Skin Undertone Guide: Everything You Need to Know

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Before we get started, we need to clear up a couple of things…

Skin tone and skin undertone are two different things.

Skin tone is basically the color of your skin, which is determined by the amount of melanin (pigment) that is present in the top layer of your skin. The more melanin in your skin, the darker your skin.

Skin tone is generally categorized as light, medium, or dark.

Skin undertone is the natural coloring just below the surface of the skin. Skin undertones are either warm, cool, or neutral.

Cool skin undertones have hints of blue, green, and violet. Warm undertones look more red, orange, golden, or yellow. Those with neutral undertones are part of the lucky bunch with a mix of both warm and cool undertones.

We’ve put together a Skin Undertone Guide for you, which will show you how to find your own skin undertone and explain why it’s important. The guide will show you which color clothes, cosmetics, nail polish, and hair color are best suited to you based on your skin undertone.


Knowing Your Skin Undertone Is Important

Have you ever tried on an item of clothing in a color that looked fantastic on someone else, but made you look like death warmed over? Even if two people have the same skin tone and hair color, the same color will make them look completely different if they have a different skin undertone.

Knowing your skin’s undertone will help you not only choose clothes that are the right colors for you, but also the right colors for things like nail polish, hair color, and cosmetics.

And it’s not just about the right color lipstick or eye shadow. If you’ve ever struggled with finding your correct shade of foundation or concealer, you’re definitely not alone.

One of the most common makeup mistakes is choosing the wrong color foundation and concealer for your undertones.

One of the most common makeup mistakes is choosing the wrong color foundation and concealer for your undertones.

Even if it matches the tone of your skin, choosing either a foundation or concealer that has the wrong color base for your undertone, no matter how well you try to blend it, you will get a line where the foundation stops. And instead of blending in with the color of your skin, your foundation and concealer can make your skin look ashy or gray.

No one wants that!

So read on to find out which colors will suit you best.

Myth: Everyone with fair skin has cool undertones and everyone with darker skin has warm undertones

There is a common misconception that all those who have fair skin have cool undertones and all those with dark skin have warm undertones.

That simply is not true!

Every skin tone, whether it’s dark, medium, or light, can have warm, cool, and neutral skin undertones.


What Undertone Is My Skin?

Before we get into which colors are the best fit for different undertones, you need to figure out what your undertone is. We are going to show you a few different ways to find out.

Even if you think you know your undertone, go ahead and try the following. You may be surprised to find out that you have a different undertone than you thought!

As we mentioned before, there are three skin undertones: cool, warm, and neutral – which one are you?

1. The Vein Test

To determine your skin’s undertone, look at the veins on the underside of your wrist in natural light.

  • If your veins look blue, you have cool-toned skin with pink undertones.
  • You have warm-toned skin with yellow undertones if your veins appear green.
  • If your veins appear both blue and green, you are one of the lucky people that have neutral undertones, which means that almost every color will look great on you.

If it’s hard to tell what color your veins are, or if you can’t see them at all, don’t worry. We have a few more methods to determine your skin undertones, so keep reading.

Even if you are among those whose veins are visible and you think you’ve just figured it out, do the next few tests as well. One of two things will happen – they will either confirm your suspicions, or you might get different results with different tests.

If that’s the case, you just might find out you have neither warm nor cool undertones, but actually neutral undertones.

2. The Jewelry Test

Hold up silver and gold jewelry next to your face. Regardless of your personal preference, which one looks better next to your skin?

  • Those with warm undertones will look better with gold jewelry.
  • Those with cool undertones will look better with silver jewelry.
  • If you look great in both gold and silver, you most likely have neutral undertones.

3. The White Test

Grab a pure white piece of clothing or even just a piece of white paper. In bright, natural light, hold the item up to your face.

