Have you ever bought makeup that you thought looked right for you, but once you tried it on, it didn’t match? The problem isn’t the makeup… it’s that you didn’t choose something that works with your skin tone and undertone.
Just knowing this simple fact about your complexion will save you heaps of time, not to mention money, when shopping for makeup.
Think about all those wrong purchases. I know, right?!? I’ve done it too! But the wrong concealer, foundation, blush, bronzer, or eyeshadow can make you look completely off.
The trick with makeup is that you want it to blend with your natural skin tone when you hit the jawline. If you don’t get that right, you get an unnatural look. Sometimes, you wind up looking cakey and flakey to boot. That’s no way to live.
But fear not, for now you will never have this problem again. If you keep reading, I will tell you how to find the true tone of your skin and your undertone too, so you won’t buy the wrong shades.
Let’s get right down to it. Follow below, and by the end, you’ll be on your way to doing your makeup like your very own personal professional makeup artist!
What’s a skin undertone?
Ever wonder what makeup means when you see things like “cool peach” or “warm sunset?” Even things like “neutral” are meant to help guide you to choosing for your undertone.
So, what IS undertone? It’s that subtle color just under your skin’s surface. Even when you get a tan, or that tan fades, that undertone always stays the same.
Thankfully, there are 3 undertones and not 3,000 of them. Here’s what they are:
- Cool undertones feature red and pink that have hints of blue
- Warm undertones are golden, yellow, and peachy
- Neutral undertones are usually olive or have a nice balance of the shades from cool and warm undertones
Now, how will this help? Simple. Let’s say you’re buying foundation. You tend to look at the only at that surface color. While you certainly don’t want it to clash, it’s a mistake not to consider your undertone.
So, if you are more in line with “peach,” you will need to determine if that’s a warm, cool, or neutral peach.
Undertone has nothing to do with the lightness or darkness of your skin either. All skin colors have these 3 undertones.
Ok, so we have an understanding of undertones. But how do we figure out our own undertones? That answer follows below, so keep reading!
How to determine your skin undertone
You’ll be relieved to know that determining your skin’s undertone isn’t too difficult. There are several ways you can figure it out:
- Check the inside part of your arm
- Consider how your skin looks after spending time in the sun
- Look at your vein colors
- See how gold or silver look on you
And that’s not all. Let me delve into these things and more…
– Look at your inner arm
First of all, you can generally tell just by flipping your arm over and looking at the color there. Because the inside portion of your arm is usually hidden from the sun, it bears no discolorations or sun damage. It’s an easy way to spot the warm, cool, or neutral tones of skin.
– How your skin holds up in the sun
When you’re out in the sun (and hopefully wearing SPF to keep from aging your skin prematurely), how your skin looks afterward is very telling. If you tan easily, you’re either warm or neutral. But if you are more prone to burns despite your best precautions, you’re most likely a cool undertone.
– Vein colors
If you have veins that look more bluish or deep purple, then you are on the cool side of things. Should they look greenish, you’re warm-toned. And if you can’t tell at all, you have neutral undertones.
– How gold or silver look on you
Let go of the fact that you like shiny silvery things better. How does your skin look? Those with cool undertones look best with platinum or silver. Warm undertones are best with gold jewelry. If you like them both or you find they both flatter you, you’re in luck because you’re a neutral tone, and you’ll have the best of both worlds.
– Noticing ashen skin
When skin appears ashen or gray, you have olive skin. It’s a bit of a combo with neutral that comes off as slightly yellow with a little green. It’s technically not neutral though, and is very beautiful and unique.
– Handling uneven skin tone
My friend Mandy got upset with me when I was telling her about undertones. She said her skin is more than one color. If that’s the case and you notice it’s uneven, then you’ve got to correct your skincare routine, so it smooths skin, evens out tone, and restores a healthy balance. In the meantime, you can conceal any discrepancies in tone with makeup.
– Try the paper test
Some people still can’t figure out how to determine their undertones. Maybe it’s bad lighting, maybe you’re second-guessing yourself…whatever it is, you can stop the madness by grabbing a sheet of blank white paper. Here’s what to do:
- Take the paper along with you to a mirror in a well-lit area
- Hold it up alongside your face
- If skin looks more yellow, you’re likely a warm undertone
- Skin that looks pink is a cool undertone
– Check out your hair and eyes too
Think about what your natural hair color and eye color are like. Some of us dye our hair in different colors or use colored contact lenses to get a different look. But your original colors can be very telling.
They can also help you select colors that will flatter you the next time you’re up for changing your hair color.
First, let’s have a quiz of sorts. Answer 1 or 2 below!
- pink or red undertones that are neutral
- Golden, yellow, or peach undertones that are neutral
– Eye color?
