Most of us have probably been in a conversation that required us to nod along knowingly, even though we were completely lost (no judgment). If you find yourself in that position when someone starts talking about skin’s undertones, you’re not alone. It’s confusing—skin tone is one thing, but undertones are completely separate and make a big difference when determining which makeup shades look best on you.
So, to ensure no one is left in the dark any longer, we’ve compiled the best hacks for figuring out whether you’re warm, cool, or neutral. Keep scrolling to find out your undertone once and for all!
What Are Undertones?
While skin tone refers to the range of darkness to lightness of your skin color, undertone is the overall hue that comes through from beneath your skin's surface. Each person's undertone is one of the following:
- Warm: Golden, yellow, or peachy
- Cool: Pink, red, or blue
- Neutral: A mixture of the above
- Olive: Greenish-yellow
How to Find Your Undertone
There are a few tried-and-true tests to help you figure out your undertone.
White vs. Off-White Clothing
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.
Tanning vs. Burning
How does your skin react to the sun? Do you tan easily and rarely burn? Then most likely you have warm undertones. If you burn easily and tan very minimally, you probably have a cool undertone to your skin.
Gold vs. Silver
This is very subjective, but it can be a helpful way to figure out your undertone: Do you feel you look best in gold or silver jewelry? If it's the former, you probably have a warm undertone, and if it's the latter, your undertones are likely cool. If you don't discriminate between gold or silver, then you might have neutral undertones—or maybe you just love all the jewelry, which we're not mad about.
Green vs. Blue Veins
The best way to determine your undertone is to look at the veins in your wrist under natural light. Do they look slightly green? If so, you’re warm. If your veins have more of a blue tint or even a hint of purple, your undertones are cool. If you see a mix, then you may have neutral undertones.
How to Find the Perfect Foundation
When shopping for foundation or concealer, your undertone does sometimes play a role in choosing the right shade. Many foundation colors are labeled as warm, cool, or neutral. (Olive tones often work well with warm-neutral shades to balance out the green.) But of course, you also need to take your skin tone into account, which is really the most important thing. So, first pick the shade closest to your skin tone that also corresponds with your undertone and test it out in bright, natural light.
Here's the complicated part: If your makeup's undertone is too warm or too cool, it could actually amp up your yellow or pink (respectively) too much. It's essential to reach a balance, and so sometimes you actually need to break the rules and even go with the opposite undertone to balance things out.
Your best bet is to choose the shade on your face that you want to accentuate and use it to even out your skin tone. For example, if your face looks more balanced with a shade that matches your darker forehead or nose, go with that; or if you want to bring out the brightness of the lighter shades of your skin tone, then match that.
So, what’s the verdict? Are you warm, cool, or neutral?