How Your Colouring Changes as You Age


Imogen, can you please do a post on this, how one’s colouring might change as we age? It doesn’t happen overnight, does it, so how quickly does it happen? I’d also be interested in whether there is a neutral, ie neither warm, neither cool colouring? And whether some people are only a little warm (what does that mean, what clothes should they wear?) while others are very warm (or cool vice versa).

Colouring is a fascinating topic.  We are hugely influenced by colour.  In fact studies have shown that we remember a coloured experience much more vividly than an achromatic one.  Think about when you meet people, it will be a coloured object or garment that helps you remember them – the woman in the purple glasses, the man with the red shoes etc.

So how fast does colouring change?

There is not definitive answer to this question, it’s a bit of a how long is a piece of string. That string can be shortened by:

  • an unhealthy lifestyle (drug taking, drinking too much, too much sun exposure etc.)
  • genetics (how fast your family ages will most likely influence your ageing)
  • race (many from parts of Asia and Africa seem to age much slower than Caucasians)

From adulthood, we tend to start losing pigment slowly.   We lose it not only from our hair (as it goes grey, then white) which is the most obvious sign of ageing, but also from our eyes and our skin will also change.  On average, I would suggest that you reassess your colours every 5-15 years, as depending where you are in your ageing process.  Things like menopause can change your colouring more quickly as the change in hormones and the loss of estrogen ages your skin fairly quickly.  I would generally advise people to have a colour analysis every 5-10 years, and sooner if you’ve just had:

  • A radical hair colour change
  • Gone grey and stopped dying it
  • Gone through menopause

Many people will know that their colouring has changed, from early childhood to adulthood – they may have gone from a platinum blonde to dark blonde (mousy brown).  Or they may have had strawberry blonde hair as a child and been covered in freckles, and then by the time they are 40 or so, most of their freckling has disappeared.

from warm to cool
Kim was warm in her teens and is now cool in her 50s

I’ve also met people who have changed from having warm colouring when young, to cool colouring when they are over 45.  How does this happen?  Well if you think about grey – how do you make it?  If black and white are both cool, then grey is overall a cooler colour.  When you lose your hair pigment and your hair goes grey, for some they are also losing their skin pigments that have made their skin warm, and they become cooler with age.

Skin colouring changes – it’s something I’ve noticed in my own skin over time.  I remember when I was in my early 20s I couldn’t find a foundation colour that was pale enough for my porcelain skin.  Now in my 40s I’ve noticed that it’s darker than it was (plus a few melasma spots too) and I have no trouble finding a foundation.  It’s not dark, but I no longer have the snow white colouring of my youth.

Eye colours change too.  Many people who had brown eyes in their teen years, may have more of a dark olive green or hazel eye colour in their 40s and beyond.  Eye colour is made up of either blue or brown pigment, or a combination of the two.  The brown pigments that were so intense in their eyes is fading away so their blue pigments are becoming more obvious (still covered with some of the brown pigment, but not so heavily, so they look more green).

Plus those eye pigments fade, just as our hair pigments fade away.  The intense colours of youth dull down with age.  I have a friend who when I met her in her late teens had the brightest, blue eyes, 25 years later, they are still blue, but don’t have the intensity they once had. Eyes of an 80 year old tend to look glassy and it can be hard to see the colour.  When you look at someone who is in their 80s you will find that you can’t figure out what colour their hair may have been when young, as all the other colour markers have disappeared.

I’ve so far never met anyone who has completely neutral colouring.  I’ve met many who are not obviously warm or cool.  Understanding this will be the topic of tomorrow’s blog post!

Here are a couple of videos that I made with Jill Chivers talking about how colour changes with age.




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  • Remember that student I told you about who arrived in New Zealand with a cool deep colouring and within 5 years of a new country, new diet and especially change in lifestyle, she started doing triathlons, she morphed into a deep and Warm colouring. Shorter turnaround than I had ever seen client do.

    Never let anyone say you will stay the same or even stay warm or cool. Lifestyle and diet can have as much affect on us as age and sun.

    • how intriguing, so it is possible to turn from cool to warm! but how did this person’s diet change and how did their starting thriathlons make a difference to their skin, eye and hair colour?!

