Skin Undertones 101: How to Determine if You Have Warm, Cool or Neutral Undertones
Your undertones play a key part in makeup application.
Your undertones play a key part in makeup application.
If you’ve ever wondered what you can do to get your face to look flawlessly natural even when wearing a full face of makeup, look at your skin undertone. Understanding how to find your skin undertone helps with a plethora of beauty and fashion-related choices — from picking an outfit to choosing a hair color. When it comes to undertones for makeup, knowing whether you have cool, warm or neutral undertones is the key to finding your best foundation match, a more seamless eye makeup look and even lip color application.
Below, explore all the information you need to know about determining a skin undertone, as well as the difference between cool undertone, neutral undertone and warm undertone. Plus, you’ll find a few of our favorite products for your specific undertones to update your beauty collection.
So, what does “undertone” mean in the first place? Undertones refer to the colors that sit under the surface of your skin that stay the same, even when the seasons change. The three traditional types of undertones are warm, cool and neutral.
Keep in mind that skin undertones and skin tones (complexions) are two different things. Skin tone represents the color on the surface of your skin that can change due to sun exposure or other lightening or darkening treatments like lasering and tanning. You can have fair skin and cool undertone, dark skin and warm undertone, etc.
If you have a cool undertone, your skin will lean on the pink and reddish side with blue hues (similarly your veins will likely appear blue in color). For those with fair skin and a cool undertone, your complexion may mimic porcelain colors that tend to burn more in the sun. Darker complexions with a cool undertone will have a deeper color with blue-ish undertones.
If you have a neutral undertone, look for an even mixture of warm and cool tones that balance each other out — this will look most similar to your natural skin tone. Those with a neutral undertone have the best of both worlds and can easily wear most colors in fashion and beauty.
While some people can take a quick look at their skin and determine which undertone they have, if you’re having some trouble figuring yours out, there are a few questions that can help guide you.
Flip your wrist over and take a peek at your veins. If the color of your veins leans toward the blueish-purple end of the spectrum, you have a cool undertone. If your veins look slightly greener, you have warm undertones. If you’re unable to really nail down what color your veins are — or you have a mix of green and blue veins — that means your skin undertone is likely neutral.
As a reminder, everyone needs sunscreen to protect their skin from the dangerous UV rays of the sun, no matter their complexion or undertone. While lighter complexions are known to burn more than dark complexions (which usually tan), your undertone can determine this as well.
If you burn rather easily in the sun, there’s a good chance you have a cool undertone. On the other hand, those who tend to tan will have warm or neutral undertones. If you have a neutral undertone you're also likely to burn first and then tan.
While you can absolutely accessorize with both, take a minute to really consider which metal looks best on you. Gold jewelry will complement a warm undertone since they both share similar color palettes of yellow and golden hues. Silver jewelry tends to look better on a cool undertone for similar reasons; the metallic color looks better against the bluish hues of a cool undertone. Those with a neutral undertone look good in both.
You can wear whatever color jewelry you like, but if you want something that complements your skin undertone keep the above in mind.
You can determine your skin undertone by draping a pure-white t-shirt or towel around your face as the bright color allows you to see your tones better. Cool undertones will seem pinker in the complexion and won’t look washed out while wearing a pure white color. A warm undertone will look more yellow and are better complemented with an off-white or neutral color shirt. And if you have neutral skin tones, you can rock it all — it’ll come down to preference.
Determining your skin undertone is one of the hardest parts of makeup application, but once you’ve got that figured out finding the right makeup is easy. It’s simplified because many brands, like L’Oréal Paris formulate foundation, blush, lipsticks and other makeup with undertones in mind. Many products will tell you which colors look best with your skin undertone.
As a gentle reminder; you can still wear that blush or lipstick that you love even if it doesn’t “complement” your undertone. But when it comes to foundation and concealer, it’s vital to consider your undertone for the best color match possible.
