Determining Your Skin Tone and Undertone

Curious about your skin tone? We have advice. Here's how to determine your skin tone and undertone

Here's how to figure out your skin tone and undertone

I have used the same foundation for years. I never second-guess the color I’m going to get because I always get the same one as before, which is warm beige. The problem is, the shade looks fine when I’m getting ready in my bathroom lighting, but when I step out into the sun, it looks all wrong.

I didn’t consider my undertone when choosing my color, I just took my skin tone at surface level and ran with it. Skin tone and undertone are two completely different things and don’t have to coordinate with each other. Meaning, you can have the same skin tone as someone, but your undertones may be totally different. Skin tones aren’t subject to a specific undertone either, so fair skin can have warm undertones, whereas dark skin can have cool undertones. Skin tone can also change over time, while your undertone stays the same, even when your skin tans.

Understanding what your undertone and skin tone is together, can make a huge difference in the makeup your are buying and applying. It can also help you determine the best shades of lipstick, eyeshadow, and other cosmetics —even tinted setting powder.

Undertone is essentially the hue that comes through from beneath your skin's surface. There are three undertone colors: warm, cool, and neutral. There is not just a single shade of each undertone. Picture undertones like a spectrum of shades that ranges from warm to cool, with neutral falling in between.

Warm Undertone

Those who have a warm undertone will have a base tone that is a yellow or gold tint. If your veins appear to be more green, you have a warm undertone. Typically, warm undertones will look best when they wear shades of brown or other neutral colors. You can also use the jewelry test to help determine your undertone, although this is a much more subjective technique. If gold jewelry is your go-to, you probably have a warm undertone. Do you normally tan when you spend time in the sun? That is another sign that you have a warm undertone.

Cool Undertone

If you have a cool undertone, you will see hints of blues, pinks and reds. This is why cool undertoned skin usually burns rather than tans when exposed to excessive sunlight. You can identify a cool undertone if your veins appear more blue or purple in color. Another way to determine if you have a cool undertone is if you look better in black and whites, as opposed to colors or neutral browns and ivories. Also, using the jewelry technique, if you look best in silver jewelry, you likely have a cooler undertone.

Neutral Undertone

When your undertone is the same color as your actual skin color, you would be considered to have a neutral undertone. You also could have a neutral undertone if you notice a mixture of both warm and cool hues.

Skin tone refers to the lightness or darkness of your skin. Similar to with undertones, skin tones also fall into a range on a broad spectrum ranging from light, to medium, to dark. These three skin tones are very general and can be broken down into more specific shades. Light skin can be fair or ivory, while dark skin could be considered espresso, brown, or ebony.

Light skin tone

Historically, light skin tones are derived from northern European countries that had a lot of cloud coverage, snow, or rain. As a result, there wasn’t much need for melanin protection. This also means that light skin tones will face high sensitivity to sun, burning much easier than dark skin tones. So my pale people, make sure your are applying the SPF daily.

Medium skin tone

Medium complexion is said to have descended from southern Europe and northern Asia. This includes olive skin tone, which is a neutral, balanced beige shade. Although medium complexion tends to tan well when exposed to a lot of sunlight, they aren’t immune to sun-related damage and aging. Choose makeup that also has SPF.

Dark skin tone

Originating from parts of the world that have a lot of exposure to the sun and ultraviolet radiation, dark complexions come from places like the Middle East, India, and Africa. Dark complexion can be prone to hyper pigmentation, so sunscreen is just as important for dark skin tones.

It is important to differentiate your skin tone and your skin’s undertone when finding the right makeup for your skin. A shade of foundation will look completely different on fair skin that has a warm undertone versus fair skin that has a cool undertone. Once you have figured out your true skin color and tone, you will notice a huge difference when you find a makeup product that complements them.

Resources — Essence, Byrdie, Color Science, Healthline

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