So, I heard you want to buy a new foundation, huh? That’s great, what’s your skin tone? If I had a penny for every time I was asked that I’d be a millionaire. Well not a millionaire, but I’d probably have like 20 bucks by now.
Also, if I had a penny every time I bought foundations that were too pink for my skin tone, or too orange, or too dark, I’d seriously be rich. The struggle of finding the right foundation for my skin tone had haunted me for my entire high school and college years.
We get asked this question a lot these days, in search of finding that foundation that truly matches our skin, but the anxiety we experience when we don’t know the answer? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Maybe your skin tone is fair, but then you have darker pigments on your cheeks and nose, just like me. Or maybe you’re generally light but then in the summer you get tan and become medium? Blame it on the melanin.
Melanin is the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes the color they have. Normally, dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin. When we get exposed to the sun, the cells that produce melanin increase their production, thus our skin becomes darker a.k.a tan. Also, freckles which are present in almost all people of all races, are small concentrated areas of increased melanin production.
I know that at some point in your life you have tried a top or shade of lipsticks that make your eyes pop, your skin tone and face come alive and then you try almost the exact same shade but instead it makes you look washed-out. The story of my life. Apparently, there’s a reason for that. And it has to do with the surface and the undertones of your skin color.
Oh, I can already see you cringing, because you probably understand that but don’t really know the difference between your skin tone and undertone. Don’t feel bad though, join the club!
When it comes to fashion and beauty, there is no word I hear more often than “cool colors” and “warm colors”. In fact, we’re always hearing that to identify under which category we fall, as that is supposedly considered to be integral to our overall attractiveness. But finding out what my undertone is, still leaves me in a state of mental confusion.
And I’m assuming you have too since when you go shopping for foundation, you’ve probably heard the terms “cool,” “neutral,” and “warm” to describe how a shade will look like in your skin. Those terms refer to your skin’s undertone.
But let’s break it down from the very beginning.
What is an undertone?
An “undertone” is the term used for more subtle muted colors that lie underneath your skin. Think of it as a shadow to your skin color. Although, the two should not be confused, as your undertone stays the same, while your surface color can change. That is why it’s best to use your undertone to form the basis of your overall skin tone. In fact, beauty experts highly recommend that you should use your undertone color rather than your skin tone when it comes to finding which foundation matches your skin best.
However, it’s important to note that your undertone and your skin tone may be two different colors. While your skin color may appear reddish, your undertone can be more yellowish or golden. The colors that come underneath your surface, affect your skin’s overall hue and can be warm, cool or neutral. According to an Australian makeup artist, skin undertones are divided into three groups by the following characteristics:
1. Cool undertone – It’s more bluish, pink or of a ruddy complexion.
2. Warm undertone – This undertone is more yellow, peachy or golden.
3. Neutral undertone – Has no obvious overtones, but the skin’s overall natural color is more evident.
There’s a big misconception that only dark-skinned women have warm undertones and fair-skinned women have cool undertones. In fact, there are many women who are fair-skinned and have warm undertones, e.g. Nicole Kidman. And then there are dark-skinned women who have cool undertones, like the supermodel Alek Wek.
How to figure out your undertone?
There are several ways to determine your undertone. In fact, the most simple way is to start looking at your arm where the underlying color can be pretty visible. This is because that area is usually not exposed to the sun and discolored, which makes for the best method to tell if you have cool, warm or a neutral undertone. I’ve done some research and collected some of the best ways to see how warm or cool your skin really is.
1. Basic – Using basic colors such as black and white, or brown and tan, can help you figure out to which category you belong. If you look better in back and white, you probably belong to the cool undertone category. While cools will also like deep browns, warm undertones will opt for more off-whites and softer tans.
2. Jewelry – Think of not what you like best, but what makes you look best, like glowing and radiant. Cools will much rather prefer silver and platinum metals while warms will most likely opt for gold.
3. Veins – Check the veins in your arm. If they look more bluish, you probably belong in the cool side ;). But if your veins look green, you are warm. Note: for all you with green veins, they are not actually green. They look so because you see them through a more yellowish skin tone.
In my opinion, not to be dramatic or anything, but knowing your skin tone is as important as knowing your blood type. That’s a bit dramatic but, when it comes to beauty routines, knowing your skin tone and undertone is key. Not just because it will save you soo much time when picking up a foundation and the right makeup to your complexion, but it will also help you to protect your skin and address various issues.
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