Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Understanding Skin Tones & Undertones: Cool, Warm & Neutral

Since I've had several people asking me to do a video about skin tones and undertones, I thought I'd do an in-depth post and video about it. It's a very complex topic and I really could go into massive depth but I'm pretty sure it would boggle your mind, so because of this I'm going to make it simple and easy to understand. I'm going to talk about skin tone, undertone, methods of identifying undertone and complimenting colours. 
Skin Tones & Undertones

It's important to know your undertone as you may end up buying the wrong foundation for your skin. If you wear a foundation that isn't appropriate for your undertone, your foundation may end up looking dull, muddy or ashy. The foundation may match your skin tone but it may not match your undertone so this is why it's important to know your undertone. 

Not only can undertone determine which foundation you need but it can also determine what eyeshadow, blush and lipstick you should wear. It can also determine what clothing you should wear.

The first thing you should know is that there is a difference between skin tone and undertone. Your skin tone is the colour of your skin and your undertone is the tone/s within your skin. A lot of people think that cool, warm and neutral are skin tones, but they are in fact undertones.
Another thing you should know is that your skin tone can change, but your undertone never changes. An example of this is tanning, you may tan during the summer meaning your skin tone will change but your undertone will not change. 

Different Types of Skin Tone:
  • Very Light
  • Light
  • Light - Medium
  • Medium
  • Medium - Dark
  • Dark
  • Very Dark

Different Types of Undertone:
  • Cool - Red, Pink or Bluish Tones.
  • Warm - Yellow or Golden Tones.
  • Neutral - Both Red & Yellow Tones (or neither). 
  • Neutral Cool - Neutral undertone but sways more to the cool side.
  • Neutral Warm - Neutral undertone but sways more to the warm side.

The 7 methods of identifying a cool, warm or neutral undertone

1. Genetics

One way of determining your undertone is by your genetics, this includes your hair colour and your eye colour. 
If you have black, brown or blonde hair and have blue, green or grey eyes, you have a cool undertone. 
If you have black, brown, auburn, blonde, strawberry blonde or red hair with black, brown or hazel eyes, you have a warm undertone.

2. Vein Test

Another way of identifying your undertone is by looking at your veins, it's a quick and easy method that takes little time to do. The easiest veins to look at are the veins in your wrist, hand or arm (especially the veins in the crook of your arm). 
If your veins are blue, you have a cool undertone.
If your veins are green, you have a warm undertone. 
If your veins are a bluish green (like turquoise/aqua), you have a neutral undertone. 

3. White Fabric Test

The white fabric test will determine if you gave a cool, warm or neutral undertone. All you need is some form of white fabric, this may be a white towel, a white t-shirt, a white cloth or white sheet (basically anything that's white), a bobble (hair tie), cleanser and your dandy little self.

When carrying out the white fabric test there are 4 steps you need to do: 
  1. Tie your hair back into a ponytail. 
  2. Clean your face so there's absolutely nothing on your skin. 
  3. Place the white fabric around your neck. 
  4. Stand in natural day light and hold a mirror to your face. 
If your face appears to have red/pink tones, you have a cool undertone. If your face appears to have yellow/golden tones, you have a warm undertone. If your face appears to have both pink and yellow tones or it doesn't appear to have any tones, you have a neutral undertone. 

4. Clothing Test

Clothing can also determine which undertone you have. If you look better in white than ivory or cream, you have a cool undertone but if you look better in ivory/cream than white, you have a warm undertone. The same applies for black and brown clothing, if you look better in black than brown, you have a cool undertone but if you look better in brown than black, you have a warm undertone. If you look great in white, ivory/cream, black and brown, you have a neutral undertone. You can also test other coloured clothing but white/ivory and black/brown are the easiest to test. 

