At a Glance
- Our skin has a skin tone and a skin undertone.
- Knowing our skin undertone can help decide what color clothes will suit us, choose the best foundation match or the best color makeup to enhance our features.
- Your skin undertone is either warm, cool or neutral.
Have you ever considered why certain colored clothes suit you better than others? Or why certain eyeshadows and lipsticks can either make your skin glow or look washed out? Or why a foundation, even though you think it matches your complexion when applied looks completely different? This could be due to your skin undertone.
I know what you’re thinking…
What’s the difference between a skin tone and a skin undertone? Well let’s dive in further and find out as well as look at how to find your skin undertone.
As humans we’ve many different skin colors and tones from our genetics. Skin tones can change from season to season, being darker and tanned in the summer and paler in the winter.
When it comes to complexion, or skin tone, our skin falls into a number of categories, and can be determined by looking at the skin around your jaw line in natural light, this is the area that is normally less affected by color changes in your skin. Skin tone categories include:
- Fair; your skin will be pale or translucent with maybe freckles or redness. You easily get sunburn.
- Light; your skin is generally very light colored and you may get sunburn but then tan.
- Medium; your skin will tan easily and you generally don’t get sunburn or have sensitive skin.
- Dark; your skin is dark or olive and you rarely get sunburn, and even look tanned in the winter.
The above are what we would describe as our skin surface tone, however there’s another color underneath the surface; this is your skin undertone. Whilst you may have the same skin tone as someone, you could both have completely different undertones.
What Is a Skin Undertone?
Skin undertone is what we call the color that lies beneath the skin, it’s a more subtle and muted color than your skin tone. The advice from most beauty experts is to use your skin undertone as opposed to skin tone when ascertaining which foundation may suit you best, or which lipstick or eyeshadow will look better on you. You can even use your skin’s undertone to decide which hair color will be more flattering for you. Using the same colors as your skin undertone will make you look more radiant and healthy.
Different Types of Skin Undertone
The skin undertone falls into three categories, warm, cool and neutral.
- Warm undertones; yellow, peachy or golden.
- Cool undertones; red, pink or blue.
- Neutral undertones; a mix of both or olive.
So having looked at the difference between skin tone and undertone, let’s look at how to find your skin undertone.
Ways to Find Your Skin Undertone
There are several ways to find your skin undertone. You may find that some of the results are conflicting, so the best way to do this is to try each method and take an average of the results and see which ones appear the most. You can back this up by trying colors that match that particular tone and seeing if they suit you.
Before starting, wash your face so it is clean of any makeup, cleansers or lotions and wait about 15 minutes so that any redness from washing has subsided. Once you’ve done this find yourself a natural light source, artificial lighting can interfere with the results as they affect the skin’s appearance. Either sit by a well lit window, or if you can, sit outside.
Check the Veins on the Inside of Your Wrist
Hold up your arm and look at the veins on the underside of your wrist.
- Warm undertones; veins will appear greenish.
- Cool undertones; veins will appear bluish or purple.
- Neutral undertones; veins are a mix of blue and green or you can’t tell.
How Does Your Skin React to the Sun?
The amount of melanin in your skin will determine how sun exposure affects it and this can in turn help you decide your skin undertone
- Warm undertones; your skin will tan easily due to more melanin and you rarely burn.
- Cool undertones; your skin will burn easily due to less melanin.
This doesn’t mean that cool skin undertones prevent you from getting a tan; you just need to expose yourself to the sun more gradually. Likewise people with olive or dark skin tones may not burn very easily but may have cool undertones.
The White Test
For this test you will need a piece of white paper or a white towel. Look in a mirror and see what your skin appears to look like in contrast to the towel or paper.
- Warm undertones; your skin looks dull and may appear yellowish or sallow.
- Cool undertones; your skin looks good and may appear to have a pink, rosy or bluish red color.
- Neutral undertones; you can’t tell if your skin is dull or looks good and it may appear to have a grayish color.
The Jewelry Test
For this test you’ll need some gold and silver foil or some gold and silver jewelry.
Hold the foil so that the light from it reflects onto your face, try with each and see whether it makes your skin appear grayish or washed out or if it makes your skin look better.
If using jewelry lay them next to each other across your wrist and see which looks better.
