One of the first things I learnt when studying makeup was how to work out whether someone has warm or cool undertones in their skin. This was because choosing colours that compliment someones natural skin tone can make them look really vibrant, healthy and more youthful. Knowing whether someone has a warm or cool undertone is not only useful when choosing makeup, but for clothes and accessories too. Often people get confused between skin tone and undertone though. Your skin tone is the outer layers of skin, and can change depending on many factors such as whether you have a tan etc. Your undertone is much deeper, and will never change throughout your life. Many people think that someone who has brown skin is warm toned, and that those with pale skin are cool, but it’s the biggest myth out there. For example, I’m really pale and have warm undertones, therefore my complexion is more yellow. If I had a cool undertone then my complexion would be more blue. So how can you work out if you have a warm or cool undertone?
One of the best ways is to have a consultation with a makeup artist, but you might be able to figure it out for yourself. Here’s how:
Do the vein test
Have a look at the veins on the inside of your forearms, and your temples. Do they look blue or green? If they’re blue then this test would suggest that you have a cool undertone. If they look green then you might have a warm undertone, like me. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell, but mine are definitely more green, so the vein test suggests that I am warm. It’s important to point out that all veins are blue, but when someone has yellow tones in their skin the veins tend to look more green, because blue and yellow make green.
The picture below shows the difference between warm and cool undertones. Have a look at the colour of my veins, then at my friend Suzie’s. My veins look more green, and Suzie’s are very blue. You can also see that I have a peachy undertone, and that Suzie has a pinky undertone. As I mentioned previously, I am warm, and it’s easy to see that Suzie is cool. I got a little bit excited when I took this picture because when Suzie and I hold our wrists together the results are clear as day! It’s probably not so easy to tell by looking at this picture, and of course it looks different depending on what device you’re using, but I’m hoping you guys can see what I mean.
Work out if you look better in gold or silver/platinum
Put some gold jewellery on, then take it off and try some silver or platinum. Does one seem to highlight your imperfections more than the other? Do blemishes stand out? Are the dark circles under your eyes more apparent? Does your skin now look dull, sallow and lifeless? Alternatively one should do the complete opposite, making your eyes sparkle, your skin look radiant, and your teeth seem whiter! If you find you look better in white jewellery (silver or platinum) then you most likely have a cool undertone. If gold jewellery is really making you shine then it’s probably warm, again, like me. I personally found this test quite difficult to accept as I prefer platinum to gold, but it’s not about what you like. It’s about what makes you look your best, and really come to life.
Find some fabric or clothes, and drape them around yourself to determine which colours suit you best. Just like the jewellery test you are looking for what makes your skin look more vibrant, and what makes it look dull. It’s really important that you do this makeup free, and try to cover your hair. All you want to see is your skin and the fabric. Not your hair colour, or other items of clothing that could distort your overall view. Good comparisons are gold (warm) vs silver (cool), white (cool) vs cream (warm), and orange reds (warm) vs blue reds (cool).
Think about whether you burn or tan
This can be a bit of a difficult one, but it has been said that those who burn in the sun more easily often have cool undertones, and those that tan tend to have warm undertones. Now, I’ve never felt like this test is that reliable, however, in the past when speaking to clients there was a correlation. My skin is a bit weird, because these days I don’t really burn, but I don’t go that brown either!
After taking the above tests you should find that the overall results sway one way or the other. If you’re still struggling to find the answer then it could be that you are neutral, meaning you can wear whatever colours you like. Although, personally I find that people tend to fall under the warm or cool categories. I think after years of looking at peoples skin in the salon you do get an a bit of an eye for it.
Just to summerise:
Those that are warm usually have a peachy undertone, and veins that look green. They look better in gold, cream and orange reds, and often go brown in the sun.
Those that are cool usually have a pinky undertone, and veins that look blue. They look better in silver or platinum, white and blue reds, and often burn in the sun.
Here are some famous examples:
The Duchess of Cambridge
Would you say you have a warm or cool undertone?
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