5. Silver or Gold Test

Another simple method of identifying undertone is the gold/silver method. You may wish to try the jewellery on yourself or you may already know what suits you better but the general idea is that if silver jewellery suits you more than gold jewellery, you have a cool undertone. If gold or copper jewellery suits you more than silver jewellery, you have a warm undertone. If you're a lucky devil and suit both silver and gold jewellery, you have a neutral undertone. 

6. Tan Test

Again another simple method is the tanning method. If you burn easily when exposed to the sun, you have a cool undertone but if you tan easily when exposed to the sun, you have a warm undertone. Obviously there is going to be exceptions, but that's the general idea. 

7. Complimentary Test
If you notice that you're getting more compliments when wearing a certain eyeshadow, blush or lipstick, you should write down what product it is and identify if it's cool toned or warm toned, if the product is cool toned it will have a blue or red undertone, if the product is warm toned it will have a yellow or orange undertone. For example, if you notice you're getting compliments when wearing a blue toned lipstick (e.g. MAC 'Russian Red'), the likelihood is that you have a cool undertone but if you notice you're getting compliments when wearing an orange toned lipstick (e.g. MAC 'Lady Danger'), the likelihood is that you have a warm undertone. The same applies for clothing too, if you want to know colours that compliment your undertone, keep on reading.  

Colours that compliment cool and warm undertones

The colour wheel indicates cool and warm colours. 

The chart indicates the colours that suit a cool undertone and a warm undertone. 

Cool colours are based on true reds, greens, blues, blue toned greens, pinks, purples, magentas, icy colours and pastels. 

Warm colours are based on warm reds, oranges, yellows, yellow toned greens, browns, golden/bronze colours and peach/apricot colours.
It's also important to know that you can have a cool or warm toned colour, for example, a cool toned pink (blue based) and a warm toned pink (yellow based). Just remember cool is anything with a blue/pink/red tone and warm is anything with a yellow/orange tone. 

It's important to know that there are ALWAYS exceptions when it comes to undertone, so if you're a bit confused as to what you think you may be, try a pink based, yellow based and neutral foundation to see which suits you best.

Video Version

I hope you found this post helpful and I shall be doing a foundation post very soon! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away!

Many thanks,


  1. This post was so informative my lovely and it's just such a useful reference for so many xoxo

  2. This is so interesting and very well explained, I had no idea about any of this before this post! I want to go into personal shopping and I know it's really important to understand what colours suit people so this post is really helpful thank you :)
    Love Holly x //

  3. such an amazing post! You have gone into amazing detail and its simply fab :)

    So helpful!

  4. Thank you for going into so much detail, this matter confuses me so much. I never know what to go for, and have tried various different tones but always end up unhappy with my choices!

  5. This post was fantastic! Thank you very much for this, I never completely understood skin tones and undertones before! x
    Amy |

  6. amazing post, so helpful. I loved reading this xxx

  7. So helpful! This is the best post I've seen on understanding skin tones, thanks so much Cole:) xx

  8. This was so helpful, I've always been pretty sure I knew my undertone but was never 100% so this helped so much :) xx

  9. this was veeeeery helpful..finally i got to find out what my skin and undertone are..thank you..

  10. this was veeeeery helpful..finally i got to find out what my skin and undertone are..thank you..

  11. This was very helpful, but I have just one question I'm unsure about. Reading your blog post here I found that I have a cool undertone now when I use self tanner am I still going to find foundation in a cool shade? Or would I look for foundation in neutral or warm?

  12. Tanx. This was so helpful and explanatory.

  13. Great post! Thank you!

  14. Best post I've read so far about undertones. Thanks so much for your help. I've finally figured out that I have a warm undertone :)

  15. what a great post!

  16. Wow, this very informative. I had a feeling i had warm undertones, but this confirms it. :)

    Your latest follower on Bloglovin' and GFC, Lauren x

  17. Thanks! Very informative! But I still do not know who I am. I have def cool hair undertone, and warm skin. My eyes are cool&warm mixed. And silver as well as gold compliments me. Who I am?


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