We all have undertones in our skin. These subtle color casts below the surface of the skin are unrelated to skin type or complexion. Knowing if you have warm vs. cool undertones is vital information because it can help you look and feel your best, in terms of the makeup you choose and the clothes you wear. Keep reading for tips on how to determine your undertones.
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The Difference Between Skin Type & Complexion
The color of human skin ranges from very light to very dark. Skin pigmentation is determined by genetics, and is the result of a natural selection process that regulates the degree of ultraviolet radiation that is able to penetrate the skin. This process also correlates with geographical location.
For instance, locations with the highest amount of UV radiation, that are closest to the equator, have populations with dark skin. On the other hand, light-skinned populations live in locations that have lesser amounts of UV radiation, and are located further from the tropics.
Skin tone is determined by the amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin, a protein responsible for pigment, is produced by melanocytes within the bottom layer of the epidermis. It plays a primary role in determining, not only skin color, but eye and hair color as well. Interestingly, women tend to have lighter skin tones than men.
The reason behind this is that the skin synthesizes vitamin D from the sun in order to absorb calcium. Because women bear and nurse children, they need more calcium. The lighter one’s skin is, the more calcium they can absorb.
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1. Fair: People with fair skin tones typically have blonde or red hair, with light-colored eyes, and can look quite pale. They have to be very careful when out in the sun as they burn quickly.
2. Light: Those in this category don’t burn as easily as people with fair complexions, yet are prone to sunburn. It is, however possible for them to tan. Those with this skin tone have either red, blonde, or light brown hair, and blue, green, or hazel eyes.
3. Medium: Medium-toned complexions can burn, but can gradually acquire a tan. They have dark blonde or chestnut hair with blue, green, hazel, or brown eyes.
4. Olive: These lucky people rarely burn and can build a gorgeous tan quickly. They have medium brown to dark brown hair, with brown or hazel eyes.
5. Brown: People with a brown skin tone tan very easily and rarely burn. They have dark brown hair with brown eyes.
6. Dark brown and black. Dark complexions always tan and never burn, and are characterized by black hair and brown eyes.
What Are Undertones?
Undertones are different from skin type, which can be affected by sun exposure. The former remain constant, exclusive of sun exposure. They’re the subtle hues beneath the skin, kind of like how hair color has undertones. Skin tone doesn’t correlate to undertones, meaning you can have a fair complexion with warm undertones, and dark skin with cool undertones.
There are three types of undertones;
- Warm undertones: Yellow, peach, and gold hues
- Cool undertones: Red, blue, and pink hues
- Neutral: A mix of both warm and cool tones: Neutral undertones may closely resemble the color of your complexion
Warm vs. Cool Undertones
You probably already know your skin tone or the color of your complexion. Undertones, however are a little more difficult to figure out. Fortunately, there are ways to determine if your tones are warm, cool, or neutral. If you tan easily, you have warm undertones, whereas if you burn or have to gradually build a tan, you’re most likely cool. This doesn’t hold true for all people though. If you blush easily, you have cool undertones.
Eye color can provide another clue to your undertones. People with blue or green eyes are usually cool-toned, while those with hazel, brown, or amber-colored eyes lean toward warmer undertones. Another give away is to look at the color of your veins. The best place to look is on the inside of your wrist.
Make sure you’re in a well-lit area. Veins will appear green if you have warm undertones, and purple or blue if your undertones are cool. If you can’t tell whether your veins are blue or green, you likely either have neutral undertones or an olive complexion. What color of jewelry do you look best in? People with warm undertones look best in yellow and rose gold and copper jewelry, those with cool undertones are complemented by silver and platinum.
Another clue to your skin tone is to take the white test. Hold a piece of white paper up to your face while looking in a mirror. You must have no makeup on. If you skin looks dull, sallow, or has a yellow cast, you have warm undertones. Your complexion will appear pink or blue if you have cool undertones, and grayish if you’re neutral.
How To Find The Perfect Foundation For Your Skin Type
Now that you know your skin type, along with your undertones, you’re properly equipped to find a perfectly-matched foundation. This is a big deal because it can be the difference between your makeup looking natural or not. Foundations generally have the letters C, W, and N, corresponding to cool, warm, and neutral, on their labels indicating what undertones the foundation is formulated for.
If you have warm undertones, look for a warmer-toned foundation, whereas, those on the cool spectrum will look best in makeup with cooler hues. Neutral undertones have more leeway, and can look great in both cool and warm foundations. Of course, if you do have neutral undertones, your best bet is to look for foundations with the letter N.
Knowing your undertones is a great tool to have in your beauty arsenal. This knowledge enables you to choose the makeup and color of clothing that will be the most flattering and complementary. Do you know what undertones you have? Let me know in the comments:)