How to Determine your Skin's Undertone

ponedeljek, november 02, 2015

(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, except 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 does 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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36 comments

  1. This is the coolest post I've ever come across to explain skin undertones, brilliant :) Thanks! Xxx

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    Odgovori
    1. Thank you :) I'm glad you found it useful :)

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  2. Odlična objava Mateja! :) Zajela si čisto vse možnosti za ugotavljanje podtona. Res odlično in sem prepričana, da boš marsikateri pomagala ;). Jaz ko grem skozi vse te korake sem vedno ali nevtralna ali topla. Moj ten je prava mešanica, kot vse v mojem življenju. Poleti se "zažgem" samo na določenih delih, na določenih ne. Takrat imam tudi rahel oliven ten. Ko sem "normalna" imam rahlo topel rumenkast podton, ki je več kot viden s prostim očesom. Med tem ko sem pozimi dokaj nevtralna, ko sem precej bleda :). Ampak ko prideš do zadnje fotke kateri makeup ti paše, sem pa takoj na desni strani :). Se mi zdi, da po barvah oblačil in nakitu se najprej vidi kakšen podton imaš. Nekateri odtenki se enostavno zlijejo in izgledajo kot da so del tebe, med tem ko drugi bolj izstopajo, kar ni nujno slabo. Včasih lahko modra izgleda prav odlično na nekom s toplim podtonom, spet odvisno kakšna modra je :)

    Res super objava! :) <3

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    1. Hvala :D Tudi to je možno, da imaš zmešane podtone. Meni se tudi zdi, da imam na nogah hladen podton, ker izgledajo prav roza, ampak za obraz in dekolte sem pa zihr, da imam nevtralen podton. Mogoče imaš pa potem olivni podton, ki je potem nevtralno/topla varianta na tebi. Ampak ja, ti imaš res rada vse te tople odtenki in ti res pašejo, sploh Lady Danger :)

      Res je, ni nujno, da ti modra majica ne paše če imaš rumen podton, vse je v vrsti odtenka. Pastele je najlažje nosit, pri živih barvah se bolje vidi, kaj je zate :).

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  3. You had made THE best post about this. Really! The Best! I always read your blog (since last year,) and I love your reviews, because they are so clear and detailed and your photos are amazing.
    Kisses!
    :)

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    1. Thank you so much :D I'm glad you like my work :)

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  4. This is the best, most informative post I have ever read on skin undertones! Thank you so much for making this as I always checked my veins and they were never green or perfectly purple/blue but they were always more blue so I presumed that I had a cool undertone, however I too own the same shade of the Rimmel foundation as you and the shade just does not suit me at all! So when I saw the shade of yours I realised that they were the same colour pretty much, and it makes so much sense that I'd be neutral and I shall definitely me trying mixing a yellow toed and a pink toned foundation tomorrow morning. Again, thank you so much for this post!

    Mollie x | The Fashion Of Craft

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    1. Thank you :D When I first started buying makeup, I got Revlon's Ivory and I found it too pink, then I got Lancomes' Color Ideal, which was yellow and it again wasn't right. It's sad more neutral foundation don't exist, but mixing the two types of foundations, works just fine :)

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  5. Thank you!! I am still confused about my own undertone but you nailed the topic! I was always afraid to write a post about this subject on my blog in the 'beginners section', but now, I don't have to anymore cause everytime this topic comes up I'll just put a link to your blogpost :-)

    P.S. You have an adorable neck! Is that strange to say?
    P.P.S. will try to find out which undertone I have using your six steps, this weekend, I'll promise! :-)

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    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful :) Well, if you ever decide to write your own version in German based on my article, I won't mind :)

      It is a bit odd, yes :D I have to say no ever said that to me :D. Are you a vampire? :P

      Based on how much I know you from the pictures, I would wager a guess that it's either cool or neutral. Violet suits you, that's why :) But I've never seen you in person, so I can't really now.

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    2. I WILL WRITE THIS ARTICE IN GERMAN; for sure! Your blogpost made me think sooo much recently about this topic and I had so much stress with blushers that didn't fit me (but did cost a lot of money) lately, that I really took some time to think this over.. and a video by Wayne Goss helped me, too :)

      Yes, Violet suits me and very pale and cool eyeshadows make me look ALIVE and FRESH and VIBRANT! (I just had an amzing experience with a very cheap eyeshadow palette from essence ^.^). I just was so confused because there is some green in my eyes and green eyes love warm colours and I have golden undertones in my hair *sigh* But I guess, you are right: I'm cool to neutral. And no, I am no vampire :) But I often think of you as a pretty ballet-dancer and in my opinion, ballerinas always have long, sleek necks with pale skin like swans *haha* I tried to compliment you, soo.. :)

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    3. Green eyes love warm colours because the create a pleasing contrast (just making a post about this topic), but this fact has nothing to do with the actual undertone. Though, people with red hair, green eyes and pale skin tend to have a cool undertone, same could be applied to some blondes. If I look at my colouring - grey eyes plus dark hair with a silver reflect and not gold, I should have a strong cool undertone, but I don't.

