Faceless people

Skin tone and Undertone

There are many under-rated & unexplored terms when it comes to beauty and makeup. They can be very useful and important for you if you want to achieve that professional looking makeup or beautiful looking skin. Today I am going to share my thoughts on similar unexplored and bit confusing but rather important topics – Skin tone and undertone

Skin tone

We all are well versed with the term skin tone. We use this term every now and then. But to tell you about the difference between skin tone and skin undertone, let me shed some light on skin tone. I am sure some of you might know this already, but let me go through it again. 🙂

What is a skin tone?

Skin tone, which is also known as complexion, is the colour of our outermost layer of the skin which we see with our naked eyes. It can be broadly divided into three categories

  1. Light
  2. Medium
  3. Dark

We often mention about skin tone knowingly or unknowingly. To give you an example… you are so fair or he is a tall, dark and handsome guy or I love your dusky skin tone and so on.

One of the main characteristic of our skin tone is that it can change during the course of time because of some external elements. Like, our skin colour gets dark if we are exposed to the sun for a longer period of time, which we call as getting a tan. Conversely, the skin gets lighter during winter months. I am sure many of you have experienced this.

We often see many advertisements saying, apply this this product and it will make your skin lighter… use this products to get fair skin…. So in this case they are talking about the skin tone.

But is skin tone the most important factor to consider when it comes to beauty and makeup? The answer is ‘NO’. There is another equally important or should I say, more important thing to consider, that is your ‘skin undertone’.

Skin undertone

Skin undertone is our natural colour which lies beneath the outer most layer of our skin. This might not be the first thing we observe when we see a persons skin tone, but few small tests will help you find this undertone which plays a very important role in finding the suitable colour tone for that person.

Basically it can dictate all the colours you wear from clothes to makeup. That is why we often say ” This lipstick suits you well” or “You look pale in this dress” or “This base makes me look whitish”

Types of skin undertone

Your skin undertone can be divided into three categories

  1. Cool undertone
  2. Warm undertone
  3. Neutral undertone
Colour wheel showing primary, secondary & tertiary cool and warm colours
Colour wheel showing primary, secondary & tertiary cool and warm colours

If you are familiar with colour wheel, it will be easier for you to understand the concept. Presence of warm colours such as yellow or orange or red in your skin tone gives you the warm undertone and presence of green or blue or violate gives you the cool undertone. And when there is no prominent presence of either cool or warm colours, it means you have a neutral undertone.

What determines your skin tone and undertone

The combination of the below three biological chemicals determines your skin tone and undertone

  1. Melanin
  2. Hemoglobin
  3. Carotene

Melanin, the brown or yellow-red chemical in your body determines your skin tone. More the melanin in your body, darker the skin tone and vice a versa. Melanin is our skin’s natural sun screen lotion, so more the melanin, better the protection from suns harmful ultraviolet radiations and lesser the possibility of sun burns and tanning.

The more the melanin you have, the warmer the complexion you will have and less the melanin you have, the cooler the complexion you have. But Melanin does not determine your skin tone alone.

Haemoglobin is a red coloured chemical while carotene which absorbs ultraviolet and blue light while scattering orange or yellow, combines with Melanin to define your skins tone and undertone.


People always assume that, a person with light skin tone has a cool undertone and a person with dark skin tone has warm undertone. That is not always true.

As I have discussed above, skin tone and undertone are defined by 3 biological chemicals and their availability in your body. So it’s hightly possible that a person has the light skin tone and warm undertone or dark skin tone and cool undertone.

How to find out your skin undertone

I know with above technical information, you must be thinking… okay, now we know that knowing your skin undertone is important, but how do I find it out?

Figuring your undertone is very easy. There are few small tests which will help you determine your undertone. Here are some simple tricks that will tell you whether you have a cool undertone, warm undertone or a neutral.

1.The vein test

This is the easiest and the fastest test to find your undertone. Look at the veins in your wrist area

If your veins are blue or purple in colour, you have a cool undertone.

Green or olive colour veins on your wrist suggests you have a warm undertone.

And if unsure about the colour of your veins? Green, purple or blue… you are likely a neutral undertone person.

2. The sun test

The way your skin reacts to the sun exposure can also help us understand our skin undertone. What does the long time sun exposure do to your skin? Does it tan? or burn? or just tans slightly and does not burn?

If you get tan easily with exposure to sun, you most likely are warm undertone person.

Does your skin burn with long sun exposure? If yes, you most likely have a cool undertone.

And if your skin neither burns or tans, you are a neutral undertone person.

3. The white paper test

Hold a white paper near your face in bright, natural day light and observe your skin colour with reference to that paper in the mirror or ask someone to look at you.

If your face looks pink or rosy, you are cool toned. But if your face looks yellow or golden, you are warm toned.

But if your face does not show any single colour prominently, then you are neutral tones.

4. The jewellery test

This test is a little subjective, but this can help you confirm your finding. If you think gold jewellery (or gold coloured jewellery) suits you more than silver, you are mostly a warm toned person and on the contrary if silver jewellery (or silver coloured jewellery) suits you more, you are most likely a cool toned person.

But if you think, you look great in both the colours, gold and silver, you should be a neutral toned.

5. The Colour test

Colour test is also similar to that of the jewellery test. The colour of your clothes can answer the question about your skin undertone

  • If cool colours like blues, greens or violets and neutrals like black or white suit you, you have a cool undertone.
  • You have warm undertones if warm shades like yellows, oranges or reds and neutral colours like brown or cream suit you.
  • If all colour shades suit you, then you have a neutral undertone.

Why knowing your skin undertone is important

Knowing your skin undertone will help you decide which colour tone will enhance your beauty or which colour tone will make you look pale or dull. Skin undertone will help you choose the most suitable colour for your:

  1. Clothes
  2. Jewellery
  3. Hair colour
  4. Makeup base
  5. Lipstick
  6. Blush on
  7. Eye makeup and so on.

So if you have a cool undertone, all the cool colours will make you look good. And if you have a warm undertone all the warm colours will brighten your beauty.

You are lucky in terms of choosing the right colour clothes, makeup, hair or jewellery if you are a neutral toned person as all the colours will suit your skin undertone,

But wearing the colour tone that does not suit your skin tone and undertone can make you look flat, dull or pale.

Click here to read an article which might help you understand how skin tone and undertone plays an important role in choosing the right makeup base


Knowing your skin tone and undertone is very important for making any decisions regarding the selection of colour in your makeup and beauty. From clothes, makeup, hair or jewellery, you should stick to your side of the colour wheel. And with the simple tests shared above, you can find your skin undertone easily.

Now I will suggest all of you who do not know their undertone to take the above tests, find out your undertone and let me know it in the comments below.

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