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Makeup Blog

Undertones Unlocked: How to Match Foundation to Skin Tone

  • 3 min read

BY NECHELLE TURNER

Imagine you’re on a hunt for the perfect foundation, lip color, or blush shade — and you find it! The texture, formula, and depth of color are all that you’d hope for, then you put it on, and everything goes completely out the window. The best-laid plans fall flat, the color is completely off! “What happened? I had everything right!” you may be thinking, then you take another look, and you notice three words: Neutral, Warm, and Cool. You may be wondering, what does it all mean, and how does it affect not only my foundation shade choice but also my lip shade and cheek shade choices? The trick is learning how to match foundation to skin tone.

match foundation to skin undertone

What Are Undertones?

Neutral, warm, and cool represent your undertone. Your undertone is just as important as your surface tone. The undertone represents the color from underneath the surface of your skin that affects your overall hue. There are three undertones – neutral, warm, and cool.

Neutral undertones have a mix of cool and warm undertones which means they can comfortably vacillate between blue-based shades and orange-based shades.

A warm undertone is more peachy, golden, or yellow therefore warmer undertones look better in warmer shades such as orange-based reds, corals, and golds. 

A cool undertone is generally associated with skin that has hints of blue or pink. The best makeup for cool undertones include shades like bluer-based reds, pinks, or purples.

How to Find My Undertone

The next question you may be asking is how do I determine my undertone?

Here are three methods that are commonly used:

  • The vein method. Start by looking at the veins on the inside of your wrist. If your veins look blue, you have cool undertones. If your veins look green, then you’re warm. If you are neutral, this technique may prove to be more difficult since you have a mixture of both cool and warm. The vein method can be a bit challenging so trying out one or both the following methods may be easier.
  • The white fabric method. This method includes holding up a piece of white fabric and an off-white fabric to your face. If you look better in white, you have a warm undertone, whereas if you look better in off-white or look washed out in white, you have a cool undertone. If both look good, you’re neutral.
  • The jewelry selection method. This may be the fastest way of all. Typically, cooler undertones look better in silver and warmer undertones better in gold, whereas neutral undertones can look great in both.

One thing to be cautious about is not to confuse depth of skin tone with undertone. Even the fairest skin can have warm undertones, and darker skin can have cool ones. Even when tanning, your surface tone may change but undertone never changes.  

Now that you have a complete understanding of undertone and how to discover it, using the jane iredale speed-matching chart is a fool-proof tool to help with your formula selection. Looking for the best foundation for cool undertones? The speed-matching chart is broken down by depth of surface tone and breaks down each formula by undertone. Each undertone is indicated by N, W, or C. You can also find your perfect match with our Foundation Finder quiz.

Hopefully these tips will guide you in the right direction when choosing your makeup essentials and don’t forget to have fun!

Nechelle Turner

Nechelle Turner

Nechelle Turner has been a Pro Makeup Artist for 26 years. As a published artist Nechelle’s work has graced the red carpets of both the Grammys and the BET Awards. Nechelle currently holds the title of National Makeup Artist and Educator at jane iredale.