5 Ways to Determine Your Skin Undertones

Picking the Right Colors for Your Skin Undertones

When it comes to skin undertones, finding colors that match your complexion can be difficult, especially for people with warmer, darker tones. The best way to accentuate your features is to choose hues based on your hair color, eye color, and natural skin undertones. Everyone’s undertones fall into 1 of 3 categories: warm, cool, or neutral. There are many ways to get an idea of which undertone you have, and we think it’s best to use the following 5 tricks to figure it out.

In the spirit of total accuracy, be sure to do all of these tests in natural lighting, because light bulbs have their own tones which can affect the way your skin looks.

Check Your Veins

Turn over your forearms and take a look at the color of your veins. If the veins appear slightly green, you most likely fall into the warm category. If they seem more blue, you’re probably in the cool category.

Now, if you can’t quite tell whether your veins are more blue or green, you might be neutral.

Check Your Jewelry

If gold jewelry looks best with your skin, then you likely have warm, yellow-y undertones. Alternatively, if silver jewelry is more flattering, you probably have cool, pink-ish undertones.

Naturally, if both silver and gold flatter your skin equally, your undertones are neutral.

The Cloth Test

Hold a white cloth or piece of paper next to your bare skin in front of a well-lit mirror (pro tip – natural light works best!). You have warm undertones if your skin looks yellow/gold in comparison, and cool undertones if it looks pink/blue. If you have mixed results, all signs point to neutral.

Your Reaction to Sun Exposure

Although this is one of the more straightforward ways to determine your undertones, it can be misleading. If your skin turns golden brown in the sun, you most likely have warm undertones. On the other hand, if your skin burns easily or you burn first and it later turns into a tan, you’re probably in the cool category. People with neutral undertones can have mixed reactions to sun exposure.

We recommend using this trick in conjunction with the other tests to make sure you’re making an informed decision. Also, no matter your complexion, be sure to wear sunscreen any time you’re exposed to the sun!

Beware of Misconceptions

While the sun exposure trick is helpful, it’s important to keep in mind that your skin’s surface tone does not determine your undertones. People with pale skin can have warm undertones – Nicole Kidman, is an example.

Nicole Kidman Wearing Black Dress on Tiff Red Carpet
Actress Nicole Kidman (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic via Getty Images)

The same is true for those with dark skin. Supermodel Alex Wek is a great example of someone with a darker complexion and cool undertones.

Supermodel Grace Bol on the Runway
Supermodel Grace Bol (Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)


Now that you’ve figured out whether or not you’re cool, warm, or neutral – what’s next?!

While you should always wear whatever makeup and clothing you want, using your undertones as guidelines can open up a whole new world of flattering hues that compliment your skin beautifully.

Cool Undertones

Lucy Liu Wearing Jewel Encrusted Dress
Lucy Liu’s pinkish-mauve lipstick flatters her cool undertones. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Jewel toned makeup, jewelry, and clothing are especially flattering for cool undertones. Some colors that fall into that category are: pink, purple, cool browns (khaki), navy blue, teal, gray, and white.

For foundation, you should look for something with a blueish/pink undertone. To make your eyes really pop, go for an ultra-black mascara. For lipstick, anything from deep plum and ruby red to berry shades and pinkish-nude hues will compliment your skin.

Warm Undertones

Rihanna Wearing Low Ponytail with Side Part
Orange lipstick compliments Rihanna’s warm undertones. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic via Getty Images)

If your skin glows like the Bajan princess, Rihanna’s, you likely fall into the warm category. Although we think Rihanna can pull off any color, go-to hues for someone with her undertones would be: orange, bronze, warm browns (copper), yellow, and purple.

Warm undertones look best in a foundation with yellow or golden hues. For lips, a deep brick-red will flatter your complexion. You also can’t go wrong with any shade in the orange spectrum, including: orange, coral, and peach. The same goes for blush – sticking with orange is perfect for warm undertones.

Neutral Undertones

Kerry Washington on Screen Actors' Guild Awards Red Carpet
Kerry Washington’s deep green eye makeup and soft pink lipstick flatter her neutral undertones. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TNT)

If you happen to fall in the neutral category, you have more freedom when it comes to deciding which colors are most flattering. Most people will look at other factors such as hair color, eye color and surface skin tone to decide. That being said, these makeup colors tend to be universally flattering for those with neutral undertones: peach, placid blue, jade green, and taupe.

People with neutral undertones can try many different hues, but should be wary of anything too vibrant or bright that could overwhelm, i.e. bright reds and yellows. That doesn’t mean that red and yellow are unflattering hues for neutral undertones, but you should be aware that softer reds and yellows will probably look better.


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