      • Much more sun exposure (tanning) and probably way more carrots (carotene) which makes you appear more orange/yellow. THis is a very unusual case (or possibly she was warm all along and her first colour analysis was wrong – which is also possible)

    • 100% agree. That’s why Caucasians age faster. They mostly adopt the diet of their forefathers whilst Asians and Mediterraneans adopt the diet of theirs – natural, whole grains, sun ripened fruits and veg grown in their own gardens and they either meditate or work in the sun, while we sit indoors, drinking tea and coffee and watching TV. Genetics may load the gun but lifestyle pulls the trigger., if you change your lifestyle, the trigger doesn’t get pulled quite so hard, or at all. And thinking on it my sister in law has the most vivid and striking blue eyes that you can’t miss from across a crowded room, all her children and grand children got her striking eyes (which match her penchant for white gold so well) and at a recent even for my Mother’s 90th where all the family gathered from every state, she was there with her striking blue eyes still as clear as cracked glass on a frosty winter morning and in her 70’s. Fading eyes and skin and hair are always related to diet and lifestyle.

      • If cool tone can turn into warm tone then is it possible to cange warm tone into cool tone? Whether it be diet or supplements.

        • Supplements and diet can turn someone warm (i had this experience when taking acne medication that has high doses of betacarotene and I went temporarily warm – but as soon as I stopped, my colour went back to my natural colouring)

  • This is fascinating, thanks so much!

    1. so is it not at all likely that someone with cool colouring would turn warm as time passes?

    2. children and young people will suit brighter colours than older people. that is why older people don’t tend to look good in black? I suppose I do wonder about the intensity of colours sometimes, I can see the difference now between softer and brighter colours, but I’m guessing there are many in-between – something I’m not too adept at identifying. If we take you as an example, you suit bright colours, but when you will be 65, you will probably have to change to more muted colours? But will they be AS muted as for the 65-year-old that never could wear bright colours to begin with and always suited a more subdued colouring?! pondering about the differences between a very muted colour and a slightly muted colour…

    3. Re eye colour. Both my granddad and my boyfriend’s dad are 80ish and they have the clearest bluest eyes. They are v striking, as their hair and skin are white, so the eyes really stand out. In their youth when their hair colour was not white, the eyes did not stand out as much as they do now! My dad is 55 and has grey hair now and again his green eyes are more noticeable now than when he was younger and had dark hair and eyebrows and brighter skin to actually distract from the colour of his eyes! Hmmm… they are all outliers?

    • Susie – I’ve personally never seen anyone turn from cool to warm. But I do know from experience that when I went on Roaccutane in my mid twenties (very high doses of Vitamin A – carotene) I did look more tanned than I had ever looked, and it did probably warm my skin tone up for a short time, but as soon as those very high doses were out of my system I reverted to my regular undertone.

      2 – really depends on where they started to where they end up. SOme people are more muted throughout their lives, others are brighter and mute quickly, others mute slowly.

      3. – yes sometimes when you pass through the ‘grey’ stage and into the white stage you can become brighter again. But it’s skin tone that really does influence the most – you have to make the skin look healthy as that’s the largest organ and when our skin looks pallid or sickly, we don’t look great – even if that colour makes our eyes look a little brighter.

  • While I agree that color tends to soften as one ages, I do not agree about how the eye color becomes nondescript in one’s 80’s. I often see people with quite vivid eye colors at this age. Many women in their 60’s, 70’s and beyond continue to dye their hair to flattering colors instead of going gray. Therefore there is still contrast between the skin and hair which can be enhanced wonderfully with flattering and subtle makeup.
    I had my colors done at least 20 years ago and was told I was a winter. Now in my late 60’s’ while I have added some subtle highlights to my hair, I still favor more vivid, blue based colors (and black!) rather than pastels.

    • Rebecca – some people retain their colouring much longer than others! There is no definitive age that you change. I never said you have to wear pastels. But you may find that rather than wearing really bright colours that the slightly more smoky ones suit you better. You may have a personal preference for bright colours still because that is also what you’re used to (I know this is something I’m currently struggling with with my change of hair).

      • I agree that it is best to tone down colors as you age but to keep the necessary level of contrast for flattery so that you don’t become faded and invisible. I also think toned down colors are more sophisticated and interesting.

        I have been following your change of hair color and although the latest color is lovely on you, still wish for a little more contrast.

        Do you have any suggestions on color analysis in NYC?

        • Rebecca – Yes contrast is oh so important! Interestingly, I once read that the Japanese call those toned down colours Sophisticated! They are more subtle, difficult to create and interesting than the bright colours. When we think about kids and kids toys, it’s all bright colours, smoky colours are way more sophisticated and intriguing!

          It’s very strange losing my contrast – I’m still playing with what works, what I can get away with with this new hair colour. I think my hair will be going lighter still next time I have it done. This is not the final result!

          As far as colour analysis in NYC I’d look up the bodybeautiful website and I think they list consultants there – good colours system, well taught.

