Q: I’ve been hearing a lot about skin undertones and how it affects how certain colours look on you. Is this perhaps why some red lipsticks look better on other people and not so much when I try them?

A: There has been quite some confusion when it comes to understanding the difference between surface tone and undertone. Skin surface tone is the colour you’d describe yourself as having (light, medium, tan, dark, etc.). Your undertone on the other hand is the subtle, more muted tone that lies underneath the surface.


There are three general undertones

  • Cool (pink, red or bluish undertones)
  • Warm (yellow, peachy, golden undertones)
  • Neutral (a mix of warm and cool undertones)

Here are a few hacks you can do to determine which category you fall under:

Clean up

You’ll need your face to be at it’s cleanest to know what tone lies underneath so remove your make-up and wash your face completely.

Do a colour test

Hold a blue or green shirt up to your face. Next, hold a yellow or red shirt up next to your face. If your skin looks better against the blue shirt, you probably have a cool skin tone. If it looks better against the red shirt, you probably have a warm skin tone. Cool-toned people usually have hints of pink, blue and olive undertones or a ruddy complexion, while warm-toned skin has yellow, gold, or peachy undertones and a more sallow complexion.

Look within

Look on the inside part of your arm, where the underlying colour shows through fairly well. This area is naturally hidden from the sun and, meaning it’s not sun damaged or discoloured, which is why skin in this area works best to reveal how warm, cool, or neutral your skin really is.

To tan or not too tan?

Does your skin tan easily and rarely sunburn? If so, you have a warm or neutral skin tone. If you do get burned instead of tanning then you fall into the If not the cool-toned category

Get vein

If your veins appear bluish or deep purple, then you fall in the cool-toned category while greenish veins indicate warm undertone.

True Jewels

Use jewellery to help you determine your skin tone. Cool undertones look flattering in silver/platinum and people with warm undertones look good in gold  jewellery. Neutral skin tones are suited by both.

Your Hair and Eyes hold answers too

If the jewellery test was inconclusive with your skin, try it with your hair and eyes.  If you have blue, grey, or green eyes with blonde, brown, or black hair that has platinum tones, than that means that you’re cool-toned. Brown, amber, or hazel eyes with strawberry blonde, auburn, or black hair indicate that you’re most likely warm-toned.

Neutral tones don’t have much to worry about because almost every colour suits their skin.