- Warm undertones; gold looks better.
- Cool undertones; silver looks better.
- Neutral undertones; gold and silver both look good.
Check Out the Skin Behind Your Ear
This test is impossible to carry out yourself therefore you will need to enlist the help of someone else. If you suffer from rosacea, acne or some other skin condition that may hide your skin tone, the skin in the crease behind your ear is less likely to be affected and can give an indication of your undertone. Ask your friend to look at the skin directly behind your ear and tell you which of the following apply:
- Warm undertones; skin appears yellowish.
- Cool undertones; skin appears pink or rosy.
- Neutral undertones; can’t tell any significant yellow, pink or rosy tones.
It may be beneficial for your friend to hold a piece of white paper or a white towel near the skin to see if that helps.
What Color Are Your Eyes and Hair?
The color of your eyes and hair can give you an indication of your skin undertone.
- Warm undertones; eyes are golden or dark brown, green or hazel with some gold flecks and hair is auburn, black with reddish tones or strawberry blonde
- Cool undertones; eyes blue, grey or pale brown, green or hazel with some blue or grey flecks and hair is blonde, brown or black.
Are You a Blusher?
If you find that you blush very easily, you’re most likely to have cool undertones.
Who Are You Most Like?
It may help you to turn to some celebrities to help you decide whether you’re warm or cool or neutral. Which one are you most like?
- Celebrities with warm undertones include Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba and Lucy Liu.
- Celebrities with cool undertones include Anne Hathaway, Adele, Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Nicole Kidman.
- Celebrities with neutral undertones include Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Kerry Washington and Julia Roberts.
What Colors Look Good on You?
Certain colors of clothes will be more flattering on you than others. Some colors may make you look washed out while others will make you glow. We will all have our favorite colors that we feel suit us best and this may be because they compliment your skin undertone.
Better suited to reds, oranges, peach, amber, gold yellows and warmer shades of cool colors like olive, moss and violet reds. You can also wear neutrals like taupe, chocolate, creamy and winter whites.
Better suited to blues, purples, emerald greens and cooler shades of warm colors like ruby and rosy reds or pale yellows. You can also wear neutrals like grey, navy and white.
Can wear all colors. However beware of anything too bright that can overwhelm you, such as bright blues and yellows.
There a few colors that will suit all skin tones as they balance both warm and cool. Pure white will suit everyone as will a very pale pink, an eggplant purple or a green/blue teal.
What to Do Now You Know How to Find Your Skin Undertone
Now that you’re armed with your skin undertone how can it help you when deciding what makeup to buy or what hair color will suit you best?
When choosing foundations, some brands will now indicate what undertones will work with each color. If not the inclusion of certain words in their description may give you an indication of whether they’ll match your undertone.
If they include shades like beige, golden, caramel or chestnut the chances are that they have warm undertones. Words such as porcelain, rose, cocoa and sable may indicate cool undertones. Ivory, nude, praline or buff may suit neutral undertones.
When testing a foundation, use your jaw line, which may give you a better indication of your undertone than your face.
Red lipsticks can vary in their colors, if you have cool undertones go for one with a pinkish red shade; warm undertones choose one with a hint of orange.
The same principle can be applied when looking at hair dyes, if they include the words ash or platinum in their description they will be better suited to cool undertones, whereas the words golden or mahogany will compliment warm undertones.
The Importance of Knowing Your Skin Undertone
Your skin undertone combined with your skin tones or complexions make up your skin color. The surface color of your skin may change with the seasons, being pale in winter and tanned in the summer, and if you have fair skin you may get the addition of freckles, but your undertone will remain the same.
Knowing your undertone will help you decide on the perfect color of foundation to give you a flawless natural look that will be identical to your skin. Whilst you can easily see how light or dark your skin is, matching a foundation to this rather than your undertone may not give you the finished look you’d like.
It can also help you when it comes to experimenting with your makeup. If you prefer a more natural look then you want to use makeup tones that are the same as your undertone, however if you wanted a more dramatic look you could choose a lipstick from the opposing color spectrum. It’ll help you decide what color clothes will make your skin look better, or which color hair dye to use.
Still not sure of your skin’s undertone, this YouTube video may help.