Everything You Need to Know About Undertones

Makeup product. Color set of foundation

Thanks to a combination of factors, everybody's skin tone is different. It’s not just about how light or dark it is, it’s also about the subtleties that play into the color. One of these subtleties is the undertone, the naturally occurring coloration beneath the surface of your skin. No matter how the surface layer of your skin tans or changes, your undertone will always remain the same.

Why Undertones Are Important

Though you might think something so far beneath the skin it wouldn't make much of a difference but they can have a pretty powerful impact on the way things like makeup, clothing, and accessories look on a person.

Different undertones work differently with various shades of concealer and foundation. Even if you’re using products that offer heavier coverage, finding makeup that suits your undertone is crucial to achieving a good, harmonious match. This makes it easier to blend out your products with no harsh lines (especially when using Scott Barnes Flawless Face and Foundation brushes!)

If the undertone of your foundation is too warm or too cool compared to your natural undertone, your face is going to appear vastly different from your neck and decolletage. (When it comes to foundation, subtlety is key!). If you’ve ever had a product that was “way too orange” or made you look “washed out,” something most likely went wrong with the undertones.

Types of Undertones (and the Right Products for Them)

Like most things in nature, undertones are a spectrum. However, we can still roughly categorize them into three groups: warm, cool, and neutral. Here’s how each type of undertone works and how to pick the right makeup for it.


Skin with cool undertones will have hints of colors like blue, pink, and red. This type of undertone tends to be especially common among folks who have either fair complexions or dark complexions. Famous figures with cool undertones include Adele, Lupita Nyong’o, and Mindy Kaling.

Foundation and concealer for cool undertones genuinely lean more to the pink side. Avoid products that look more yellow, as these warm tones can clash with natural cooler tones. A shade of foundation with too much yellow can easily make someone with a cool undertone look sallow and sickly.


Neutral undertones have combined hints of various cool and warm colors. Unlike with the other types, the skin tone and undertone tends to be very similar to the skin color. Celebrities like Kerry Washington, Natalie Portman, and Drew Barrymore have neutral undertones.

When shopping for foundation and concealer, someone with a neutral undertone should avoid anything that leans too pink or too yellow. Look for something in between, with a peachy coloration. Even if a product is labeled for neutral undertones, you may want to check it against your skin tone to make sure it has the right balance.


Skin with warm undertones will have hints of colors like peach, olive, and gold. It often looks like a more yellow or brown base, especially around pink and other cool colors. Celebs like Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Beyoncé have warm undertones.

If you have a warm undertone, your foundation and concealer should sway more toward the yellow or golden side. Avoid anything with too much pink, and make sure the warm tones of the product are the right ones for your skin. Some look great with a yellower makeup, while those with olive complexions should aim for a more golden/tan shade.

How to Identify Your Undertone

Different shades of liquid foundation

If you try these methods and end up with inconsistent results, don’t panic! You could have a more neutral skin tone with a balance of cooler and warmer features. Or, you might just need to try a few products to discover what suits you.

Vein Color

A really simple way to investigate your undertone is to take a look at the color of veins that are visible through your skin. In natural light (sunlight, ideally), take a look at the inside of your wrist.

If your veins look:

Response to Sun Exposure

Different undertones tend to align with how a person’s skin responds to being in the sun.

If you:

  • Tend to sunburn easily but rarely tan, you probably have a cooler undertone.
  • Burn after a while but can tan just as easily, your undertone is probably neutral.
  • Tan easily and it takes a lot for you to get burned, you likely have a warmer undertone.

Other Physical Features

Warm and cool undertones can also go hand-in-hand with features like hair color or eye color.

If you naturally have:

  • Blue, gray or green eyes with brown, black or blonde hair, you probably have a cooler undertone.
  • Brown or hazel eyes with strawberry blonde, red, brown or black hair, you likely have a warmer undertone.

What Looks Good on You

You can also get an idea of what your undertone might be by thinking about the jewelry and clothing that looks best on you.

If you look best in:

  • Silver jewelry and colors like pink, blue, gray and purple, you might have a cool undertone.
  • A variety of jewelry and colors like true red, jade green, dusty mauve and black, you might have a neutral undertone.
  • Gold jewelry and colors like coral, olive, cream and mustard yellow, you might have a warm undertone.

Learn More About Makeup

Want to keep expanding your makeup artist knowledge? You can find even more helpful tips, tricks and tutorials on the Scott Barnes website.