How to Figure Out Your Undertones and Find the Best Makeup for Your Skin

Woman with radiant skin in natural lighting


Finding your ideal makeup colors can be easier said than done, especially when you find a product that looks to be the right shade but skews orange or washes you out. The key to resolving this dilemma is figuring out your undertones—the hints of warm, cool, and neutral colors within your natural skin tone that play a major role in determining what products might look best on you. If you're looking to determine your undertones once and for all, you've come to the right place—keep reading for the ultimate undertone test, plus eight products we've determined to work well on almost anyone.

The Three Main Types of Undertones

Undertones may sound complicated, but there's actually only three main types: cool (pink, red, or bluish undertones), warm (yellow or golden undertones), and neutral (a mix of warm and cool undertones). All of these are possible no matter where your skin tone sits within the range from dark to light, so you'll need to take a closer look to figure out which one best describes you. If you aren't sure where to start, we've got you—below are the top five hacks for figuring out your undertone once and for all.

How to Figure Out Your Undertones

Test with White Fabric

One easy way to figure out your undertones is to find what kinds of white fabric look best on you: warm undertones usually look better in pure white, cool undertones can look washed out in pure white but better in off-white, and those with neutral undertones may feel they can equally pull off both. To test this, start by taking off your makeup to ensure you can see your true complexion, then pull your hair back into a ponytail or braid. In natural lighting, hold a pure white and off-white piece of clothing up to your face one at a time, making note of how each complements your skin and its undertones. If you're having trouble deciding, ask a trusted friend for a second opinion.

Compare Clothing Colors

The next step is to get out some clothing items in earth tones, jewel tones, and neutrals—or think about which you gravitate towards, as it's likely to relate to your undertones whether you're conscious of it or not. 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 your undertone leans neutral.

Note How Your Skin Reacts to Sun Exposure

While the fact remains that sunscreen is important no matter your undertones, you can learn a lot from thinking about whenever time in the sun has had an effect on your skin: Many people who tan easily and rarely burn have warm undertones, while you may have a cool undertone if you burn easily and don't tend to tan much. If you don't feel particularly strong either way, this might mean your undertones skew neutral.

Consider Your Jewelry Preferences

Another way to figure out your undertones is by gathering your gold and silver-toned jewelry pieces and thinking about how each looks against your skin. If you think you look best in gold accessories, you may have a warm undertone. If you find you prefer silver, your undertones are likely cool. If you think both gold and silver look good on you, then you might have neutral undertones.

Gold and silver jewelry tend to cycle in and out of trends, so make sure you're thinking about which pieces you think suit you best. You may want to try a second method to figuring out your undertones if you're having a hard time deciding.

Check the Color of Your Veins

If you look at the veins on your wrists in natural light, the color you see can tell you a lot about your undertone. If they look slightly green, you probably have warm undertones, but if they skew more blue or purple, your undertones are likely cool. If you can't decide and your veins look blue-green or somewhere else in the middle, you may have neutral undertones.

How to Choose Makeup for Your Undertones

Once you've figured out your undertones, you'll want to look into which shades of makeup products are similar to what you've discovered looks best on you. We've broken down a few of the basics by product to make it easier.

  • Foundation/base: Since you want foundation, concealer, and other base products to match your skin tone as much as possible, look for shades that mimic your undertones. For example, those with warm undertones will want a product that looks more golden or peach, cool undertones look best with foundations that have a hint of rosy pink, and those with neutral undertones will want something in between. Many complexion products explicitly label which undertones they're best for, which takes out some of the guesswork—especially if you can't get into a store to try the shades yourself.
  • Blush, bronzer, and highlighter: Just like with your base product, you'll want to match the final touches of your complexion makeup to your skin's natural undertones. By skewing towards golden/peachy shades for warm undertones and shades with pink, blue, and silver in them for cooler undertones, you'll find more versatility in your makeup options than ever.
  • Lip products: For neutral and pink lipsticks, find options that match to your skin's undertones, as detailed above. For bolder shades, take a closer look at each shade to figure out where it leans. Red-orange usually works well on warmer undertones, while a more blue shade of red skews cooler.
  • Eyeshadow: Eye makeup is a fun place to experiment with color, so think about the colors you feel most confident wearing and play off those. Those with warm undertones may want to try golden or earthy palettes, while those with cool undertones are likely to have fun with jewel tones. If your undertones are neutral or you just want to experiment, you may want to also let your eye color be a deciding factor.

The Best Makeup Products for All Undertones

While figuring out your undertone can tell you a lot about which makeup products to try, we understand if you still find it a little confusing or would rather try shades that tend to work well on most people. The good news is that team Byrdie is constantly on the hunt for products just like this, and when we find a product with major versatility, we don't keep secrets. Ahead, check out seven makeup products that can work for any undertone.

RMS Beauty Living Luminizer Highlighter
RMS Beauty Living Luminizer Highlighter $40.00

This luminizing highlighter is not only organic and suitable for various undertones, but it’s also a widespread favorite among editors, Byrdie readers, and even Meghan Markle. While the pictured satin-pearl finish is the most versatile, the product also has rose gold and neutral pink options for those who prefer a bit more color.

MAC Cosmetics Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo
Mac Cosmetics Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo $22.00

Ruby Woo is one of the most iconic shades of Mac lipstick, and that's for good reason—it’s the perfect blue-red matte that looks amazing regardless of whether your undertones are more warm, cool, or neutral.

Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint in Unbutton peachy nude
Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint Longwear Fluid Lip Color in Unbutton $28.00

When I asked Team Byrdie for the products they think work well regardless of your undertones, former associate general manager Lindsey Metrus immediately suggested this favorite from Fenty Beauty. Nudes can often be tricky, but unsurprisingly, Rihanna nailed it with this pretty and subtly shimmering hue.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk $35.00

As with Ruby Woo, when beauty lovers discuss famous shades of lipstick, this epic shade from Charlotte Tilbury is a repeat favorite. While it was a direct suggestion from former editorial director Faith Xue, our whole team agrees that the product helps achieve the ultimate end goal: your lips, but better.

Nars Blush in Orgasm
Nars Blush in Orgasm $32.00

Not too peachy, not too pink, and with just the right amount of shimmer, this is perhaps one of the most timeless shades (and makeup products). No matter your undertone, the apples of your cheeks will be stunning.

Sisley Paris Phyto-Eye Twist in Black Rose
Sisley Paris Phyto-Eye Twist in Black Rose $58.00

Don’t believe such an intense hue could look mesmerizing on every skin tone? Just see what happened when three of our editors put this creamy eye tint to the test.

Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Highlighter and Balm Duo in Bronze
Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Highlighter & Balm Duo $50.00

In all honesty, we’d argue the versatility of just about anything from makeup mother Pat McGrath’s namesake brand. This highlighter-and-balm duo has our heart—all three hues look stunning on everyone we've seen them on, but former editor Maya Allen favors the multitasker in Bronze.

Related Stories