balanced (i.e. blended well and using a light touch on the blush). I also think that the cool shades actually brought out the warmth of my brown eyes, which I totally loved.

Tip: If you’re not ready to jump into a full cool look, try pairing your warm and cool shades together as you transition.

  • We hope you enjoyed our experiment! Tell us: are you more warm toned or cool toned?
  • Would you ever switch up your makeup routine to try the opposite of what you always do? We challenge you to try it!

Kelly’s photos by Joshua Kirby