Cool, Warm or Neutral: What’s Your Undertone?

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BY: KIZZY COURTNEY

Have you ever wondered why one foundation shade looks perfect on you, yet another one that appears to be the same shade doesn’t work quite as well?  More than likely, the first one is probably matched perfectly to your skin surface tone and undertone, while the other shade might have the wrong undertone, which can make your face look dull, ashy or grey. It’s not about how light or dark your skin is; people of all skin colours, from very fair to very deep, can have cool, warm, or neutral undertones. Most people have heard the term ‘undertone’ but barely understand what it means, and most probably don’t know that it plays a very important role in our beauty routine.

Skin tones are often confused for undertones, but they are not the same thing. An undertone is a colour that lies beneath the skin. It is like a shadow below your natural skin colour, and while your skin tone can change, your undertone never does. Your undertone can fall under one of three categories.

  • Cool (pink, red or bluish undertones)
  • Warm (yellow or golden undertones)
  • Neutral (a mix of warm and cool undertones)

Knowing your undertone will help determine the right skin foundation, what colours are more complimentary to you, and help give you a glow! A lot of high-end brand foundations will categorize their foundations into the different categories of Warm, Cool & Neutral. And just to confuse you all together, MAC decided to categorize their shades in a rather confusing way.

  • NC – Warm Tones (Yellow)
  • NW – Cool Tones (Pink)
  • C – (They have recently brought out several shades for Neutral Tones)

There are several ways to determine your skin’s undertone. Start by looking at the inside part of your arm, where the underlying colour shows through well. This area is naturally hidden from the sun and, therefore, is not sun damaged or discoloured, which is why skin in this area works best to reveal how warm, cool, or neutral your skin really is. To help you determine what undertone you are, here are a few differences between cool, warm, and neutral undertones.


Cool Undertone
-Your wrist veins appear blue/purple in natural light
-Your complexion is naturally pale with rosy cheeks
-Skin has a slight pink, red, or blue appearance
-Silver/platinum jewelry and jewel tones look best on you

-You burn easily in the sun
-Your eye colour is usually grey, blue or green

-Your hair colour is usually blonde, brown, or black
Colours that flatter you are black, navy, red, hot pink, deep greens, plums and soft, pastel colours.

Warm Undertone
-Your veins appear green or olive in natural light
-Your complexion is usually golden and you have a bronze hue
-Skin has a slight yellow or peach appearance
-Gold jewellery and earth coloured stones work best on you
-You get a golden brown tan when you spend time in the sun
-Your eye colour is usually hazel or brown
-Your hair colour is usually brown, red, black, strawberry blonde
-Colours that flatter you are earth colors like greens, gold, browns, bronze and soft colors like coral, peach, yellow.

Neutral Undertone
-Your veins appear blue-green in natural light
-Skin doesn’t appear either yellow/gold/peach or pink/blue
-Both silver and gold jewelry look great on you
-You tend to tan easily
-Your eye color and hair color vary
-You are lucky enough that all the colors flatter you
Neutral undertones is a blend of both cool and warm

To create a perfect look for yourself, you need to determine your skin undertone and make sure to use the right products and colors suitable for you. By ignoring your undertone, you take the risk of either looking ashy or you strengthen your skin tone to such extent, that it no longer looks natural.

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