How to Determine your Skin's Undertone
Updated: Jan 15
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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 3 concepts you need to understand:
Undertone - Skin Tone - Contrast
Let me start by explaining one major concept: All 3 of these concepts are on a spectrum. This means you could have a warm-ish undertone without being obviously warm. You could have a neutral undertone that runs a little bit cooler. Undertone is not just 3 boxes.
It is, however, the hardest one 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 veins, they will be difficult to locate, you may not even see them at all.
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.
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 - an off white
- 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 white will look clean, crisp and neutralize cool-pink undertones.
If you have a neutral undertone you can wear bright white as well it just wont make your skin pop as much as a white with some added red or warmth.
*The white test is very difficult to do if you do not have a white color wheel.
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.
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.
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.
Check out my favorite foundations for neutral, cool and warm undertones here.
03. Undertones guide you in choosing the right blush
Blush is supposed to stand out against your complexion and contrast your undertone.
If you have a cool skin undertone avoid pinks and reds and go for peach, orange, or terracotta shades like Nars - Luster.
Best Blush for Cool Undertones
Best Blush for Warm Undertones
Universally Flattering and Neutral Option
The soft golden tones in this blush make it universally flattering and one of the best selling blush palettes in beauty history!
04. Undertone helps you choose the correct Bronzer
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.
If you have a cool skin undertone go for cooler bronzers like Nyx - Matte Bronzer.
If you have a warm skin undertone go for more warmer bronzers like Rimmel Natural Sun Dance Bronzer.
Ready for the next Color Concept ?
Related Read: Find your Contrast