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One of the best things that have happened to the makeup industry in recent years has been the standard of offering over 40 shades of foundation to choose from. This development has pushed the industry in the right direction in terms of inclusion and has opened the door for loads more people to be able to experience truly flattering makeup than just the standard 12 shades that have been exclusively served for decades. And while this development is undoubtedly positive, it’s also challenged everyone to become a little more educated about their skin tones to help them effectively select their perfect shades. One such piece of information that’s crucial to know now is your undertone.
“Believe it or not, discovering your undertone will not only help you with understanding how to choose your makeup shades more effectively, but it will also help you design your complete beauty wardrobe,” says makeup artist and Founder of Danessa Myricks Beauty, Danessa Myricks. “Everything from dying your hair to choosing the most complementary outfit and accessories becomes easier when you understand your undertone.” In our increasingly digital world, I’ve personally found that using knowledge about my undertone (I’m pretty warm), helps me to narrow down my foundation selection quickly and pick the right one without fear of a mismatch. It’s like a magic token that’s unlocked a secret level of makeup prowess. Here, pro makeup artists guide us through the wild world of undertones, from determining our own to learning which makeup colors are best, and even breaking down exactly how to use this intel to pick out the right foundation online.
To put it simply, undertones are the underlying colors that show up in a person’s skin. And while identifying whether you have a deep skin tone or a fair skin tone is simple, it takes a bit more of a discerning eye to spot the undertone. “Skin undertones represent that subtle hue of color that lies beneath the surface of the skin,” Myricks explains. Award-winning Broadway makeup artist Christina Tracey agrees, adding that, “Generally when you look at a face you tend to see a little more pink, orange, yellow, or green. [Undertones] are really just the dominant overall hue of a person’s skin tone.”
As a rule of thumb, Myricks warns against any makeup that makes the skin look flat or dull. “As a general rule, I would recommend avoiding wearing eye, lip, and cheek tones that are the exact tone of the skin.” She says this approach can be unflattering. “The key is contrast,” she goes on. “Even the slightest contrast can be a beautiful complement. The more you dial up the contrast, the more dramatic the color impact would be and the more life will be brought to your skin tone.” But don’t worry, we’ve got more for you than vague notions. Ahead, you’ll learn about all the undertones, as well as tips for playing up each one.
Now that you know everything about picking out makeup to match every undertone, it’s time to determine your own. Myricks says there are a few different methods, but calls out three as the most effective.
Method #1: The Vein Test
Myricks says this is the most widely used method for determining undertone. “Under good lighting, review the veins in your wrist and inside of the arm. If your veins appear greener or olive, you have a warm undertone. If your veins appear more blue or purple, you are probably cool. If you find it hard to determine whether your veins are blueish or greenish, you are likely neutral.”
Method #2: The Jewelry Test
According to Myricks, you can also dip into your jewelry box to help identify your undertone. “Warmer undertones will look amazing in gold jewelry. Cool skin tones tend to pop in silver jewelry. Both gold and silver jewelry will look great on neutral undertones.”
Method #3: The Sun Test
Another well-known method for determining your undertone is considering your skin’s reaction to the sun. Those who burn easily can almost be certain that they’ve got cool undertones. Those who don’t burn, but rather tan, most likely have warm undertones. And if your skin sometimes burns and sometimes tans in the sun, then neutral undertones are probably what you have.