Understanding your skintone

learn how to read your skintone

Understand your skintone

When you decide to buy a foundation, you will take into consideration different factors such as texture, coverage, density, finish and so on, but in particular, you are looking for a product that will match your skin tone. Easy, right? So the next moment, you are standing in front of the counter looking at all those different shades and you notice that, although some might be lighter or darker, at the same time some may be more yellowish or pinkish. That’s when the following question comes through your mind: Why?!?!

It’s like standing in front of a map, without knowing which direction to take. Through this article, I’ll try to teach you how to “read” your skin complexion, so that you will be able to look at that map and find your path to your foundation match.

Let’s take a step back; first, we need to understand the difference between shade and undertone.

Shade defines how light or dark your skin is, while undertone is the intrinsic colour of the skin. Matching your base with your skin tone is a combination of both.

Based on how fair or ebony you are, you will look for a similar foundation shade. I assume the concept of dark and light doesn’t need to be further explained.

While I would like to focus more on the visual element of undertone. Human skin is rich in colour diversity and sometimes it’s difficult to identify which dominant tone you may have. The range we are looking at is from ruddy (pink/red) to olive (yellow). Some may also take into consideration a more neutral undertone, which is a mix of both. Keep in mind that there are many exceptions and infinite variations, so this is just a general guideline.

The majority of the population has some amount of olive undertone in their skin, although blood vessels, irritations, blemishes or even veins that are close to our skin surface may cause redness.

How can we detect the major undertone of our skin?

Different sources give different answers:

• The old classic school states that the best part of the face to determine your undertone is to look at the skin in front and below your ear, where the neck joins your face. That’s where your “true” colours lay (as most probably you have protected it from sun exposure).

understand skintone through face
wrist to understand your skintone

• Some divide skin undertones into 3 categories: warm, cold and neutral. To understand your category you need to look at your wrist veins. Based on their colour, you will understand which category you belong to.
Blue veins -> cold
Green veins -> warm
Both -> neutral

• Another method is to wear something white, which works as a neutral contrast to help identify your undertone.

wear something white
sunbath to understand your skintone

• Others keep it simple, suggesting that if when you sunbath your tendency is to become red, then you have a cold undertone, on the contrary you are warm.

Use these techniques only to understand your undertone and not your foundation! Why? Because as Makeup Artist Rae Morris states in her book Express Makeup () your foundation needs to match your chest and not your neck, which is your palest body part; face, décolleté, shoulder, knee and ankle must be of the same colour.

Don’t worry it’s not difficult! Remember that trying different hues on your skin is important as other elements may change the result, such as your tan or even your undertone! If you have an olive complexion and you choose a foundation with yellow undertones, then you may risk appearing very orangish (that’s because many foundations tend to oxidize with air). At the same time, if you have red undertones, when applying a pink foundation, you may risk a grey and dull, without radiance. As you may have noticed, finding your dominant shade is just the beginning, but learning how to “read” your skin, helps you get on the right track.