How to Find Your Skin’s Undertone

We’ve all done it: Gone to the store to grab some new foundation, gotten home, applied it, only to realize you look like Pauly D from Jersey Shore. Shopping for the perfect shade of foundation is not only frustrating; it’s also expensive. Once you understand your particular skin tone and undertone, you’ll never leave the store frustrated again.

Lucky for you, determining your skin’s undertone is quick and easy, and you can do it in the comfort of your home. Keep reading to learn some simple ways to find your skin’s undertone and perfectly shade match a foundation to your skin.

Determining Your Undertones

undertones_newAs I discussed in my post, “Understanding Your Skin Tone and Undertones”, most makeup companies separate their foundations into “shade families”, which are based around the most common skin tones. They typically include “light”, “medium”, “tan”, “dark”, and “deep”, and each family has three or four shades specifically formulated for the different types of skin undertones. Undertones are usually separated into three different categories: “cool”, “neutral”, and “warm”. Note: some makeup companies combine “olive” in with “warm” undertones, while other companies have a separate undertone class specifically for olive.

So, if you had a medium skin tone, with cool undertones, you would be considered a “medium cool”. See how easy that was? That’s why knowing your specific undertones will make purchasing the right shade so much easier.

To give you a better idea of how skin tones and undertones work, I’ve created this image of Anne Hathaway (light skin, cool tones), Julianne Moore (light skin, neutral tones), and Nicole Kidman (light skin, warm tones). All of these ladies have the same skin tone, but very different undertones.


Basic Genetics

Genetics say a lot, and although not a fool-proof way to determine everyone’s undertones, it can be helpful for some. Consider your natural hair color and eye color. Warm undertones with blonde, brown, auburn, black or red hair tend to have brown or hazel eyes.

Cool undertones usually have an ash tint to their hair, and their eye color is likely blue, blue green, gray blue, or a cool brown. If you fall in between these cracks, you’re neutral.

Vein Test

Skin_Undertone_Vein_TestThe first, and most common way to determine your skin’s undertone is referred to as the “vein test”. To perform this test, step out into the natural sunlight, and turn your arm so the inside of your wrist is facing upwards. Look at the color of your veins. Do they appear blue or purple? If so, you probably have cool undertones. If they appear green or olive, you likely have warm undertones. If they appear to be a mix of green and blue, or you can’t easily tell, then you likely have neutral undertones.

In the photo to the right, you can see that my friend’s undertones are clearly cool. Not only do her veins appear blue in the natural sunlight, but her skin has an obvious pink tinge.

Mirror Test

Stand in front of a mirror in your bathroom wearing only a stark white towel or bath robe with your hair wrapped in another bright white towel. Try to cover anything else you can see in the mirror with a white towel. You want your surroundings to be completely white. The more white around you, the easier it is to determine the colors under your skin.

Once you’ve surrounded yourself with white, look at your skin in the mirror. Does it appear blue, yellow, or green? If it’s blue, you’re cool. If it’s yellow, you’re warm. If it’s green, you’re neutral.

These tests are primarily for people of Caucasian decent, so they don’t always work best for everyone. In that case, sometimes the best way to tell your undertone is by looking at yourself with an analytical eye, and trying on different colored clothing and jewelry.


Try on gold jewelry and then try on silver jewelry. Which colors make you look best? If it’s gold, you have warm undertones. If silver looks best, then you likely have cool undertones.

cool_vs_warm_tones_clothing2You can also try on some different colored clothing. If you can pull off earth-toned clothing and can rock copper and bronze jewelry, you’re probably warm, or olive undertone. If you look good in pink, grey, emerald, white and other jewel-toned colors, then you likely have cool undertones. And if you’re lucky enough and can wear all of the above, then you go girl. You’re neutral.

In the photo to the left, you can see which colors work best on the lady in the photograph. The turquoise almost gives your skin a healthy glow, while the brown seems to wash her out a bit. With that, we can tell she has cool undertones.

Be careful using this test, however, because “what looks best on you” is pretty subjective. Sometimes even when we think certain colors look best, that isn’t necessarily the case. Perfect example: Me in 2006.

So, try these tests and tell me, what’s your undertone? Share in the comment section below!