To determine which foundation and concealer will pair best with your undertone, simply dab a little on your neck or along your jawline for the best match. This way, you’ll be able to match your undertone but be sure to try a few so that you can compare and find the truest match. You may be used to swatching on your hand for the best foundation color, but keep in mind the skin color on your hand may be different than your face.
Now that you’re armed with everything you need to know about undertones, it’s time to stock up on face makeup. Here are a few options to get you started.
Easily match your undertones and complexion with this foundation that offers the best match possible. Available in 47 true-to-skin shades, the color coding system of this foundation precisely lays out the undertones to best match your complexion.
For a warm undertone, check that the shade name starts with a W, which corresponds to this undertone. The foundation for a cool undertone and neutral undertone will be denoted with a C and N, respectively. This formulation offers a lightweight formula that blends easily for a natural finish.
Available in 30 shades for every skin tone and undertone, this foundation provides medium-to-full, buildable coverage that lasts all day and allows the skin to breathe. The formula’s oil absorbers also resist sweat, water and transfer.
This concealer can be used to cover blemishes, highlight and contour the face and conceal the dark circles in the under-eye area. Available in 25 shades, the waterproof formula provides full coverage that won’t transfer, fade, or flake. Pick a color one to two shades lighter for highlighting and brightening, and a concealer one to two shades deeper for contouring. You can use the L’Oréal Paris Makeup Genius Virtual Makeup Try-on tool to help you find your best match.
When it comes to color correcting with makeup, follow the color wheel to conceal certain blemishes. For example, if you’re dealing with redness from inflammation or an angry pimple, you’ll still want to use a green concealer to cancel out the pink.
Warm undertones, in general, can benefit from the L’Oréal Paris True Match Color Correcting Crayon in Yellow to neutralize any blue tones from age spots or broken capillaries (blood vessels). You can use the L’Oréal Paris True Match Color Correcting Crayon in Green to color-conceal cooler undertones with pink or blue hues for color correcting and the Peach, Bisque or Orange color correctors for a neutral skin undertone.
After figuring out your foundation and concealer, you may want to know what blush, eyeshadow and lipsticks work best for your skin undertone. Below, explore a few favorites that’ll best complement a warm undertone.
If you prefer natural-looking makeup choose a blush that’ll embrace your warm undertone for a flushed look. Try L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Blush in shades with the letter W, noted in the description to best match your warm undertone. For light complexions go with the shade Bare Honey W1-2 or the shade Barely Blushing W3-4 and for medium to dark skin tones try the former shade or the deep peach shade Subtle Sable W5-6.
Pick eyeshadows with bronze, gold or orange shades if you have warm undertones. Try L’Oréal Paris Brilliant Eyes Shimmer Liquid Eye Shadow Makeup in Bronze Light, Crown Gold or Precious Lava for a glitzy eye moment.
A makeup look to try for warm undertones is a brown smoky eye that looks natural on all complexions. You can easily create this look with the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Pocket Palette Eye Shadow in Boudoir Charme, which contains four warm-toned shades of brown and pink.
Try a lip product with a deep color to complement your warm undertone or one with a slight orange hue. The L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Les Nus by Colour Riche Intense Nude Lipstick in Nu Extreme and L’Oréal Paris Infallible Matte Resistance Liquid Lipstick in Fairytale Ending offer intense pigment for those wanting a bold nude.
If you’re looking for the perfect red lip for a warm undertone, swipe the creamy L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Intense Volume Matte Lipstick in Le Plum Dominant (a warm, medium burgundy), across lips for a bold pout.
If you have a cool undertone you’ll want to learn towards pink, purple and red shades with blue and purple undertones. This will enhance the cool tones in your skin. Below, find a few blush, eyeshadow and lipstick options to add to your makeup kit.
Use L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Blush in a shade that contains the letter C in its description as this confirms the color works well with a cool undertone. The super blendable formula hides blemishes while adding a natural touch of color to cheeks. If you have a light complexion, opt for the soft pink hues of Baby Blossom C1-2 or Tender Rose C3-4 that leave a natural-looking pigment on cheeks. For those with medium to dark complexions try the brighter pink shade Rosy Outlook C5-6 or the slight berry shade Spiced Plum C7-8 to add definition to your face.
