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How To Find Your Skin Undertone

Naaila Khan

Turns out, whoever said beauty is only skin deep was absolutely right – especially when on the gray topic of skin undertones. We’ve all had that moment when we’ve brought home a new foundation/concealer only to realize it looks a bit contrived when worn. And that time someone said a particular colour “brought out your complexion” and you just attributed it to some sort of cosmic connection to the hue? Well, that was just your skin undertone feeling harmonious with that colour.

Confused? I was too, until I spoke to Kamini Patwari, a seasoned image consultant, to explain the basics of skin undertones and the role it plays in our beauty/sartorial lives. Grasp this concept, and choosing that perfect shade of red won’t seem like a daunting task anymore.

“Skin undertones play an important part in not only your makeup, but also clothes and hair dyeing,” says Kamini. “It’s usually said that if you’re fair, lighter colours will suit you and vice-versa, but that’s not true. It actually has everything to do with your undertones.”

First off, you need to know that your skin tone and your skin undertone are two completely different things. Your skin tone is of the surface- it frequently changes colour depending on sun exposure (tans/sun burns) and skin conditions you might have (rosacea/acne), whereas the undertone is the colour that lies beneath this surface- determined by the amounts of melanin, hemoglobin and collagen; this remains consistent.

Now that we have the science all figured out, your next step would be to know your skin undertone. “Generally, there are three steps to this. First, check the colour of your veins on the inside of your wrist. If they’re bluish or purple, you fall in the cool-toned spectrum, and if they appear green, then you belong in the warm undertone zone. Those who are neutral-toned, will have difficulty telling the blue and green apart,” she explains.

The fabric test is fairly simply as well, but works better with a trained eye. She says, “Wash your face clean, tie your hair back. Hold up two sets of coloured cloths next to your face, turn by turn. A set of jewel tones/sharp colours like blues, emerald greens, purples, and another set of browns, oranges and yellows. If the jewel tones seem like they wake your face up, you’re a cool tone and if your face looks brighter alongside the earthy shades, warm tones will probably suit you better.”

If you think you don’t have super visual skills to know the difference, the third test will surely help. “If yellow gold looks better on you, then you’re a warm tone, and if rose gold and silver/platinum doesn’t make you look washed out, then you’re cool. Though the jewellery barometer is a rough one, it’s easy to do if you’re not an expert,” suggests Kamini.

With that done, choosing makeup seems to be everyone’s foremost concern. “When it comes to picking a foundation/concealer, anything with a pinkish undertone suits cool-toned skins, and those with a yellowish tinge sit well on warm-toned complexions,” she says.

Some brands like Estee Lauder and M.A.C do a test to figure your undertone, but it always helps to know your undertone before you try on makeup. Which brings us to one common blunder a lot of us ignorantly make. “Because the colour of your hand is completely different from the colour of your face, you have to try a foundation/concealer directly. If it disappears and doesn't sit like a mask, then that’s your colour,” she explains.

Another major makeup staple that deserves a mention here, is well the universally favoured red lipstick. An orange-based red is perfect for warm undertones while a blue-based red works well for the cool counterparts.

“As for hair, copper highlights look great on warm-toned people and ash/platinum hues bring out cool tones,” says Kamini.

Not to make you neutrals feel left out, but you guys have nothing to worry about. If you passed all three tests (with flying colours?); as in the blues and browns are all well with you, and both gold and platinum are your best friends, congratulations – because you can carry off a cool rosy pink face just as well as you can a warm bronzed look. And where clothes are concerned, you can go to town with any colour that suits your mood.

All that being said, don’t be afraid to try every shade in the palette, because it’s only going to help you know your skin shade better.


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