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Skin Tone Chart: How to Determine Your True Skin Tone

What’s the best way to determine your true skin tone? We’re making it easy to accurately identify your skin’s undertones so you can choose the most flattering foundation for your complexion.

Updated July 15, 2021 by Amanda Dixon

Skin Tone Chart: How to Determine Your True Skin Tone

If you’ve ever struggled to find the correct shade of face makeup for your skin tone, you definitely aren’t alone. Using the wrong shade of foundation can create a distinct line across the jawline or cause concealers to emphasize blemishes and dark spots, instead of hiding them. The perfect foundation should blend seamlessly into skin without looking cakey or creating harsh lines.

So what’s the best way to determine your true skin tone? Read on for our comprehensive guide to identifying your actual skin tone correctly. And say ‘goodbye’ to makeup disasters once and for all.

What is Skin Tone?

The outermost layer of the skin, known as the epidermis, gets its tone genetically. Varying skin tones are depicted by the amount of melanin present. Melanin refers to the dark brown and black pigments that occur in the hair and skin. In fact, melanin is responsible for our skin’s ability to tan when exposed to sunlight. Those with darker skin tones have more cells called melanocytes, which produce melanin and cause skin to brown or tan more easily. And, while there are subtle differences between skin shades and tones, there are three primary categories most people fall into: light, medium, and dark.

Undertones vs. Overtones: What's the Difference?

Have you ever noticed how a certain cobalt blue blouse seems to brighten your skin and hair. Or how the right shade of red lipstick illuminates your face? That’s all due to complementary undertones (subtle color variations) in your skin. As the name suggests, undertones are the less visible colors that influence our skin tone. Alternatively, overtone refers to our visible skin color. Determining your undertone can allow you to accurately choose warmer or cooler foundations, makeup, and even clothing that match your unique skin tone.

How to Determine Your Undertone

While your undertone may not be obvious at first glance, there are a few tricks you can use to identify if you have cool or warm undertones.

Using Your Veins

skintone chart

Don’t worry, we’re not talking about a blood test here. In fact, the vein test is one of the quickest, easiest ways to figure out your undertone. Simply look at the veins on your wrists and observe the color. If the veins appear more purple or dark blue, you have ‘cool’ undertones. If your veins appear blue-green, or green, you have ‘warm’ undertones.

Using Your Jewelry

Gold and silver can be another great way to help determine your undertone. Try this method by holding a gold and silver piece of jewelry to your skin or face. Which one makes you look brighter and healthier? Which one makes you look more uneven or dull? If the gold jewelry gives skin an instant boost of radiance, you’re a ‘warm’. If the silver illuminates your skin, you’re a ‘cool’.

Consider Your Hair Tone

This test is a little trickier for those of us who haven’t seen our natural hair color in years (ahem, or decades). But for those of you with au natural tresses, your hair can be an indicator of your skin’s undertones. If your hair boasts an abundance of golden hues, you’re a ‘warm’. If you would describe your hair as ‘ash’ toned, you’re a ‘cool’. Jet black hair and platinum blondes fall into the ‘cool’ category as well!

using hair color to determin skintone

Pro Tip: Calling all red heads! Just because your hair is red doesn’t mean your undertones are warm. Strawberry blondes and bright orange hair colors are definitely warm. But, if your red hair lacks golden hues or is auburn—you likely have cool undertones.

Olive Skin Tones

Still unsure? Do you often feel that the foundations you've tried were either too yellow or too pink—or just not right somehow? Are your veins kind of greenish, but...you are not really sure if it's not a green-blue? If these questions sounds like your struggles, you may have an olive undertone! ‘Olive’ undertones are a type of neutral undertone, with subtle hints of gray or green. Genetically speaking, olive under tones more commonly appear in people of Mediterranean, Eastern European, east Asian or Indian descent. Neutral undertones and olive undertones can have a mix of cool and warm hues, or lack either. And that’s not a bad thing! In fact, those with neutral or olive undertones can often wear shades and colors that those with cool or warm undertones can’t.

Olive skin tone foundation shade

Foundations that come in ‘neutral’ tones may suit olive skin tone more despite the fact that one can be a cool olive or a warm olive, this is because the warm undertones in foundation for warm-toned skin may pull too yellow on olive skin tones.

How to Select Face Makeup That Complements Your Natural Skin Tone

Now that you’ve correctly identified your true skin tone, you can more easily find a foundation to match your skin. Start by choosing the right shade, somewhere within fair, medium, and dark. Next, look for a shade that contains the correct undertones for your skin. If you have warm undertones, go with a shade that has hints of yellow. If your complexion is on the cool side, a foundation with pink undertones is your best bet.

Still unsure? Many foundations are neutral,meaning they don’t have yellow or pink undertones. These ‘neutral’ shades are easily blendable and work well for those who can’t identify their skin’s undertones. Luckily, once you’ve determined your true skin tone, you then take the guessing work out of shopping for foundation and face makeup!

Ready to find the perfect foundation for your skin tone? Shop our entire foundation category for all your makeup needs—from liquid to cream, full-coverage and more.

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