Find the Perfect Foundation for your Skin Undertone

Finding the perfect colour match for a foundation is one of the trickiest beauty tasks. Unfortunately, finding the right shade is not just as easy as choosing a fair, medium or deep shade. However, although it may appear difficult, identifying your perfect shade doesn’t have to be so stressful.

woman holding a foundation bottle with four droplets of different shades on her cheek.

Discovering your skins’ undertone is the key to finding the best match of foundation for you and is the real difference between your makeup looking natural or mismatched. Once you determine the hues and hints your skin undertone through a few basic tests, you can easily find the formula and colour of foundation that is best suited to your skin by matching it to your undertone shade. So, if you don’t already know what your skin undertone is, keep reading to find out so you never have to struggle to find the right foundation shade ever again.

What is Skin Undertone?

Skin surface and undertone can often be confused as the same thing; however, it is not. You can have the same skin surface as someone else but have a completely different undertone.

Our skin tone develops due to two things, an undertone and a surface colour.

Where the surface tone is the skin tone on the top of your skin (which is defined by how much pigmentation you have in your skin) it can also change depending on many factors such as weather and skin condition. Your skin undertone, however, is a subtle, muted colour that lies underneath the skin and comes through from underneath the surface to affect your overall hue. While surface colour may change, undertone does not and will always stay the same. You may read how beauty editors recommend that you change foundation/makeup shades in winter, this is why.

Why Does Undertone Matter?

It is common, and yet frustrating, to love a certain colour at the beauty counter of a department store and then discover that it doesn’t flatter your skin when you get home and try it on. This could actually be down to your skin undertone.

A foundation that doesn’t match your undertone can make your skin look too pink, orange or ashy. So, understanding your undertone is crucial to finding the right colours that don’t just match your surface colour, but also match your overall complexion.

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a number of skin tones on a chart, with colour examples.

Types of Undertones

There are three main types of undertone categories that everyone falls into and these are warm, cool and neutral.

Cool – has hints of pink or bluish hues.

Warm – can range from peach, yellow and golden tinges.

Neutral – your skins’ natural colour will be more evident and the undertone will be roughly the same colour as your actual skin tone.

It is important to remember surface colour doesn’t determine the undertone. There is a misconception that fair-skinned people are cool-toned and those with dark skin are warm-toned. But, don’t buy into assumption. The fairest skin can have warm undertones, and dark skin can have cool undertones. We are all individual, and just because we may have friends just as pale or tanned as us it doesn’t mean that we’re the exact same shade – similar to how some people tan really easily, whilst others do not. As most people may not realise this, matching products to skin colour becomes a problem as it may not blend with the natural hues below the surface of the skin.

Suggested Article: How to Shop for Drugstore Foundation for Darker Skin.

Determining your Undertone

The first thing to do before choosing your makeup is to evaluate your skin undertone. It’s not easy to detect, but thankfully there are a number of ways you can easily determine your undertone.

You can conduct a few simple tests at home or by checking off a few questions. But, if you still struggle to determine your undertone or are unsure, visit a beauty expert at a department store counter and they will almost always be happy to help. They can help you to identify your undertone and may even help you to find a product that matches it accurately.

What Colour Are your Veins?

three hands, in a collage image, each showing different coloured veins and how they each equal different possible tones.

Try and find some natural lighting. Step into it and take a good look at the outside of your wrist at what colour your veins are. If your veins appear to show a bluish or deep purple hint, you are most likely to have a cool tone. Whereas, if your veins appear green, you may have warmer tones. However, if you are unsure or it looks like a blend of the two, you are probably neutral as those with these undertones will have difficulty to determine between each shade.

Do you Burn or Tan in the Sun?

When you are out in the sun, do you burn or tan? This may be able to help you identify your skin undertone. If you find it easy to tan and rarely get sunburnt, you are most likely warm or neutral tones. Whereas, if you are more prone to sunburn and turn pink in the sunshine, you are more likely cool-toned.

Do You Suit Gold or Silver Jewellery?

Personal preferences aside, think about what colour jewellery suits you best. This is not about which you like better, but instead which colour flatters your skin best.

Cool tones are flattered by silver or platinum jewellery, however, those with warm tones are better complemented by gold jewellery. If you are neutral-toned, luckily for you, you will look great in both.

Do you Look Best in White Or Off-White?

Take any piece of white clothing that you own along with an off-white clothing item and hold them up to your face. Which one do you look better in? If you look better in white, you are probably warm-toned. Whereas, if off-white suits you better, then your undertones are probably cool. All the same, if both colours suit you equally, then you are most likely neutral.

If you don’t have a white/off-white clothing, you can try the same test with a yellow or orange garment instead. If the colour suits you and gives you a radiant glow, you are probably cool or neutral-toned. However, if it doesn’t flatter you at all, you most likely have a warm tone.

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Check your Assets

woman with red hair and freckles smiling whilst looking down

Your natural assets can also give you some indication of what undertone you may have. A persons’ natural hair and eye colours are key indicators of what your undertone may be. So, take a good look in the mirror to figure out what yours may be.

Generally speaking, those with brown, black or blonde hair with blue, grey or green eyes are probably cool-toned. However, if you have naturally red, brown, black or strawberry blonde hair with brown hazel or amber eyes, you may be warm-toned.

If you are neutral-toned, you can have any of these assets. Whilst it is hard to determine if you have a neutral tone, most shades are likely to suit you. Therefore, it will be easier for you to find, as your surface colour will be similar to your undertone.

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Choosing Foundations to Match your Undertone

woman having various foundation shades applied to her face.

Brands and products often identify the undertone on their label. If you didn’t know how brands label it before, you may have missed it. If the product description doesn’t state what undertones it is best for, then the descriptions of the product colour can often refer to the skin undertones.

Nonetheless, if that doesn’t help either, the colour and hue of the product should help you find out if it will suit your undertone shade. Next time you shop for a foundation, look out for these keys determining factors:

Cool undertones

Look out for words such as tan, fawn, and beige.

Most companies will also label their cool-toned foundations with the letter C to help customers identify what undertone it is most suited for.

Warm undertones

Warm undertones will most likely be described with words such as golden, honey, warm beige, caramel, and chestnut.

Bottles may also have the letter W to help you distinguish it as a warm undertone foundation.

Neutral undertones

Descriptions such as ivory, nude and praline are likely to be labelled on neutral undertone products.

However, if you can’t identify neutral shades through names, have a look at the colour of the product instead. The formula will not be too pink or too yellow and will fall in the middle of the cool and warm spectrum.

Suggested Article: Shop for Foundation Online and Get the Perfect Match Every Time.

How to Check for Perfect Skin Match

woman with foundation dollops on one side of her face.

Once you have checked the product description and found one that you think will suit your undertone well, make sure you test it out. It’s important to do this to make sure it is the perfect match. Many people may test it on the back of their hand or wrist. However, this will not let you determine whether it will look right when applied on your face. Your hand and face are not the same colour and do not receive the same sun exposure so it is always recommended that you do not test this way.

Instead, check the foundation against your jawline, while in natural lighting. The product should completely disappear and match with your skin tone perfectly without there being any noticeable lines. You’ll love how natural the coverage will be.


To learn more about how to find the right makeup base for you, click here to read our article on how to choose the Best Tinted Moisturiser for Your Skin.


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