How to Find Out Your Skin Undertone and *Instantly* Up Your Makeup Look
Main image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy
Have you heard the word ‘undertone’ being thrown around when deciding over a new base or concealer? And have you chosen to ignore it because you don’t know what undertones actually are? Rest assured. There is no judgement here.
It all seems very technical doesn’t it? Especially when all you want to do is choose a foundation or eye makeup shade that suits you so that you can get on with your day and look fabulous in the process.
But if you want to know more about how your undertone can make an impact, keep scrolling. Because it turns out your undertones don’t just influence your makeup, they can also have an effect on which colour clothes suit you and even the hue you choose for your hair.
Here, makeup artists Laura Kay and Azesha Ramcharan offer 5 ways to work out how to identify your skin undertones and which shades complement them.
Prepare to be an undertones pro in no time.
What are skin undertones?
Your undertone is the overall hue beneath the surface of your skin. Unlike your skin tone (which is measured on the ‘Fitzpatrick Scale’ and goes from ‘Type 1’, the palest skin tones which always burn in the skin, to ‘Type VI’, the darkest skin tones which tan very easily) your undertone does not change with the season.
There are three types of undertone – cool, warm and neutral.
“Cool tones are blue, purple or green-based,” says Ramcharan.
“Warm tones are red, yellow or peach based,” the expert explains.
“Neutral tones are balanced between warm and cool,” explains Ramcharan.
Why do they matter?
If a certain makeup shade doesn’t suit your undertone, then the same shade of shirt or dress won’t suit you either. Or, if you’re opting for the wrong shade of blonde for your undertone, it could be working against you, not in favour.
“Depending on how cool the tone of the skin is, if very warm colours or tones are used in application, for example, orange, then the person may appear unnatural in appearance,” Kay warns.
5 ways to identify your skin’s undertone
1. Do the white t-shirt trick
Wear a white t-shirt when you’re makeup free and see what ‘tint’ your skin shows. If it’s yellowy, then you have a warm tone. If it has blue or pink tones, then you’re cool. And if you see a bit of both then you’re neutral.
2. Look at your veins
“If veins are visible they may appear more blue in cool toned skin and greener in those that are warm toned,” says Ramcharan. Again, a bit of both means you probably have neutral undertones.
3. Consider your jewellery
If gold jewellery tends to suit you best then you probably have warm undertones, whilst silver jewellery lovers are more likely to have cool undertones. If rose gold looks the most flattering, then you’re neutral.
4. Get matched online
“You can discover your skin’s undertone by getting colour matched using virtual shade finders which are available on many cosmetic brand websites,” advises Ramcharan.
Yes, we’re talking about AI. That ever so slightly creepy tool that a lot of companies are using these days. But it’s worth a try. Out of all the virtual ones I’ve tried, I have personally found the online Charlotte Tilbury shade finder to be the most accurate.
5. See a professional makeup artist
They will probably know straight away what your undertones are (it’s their job to identify them easily) so it might be worth booking in a session with someone if you’re still confused.
The shades that will complement your undertone
Now you know your skin undertone, what makeup shades will suit you most?
- Cool undertones
Pick nudes, greys, pinks, purples, greens and blues.
- Warm undertones
Go for earth tones like yellow, brown, terracotta, orange, bronze, copper and coral.
- Neutral undertones
If you have neutral tones you can pick any of the shades above as well as red, blue, green, jewel tones, bolder, brighter colours.
Or use a colour wheel…
To really customise your makeup look and find the perfect shades for you, though, there’s a pro trick you can use.
You may have seen makeup artists or personal stylists using a colour wheel. This is just what it sounds like – a wheel with a rainbow of around 12 shades, all positioned strategically to determine which colour family suits which undertone.
The colours are placed opposite and next to the colour that complements them best, helping you find the *perfect* shades for your skin tone and undertone. (Try The Flesh Tone Colour Wheel by Terry Thomlinson, £12, tiltmakeup.com.)
It might seem a little OTT to be worrying about the tone that’s beneath your normal skin tone. How many tones does one person need?! But it’s not a fad, I promise.
Because skin tones and undertones are completely different. Each one complements the other and getting your undertone right makes your makeup pop.
To determine which undertone you have, choose the most straightforward method for you. Will it be the white t-shirt, jewellery or vein trick? Would you prefer to speak to someone in person? Or, will you go online and let AI take care of it for you? (Although let’s be honest, how well does AI really know you?)
Either way, once you know your undertone, you’ll be well on your way to a more flattering makeup look.
Meet the experts
Laura Kay is a leading permanent makeup expert and the founder of Laura Kay London. With over 20 years of experience in the cosmetic industry, Laura opened her academy training programme in 2015, teaching her world-class skills to the next generation of permanent makeup artists.
Azesha Ramcharan is a makeup artist based in NY’s Hudson Valley region. Clients have included NBC, The Juilliard School, Hessel Museum of Art, Craftsy, and VOZ.