Understanding Skin Tones

The most important thing in selecting the proper foundation shade is to first match your skin undertone and then choose a matching color depth.

The skin undertone is the natural tone that will never change. If you are warm skinned, you will always remain warm skinned even if the shade of your skin appears lighter or darker over time due to sun exposure or age.

But be careful not to make a common mistake and confuse your true undertone with the overtone your skin may have at the moment. The overtone is the varying color on the surface of the skin due to factors such as redness, sunburn, hyperpigmentation or acne. As these factors usually make the skin appear pinker, it’s common to see warm skinned people using cool toned shades although only about 3% of global population has a true cool undertone.

 

Determining your skin undertone

There is no definitive way for everyone to determine their undertone. What method works will depend on the individual, but here is a quick guide to help you out:

  1. The Vein Test

    Perhaps the easiest way to determine the undertone of your skin is to check the color of your veins. By looking at the veins on your inner wrist or elbow in natural light, you can usually determine what undertone you have. If the veins on the inside of your wrist or elbow look green, you have warm undertones. Blue veins means cool. If you can’t tell what color you have or if you have both, then you’re one of the lucky ones with a neutral undertone.

  2. Gold vs. Silver Test

    For this test you will need a piece of silver and a piece of gold jewelry. Hold a piece of gold jewelry and a piece of silver jewelry up against your arm and see which one looks better. Gold means warm and silver means cool. If both look good, you’re probably neutral. Also make a note of compliments you receive - if you keep getting compliments about a certain look, you’ll know what looks better.

  3. Clothing Test

    Observe how you look in opposing colors - such as blue-green (cool) or yellow-green (warm) and blue-red (cool) or orange-red (warm). Blue-green and blue-red will look great on cools while yellow-green and orange-red will look better on warms. If you are really lucky everything looks good on you - you are a neutral.

  4. White Fabric Test

    Drape a pure white towel or fabric around your neck and shoulders, making sure it's ivory white.  The fabric will reflect the true tone of your skin. If your skin looks more yellow, your undertones are warm. If your skin looks more bluish, your undertones are cool. Note that this test should be performed in natural light since fluorescent lights can give skin a greenish tint.

  5. Swatch Test

    Choose three foundation shades in color close to your skin color depth but with different undertones, such as cool, warm, and neutral. Cool would be a slight pink to peach, warm would be slight yellow to orange, and neutral would be more on a beige side. In natural light, make a stripe of each shade from your cheek to your jaw line, and gently blend it into your skin. As you apply each color tone you will be able to see two very well and the third should disappear slightly into your skin. The one that disappears more will be the correct undertone for your skin. Remember that in addition to testing the foundation in natural light, it needs to be on the skin for a few minutes. Wait about 10-15 minutes so that the foundation will be warmed up by your body heat, mix with your facial oils and will reveal its true color.

 

Determining your skin color depth

Luckily it’s a much easier task. After finding the correct undertone, you can begin finding the correct color depth. Pick the three foundation shades, one slightly lighter, one that looks like it matches your skin exactly and one slightly darker than your skin tone. Apply each one in a line from your cheek to your jaw line. Keep in mind that the correct shade will completely disappear onto your skin, so you will not have the look of wearing a makeup mask. But double-check it against your forehead, since some women tend to be darker here. If it works in both areas, you have a winner.

 

Tips on choosing the best foundation shade

• To keep up with the seasons, we recommend having two foundation shades on hand: one for the winter season, when your skin is naturally paler, and one for the summer season, when your skin is slightly tanned. For in-between seasons, you may mix the two to make your own custom shade.

• Don’t make the mistake of picking a foundation to either lighten or darken your skin tone. Use foundation to perfect your skin tone, not create a new one. It’s tempting to use a darker shade for creating a more tanned look, but it never ends up looking natural. A shade that is too light can make you look pasty, tired or unhealthy. Always try to match your exact skin tone and if you want to add color to your complexion, use a bronzer to achieve the tanned look that looks natural.

• Remember that most people have warm undertones. It may be surprising, but whether you’re pale or dark, you have some yellow undertones in your complexion. Plus a warm based foundation will blend beautifully into your skin tone, making it look fresh and healthy.

 

Foundation Shade Guide

Using the chart below, choose the correct undertone group, and then select the appropriate color depth from within the group you chose.

  • Nude – slightly pink to peach tones, neutral cool undertone
  • Neutral – beige or peach tones without obvious yellow or pink, neutral undertone
  • Warm – peach to yellow tones, neutral warm undertone
  • Golden – rich yellow undertone without hint of pink, warm undertone

  • Porcelain - skin is pale and burns easily
  • Light – light skin that can take a little sun
  • Light Medium – medium light skin that typically tans when exposed to the sun
  • Medium - skin is of average tone and tans easily
  • Tan – skin is darker and tans easily, usually described as “deep tan”

    Foundation Shade Guide