  • You have cool undertones if white makes your skin look pink or rosy.
  • You have warm undertones if your face looks more yellow in comparison. If you think you look better in ivory or off-white, rather than pure white, that’s another indication that you have warm undertones.
  • If you can wear both stark white and off-white without feeling like either color makes you look washed out, you probably have neutral undertones.
Cool – Photo by Karolina Grabowska,
Warm – Photo by Marcelo Chagas
Neutral – Photo by Mateus Souza

4. The Color Test

If you are still not convinced of your undertone yet, try this one…

Go to your closet and grab a bunch of items of clothing in different solid colors.

Now, stand in front of a mirror in a well-lit room. This works a lot better during the day in a room lit with natural sunlight. If you don’t have a very well-lit room, try taking your mirror outside to your patio, backyard, or balcony.

Hold different garments next to your skin to see how the colors make you look.

  • You have cool undertones if cool colors like black, purple, blue, and white seem to be your ‘best colors’.
  • You have warm undertones if warm colors like brown, orange, cream, and peach tend to suit you better.
  • If you think that every color seems to look fantastic on you, then you most likely have neutral undertones.

Skin Undertone Guide

Now that you know your undertone, let’s get into what it all means.

Cool skin undertone:

If your overall complexion has more blue, red, and pink coloring, then you have cool undertones.

Warm skin undertone:

If your skin is more yellow, peachy, and golden, then you have warm undertones.

Neutral skin undertone:

If your skin seems to have both pink and golden tones, you probably have neutral undertones.


Clothes and Skin Undertone

Have you ever seen something on a hanger while shopping and fallen in love with the color, only to get into the changing room to try it on and realize it looks horrible on you?

Or what about having a helpful sales assistant pass you a garment over the changing room door in a color you would have never picked out for yourself. But then once you tried it on, you realized it looked fantastic on you?

We tend to favor and choose colors we like when we are looking for clothes. But when it comes to choosing colors for anything you are wearing against your skin, it’s not about the colors you like, it’s about the colors that look good on you.

The colors that look the best on you are determined by your skin’s undertone.

We tend to favor and choose colors we like when we are looking for clothes. But when it comes to choosing colors for anything you are wearing against your skin, it’s not about the colors you like, it’s about the colors that look good on you.


How To Choose Clothes Colors

The trick to choosing the best colors when it comes to clothes is by following your skin’s undertone.

Those with warm undertones should opt for warm colors. And likewise, those with cool undertones should go for cooler colors.

In general, warm colors are in the red, orange, and yellow groups, while cool colors are those in the green, blue, and purple groups.

This is all fine and well if we are talking about bright primary colors. But when we start getting into the transitional colors, like green and red, you can have both warm and cool colors!

For instance, think of olives and cucumbers – both green, but olives are a warm green. Cucumbers are a cool green. Likewise tomatoes are a warm red, while raspberries are a cool red.

And the same goes for colors like beige and colors that are peachy pink.

They can go either warm or cool.

Whether a color is warm or cool will depend on whether it has more yellow or blue mixed into it.

Any color with more yellow than blue is warm. Any color that has more blue than yellow is cool.

If you’ve got pale skin, here’s our guide for colors for pale skin!


Makeup and Skin Undertone

The same rule applies to choosing cosmetic colors as it does for choosing clothes – choose warm colors for warm undertones and cool colors for cool undertones (though note that makeup, skin, and clothing color all play parts. For example, see our discussion on eye makeup to wear with a red dress)

When it comes to foundation, use a color chart to figure out the right tonal shade. Your foundation should be the same color as your skin. Not only is it important to get the tone right, but the right base color that matches your undertones.

If you have a light to medium complexion and cool undertones, you might opt for a foundation like bareMinerals BarePro Performance Wear Liquid Foundation  in cool beige.

On the other hand, if you have the light to medium skin tone and warm undertones, you might go for Too Faced Born This Way Foundation  in warm beige.


Nail Polish

Like for clothes and makeup, you want to choose nail polish colors that match your undertone; as in cool colors for skin with cool undertones and warm colors for skin with warm undertones.

