What Is the Difference Between the Warm & Cool Hair Colors in L'Oreal?

Are you warm or cool?

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Trying to decide which shade of hair color to use can feel a bit overwhelming. Once you've decided on a general color, next you have to decide between a warm shade or a cool shade. All of the ladies on the front of those L'Oreal boxes look great -- but how do you know which shade is right for you?

About Warm and Cool Colors

L'Oreal hair colors are divided into either warm or cool colors. Basically, this has to do with tones. Warm hair colors have golden tones, and cool colors have pearl or ash tones. The name of an individual color will usually let you know whether it's warm or cool. L'Oreal shades with names like caramel, honey, golden sunset or golden brown are warm colors; while dyes named ash blonde, cool brown or cool soft black are cool colors. If you need more help distinguishing tones, check out the lady's hair on the front of the dye box. You can tell by the picture whether you're looking at a mane with warm golden tones or icier, ashy tones.

Choosing Your Color

Knowing which way to go is all about your individual coloring -- aka the color of your skin, eyes and hair. If you have dark eyes and dark, olive or gold tones in your skin, stick with warm shades. Freckled girls are also usually warm-toned. If you're fair-skinned with cool blue or pink tones and green or blue eyes, stay cool. You can also check out your natural hair color to get an idea of whether you're a warm or cool lady. The same rules apply. If your hair has warm, gold tones, you're warm. If your hair color has a cooler, ashy vibe, you're cool.

Why Tones Matter

So what happens if a cool girl opts for warm hair, or vice versa? Sometimes it's fine. There are those women out there who can rock pretty much any hair color and look fantastic, but for many ladies, the wrong tones can cause some weird visual side effects. Choosing a tone that doesn't jive with your natural coloring can look harsh against your skin and can potentially bring out unpleasant elements in your coloring. Cool-toned women, for example, can look sallow with warm-toned hair. Warm-toned ladies, on the other hand, can look totally washed out with a cool hair color.


If you want to go the DIY route with a box of L'Oreal, don't get too drastic. Whether you go with a warm or cool color, try to stay within one or two shades darker or lighter than the natural color of your locks. Staying close to your natural color will help ensure plenty of tone harmony between your hair, eyes and complexion. And if all this cool vs. warm business is just stressing you out too much, go see a colorist for a professional opinion. Professional colorists are trained in the art of hair color harmony and can help you decide on a shade that works best for you.

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