A few days ago, a friend of mine posted a picture of the two of us from 2005 for that dreaded “Throwback Thursday” trend that has swept social media. As soon as I realized what photo she had tagged me in, I cringed. It was my freshman year of college, back when I had no fashion sense, and when I took less than two minutes to apply eyeshadow. And you could tell. My “highlighting” eyeshadow under my brow was a rich, shimmery gold and my darker crease color was a deep copper. To put it nicely, I looked like shit.
I bring this story up because it was then that I remembered how frustrating choosing the perfect foundation, as well as eyeshadows, blush, lipstick, etc. was before I truly understood my skin tone and undertones. And because knowing your skin tone and undertones makes buying makeup and choosing the perfect outfit a breeze, I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you.
So keep reading to learn how to determine your skin tone and skin undertones.
What’s Your Skin Tone?
Determining your skin tone is much easier than determining your undertones, but it’s equally important. Skin tones have a great deal to do with your ethnicity, which plays a large part in how much melanin (a pigment found in the outer layer of our skin) you have. The more melanin, the darker your skin will be. Since melanin is your body’s natural defense against UV rays, you can often determine which skin tone you have by how easily you tan or burn.
Since there are so many different skin tones, there’s no way to effectively categorize them all. In an effort to simplify the amount of shades for skin tones, makeup companies typically create “shade families” with their foundation lines. For instance, bareMinerals has five different shade families: light, medium, tan, dark, and deep. So while your skin tone refers to how deep your skin color really is (whether it is very fair, or it’s very dark), your undertones are what really help you find the perfect match.
What Are Undertones?
While your skin tone is the color of your skin, as determined by how much pigment (melanin) you have, your undertone is the color just below the surface of your skin. And although your skin tone can change from time to time (mostly with seasonal changes/how much sun exposure you’re getting), your undertones never change.
Most makeup companies separate skin’s undertones into three different categories: “cool”, “neutral”, and “warm”.
People with cool undertones look best with silver, lilac, or pink eyeshadow, and they can effortlessly pull off white eyeliner. For blush, rosy pinks or even plum is best. As for jewelry, they look great in silver, but also own emerald and sapphire when they wear it.
People with warm undertones look best with copper, gold, and crimson eyeshadows, and cheeks and lips look beautiful with a nice touch of coral or peach. When it comes to jewelry, feel free to let yourself drip in gold, because this is your color. As for clothes, the same rules apply — gold, brown, coral, orange, and any earth-tone colored outfit will turn heads.
People with neutral undertones are, for the most part, lucky and can wear all kinds of colors. Black is universal and looks great on everyone, and neutrals can rock black with silver or gold jewelry, depending on the mood they’re in.
Determine Your Undertones
Unfortunately, these are not universal categories and some people fall in between the cracks (i.e. “cool-neutral”). Still, there are ways to determine your undertones to get the closest matching foundation possible. Consider doing one of the at-home tests I discuss in my “How to Find Your Skin Undertone” post.
Do you know your skin tone and undertone? What are yours and what kind of foundation do you use?