      I'm skinny enough for a ballerina, but way, way too short :D Thanks for the compliment :)

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    4. Your answer helped me a lot! I will incorporate it in my blogpost, since the "eyeshadow is no blusher" and "the eyecolour is not the same as skin colour"-thing made me quite confused. But now I know... ;)

      It's strange how much beautyblogging could get me away from what I always knew (white makes me look pale and sick, light grey makes me look good, I love light icecream colours when it comes to makeup, etc.) and let me so confused lately, that I even bought blusher with brown undertones. But, I have to say, eyeshadows and blushers with warm undertones are way more common then the opposite! Ecspecially Urban Decay LOVES warm eyeshadows, woah :) It is not so easy for me to resist, when everyone raves about this and that and I can't just rock this colours!

      Have a nice day

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    5. You're right, cool toned makeup is far less frequent than warm toned. I think most people have a warm tone or at least love their bronzy, gold and peachy makeup, so I can completely understand your problems :)

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  6. Awesome post. Very helpful and informative, you covered all aspects and not just vains on the wrist :D
    I am neutral, and like you, I don't get tan easily but I also don't burn. And my skin is quite fair :)

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    1. Thank you :) Well in that case you sound very much like me :)

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  7. Kot sem ti že napisala: off the charts! Mislim, da je tole najboljša objava kar sem jo kadarkoli prebrala na to temo.
    Čeprav jaz sem še vedno čist adijo glede teh podtonov. Glede na žile bi morala biti hladna, glede na nakit nevtralna, glede na sončenje in izbiro make-upa pa topla, hahaha. No razen Bourjois Healthy Mix pa grozno rumeno izgleda na meni :)

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    1. Hvala <3 It means a lot :) No to, da ti je HMS fajn prerumen ni tako čudno, ker je res zelo rumen proti drugim pudrom. Mogoče če bi sprobala Revlonov Buff, tisti je svetel in topel, pa nima tako intenzivnega tona. Drugače mi pa zveniš nevtralna. Za žile si itak zelo težko zihr, razen če se jih več najde pa skupaj primerjajo. Makeup pa tudi jaz večinoma kupujem v toplih podtonih, ampak se mi zdi, da lahko tudi hladne brez problema nosim.

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  8. Tole je pa res super objava! Prepričana sem,da boš (in si že) marsikateri pomagala ;)
    Xoxo, Nyx

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  9. Great post. I am a warm toned girl and you are right that finding the perfect shade of foundation is a special moment for us. Thanks for sharing:)

    Chaste & Beautiful

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  10. Nicely detailed post. I like that you have given photo references along side.

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    1. Thank you :) Yeah, I wanted to so something more than just plain dry descriptions of how to do it, hence the pics :)

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  11. I am very clearly yellow toned. I remember when I was still a kid in middle school that a friend told me 'I looked so yellow, hahaha' and it stuck with me ever since. She was right though, I really am yellow, especially my body. I'm definitely a warm type.

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    1. I remember your post about using a yellow pigmented to make you foundation more yellow toned :) You don't look that yellow to me on your pics, but I can tell you have a warm undertone :)

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  12. Strange article. When I look at the products in the collage, the products on the left look a lot more feminine to me, like something all women surely use. The products look more subtle and would give any woman a more youthful appearace. The products on the right just look like something an older woman would wear to a club. Oh and just because someone has warm toned skin, does that mean they should wear shimmer? I mean I love Italian women who look natural, with stone red lips and matte blush, grey or black eyeshadow. There are a lot more grey areas than just cool and warm toned, just saying!

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    1. I must say I'm a bit confused about what are you trying to convey with this comment. That you don't like the products I selected in the last picture for a warm skintone? I could pick hundreds products there, but I was working from a limited source as this article was original written in Slovene for an online shop, so of course I only included the products they have. I could include a similar pink lipstick that's on the left, except that it would have a warm undertone, meaning it's would be a peachy-pink type of colour (like Mac's Peach Blossom for example). No one said that if you have a warm undertone tone you should wear shimmer, the blush I included is matte, if you're referring to the bronzer, I'll say again - it was a limited amount of products I was working with. I for one only use matte bronzers. This picture was made purely to get the idea of what types colours (not textures) suit a certain skintone, but I am by no means saying that these are the products and shades you need to wear if you have a certain undertone. Of course I could made a completely different selection with all the possible products available everywhere, but I am way too busy to do things twice.
      I actually own significantly less products that have a cool undertone and I don't consider my warm toned makeup as being less feminine. I even know of many women, who only buy warm toned makeup. It's more about the intensity of the shades than the undertones themselves. I mean can you say that MAC's Candy Yum Yum, which has an intense cool undertone looks less feminine than for example MAC's Coral Bliss, which is warm? Don't read to much into my selection, I'm not trying to force my ideas as to how makeup should look on a certain skintone. I'm sure most of my readers know how to critically assess my writings and not treat every word I write as gold :)

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  13. Čudovita, predvsem pa poučna objava, Mateja! :)

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  14. Meni je tudi super objava! Pri nama s prijateljico se ful vidi razlika, ona ima hladen podton, jaz pa sem proti njej cela rumena :P xx

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    1. Hvala :) O, to je pa super, da imaš tako dobro primerjavo :)

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  15. Thank you so much for this post, this is so elaborate. After all these years I have still not found my shade of foundation as I am an Indian Olive skin toned.

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    1. I'm glad you like it :) Have you tied EX1 foundations? They are made for olive skintones.

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