How to work out your undertones.

To determine your undertones

Try the following tests to guide you:

  • Look at the veins on your inner wrist with a friend and see whether they appear more blue or green. If you're having trouble deciding, look at a few other wrists and compare yours. If your veins look more Blue, then you have a cool undertone, if they appear more green, then you have a warm undertone.

  • Another test if the above doesn't work for you, is to see what colour clothes look best on you. Hold up a hot pink shirt and an orange shirt. Ask for a few opinions if you can't determine which colour looks best. If orange looks better, then you have a warm undertone, if pink looks better, than you have a cool undertone. Or next time you get complimented on your clothes, pay attention to what colour you were wearing. Use this as a guide:

Cool Undertone Warm Undertone
Hot Pink Orange
Crisp White Off White/Cream
Blue Green
Undertone Guide

I have cool undertones. In the photos above, I've been told that Orange and Cream wash me out whereas Pink complements me most.

Tip: Yellow based foundations can work on both cool and warm undertones. If you don't know your undertone and choosing between a yellow based or pink based shade, go for the yellow based. Think of it this way, if you're warm (yellow), a pink based foundation will make the foundation clearly stand out on your face. It will make you look like you're wearing too much makeup, even if you're not. If you're cool (pink), a yellow based foundation will actually reduce the pinkness in your undertone and will flatter you more.

Difference between a Warm and Cool Foundation in the same colour group

Undertone Guide

See the photo on the left, you'll see the difference between a warm and cool foundation that is in the same colour group. On the Left is Nars Sheer Glow in Medium 1 Punjab - a yellow based foundation range. On the right is Lancome Teint Idole Ultra 24hr in 330 Bisque - a more pink based foundation range. If you look from a distance, you'll be able to see the undertone difference. Both shades will work for me however, the Lancome is slightly cooler and darker.

When buying Mineral Powders

  • Remember that mineral powders have a light reflecting particle in them. This means that it is more forgiving if you've picked the wrong colour. Unlike liquid, you can get away with wearing a shade lighter/darker.

  • Mineral powders tend to be pink based.

Tips to know you've bought the wrong colour?

  • If you look ashy (grey) or washed out then you have gone too light. Try using the next shade up.

  • If you look dirty then you have gone slightly darker.

  • If you look pink or too rosy, then the actual foundation may be pink based. Some foundation lines make both cooler and warmer shades of their colours eg, MAC Studio Fix NC shades are warmer than the NW shades OR YSL Touche Eclat has BD(warm/yellow), B(neutral) and BR(cool/rose). If the brand does not give the option of a cooler/warmer shade, then it may just be the actual line is pink based. Best to try a yellow based brand.

  • If you've tried almost every colour in that line and can't find one that matches, understand that not all foundations were created equal and you probably don't suit that range. Don't try and make it work for you because there's nothing worse than wearing the wrong colour! We've been there so many times where we've heard great reviews about a product, buy it, buy the next shade up and next few shades down, end up with 5 bottles but no matching one. Instead, save yourself time and money by trying a different range.