Feb 21, 20205 min

How to Determine your Skin's Undertone

Updated: Apr 21

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Want to confidently incorporate color into your wardrobe, choose the right makeup, and mix and match clothing items effortlessly? Then there are 4 concepts you need to understand:

Undertone - Skin Tone - Contrast - Season

Let me start by explaining one major concept: All 4 of these concepts are on a spectrum. This means you could have a warm-ish undertone without being obviously warm or you could have a neutral undertone that runs a little bit cooler.

Undertone is not just one of 3 boxes that you can just check off.

It is, however, the hardest concept to figure out so this post will be a bit lengthy... but I'm confident you will have some understanding of your undertone by the time you make it all the way to the end.

How to determine your Undertone

01. Look at the veins under your wrists

The most traditional way to figure out your undertone is to look at the underside of your wrist in natural light.

  • Cool undertones will have slightly blue-purple sometimes even reddish-pink veins due to the subtle pink-red undertones in the skin.

  • Neutral undertones will have blue-gray, green-gray or even purple-gray veins. The point is they could be any color they just won't stand out as much as they do in warmer or cooler toned people. They may even be difficult to locate.

  • Warm undertones will have blue-green veins due to the golden undertones in the skin.

02. Which color metal POPs against your skin?

  • Silver stands out against cool undertoned skin.

  • All metals look good against a neutral skin undertone, even rose gold.

  • Gold stands out against warm undertoned skin.

***This is pretty subjective so skip this step altogether if you can't decide which pops for you.

03. The Off-White Test

The circles in the pictures represent different whites (The same colors are used in every picture):

- First circle is a pink beige

- Second circle is a warm white

- Third circle a crisp true white

Note that the warm white looks green with cool and neutral undertones but looses its green tint with a warm undertone. This is the best "white" for warm undertones.

Crisp true white will look clean, crisp and neutralize cool-pink undertones.

If you have a neutral undertone you can wear true white as well it just wont make your skin pop as much as a white with some added yellow/reds or some warmth.

*The white test is very difficult to do if you do not have a white color wheel.

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04. Skins reaction to the sun

Your skin's *unfiltered* reaction to the sun can help you determine what your undertone is. NOTE *UNFILTERED.

If you wear SPF 30 and get tan well that's technically not really your skins unfiltered reaction.

If you burn a bit first and then tan take note of that first reaction.

**Note that this doesn't work with all skin tones since darker skin tones will tan due to higher melanin content in the skin.

Whether you tan or burn is helpful if you're still not sure about whether you have a neutral or cool undertone. Cool undertones almost ALWAYS burn first... even if they tan later.

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Still no Clue?

Maybe you don't know exactly where you fall on the spectrum after answering these questions. So let's try to put faces to the categories in different skin tones and see if you get a little bit more clarity.

Still having issues? Filter by your skin tone below: *I've made all of the pictures in this post pinnable so you can save to your pinterest to refer back to :)





*****Olive would classify as a tan with a cool undertone :).



What is knowing your undertone useful for?

01. Undertone can help you identify which colors will complement you best

Let's be clear...

You CAN wear whatever color your heart desires and look good..

BUT, it's incredibly useful to know which variation of the same color will look best on you.

Let's use nail polish as an example;

There are around 400 reds in your nail salon.

Fiery red, orange-red, berry red, passion red... the list goes on and on.

These are all variations within the same color family of REDS.

So which variation of red complements your undertone best?

  • If you're WARM toned you want to go for the yellow-reds like Rock the Runway.

  • If you're COOL toned you want to go for the blue-reds like Forever Yummy.

  • If you're NEUTRAL toned you can go either way and your contrast will be more helpful in determining the colors you look best in.

Full list of cool, warm and neutral nail colors here.

02. Undertone helps you correctly identify your exact foundation shade

How? We usually focus on skin tone when choosing our foundation and while that is a very important consideration it's only half of the equation.

That's because our skin tone is dynamic throughout the year.

Changes in skin tone can depend on sun exposure, physiologic conditions, redness or pigmentation issues.

On the other hand, our skin undertone remains the same.

Nowadays, most brands have come up with a ton of tones (about time) PLUS multiple undertones (warm, cool, and neutral shades).

Choosing the right undertone will allow you to continue using the same foundation through the dynamic changes our skin tone endures even if it's a little off.

Because I, for one, cannot truly buy a different foundation for every season.

03. Undertones guide you in choosing the right blush

If you want your blush to POP and stand out then you need to go against your undertone.

Warm undertone with Cool Pink Blush
  • If you have a warm skin undertone go for pinks (lighter skin tone) or reds (darker skin tone).

  • If you have a cool skin undertone avoid pinks and reds and go for peach, orange, or terracotta shades.

If you want to complement your features and go for a subtle makeup look then go with your undertone.

Warm Undertone with Warm Terracotta Blush

  • If you have a warm skin undertone avoid pinks and reds and go for peach, orange, or terracotta shades like Nars - Luster.

Favorite blushes

04. Undertone helps you choose the correct bronzer for contouring

Bronzers are mainly used for contouring and creating depth and definition. The key here is SUBTLE, you want your contour to blend easily, so keep your bronzer complementary to your undertone. This will keep you from looking streaky and help you create depth in a more natural way.

Best Contour Kit

Hands down Charlotte Tilbury's contour kit is the best one I have ever used. It comes in Light/Medium and Medium/Deep shades and it's super easy to blend.

Ready for the next Color Concept ?

Related Read: Find your Contrast