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Skin Tones: Different Types and How to Determine Yours

Skin Tones

Have you ever wondered what your skin tone is?

Maybe you need to know so you can get the RIGHT foundation shade for your own skin tone, or maybe you’re just curious.

Read on to learn more about which skin tone matches yours!

Table of Contents

What are Skin Tones?

What are Skin Tones

Skin tone is determined by the amount of MELANIN you have in the outer layers of your skin. This can be referred to as your SURFACE COLOR.

Melanin refers to a group of naturally occurring dark brown or black pigments present. The amount of it is what will ultimately determine you skin tone.

When the skin is exposed to UV light from the sun, your body produces an ABUNDANT AMOUNT of melanin in order to absorb the sun’s harmful rays.

But why are we BORN different colors?

Our ancestors ADAPTED to their environment, causing a change in pigment. So it all boils down to GENETICS.

Skin Tone Categories

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to group ALL the different tones because there are so many out there! But there are THREE MAJOR GROUPS.

Though not everyone under one category will have the same shades.

Light Skin

Light or fair skin historically comes from northern European countries, which faced frequent snow or cloud coverage.

Paler people are usually very sensitive to the sun, and burn much easier than people with darker skin. They also tend to not tan easily. 

People with light skin most likely have RED HAIR or BLOND HAIR.

Medium Skin

Medium complexions are typical of Southern Europe and Northern Asian descent.

This can range from MEDIUM FAIR to MEDIUM TAN skin.  If you have this color, you probably tan well in the sun.

Dark Skin

Darker skin tones typically come from parts of the world that have the most sun exposure.

Countries such as the Middle East, India, and Africa. This can refer to MEDIUM DEEP SKIN to a VERY DARK MOCHA color.

Deep skin like this doesn’t burn easily.

What is a Skin Undertone?

What is a Skin Undertone

Skin undertones are the SUBTLE, MUTED COLORS beneath your skin’s surface color.

Undertone Categories

There are THREE UNDERTONES. Determining your undertone can definitely help you find the correct makeup products, and even dress colors for you.

Cool Undertone

Cool undertones are red and pink with bluish tings. Cool skin tones are MOST COMMON in people with lighter complexions, but can also be found in darker complexions.

Warm Undertone

Warm undertones have yellow, peachy, and golden hues. Warm undertones are MOST COMMON in people with a tan complexion, but can also be found in a variety of skin colors.

Neutral Undertone

A neutral skin tone is pretty much the MIDDLE GROUND. Most colors would match this type of tone.

What is My Skin Tone?

What is My Skin Tone

There are a few ways you can DETERMINE your skin tone. This is of course referring to your SURFACE COLOR. We’ll discuss undertones later.

Look at Your Face in the Natural Light

Make sure you do this WITHOUT ANY MAKEUP ON.

Look at your jawline in natural lighting and analyze what surface color is present. You blend your foundation to your jaw, so this is where you should look.

How Does Your Skin React to Sun Exposure?

How you react to the SUN can help determine what your surface color is.

Do you tan easily? Do you get easily burned?

Those who tan easily have a medium or dark skin tone, and those who burn easily likely have a light color.

Get a Test Done at Your Local Beauty Store

With technology, you can have your skin tone TESTED in many BEAUTY STORES. It takes less than 10 minutes, and it’s highly accurate.

This way, you can find your skin undertone as well as your surface color

What is My Skin Undertone?

What is My Skin Undertone

A big part of choosing what you wear and what makeup you buy depends on your SKIN UNDERTONE.

The Silver/Gold Test

If SILVER jewelry complements your skin better than gold jewelry, then you probably have COOL undertones.

Likewise, people with WARM undertones tend to look better with GOLD jewelry.

If you have neutral skin or olive undertones, then you probably look great with either!

Look at Your Veins

In NATURAL LIGHT, check how your veins look beneath your skin.

  • If your veins appear BLUE or PURPLE, then you have a COOL undertone.
  • If your veins look GREEN or a GREENISH BLUE, you have a warm undertone.
  • If you CAN’T TELL what color your veins are, then you probably have a NEUTRAL undertone.

White Paper Test

Put a white paper next to your face. If your face appears more YELLOW, then it’s probably warm. If it appears more PINK, you’re probably cool-toned.

Buying the Right Makeup for Your Skin Complexion

Buying the Right Makeup

Once you determine your skin tone and undertone, it’s easy to find the RIGHT makeup for you.


With foundation, you need to find one that matches your skin color AND your undertone. Even if you get your skin tone right, if you get the wrong undertone, you may look grayish or orangey with your surface color.

  • So if you have a WARM undertone, make sure you get a foundation and concealer that have warm undertones as well.
  • Likewise, if you have a COOL undertone, you want to get a foundation with cooler undertones.

Though with the wide range of non-comedogenic foundation lines, you’re bound to find a perfect match! 


Your skin undertone can also determine what eyeshadow and lip colors look BEST on you.

Sometimes it’s great to take into account your eye and hair color as well!

WARM colors tend to look better on people with WARM shades, and COOLER skin appears more radiant under COOL colors.

Cool Undertones

If you have a cool undertone, consider eyeshadows with COOL COLORS, such as blue or emerald green.

Cool tones look GREAT with red or purple lip colors.

You can also enhance your cool skin tone with a pale, rosy blush.

Warm Undertones

For a warm skin tone, choose warm shades. It brings out your golden glow!

If you have golden brown skin, earthy eyeshadows help to complement your natural yellow glow. Coral blush and darker lip colors work fantastic with warm skin tones.

Warmer undertones like this are more common with tanned skin.

Neutral Undertones

For neutral skin tones, just about ANY color should look good.

If you have a neutral undertone, you may want to consider wearing colors that compliment your eye color and hair color.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Aging can also cause your skin to darken over time, thus changing your complexion. Skin color also changes according to the seasons so you’ll have to change your foundation seasonally.

If you really are unsure about your skin complexion, the BEST option would be to find a MAKEUP CONSULTANT. Skin texture might also be a big factor to determining your type.

Whether you’re warm-toned, cool-toned, or have a neutral undertone, it’s important to also consider your skin shade. Remember to LOVE YOUR SKIN, no matter what color it is!

Hopefully, this article helped you with determining your skin tone and undertone! 


August 4, 2021 – Updated internal links

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.