          • Thanks for this great reply – I look forward to seeing the evolution of your new hair color!
            Unfortunately, body beautiful doesn’t have any consultants in NY or NJ. Oh well!!

  • I totally disagree, your skin undertone is the same no matter what your age, when your hair grays cool (summer, winter) will grey silver and warm (spring, autumn) will gray golden. Your skin can turn sallow from age, illness, exposure to sun but again the undertone is the same, you possibly can where some of the colors in your palette better with a tan then without but you will stay within your palette.!!
    In fact as you age or are sick it is even more imperative that you stay within your color palette.

    I have been doing color analysis since 1978 before the book on color by Carol Jackson was written and even specialized in the Black Woman because she incorrectly stated that all Black Women were winters.

    Many women do this without proper training, they go to a weekend class with a makeup company which does not care what season they put you in as long as they sell you makeup and now consider themselves experts.

    • You are welcome to disagree Deidre. I’ve also spent years studying colour and agree that a weekend class does not give you anywhere the insight. I have from experience discovered people who have changed colouring – and if you look at the photo of Kim in this post you will see that when she was a teenager she was warm and golden, and now in her 50s she’s become very cool.

    • I just had a PCA and the result based on my skintone was Bright Spring, a warm, bright palette. My gray hair is growing in mixed white and steel blue/gray, not warm at all. I am so confused!

      • I’m confused too – I’m surprised, unless your skin is still warm. I would have thought though that your grey hair meant that your skin has also become more subtle and muted and you’d need a softer palette – maybe still warm, or maybe cooler – without seeing you I can’t make any judgments.

        • I have just been diagnosed as Bright Spring at the age of 64! I was previously a Deep Autumn 15 years ago. I feel that the covering of the hair for the draping did find the right colours for my skin, but unless I dyed my hair back to deepish neutral brown, these colours looked wrong on me when I bought clothes in the new spring colours. After a few months of the dark hair, I felt too harsh and black and white (light warm skin and deep neutral hair) for my age. I have since gone back to a lighter mid golden brown which I feel is more flattering (I definately don’t want to go grey, although some is coming through). This hair colour, means though, that the BS colours no longer work, but rather softer autumn tones. I am now wondering if the diagnosis should always include hair colour or at least some thought given to preferances, along with what suits your skintone entirely?

          • I always include hair colour unless the hair is completely the ‘wrong’ colour as it’s part of the overall picture. I’m not a seasonal expert (so not up on exactly what is a bright spring, deep autumn) etc, but I’d be suggesting that most likely you will find that at your age softer colours are more flattering as it will have changed along with your hair colour. As far as I’m aware autumn is deeper (this is where the whole seasonal flow thing makes no sense to me). I’d be looking for colours that are lighter, softer and warm (not sure if there is some light autumn variant). Anything bright will wear you and dying your hair too dark is really aging. I do colour analysis as part of my 7 Steps to style program!

  • Hi Imogen, very interested in your posts on greying hair. You look so much softer with your new hair shade. You looked beautiful with the dark hair, but this is a new look. We really notice your face and not the dark hair framing it. As I am in my 70s and stopped tinting my hair because it always went orange (was an autumn when younger) I have found it difficult to find clothes in softer shades, there are so many bright strong colours out there, and I positively HATE black, burnt orange and khaki. Am enjoying looking for softer colours, maybe I should try making my own clothes in order to get the more flattering colours!! Don’t think my hair will ever be silver white, more the warm white.

    • All hair goes brassy when tinting – it’s the natural red pigments that peroxide shows up in our hair (it’s the colour of the keratin). Not sure where you can buy softer colours in Britain. I tend to find you get more of them in slightly more expensive stores than the cheaper end of town as they are more complicated to produce. But it also depends on the current fashion trends in colours too!

      • Hi Imogen and Elizabeth!

        Try out the website who do a range of clothes sorted according to the seasons. I am a soft summer and have found great basics in their range. The delivery is also super fast!

        Imogen, your website is a positive mine of information. If I ever come to Australia I will come to visit you personally!

  • Honestly, I’ve never liked color analysis. It seems like it never quite works. I can always find the colors and styles that work for me without that kind of help. I have no idea what ‘season’ I am, and it doesn’t matter.

    • Interesting Sophia – I see colour analysis working all the time. I really notice when people are wearing unflattering colours for them – it makes me feel physically ill. I don’t use seasons – the concept is simple and dated. I look at colour properties of the person and what will make them look lighter, brighter, younger and more vibrant. Colour is powerful. Maybe you’ve just not seen how.

