Peach. Olive. Caramel. No, I’m not talking about food here — these are all words you might use to describe skin tones. And while these words do help in choosing the most flattering foundation or eye shadow, there’s another important factor that we have to consider: undertone.

What’s the difference? Skin tones can change: think of the color difference after you get a tan. Undertone doesn’t change. It’s the base color that lies beneath the skin – kind of like a shadow below your skin color. And while your skin tone can be ivory or golden or mocha, your undertone can only either be cool, warm, or neutral. Once you’ve determined your undertone (click here to find out how), only then can you find the best makeup shades to suit your skin. Here are some of my faves for each type of undertone.

best makeup for your undertone

Moisturizer and foundation – Sometimes beauty brands do all the work for you, like Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer, which is a smooth moisturizer with swatches that tell you what’s best suited to each skin tone. If your product’s color swatches are a little more elusive, keep your eye out for certain key words. If you’ve got cool undertones, look for makeup with shades like porcelain, sable, and cocoa. Warm undertones will have names like beige, golden, tan, caramel and chestnut. Think you’ve got a neutral undertone? Stick to ivory, buff, nude, or praline. NARS Sheer Glow Foundation has a wide range of shades for every undertone.

Lip color – With lipstick, undertones can actually alter the appearance of the lip color — kind of like an optical illusion. Say you want a classic red lipstick – if you have cool undertones, that red might look too warm on you; if you’re warm-toned, the red will look too dull. To avoid lip color clashing with your cool tone, go a half step cooler — a little more pink. Warm toned? Go a half step warmer, like a red with a little bit of orange. If you’re neutral, you’re in luck — your undertone won’t affect the appearance of lipstick, and what you see is what you get. MAC Lipsticks have the slightest tweaks in shade offerings, which means dozens of opportunities to find the perfect one for your tone.

Eye color – When it comes to eye makeup, it gets a little tricky: you also have eye color to think about! You can go the complimentary color route, choosing an opposite shade from your eye color so your eyes really pop. If you want to consider undertone too though, the tip to remember is: stick with colors that match your undertone. So if you have blue eyes, but a warm undertone, you technically could pull off a warmer, pinkish-red eye color — it’ll pop with your baby blues, and compliment your skin. Make Up Forever Star Powder has some great pinks and fuchsias to try. Got brown eyes but a cool undertone? Stick to your taupes, greys, and icy blues. Smashbox’s Photo Op Eyeshadow has a great selection of these more neutral colors.

Do you shop for makeup based on your undertone? What are some of your fave products?


Beauty, makeup

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