Why Knowing Your Undertone Can Make the Difference Between Ashy and Sun Goddess
It’s not just about the shade of your skin; it’s about the undertone beneath that shade that can make all the difference in your makeup and clothing looks. Here, how you can figure out your undertone and never look underwhelming again.
One of life’s greatest questions (besides how is Beyoncé so amazing?!) is how to find your correct undertone.
Skin tones are easy — you can be olive, dark, or fair-skinned, and that’s fairly easy to figure out. But your undertone is a whole other beast, a world that’s filled with color wheels and all sorts of buzzwords like neutral, warm, and cool toned. But finding your correct undertone doesn’t have to be hard! I’ll explain how you can find it in a few easy steps.
First things first: What is an undertone?
Your skin tone refers to the actual color of your surface skin, whether that’s brown, white, or somewhere in between. You can tell the color of your surface skin just by looking at it.
However, undertones refer to the color of your skin underneath the surface. There are three different major undertones — cool, warm, and neutral. Cool undertones are pink, red, or blue. Popular celebrities with cool undertones include Anne Hathaway, Lupita Nyong’o, and Nicole Kidman.
People with warm undertones have shades of peach, gold, or yellow, like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Kim Kardashian (and me!).
Or you can be a mix of the two, which is neutral toned, like Jessica Biel and Selena Gomez. Also, more rarely, you can have olive undertones, which leans a bit more green rather than the warm yellow tones (à la Mila Kunis), or you can have a peachy undertone, which skews slightly more golden pink.
One important thing to remember: It doesn’t matter what ethnicity or the color of your skin is. Just like you can be Caucasian and have a warm or cool undertone, you can be of Asian descent and have a warm or cool undertone.
How can you find your undertone?
There are various ways to find your undertone. The tried and true method is to take a look at the veins in your forearm. Are your veins blue or purple? That means you have a cool undertone. Are they green? This means that you have a warm undertone. If the color is a bit murky and you can’t really tell, this means you have a neutral undertone.
Another method is to take a look at your jewelry selection. What color looks best on you, gold or silver? Which shade makes you look glowing and gorgeous, vibrant, and alive? I look terrible in silver — it makes me look ashy and depressed. However, gold makes me look like a radiant sun goddess who is ready to take over the world. If you look great in gold, you have warm undertones. And if you look awesome in silver, you have cool undertones. If you can rock both, then damn girl, you are lucky and you have neutral undertones.
Similar to looking at your jewelry selection is taking a look at what color clothes you look best in. When I’m not wearing my usual #allblackeverything uniform, I live for rich, earth-toned shades like rusty oranges, mustard yellows, and olive greens. But if you tend to gravitate and look good in rich jewel toned shades like royal blues, lush purples, you’re more than likely cool toned.
To get a better idea, take a look at certified colorist Saerom Min‘s color consultation with Korean YouTuber Yojin. Even though the video is all in Korean, you can see that Yojin has a warm undertone (with autumn colors flattering her skin tone), as Saerom tries different swatches next to Yojin’s face. One tip: If all you see is the color (and not the person), then that tone is generally not for you.
Why is finding your undertone important?
Finding your undertone is extremely beneficial in helping you find your correct shade of foundation, concealer, and beyond. Have you ever tried a new foundation that you were positive was your shade, only for it to look absolutely awful on your skin afterwards? That’s where your undertone plays a huge part. If you’re warm toned and choose a foundation with a cool undertone, you can look ashen or gray. And if you’re cool-toned and decide on a warm foundation, you can look really red or pink.
What makes this confusing is that most makeup brands do not display their foundations or concealers by undertone. (Thankfully, Innisfree’s new cushion shades make it easy for you by indicating “W” for war, “C” for cool, and “N” for neutral on their 14 shades. A’Pieu’s new Personal Tone Foundation also indicates warm, cool, or neutral.) When choosing your makeup, take care to not simply move up and down the shades, but to look at the shades themselves and determine if they are warm, cool, or neutral toned. Again, cool tones will tend to have hints of blue, pink or red, while warm toned shades will have hints of yellow, gold, or green.
Your undertone will not only help you select your correct foundation or concealer shade, but also blush, highlighters, eyeshadows, and lipstick that complement your skin. (Etude House makes it easy with these warm and cool toned eyeshadow and lip palettes.) I personally look awful in icy highlighters and stone colored lipsticks, but anything orange and gold is my jam. One of my all-time favorite blushes is NARS Taj Mahal, a rich, bright orange shade that makes me look like I’ve had 10 years of sleep.
Do you have any other questions about your undertone? Ask me in the comments!