  • I’ve gone from being very cool in my youth to being warmer this last year. I suspect this is to do with overtones and undertones. My porcelain skin which clearly showed the blue veining in it as a child has been tanned, since I am spending so much time outside supervising my own children. The blue and pink undertones have gone for the moment as I am suffering from a reduction in red blood cells because of some health issues. My ash brown hair is now mostly white and I tend to just put a platinum dye through to even out the colour. Any dyed hair goes slightly yellow, so although I use ‘blue’ conditioner, it is still warmer than before.
    As I get older, I will return to my very cool colouring -less sunlight, the return of some red blood cells, and eventally, when my children are not so young, pure white hair. For the moment, I’ve invested in some tan accessories and boots to contrast with my mainly aqua and blue wardrobe and a coral orange cardigan. Its fun to be able to play with a few different colours even if it is just for (hopefully) a few more months until I am well again.

  • When I have understood your post correctly, if you get older very often you are getting a bot cooler. So, I’d guess as an intriguing colour type, do you turn into a serene colour type? Is everybody who is soft and light and has a bit of a warm influence an intriguing colour type and not a serene type? I guess that a serene type doesn’t have any warm influence at all, does it?



  • I have noticed a distinct eye colour change/fade in my family. Myself and my parents began with a very grey-green/cool teal eye colour that is becoming more blue looking as we age. It’s a bit startling to have eyes that people consider blue when I thought of myself as dark-green eyed all my life. My son still has the darker grey-green and I look at his eyes and think, oh yes, mine used to be that.

  • My grandmother born in India with medium brown skin, eyes and black hair. She migrated to Pakistan and from Pakistan to England when married to my grandad. She was in her 50s when her skin,hair and eyes started showing some change. Now in her 80s she has blue eyes, fair cool skin and white/gray hair.

    Also my dads skin colour started changing. He didn’t look asian/indian at all he basically looked like a white guy, in his 30s he went from fair to light brown.

    My skin colour changed allot when as a child I was fair, to be honest I didn’t look like a white kid I looked more like an irani/arab kid. In the 5th-8th grade my colour changed to a medium brown skin tone. When I were in 9th grade it started changing back to fair. when I started college my class fellows thought I was mixed Iranian/pakistani. Pakistani because I used to mainly speak in Urdu/Punjabi with my friend.

    Oh I also had black eyes back then now in my 20s I have medium brown eyes with a blue ring. (it’s in the family I persume)

    • Fascinating – interesting how much your grandmother’s eyes have changed. The brown pigments have faded from her eyes, to leave the blue base behind!

  • I know this is an older article, but in looking at Kim’s picture from when she was younger, she looks like a summer, and on the right, as an adult, still looks the same to me. The black and purple hair on her sucks all of the color out of her skin. In fact, I would dare to say that she’s been cool all her life. If you look at the roots of her hair in the teen picture, they look ashy. I thought some summers could have strawberry blonde hair? Anyway, no disrespect, just my thoughts. It is an interesting thing to keep in mind as one gets older, especially as eye and hair color change.

    • Her hair was natural and she was warm. I don’t do seasonal colour – but as far as I’m aware Summer is cool and strawberry blonde is always warm.

  • I’m 52 and moved from NorCal to SoCal in the last year and a half. Living at a much higher elevation and being out in the yard landscaping for many months, my usual pale skin has become tanner than it’s ever been and has taken on an orange cast (in spite of the SPF 50 that I constantly slather on). I’ve been feeling lately that my usual summer-palette clothes and makeup no longer suit me. For the first time in my life, I feel that warmer colors, such as peaches and oranges, look better on me. I had no idea that I could “change palettes” like this. I will be making a trip to the drugstore later to buy a lipstick that has more orange tones in it than my usual cool mauve tones. Since orange has been my favorite color since childhood, I am pretty excited about this change! Since I’m more like a spring palette now, I also look much better in black than I ever have before. Looking forward to having more color options while shopping for clothes, as I feel that summer-palette clothes have largely been under represented at stores.

  • I just wanted to chime in that I know it’s possible to change undertones. I was always a cool undertone, gold jewelry looked bad on me, my veins always looked very blue, and white washed me out. Since adopting a completely vegan diet at age 30, I am now a warm undertone. Gold jewelry now compliments my skin, my veins have a more greenish-blue color through my skin, and I can confidently wear white. My skin no longer flushes during exercise and places like my arm pits have a definite yellow tone verses the pink that it used to be. Scientifically, it would appear that my diet has increased in beta-carotene (high in various vegetables and plants – not just carrots) and therefore stimulated the change in undertone.

