Find your undertone Image by: Getty Images
Knowing your undertone can make the search for the perfect shade of foundation so much easier. Here are our tips on how to figure it out.
The undertone—it’s a beauty term that’s used liberally, but figuring out how you can apply the term to your own beauty routine isn’t so easy. Fiiguring out whether you have a cool, warm or neutral undertone can help you shop smarter for foundation, pick better complementary colours and narrow down the overwhelming number of makeup options to the ones that will suit you. We spoke to Veronica Chu, lead makeup artist for CoverGirl, about how to determine your own undertone.
Warm, cool, or neutral
The most basic definition of an undertone is the colour of your skin. But, we all know that all dark skin tones are not the same—and the same goes for paler or olive skin colours too. Generally speaking, we all fall into one of three undertone categories—warm, cool, or neutral—and these options don’t necessarily align with how dark or light your skin colour is. For example, a very pale person could have a warm or a cool skin tone, just like someone with darker skin can likewise have any undertone.
Figuring out where you fall on the undertone spectrum can make the search for the perfect shade of foundation significantly easier. “It gives you a better understanding of what will and won’t work for you in terms of colour selection,” says Chu. “I don’t think that defines your decision, but it does provide more awareness about why certain shades would look better on your friend than you.”
There are three easy ways to determine your undertone.
1. Check the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they’re blue or purple, you likely have a cool undertone. If your veins are green, then you have a warm undertone. If you can’t tell what colour your veins are, then you have a neutral undertone.
2. Look at your jewellery collection. We tend to be drawn toward colours that flatter us, so this test is an easy way to see if you fall in the cool, warm, or neutral category. If you look better in silver jewellery, you probably have a cool undertone, whereas if you look better in gold, then you have a warm undertone. If you can rock both metals, then you likely have a more neutral undertone.
3. Lastly, check your tan. If you burn easily in the sun, then you’re a cool undertone. If you get a golden tan, you probably have a warm undertone. If you burn initially but still get a tan in the end, then you’re neutral. (But we don't recommend going out in the sun to figure out your undertone—draw on your memories to figure this one out. We always recommend applying SPF to minimize tanning and burning in the sun.)
As our skin tone changes throughout the year—from a summer glow to a noticeably lighter shade over the winter months—our go-to foundation may no longer be the perfect match. But even if your skin darkens or lightens, your undertone remains the same.
“The true undertone doesn’t change but the outer layer does change,” says Chu. For this reason, you should consider investing in a winter and summer shade, especially if you know you’re going to (faux) tan in the summer. During the transitional seasons like fall, consider mixing your two shades together to find the perfect shade
Finding a foundation
Now that you know your undertone, finding your foundation becomes easier. Most makeup companies will give you a hint of what undertone the foundation is in the name of the shade or the description. Terms like "golden" or "sunny" tend to refer to warmer tones while words like "beige" or "pink" refer to cool. However, Chu recommends testing out a few shades in person. “There are always exceptions to the rule,” she says. “You have to try it on to really know.