Skin Tone | Am I Warm or Cool?

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?

CARLY SUSANNE

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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.

The Vein Test Warm or Cool Undertone Skintone

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.

Try draping

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:

Warm

Cameron Diaz

Taylor Swift

Marilyn Monroe

Nicole Kidman

Kate Moss

Cool

The Duchess of Cambridge

Jennifer Aniston

Grace Kelly

Davina McCall

Nigella Lawson

Would you say you have a warm or cool undertone?

Carly x

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  • Ah this was so helpful, thank you! I’ve always wondered how you’re meant to know what undertones you have. I think I’m cool ?

    Jess xo | The Indigo Hours

    • You’re welcome. I’m very jealous as this means you probably look amazing in silver and platinum. My fave, but gold suits me better. : ) xxxx

  • This is brilliant and it’s the first post that I’ve read explaining in-depth about undertones. I am definitely a warm; my veins are green and I never burn under the sun instead I tan really easily. But bummer about the silver and platinum jewelry because I love them.

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

    • Thank you. I know exactly how you feel, being a warm too. However, my engagement ring is platinum and I’m still going to wear it. Also I don’t think it matters what colours we wear really, as long as we are happy. It’s just good to know what ones make us look our best. Xx

  • Very interesting. I’m still not so sure as this is something I’ve always struggled with, but I do have blue veins so perhaps I’m cool toned. :]

    // ▲ itsCarmen.com ▲

  • The Sunday Mode

    No matter how many informative posts like this I read, I still have no idea what my undertone is! It doesn’t help that I can’t tell whether or not my veins are blue or green, they look green’y blue to me.

    http://www.thesundaymode.blogspot.com.au

    • I totally get this as mine look kind of bluey green too. You could try comparing them to other peoples? See if you can find someone with really green veins, or really blue and it might be obvious what yours are then. Or you could consult a makeup artist for advice, or get colour analysis done. I’m writing a post about this soon. : ) Xx

    • I thought you might like to know that I’ve now updated this post with a pic of some blue and green veins. It could help you to see what colour yours are more clearly. I feel like most people think their veins look blue until they see them against someone’s who really are blue, or vice versa. Maybe yours are actually green? If you look at mine in the pic on their own they look greeny blue, but once put next to Suzie’s you can see they are actually more green. I hope this helps! : )

      • The Sunday Mode

        That did help! I think my veins might be more blue, and I definitely have more of a pink undertone than yellow. Thanks for that 🙂

  • This is great, really helpful 🙂 x
    http://www.secondswatch.co.uk/

  • Katie

    This is really helpful, thank you! I suspected that I had warm undertones because whenever I get matched for foundations I’m matched with warm ones, but it’s good to know how that is determined 🙂

    http://www.beautyfromkatie.blogspot.com

  • i say i am neutral! or at least that’s what i tellmyself!

  • I’ve spent ages looking at my veins now and I still can’t say if they are green or blue. 😀 Sadly, your pic doesn’t help much, either, because compared to your or Suzie’s skin mine looks way more… I don’t know… skin-coloured? *lol* In the pic you guys’ skin looks so pale and white, mine looks much more beige. Could that be a hint, too? I burn quite quickly when I’m in the sun and in the summer I get a few very pale freckles on my face as well. When I got the MAC Studio Fix Powder + Foundation about two years ago the girl at the counter matched me to the NW20 tone and I read somewhere that MAC’s foundation tones are always the opposite of what your skin tone is, so NW would mean I’m cool, I guess? Gosh, this stuff is really difficult!! *lol* 😀

    • Ha ha, yes Suzie and I have that kinda skin you can see through more easily. I would really need to look at your veins to say for sure. As you say MAC do things the opposite way. Still, it makes sense but they just do it differently to most other makeup companies. Xx