How to Determine your Skin's Undertone

(Slovenska verzija tukaj. Source of pictures of hands here)

I was confused about my skintone for years. I always just bought the foundation that was lightest, because frankly us pale girls don't really have a choice at most foundations, it's always either pink or yellow, but almost never both versions or by some divine intervention even neutral. But the more foundations I've tried, the more clear my undertone became to me. Picking a correct undertone of foundation should not be taken lightly, because even if the foundation matches you in terms of how light/dark it is, if you have a warm skintone and you get a pink foundation, it'll look off and make you look orange. Cool skintones will find warm foundation make them look very yellow (though if you have redness in your skin, you might find that the yellow hue counteracts that). Makeup and clothes should also suit your undertone because the right colours will make you look bright, healthy and they'll enhance your natural features. 

So what is an undertone? Several things affect your skin tone, mostly the amount of melanin, carotene and haemoglobin, and these can make a certain hue stand out more. Some people's skin looks more yellow, other's pink or olive, some will say they have a peachy undertone and dark skintones might even have a red undertone, but in general they fall into three categories: warm, cool and neutral. Warm skintones are more yellow and cool more pink, while neutral skintones have a mix of both colours. But what about olive? Well some say it counts as neutral because if you look at it logically, green is a mix of yellow (warm) and blue (cool), so it only depends of whether your shade of green is more yellow or more blue. People with olive skintones also tend to tan very fast. 

Undertones on you face and body can differ, but when it comes to foundation, I like to match it to the undertone of my neck and chest. I included six steps in this guide to help you determine your undertone, I'm sure you've heard of at least one, but I hope this helps nonetheless.


This is the quickest and easiest way, but also the most deceptive one. I think most might have a problem getting the shade exactly right, expect if you're very warm or cool. But the general rule is that green veins mean you have a warm/yellow undertone and blue/purple veins indicate a cool/pink undertone.  In my example on the picture (I hope you don't find it creepy that I'm showing you my veins), they are something between the two colours, so they are green-blue. I think it's a good idea you try to compare your wrist to other people's because you'll get a much better sense of the colour. It's easier to compare two colours than try to determine what one colour is.


Do you look better in blue or yellow? Or even both? Warm skin tones look healthier against warm colours (yellow, orange, tomato red) and cool skin tones look less pale with cool colours (blue, turquoise and violet). Pretty straightforward, right? I think the easiest way it to check your closet and see the prevailing shades, but if you're a "I'll stop wearing black when a darker colour get invented" kind of girl, then find a yellow piece of fabric and drape it around your neck. Do you look better or absolutely horrible with it? If you look better then you're warm (or even neutral) and if you look drained then you have a cool skintone. I never liked yellow in my life, but I did have a dress in such a shade when I was younger and it looked fine on me, also based on my pictures above, I think I suit all colours, so again an indication I'm neutral.


Try to get the best natural light at this test (no direct sunlight, that'll make you look yellow), pull up your hair and have no make up on. You can do this two ways: with a white shirt or a piece of fabric, but you can also use paper. If you have something off-white, it'd be helpful as well. Do you look good with a white shirt or do you look drained and pale? If you look good, then chances are you have a warm or a neutral undertone. But if you look weird and off-white looks better, then your undertone is likely cool. With neutral undertone you'll look ok, but you might have a feeling this test isn't helping you. Warm skintones also look a bit yellow against a white sheet of paper. I applied Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum in 51 on the pictures, just to show you how warm skintone looks like with this test, so you may notice how my face looks a bit yellow, but it looks neutral on my neck.


This is another simple one. Do you think silver looks better on you or gold? Obviously there are always trends to consider, but I always think of what colour I'd like to have my wedding ring, so something you know you'll always wear (white gold, if anyone is asking). Gold looks better on warm skintones and silver on cool. Neutral skintones look good with both. When I was a kid, I hated gold and up until five or so years ago, all of my jewellery was silver. Now most of my jewellery is gold and I think it suits me just as well. Another check for the neutral skintone.


This one might not be the most accurate one, since dark skintones can be cool and olive skintones tan very easily, the latter is by some standards considered to be neutral (or either neutral/cool or neutral/warm). But there is some science to it. Skin colour is determined by several factors, among them also the amount of melanin, which gives the skin a slight yellow hue. Very pale people usually have a very low amount of melanin which presents itself in a pink/blue-red hue. So if you tan easily, it's likely you have a warm undertone and if you burn quickly, you probably have a cool undertone. But again there are always exceptions. I'm very pale and I don't tan, however, I also very rarely burn and I almost always forget to wear sunscreen on my body. 


I find this is the best test and it was the way I discovered my undertone. I have both warm and cool toned foundations in my collection and both types suit me, however, they aren't perfect. So this was one indication of a neutral undertone. So one day I just mixed a very yellow Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum 51 and the very pink Rimmel Match Perfection 010 Light Porcelain (most Rimmel foundations have this shade) and I got my perfect match. I have to say it's a very special moment when you find you perfect match, it makes your foundation look invisible on the skin, no matter the texture. 
If you go to the drugstore grab for example a Bourjois foundation (51 is very yellow. Or get Revlon's Colorstay Buff) and get Revlon's Colorstay Ivory, which is pink. then you'll have a comparison for other shades. Then try to determine which types of shades blend better with your skintone. Catrice's Nude Illusion 010 is an example of a more neutral foundation. 

I have a list of foundations with marked undertones in my About page, but it's only for light foundations. Here is a list of Revlon's Colorstay foundations by undertone and here is one for Photoready, shades, which might also be same as at Nearly Naked (anyone know? ). L'Oreal's True Match has separate shades marked as W for warm, C for cool and N for neutral. Bourjois' foundations are usually very yellow as are Bobbi Brown's. The names of the shades might tell you a lot already. Porcelain, rose and cool often indicate a cool undertone, while golden, warm, vanilla and caramel usually mean it's warm. Beige and also nude are sometimes neutral. 


Ok, did you make it? Check the cheat sheet and mark which things can be applied to you. Where you have most ticks, that's probably your undertone. The more categories under one skintone type you mark, the more intense your undertones is. 


I made this picture for Click2Chic and I like it, so I'm including it here. It's not an ad, it's just a collection of colours that compliment your skin if it's warm or cool. I could make a different one, but who has the time.

I hope this was helpful and have a great day!

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