- Green, hazel, or light brown
- Blue, black, dark brown, or gray
– Your best clothing color?
- Purples and blues
- Warm reds and yellows
– Your true hair color as a child?
- Any shade of brown, ash blonde, or jet black
- Reddish-brown, copper red, golden or strawberry blonde
– Choose the best T-shirt color to complement your skin:
- Beige or ivory
– Which of these looks best on you?
- Wearing an ultra-bold jewel-hued lip color
- Wearing golden brown bronzer on cheekbones
If you’ve answered mostly “1” then you have cool undertones. Jewel tones are best for you. Think emerald green, royal blue, and those sorts of things. You will have LOTS of fun with your eyeshadow palette!
As for choosing concealer or foundation, you will want to check out the neutral shades or anything pink-based.
If you chose mostly “2” for your answers, you have warm undertones. You look gorgeous in earthy tones, wearing gold jewelry, and with orange-based reds for both clothing and makeup. You want yellow or peach-based shades when selecting concealer or foundation.
And if you have a mix of “1” and “2” then you’re neutral in undertone. You probably sat there looking at your veins in your wrist, trying to determine the color to no avail.
That’s because they’re right in the middle. You are lucky with the best of both worlds, a perfect mix of warm and cool undertones. Still, stick with neutral when you go with foundation or concealer. For everything else, have fun!
Picking foundation that matches your undertone
Hooray! We’re now at the fun part of choosing the foundation that best matches your undertone.
However, you should be forewarned that if you have a cool or warm skin tone, you’re not fully guaranteed to be flattered by the foundation you choose, even if it matches that undertone.
You, looking at me with wide eyes: “Explain.”
Let’s say you choose a cool-toned foundation, but when you apply it, your skin looks overly pink. And let’s say perhaps you have a warm undertone, so you select a warm foundation. But that might come out looking a bit yellowish.
What you need to do besides know your undertone is find a neutral foundation that has just a slight touch of your undertone in it.
So, for you, cool girls, that means that while in the bottle, the foundation should have only the faintest hint of pink. With warm, it should be ever-so-slightly golden or yellow.
As with anything, there are indeed exceptions to the rules. Medium or deep skin colors with reddish undertones will look amazing when choosing a foundation that is just hinted with a brownish red. Stay away from orange, peach, or copper hints though.
If you do have olive skin, you may think any neutral foundation will do the trick. However, those with a very slight gold to them will warm up any greenish undertones and make you look amazing.
It all starts with the foundation. From there, once you have met your match, getting the colors right will all fall into place. Ideally, you will want to try that foundation in natural daylight.
This will tell you everything you need to know. Get in your car and take a look at yourself in the mirror on the back of your visor. If you can see a noticeable line at your jawline or on your neck, you’ve got your color all wrong.
So, in summary:
- Cool undertone foundation looks just a teensy bit pink in the bottle
- If you have cool undertones, stay away from anything yellowish, or you’ll look sallow
- Meanwhile, if you have a warm undertone, you’ll look best with a foundation that is a hint of yellowish
- Neutral undertones look best with something balanced between the two
- Olive undertones should go for a slightly golden hue
No matter what, undertones stay intact
You might get more sun in the summertime. And your skin might certainly look darker. However, your undertone will always stay the same.
So if you were “warm peach” before the sun and then that color looks too light, step up to a darker shade that is still warm.
Cool and neutral undertones follow those same rules too. Always choose the shade with the same undertone but go a little darker.
Do the opposite as your tan fades away, or else you will have a noticeable line that makes you look sprayed-on-tan-like and fake.
How about your overall color palette?
While I’ve spent most of the time gabbing about foundation, now it’s time to talk about the rest of the makeup stuff you get to have fun with.
Generally speaking, here are a few quick rules to tuck under your hat so you’ll always look your best:
- Blushes and bronzers should walk on the neutral side
- Let lipstick, eyeshadow, and clothing speak for you in colors instead
- For cool undertones, pink and green are ideal for you
- Cool tones can also use purples and reds with pink tones
- For warm undertones, do the opposite of cool
- Warm tones should use gold, yellow, and peach colors
- For neutral, anything neutral looks great as does anything cool or warm
- For olive undertones, choose earthy colors, gold, or green
- Olive tones need to be cautious with palettes that are warm-colored because they can make skin appear sallow
Once you know your skin’s undertone, buying the right makeup becomes so much easier. You’ll easily be able to see which colors bring out your best and which ones detract from your beautiful look.
With foundations, it can still take trial and error, though looking closely at the bottle should give you clues about the hint of color for the undertone within. By using these tips, you’ll be able to meet your makeup match in no time and pull off the best looks for you anywhere you go!