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 determining skin 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 might look best on you.
If you've always wanted to know how to find your undertones, we’ve compiled the best hacks for figuring it out. Yes, this will make your beauty shopping go more smoothly. Got a spare minute? Keep reading for the ultimate undertone test and eight universally-flattering makeup products, just in case you feel like ignoring all of the below.
When it comes to skin tones, you have a 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)
With that in mind, let's take a look at the top five hacks for knowing once and for all what your complexion's undertone is.
Test With White Fabric
First things first, it is important to take off your makeup, as it can skew your perception of what the color of your skin is. For the same reason, your next step should be to pull your hair back into a ponytail or braid. Now, in a naturally lit setting, grab a pure-white 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. If you find that both hues are flattering on you, then it is likely you are neutral toned.
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 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 find that no particular color palette stands out on you, then you lean on the neutral side.
Pay Attention to Your Skin's Sun Exposure
We all know that wearing sunscreen is important but put that aside for a moment. 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.
Experiment With Jewelry
Jewelry is another simple way to determine what your undertone is. By trying on different variations of golds and silvers, you'll find that your preference can tell you if you are cool, warm, or neutral. 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 a 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.
This universal 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 an explanation? We’ve never met anyone who didn’t covet this cult-favorite pan. With its mix of modern mattes, complex metallics, and suttle shimmers, there is no reason anyone cannot pull off this palette.
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. 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 be stunning.
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. This highlighter-and-balm duo has our heart. All three hues are perfect on everyone we've seen them on, but Maya Allen favors the multitasker in Bronze.