While many of us know our skin tones, undertones are completely different. According to celebrity makeup artist Robert Sesnek, skin tones range from very deep to very fair in color, but undertone refers to the shade that is within that color. "Your skin tone may change throughout the year, but your undertone never changes," he says
With the help of Sesnek and pro makeup artist Daniel Martin, we’ve compiled the best hacks for figuring out whether you’re undertones are warm, cool, or neutral.
Meet the Expert
- Robert Sesnek is a celebrity makeup artist for Catrice.
- Daniel Martin is a makeup artist as well as the Director of Artistry and Education for Tatcha.
Read on for some expert-approved tips on how to identify your skin’s undertone for easier makeup shopping.
Why Is it Helpful to Know Your Undertone?
If you've ever struggled with finding your correct foundation shade, the process could be made easier just by knowing your undertone. "It helps to identify your undertone in order to harmonize and balance skin tone with the appropriate foundation and concealers," says Martin. "When trying to find the right shades, I like to match from the center of the face down to the middle of the neck, as this will give you the most accurate representation and allow you to see any redness you may want to cancel out."
One of the goals of shade matching is to avoid the dreaded line of demarcation. For Sesnek, one of the most common makeup mistakes he sees are mismatched foundations. "Neutral or cool undertones wearing yellow as well as yellow undertones wearing neutral or cool tones will always show a line of demarcation, make the skin look ashy or gray, and possibly oxidize the formula, making the color look even more unnatural," he says.
Types of Undertones
There are three types of undertones: warm, cool, and neutral.
Warm includes golden, yellow, or peachy undertones.
Cool includes pink, red, or blueish undertones.
You're neutral if you're a mixture warm and cool.
How to Identify Your Undertone
There are a few tried-and-true tests to help you figure out your undertone.
Throw on a White T-Shirt
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. If your skin looks pink or rosy by comparison, you're cool toned. If your face looks more yellow, your undertone is warm. If you feel you look better in off-white or creamy hues rather than stark white, that's another telltale sign that you may be warm-toned. If you can wear both colors without feeling like you look washed out, you may have a neutral undertone.
Consider Your Skin's Reaction to the Sun
Sun exposure is very telling when it comes to figuring out your skin undertone. Martin explains: "If you burn easily, you’re a cool undertone. If you tan easily, you’re a warm undertone. If you burn and then tan, you're likely a neutral undertone.
Try on Some Jewelry
This is very subjective, but comparing how gold versus silver jewelry looks against your skin can be a helpful way to figure out your undertone. "Gold jewelry tends to be most flattering on warmer skin tones while silver is mostly flattering on cool tones," says Sesnek. If you don't discriminate between gold or silver, then you might have neutral undertones—or maybe you just love all jewelry, which we're not mad about.
Check the Color of Your Veins
Martin says that checking the color of your veins is a great way to determine your undertones in a pinch, but recommends looking at the veins in and around your face and neck to truly identify. "You have cool undertones if you can see blue veins in your skin. If your veins appear green on the skin (olive), you're warm. Neutral is a mixture of both warm and cool undertones," he explains.
Consider Features Like Your Eye and Hair Color
Still confused? Sesnek says to look to your eye and hair color as a guide to what your undertone may be. "Eye and hair color can have any skin undertone in it, but as a generalization, deeper skin tones and deeper eye color usually tend to have warmer undertones while very fair skin and lighter eyes tend to have neutral or cool undertones," he says.
Finding the Best Color Palette for Your Undertone
- Below, Sesnek breaks down each undertone and offers up some tips on what color palettes are most flattering.
- Very Fair: Fair skin tends to be neutral or cooler undertones. Cooler-toned shades such as taupe, beige, and soft pinks complement this undertone.
- Light: Skin that's light but not as fair look best in cooler-toned shades that are more soft and neutral such as grays and deeper beiges.
- Medium: This skin tone usually has the ability to go with both warmer and cooler colors.
- Olive: Like medium, olive can also do both warmer and cooler shades, though Sesnek recommends adding more vivid colors, as olive skin tones can usually handle it.
- Tan: This skin tone looks great with warmer shades like bronze as well as warmer tones such as orange.
- Medium to Dark: Skin can go both cool and warmer in color.
- Deep: This skin tone can go both cool and warm in color. Going more vivid with color can really pop against this skin tone.
When shade matching a complexion formula, Martin says to consider the finish and amount of coverage you’re looking for. "The amount of colored pigments found in matte, radiant, and sheer coverage products all vary, as does the product texture," he says.