At one point or another, most of us have probably been in a conversation that required us to nod along knowingly, even though we were completely lost. If you find yourself in that position when someone starts talking about figuring out your skin’s undertones, you’re not alone. It’s confusing—skin tone is one thing (got that down), but undertones are completely separate and make a big difference when determining which makeup shades might look best on you. (Of course, this is just a guide—feel empowered to do and wear whatever you want.)
That said, if you've always wanted to know how to figure out your undertones, we’ve compiled the best hacks for figuring it out. And yes, this will make your beauty shopping go so much more smoothly. Got a spare minute? Keep reading for the ultimate undertone test and eight must-try universally flattering makeup products, just in case you feel like ignoring all of the below.
But first, take a minute to review what the different undertones categories are.
Understanding the Three Undertones
When it comes to skin tones, you have a vast range of options—light, medium, tan, and deep, to name a few. But as far as undertones, there are only three main types:
- Cool (pink, red, or bluish undertones)
- Warm (yellow or golden undertones)
- Neutral (a mix of warm and cool undertones)
Despite what you might have thought or been told in the past, all three undertones occur in all surface skin tones. Since it can be hard to separate myth from the truth, forget everything you knew, and use the following five tricks for the ultimate undertone test.
Test With White Fabric
First things first, take off your makeup, pull your hair back into a ponytail, and find a window for natural light. This way your hair color can’t skew your assessment. Now grab a pure-white piece of clothing and an off-white piece of clothing. Hold them up to your face one at a time. Do you look better in white? Your undertones are warm. If you look washed out in pure white and better in off-white, your undertones are probably cool. Feel great in both colors? Your skin may have neutral undertones.
Let’s try another test.
Compare Clothing Colors
If clothing in earth tones, like yellow, orange, yellow-green, brown, ivory, and orangey red look particularly good on you, you likely have a warm undertone. On the other hand, if you love the way you look in in jewel tones, like purple, blue, green, blue-green, and true red, along with pink and black, you most likely have a cool undertone. If you like all colors equally, you're neutral. Still not sure? Try the next trick.
Pay Attention to Your Skin's Sun Exposure
Think about how your skin reacts to the sun. Do you tan easily and rarely burn? Most people who tan have warm undertones. If you burn easily and tan very minimally, you most likely have a cool undertone to your skin. If you’re still not entirely convinced of your warmness or coolness, you could have neutral undertones. Keep reading to find out for sure…
Experiment With Jewelry
Do you gravitate toward gold or silver jewelry? If you think you look best in gold accessories, you have a warm undertone. If silver is more flattering, your undertones are cool. If you think both gold and silver look good on you, then you might have neutral undertones.
Look at the Veins in Your Wrist
Another quick way to determine your undertone is to look at your wrists—more specifically, your veins. Find some natural light and take a peek. Do your veins look slightly green? If so, you’re warm. If your veins have a bluer tint or even a hint of purple, your undertones are cool. If you can’t quite decide and you feel like your veins are more of blue-green color, then you have neutral undertones.
Don't care? Or, if you're looking for makeup products Team Byrdie has deemed flattering regardless of your undertone, keep scrolling. These are eight universally picks in our book.
This universally flattering luminizer is not only clean and organic, but it’s also a unanimous favorite among editors, Byrdie readers, and even Meghan Markle.
Does this really warrant explanation? We’ve never met anyone who didn’t covet and apply nearly every shade in this cult-favorite pan.
Ruby Woo is one of the most iconic shades of Mac lipstick for good reason—it’s the perfect blue-red matte and looks amazing regardless of whether you’re more warm, cool, or neutral.
When I asked Team Byrdie for the products they’ll forever deem most flattering regardless of your undertones, managing editor Lindsey Metrus immediately suggested this favorite from Fenty. Nudes can often be tricky, but not surprisingly, Rihanna nailed it with this pretty and subtly shimmering hue.
Like Ruby Woo, when beauty lovers discuss famous shades of lipstick, this epic shade from Charlotte Tilbury always comes up as well. And even though it was a direct suggestion from Editorial Director Faith Xue, our team agreed wholeheartedly. Basically, it grants the ultimate lipstick end goal: your lips, but better.
Not too peachy, not too pink, and with just the right amount of shimmer, this is perhaps the most timeless shade (and makeup product) in history. No matter your undertone, your apples and cheekbones will stun.
Don’t believe such an intensely hued color could look mesmerizing on every skin tone? Just see what happened when three of our editors put this creamy eye tint to the test.
In all honesty, we’d argue the versatility of just about anything from makeup artist legend Pat McGrath’s namesake brand. But this highlighter-and-balm duo has our heart—hard. All three hues are magically perfect on everyone we've seen them on, but assistant editor Maya Allen favors the multitasker in Bronze.