That was I was given at the MAC counter it was the safe black girl shade and they were wrong.
I looked casket ready and had to return the foundation. Since even the professionals got it wrong, I decided to educate myself and started looking online and discovered that apart from colour, skin also had undertones.
Most people focus solely on colour when choosing makeup when they need to consider their undertones as well. I have spent a goodly amount of money on products that somehow look off even when the person who recommended it is the same complexion as I am.
This all has to do with the fact that our undertones are different. Understanding your skin’s undertone is key to finding the right foundation and choosing the best colour palettes for your hue. So if you want to actually buy products that suit you and not products that end up in your makeup graveyard keep reading.
What is an undertone?
The best explanation for your undertone I have heard is that it is like your skins personal Instagram filter, but a filter that is underneath your skin. Essentially it is the colour that peaks through from under the surface of your skin which affects your complexion or colour. Your undertone is different from your complexion or tone. Skin tone refers to if you are fair, medium or dark skinned.
Undertones are not dependent on your skin tone, so do not assume that fair skinned girls are cool toned or dark skinned girls are warm.
It does not work that way. Both fair and dark-skinned people dark-skinned or cool toned and vice versa.
What are the different undertones?
There are three traditional undertones: warm, cool, and neutral.
Warm undertones range from peach to yellow and golden.
Cool undertones include pink and bluish hues.
Neutral undertones here your undertones and skin colour are roughly the same
Which are you? Cool, warm or neutral
There are several ways to determine undertones and we will go through them below.
What colour are your veins
Check the underside of your wrists, if you are fair enough to see your veins, you can use their colour to identify your undertone. Greenish veins mean you have warm undertones, while blue or purplish-looking veins means a cool undertone. If your veins are neither really green nor blue or are not visible colour or appear colourless then your undertones are likely neutral. This does not mean that if you have a warm undertone your veins are green it just looks that way because of your undertone. A disadvantage of this method is that it does not work for deep dark-skinned people because their veins are not visible through their skin.
Gold or Silver?
Do you tend to wear gold or silver jewellery because it looks good on you? This could be an indicator of your undertone. Traditional yellow gold jewellery tends to look good on warm undertones, while silver is more flattering to cool undertones. Neutral undertones tend to look good with both silver and gold jewellery. Note, this means you have to be objective about what actually looks good on you, not just what you like.
This may also translate to the colours you wear. People with cool tones tend to look their best in blues, cool reds, other jewel tones, while warmer-undertone people look good in yellows, oranges and warmer hues.
White or off-white?
Stand in front of a pure whiteboard or put a sheet of paper in next to your face, what colours appear visible on your skin. Does it take on a reddish hue? If so you have a cool undertone. Alternatively, try on pure white or off-white clothing, or wrap a white towel on your head. If you have a warm undertone you will look better in off-white while pure white will wash you out. A neutral undertone will look good in both. Watch this video by @Ronkeraji which shows the difference in an undertone when women sit in front of a white background.
Sun and your skin
I am sure we are all wearing sunscreen daily, otherwise, a million bumble bees will spontaneously combust.
No seriously wear your sunscreen.
That being said, your skin’s reaction to exposure to sunlight may be helpful in determining your undertone. Cool undertones are likely to sunburn easily unlike warm undertone which tan but do not burn. Again this is not particularly helpful for people with black skin as we do not burn but generally get darker with sun exposure.
Why does your undertone matter?
If you wear makeup or clothing then knowing your undertone is important in making sure that you look your best. Because each product you use sits on your skin its colour will differ depending on your undertone. Knowing your skin’s undertone is especially important when it comes to face makeup, like foundation, concealer, contour, and blush.
Now that you know your undertone, it’s time to identify the right products for your undertone especially when choosing complexion products.
Foundation or concealer
Brands like MAC and Lancôme do the heavy lifting and let you know the undertones of their face products. For example, I use MAC studio fix fluid foundation in NC50.
50 represents the skin tone which means I am at the darker part of the spectrum, while the C shows that the undertone is cool. So the NW45 which was given to me was completely wrong. It was close to my skins complexion but got the undertone wrong, so gave me a mask-like appearance.
Most companies label cool-toned foundations with a “C” and they look a bit pinker in the bottle, while warm-toned foundations are labelled with a “W” and look more yellow in the bottle.
So when picking out product looks out for the indicators they are for cool or warmed toned complexion, and then choose the right shade based from the range. Neutrals, on the other hand, are labelled with … you guessed it N and look neither yellow nor pink.
Choosing a blush, on the other hand, works opposite to that of complexion products. Wearing a blush with an undertone opposite your undertone makes ‘’ pop’’ more on your skin.
If you have cool tones, step away from pink or purple blushes, because they will look too bright, go for oranges and peach instead. Likewise, if you have warm undertones, purples and pinks are your friends and if you have neutral undertones the world is your oyster. You can wear both cool and warm shades.
The cool blush above is the legendary NARS orgasm and the warm blush the NARS Taj Mahl both of which are in my collection. However, because I have cool undertones I never got the same effect that others did with NARS orgasm and wondered what the fuss was about. Now NARS Taj Mahal is a different story, it makes my cheeks pop and I look like a million dollars. I am just now understanding why that is.
So here is my guide on understanding your undertones and why it is important when choosing products irrespective of your shade or complexion. Let me know in the comments if this was helpful to you, what method have you used to find out your undertone?