    I’m extremely grateful for the change, and should mention that it’s not the only positive physical change after removing meat and dairy from my diet! My very fine hair is now much less greasy and has more body and my skin is much clearer and no longer acne prone.

  • I am a natural dark auburn with ivory slighty warm skin, that faded into a dark mousey brown. I am also post menopausal, which did cause my skin to warm up a bit, and I have also started to get white hairs in my eyebrows and around my hairline. My hair started to lose it’s red color in my mid 20s, and I also had a stroke that left a patch of hair translucent. I looked like I was missing a patch of color on the side of my head. Of course it’s not on the top so I have a cool streak like Stacy Clinton or Claire Saffitz. The patch also doesn’t take to color well, so I have to get it professionally colored.

    I discovered that highlights and making my hair a more vivid warm red as well as adding coppery highlights did so much for my skin and overall look.

    My colorist also tints my eyebrows a shade darker than the darkest color she’s doing my hair, but in a warm brown. I get so many compliments on my skin and hair now, and I don’t look sallow and sick despite not having the best health. I don’t need a lot of foundation because my skin is brighter, but I also take good care of my skin and focus more on skincare than cosmetics. The eyebrow tint really helped, especially because I was getting white hairs, and the color had faded to a mousey brown. That alone brightened my face and frames my eyes and glasses better. I just use a clear pomade to keep them in place and clean up the stray hairs with a small dermaplane razor (wax was a nightmare on my sensitive skin, too)

    Your hair is the one accessory you never take off, and a new color can really transform your look and make you feel better about yourself. Even when I’m feeling ill and have to be hospitalized, I still look decent. I have noticed that I don’t feel as depressed, and I don’t have to spend a lot of time doing makeup and anything other than a good blowout to feel great before I go somewhere. I also have a flattering lob with face framing layers that doesn’t require a lot of effort. Color is an investment since you need color safe products so your color doesn’t fade quickly, but good products don’t have to be expensive.

    I suggest finding a salon that has colorists who post on Instagram so you can see the colors they’ve done on their clients. Do you like the colors they’ve done on people are have the same color as you or the color you want?I also like salons that are upfront that some colors can take several sessions to do properly if the hair needs to be lightened from a very dark color. Another good sign is that they warn that photos of vivid colors you’ve seen online might be photoshopped and aren’t actually real life or will take a lot of maintaining and extra products to keep it looking vivid, because it shows integrity and a passion to make their clients truly happy.

    I have had great color from all price points of salons, from the Regis Salons in Walmart as well as $$$ salons. A lot of them use Wella professional color, and the difference is the training of the colorists and the expense of the products they use in house, like shampoo, conditioner, and styling products. For example I once went to a Bumble and Bumble branded salon, and they used Wella Professional just like the Regis salon, and the difference was the expensive in house products. The colorist I saw at Regis had 30 years experience, and that’s why I had such a great experience there. Sadly he left, and I had to find another salon. So you don’t have to spend a fortune going to a super expensive salon to get a great experience.

    I have not had good results with home color, although I haven’t tried that new Madison Reed. The other brands of boxed color are very harsh and tends to streak and damage hair. Because of my experiences, I decided to never do the home color again. It just doesn’t work on my hair. There are some better professional products that are available online that you can find tutorials on using, as well as enough videos of what not to do. There’s some colorists on YouTube that can explain what to use and what not to do.

    I have noticed that brightening my hair color and adding warmer highlights did warm my skin slightly without making my skin look red and flushed, which is what a great colorist can help you with. They can work with your natural coloring to bring out your eyes and make your skin look better. They can’t transform your coloring, but they can tweak it a little. if you want their honest opinion on what would look best, please ask them to tell you what they think would look best. Some people say they want an honest opinion then get upset, so I am very clear with my colorist that I really want her input and honest opinion.

    I am 42 and intend to grow old gracefully, but I believe that keeping my hair more vivid makes me look more like myself. I have also seen middle aged and even elderly women rock vivid colors like pink and blue or their normal color with someone cool streaks of vivid color. Do whatever makes you happy, and use the awesome coloring systems like Imogen’s to adjust your wardrobe to go with your look. I did struggle for a few years with the “rules” and what I “should do” to age elegantly. But I realized that there are some great guidelines out there and resources to help us. But we all have the freedom to do what makes us happiest even if our choices are different than what we grew up being taught was the “right” way or despite critical people in our lives trying to control our choices and telling us that we shouldn’t do something. I love the way I look, and it makes me happy.

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