If you’ve been watching beauty-related content on YouTube or perhaps been talking to a knowledgeable friend about base makeup, chances are that the term “skin undertone” has come up several times.

Indeed, your skin undertone is important to helping you decide the foundation shade, and even eyeshadow and lipstick shades that will likely suit your complexion. This means that knowing how to determine skin undertone for makeup will make shopping a lot easier for you.

What’s the difference between skin tone and skin undertone

Skin tone

skin undertone

Skin tone refers to the amount of melanin in the surface layer of skin. Although your skin tone can be determined by how much your skin is exposed to the sun, the skin tone that you’re born with depends on your genetic makeup.

Everyone has uniquely varying skin tone hues, but generally, there are three skin tone categories:

  • Light: Light or fair skin tones have pale skin tone hues. People with light skin are usually more sensitive to the sun than those with darker skin.
  • Medium: Medium skin tones are sometimes referred to as “olive” skin. This skin tone has a well-balanced beige appearance.
  • Dark: Dark complexions are usually found in African, Middle Eastern, and Indian population. Although these regions are used to sun exposure, they are much prone to hyperpigmentation.

Skin undertone

skin undertone

While skin tone refers to your skin’s surface color, skin undertone refers to the muted, subtle colour below your skin’s surface. Skin undertone is like a shadow that never leaves even if your skin tone changes.

In other words, you may be extremely fair and have a friend with a much darker skin tone, yet the both of you may share the same skin undertone and therefore be able to pull off the same shade of lipstick!

There are three types of skin undertone:

  • Cool: red and pink with bluish hints
  • Warm: yellow, peachy and golden hues
  • Neutral: olive, natural skin color is more evident

How to determine skin undertone for makeup

To learn how to determine skin undertone for makeup, there are a few tried-and-true methods. We’ve picked out five practical methods that you can try.

1. Look at your hair and eye color

hair and eye color

Your eye and hair colour can be a guide to what your undertone may be. Generally, those with light-coloured eyes and hair tend to have cool or neutral undertones. Meanwhile, people with dark-coloured hair and eyes are inclined to have warmer undertones.
But of course, there are several exceptions to this rule because our skin tones are incredibly diverse. To learn how to determine skin undertone for makeup, you probably need to go through the rest of the tips in this list.

2. Check your veins

veins in undertone
The colour of your veins can also be a great way to know your undertone in just a second.

Look at the inside of your wrist where your veins are more obvious.

If your veins look blue, you have a cool undertone. If your veins appear green, you’re on the warm side. If your veins neither look blue or green, then you have a neutral undertone.

3. Consider your skin’s reaction to sun exposure

skin under the sun

When it comes to determining your skin undertone, sun exposure can be a very telling way.

If your skin tends to tan easily, chances are that you have a warm undertone; if your skin burns easily, you are likely to have a cool undertone; if your skin tans but burns too, your undertone is neutral.

4. Grab a pure white shirt

girl with white shirt

Get a white t-shirt or any white clothing and hold the item up to your face in natural sunlight.

If your face looks more yellow or orange, you have a warm undertone; if your skin looks rosy or pink, your cool-toned; if you don’t look washed out with either colours, then you’re neutral.

5. Accessorise with gold or silver jewellery

If you wear jewellery, ask yourself whether you find gold or silver jewellery look better on you.

If you look better in gold jewellery, you have a warm undertone; if you look good in silver jewellery, you have a cool undertone; and if you look good in both, you’re neutral-toned.

How does your skin undertone help you with makeup shopping


Now that you have determined your skin undertone, what does it mean for you?

Good news – you can start shopping for makeup with ease!

Many foundations come with a shade number and an indication of whether it’s Cool, Warm, or Neutral. You can now go straight for those that has your skin undertone labelled and just need to determine the intensity of your skin tone to find the perfect match. This will be especially useful now that we can no longer access testers in retail stores.

For your eyeshadow and lipsticks, you should also go for colours that share the same undertone as you.

Colours that have a warm undertone tend to have a “yellow base” to them while hues with cool undertone have a “blue base” to them. If you have a neutral skin undertone, lucky you, you can pull off practically any colour – so go wild!

How do you know if you’ve been wearing makeup of the wrong undertone


If you notice that you look washed out or even “grey” in the makeup that you’re wearing, chances are that you’re wearing a shade in the wrong undertone.

You can either abandon the product altogether or if you have a knack for colour mixing, you can try to mix it with a more suitable colour to create a new shade that might work on you.

What if you still don’t know your skin undertone after these tests

The good news is that most beauty advisors at your favourite brand counters have been trained to help their customers with this. If you’re still unable to determine your skin undertone after trying out the five methods we listed above, perhaps it’s time you seek out professional help from these experts.