Pick eyeshadows with blue, purple or silver hues if you have a cool undertone. Add intense sparkles to your lids with L’Oréal Paris Brilliant Eyes Shimmer Liquid Eye Shadow Makeup in String of Pearls, Amethyst Quartz or Royal Onyx that won’t wash you out.
A '90s-approved icy eyeshadow adds a subtle flair to cool undertones. Add a dusting of blue to your eyelids with one of the four shades from the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Pocket Palette Eye Shadow in Avant Garde.
For a cool undertone wear a lipstick color with an equally cool undertone like pale pinks, dark purples and deep reds. Apply the L’Oréal Paris Glow Paradise Balm-in-Lipstick with Pomegranate Extract in Luminous Coral or the L’Oréal Paris Glow Paradise Lip Balm-in-Gloss with Pomegranate Extract in Rose Harmony for a hydrating nude lip.
Everyone needs a true red lipstick for special occasions or trips to the grocery store if you like to make a statement no matter what. Wear a blue-based red lipstick L’Oréal Paris Infallible Matte Resistance Liquid Lipstick in Le Rouge Paris or L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Intense Volume Matte Lipstick in Le Rouge Avant Garde for a long-lasting red lip that won’t dry out lips and also makes teeth appear whiter.
Those with a neutral undertone can basically wear whatever color they want when it comes to eyeshadow, blush and lipstick. Most warm and cool shades will work well with a neutral undertone, but there are a few highlights to point out. Here, check out a few makeup favorites for a neutral undertone.
As stated, a neutral undertone can rock any color. But you (still) may want a blush made specifically for your skin undertone. If so, reach for the L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Blush and look for shades marked with the letter N that represents a neutral undertone. If you have a deep skin tone, try this blush in the shade Sweet Ginger N7-8 for a bright cheek or the shade Apricot Kiss N5-6 for a neutral blush choice. Light to medium complexions should reach for the shade Innocent Flush N3-4 for a natural makeup look.
And if you want a pigmented shade that brings vibrancy to your cheeks, you can pick any color of the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Up to 24H Fresh Wear Soft Matte Blush. This blush actually complements all skin undertones with four bright colors that melt into the skin with a weightless feel.
When it comes to a neutral skin undertone, you can stick with the natural shades of taupe, beige and brown as well as an array of vibrant colors like pink, orange and green. Don’t be afraid to change up your look by adding vibrant sparkles with L’Oréal Paris Brilliant Eyes Shimmer Liquid Eye Shadow Makeup in Radiant Ruby or L’Oréal Paris Infallible Metallics Eye Shadow in Violet Luster.
Look for lipstick shades with orange, purple and brown-based earth tones that complement a neutral undertone. You can’t go wrong with a medium orange-based pink like the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Intense Volume Matte Lipstick in Le Coral Irreverent or a fuschia purple like the L’Oréal Paris Glow Paradise Balm-in-Lipstick with Pomegranate Extract in Blush Fantasy.
While those with a neutral undertone can wear almost any shade of red, a brown-based red will offer the most natural-looking lip. The L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Rouge St. Germain and the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Reds Of Worth Satin Lipstick With Saturated Color in Prosperous Red leave a brick-red pigment on lips that’ll emphasize your natural complexion.
When you’re applying your makeup, you can ultimately wear whatever color makeup you want. But if your goal is makeup that looks like a professional did it, consider reviewing the above tips to find the lipstick, blush and eyeshadow colors that complement your natural skin undertone.
Photographer: Stephanie Price, Photo Assistant: Evan Mann, Digi Tech: Sergio Colon, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Creative Producers: Becca Solovay and Hannah Lee, Content Director: Shalwah Evans, Visual Designer: Sarah Duvivier, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Daniel Lutz, Wardrobe Stylist: Rika Watanabe, Wardrobe Assistant: Serena Orlando, Model: Dara Woo