 Warm Nail Polish Colors

Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish, with Built-in Base Coat & Glossy Shine Finish, in Red/Coral, 625 Get Lucky, 0.4 oz
Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish, with Built-in Base Coat & Glossy Shine Finish, in Red/Coral, 625 Get Lucky, 0.4 oz
Outrageous shine and rich, long lasting color, that won't fade in one at home formula; Delivers high impact, salon-quality color for up to 7 days
$7.99
ZOYA Nail Polish, Heidi, 0.5 fl. oz.
ZOYA Nail Polish, Heidi, 0.5 fl. oz.
Does not contain Doetoluene or dibutyl phthalate (DBP); Chip-resistant
$10.00
Sale
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish, Shade Peach Please #051
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish, Shade Peach Please #051
#1 no UV/LED light system; Up to 8 days of color and shine; A gorgeous manicure that lasts longer than a traditional nail polish
$7.49
wet n wild Shine Nail Color, D'oh!, 0.41 Fluid Ounce
wet n wild Shine Nail Color, D'oh!, 0.41 Fluid Ounce
Purse Pride - New improved formula and packaging; High-shine finish in every color imaginable
$5.29
Sale
REVLON Colorstay Nail Enamel, Fall Mood, 0.4 Fluid Ounce
REVLON Colorstay Nail Enamel, Fall Mood, 0.4 Fluid Ounce
Color stay long wear technology instantly wraps nails in a shatterproof shield of color; Timeless, yet trend driven shade palette selected for long wear
$6.39

Cool Nail Polish Colors

Sale
Nail Polish By Wet n Wild Wild Shine, Light Blue Putting on Airs, Nail Color
Nail Polish By Wet n Wild Wild Shine, Light Blue Putting on Airs, Nail Color
Purse Pride - New improved formula and packaging
$0.99
Sale
Sally Hansen Color Therapy Nail Polish, Plum Euphoria 402
Sally Hansen Color Therapy Nail Polish, Plum Euphoria 402
Welcome to color Therapy: adds a splash of vibrant color to your nails; Formulated for you: Made with an Argan Oil formula
$6.79
Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish, with Built-in Base Coat & Glossy Shine Finish, in Pink, 120 Hot Hand, 0.4 oz
Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish, with Built-in Base Coat & Glossy Shine Finish, in Pink, 120 Hot Hand, 0.4 oz
Outrageous shine and rich, long lasting color, that won't fade in one at home formula; Delivers high impact, salon-quality color for up to 7 days
$7.99
Sale
Sally Hansen Good, Kind, Pure Vegan Nail Colour, Pink Cloud, 0.33 Fl Oz, Packaing May Vary
Sally Hansen Good, Kind, Pure Vegan Nail Colour, Pink Cloud, 0.33 Fl Oz, Packaing May Vary
NATURE IN A BOTTLE: Natural, plant-based, 100% vegan polish; RADIANCE THAT LASTS: Four days of rich and earthy color per application
$6.99

Regardless of whether you have warm, cool or neutral tones, if you have really pale skin, there are some other special considerations when it comes to nail polish colors, shades, and finishes

These special considerations can make the difference between nail polish making your fingers look long and elegant; or short and stubby, and your hands aged and washed out.

But not to worry, you can read all about that in our article Nail Colors For Pale Skin.


Hair Color

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, this is where things get reversed.

When coloring your hair, those with warm undertones should choose a cool hair color, and those with cool undertones should opt for a warm hair color!

When coloring your hair, those with warm undertones should choose a cool hair color, and those with cool undertones should opt for a warm hair color!

So if you were planning on dying your hair brown, if you have cool undertones you would want to go with a warm brown, like a rich, caramel color with gold tones. However, if you have warm undertones, you would want to go for a cooler, ash brown.


Conclusion

When choosing colors for clothes, makeup, and nail polish, match your undertone – warm colors for warm undertones and cool colors for cool undertones.

When choosing a hair color, go opposite to your undertone – warm hair color for cool undertones and cool hair color for warm undertones.

For those of you with neutral undertones, you don’t have to worry about what colors look best on you because you will most likely look great in every color. Lucky you!

Written by Kayla Young

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