December 8, 2009

About skintones

Figuring out what kind of skintone you have can be quite challenging, but it's really essential in the makeup world. It can be helpful to determine what colors will look good or bad on you, but it mostly determines what foundation you are going to need. And nothing looks worse than a wrong foundation match! So take a deep breath, I'm going to try and help you clarify the subject.

Going by "Caucasian", "African", "Asian" isn't relevant enough because there are a lot of different possibilities within those types. So when we talk about makeup, we tend to divide people in 3 groups: cool toned, warm toned or neutral.
Cool toned skins lean towards pink, while warm tones lean to yellow or olive. Neutrals are more beige and can have either cool or pink undertones.

A lot of tricks are used to determine what your skintone is, like looking at the color of your veins, or checking if you look better in gold or silver (which in my opinion is very subjective), but I find these methods quite confusing. I think the easiest trick is this one:
Pull all your hair back away from the face in a pony tail and thoroughly cleanse the face. Place a white towel or cloth around your neck and shoulders, if you face looks more yellow this would indicate a warm skin tone, whereas a bluish reflection would mean a cool skin tone.
If you think you aren't clearly warm or cold, you're probably neutral :-)
But the great majority of people are actually warm!

Here's a simple illustration :


Now don't be fooled by the fairness or darkness, this is not an indicator of warm/cool tones. You can be dark and cool or warm and very fair.

Same thing with neutral undertones: you can be beige and fair. Perfect example: me.


I am as white as someone can be but have zero pink undertones. I have slight yellow undertones on my body skin, which makes me neutral/warm.
Oh by the way, you can have redness on your cheeks, this doesn't mean that you have pink skin!
Check your skin tone on your neck or chest for a more reliable test.

OK, so now you know what your color is, how does that influence your makeup choices?
Well obviously you need to pick a foundation, concealer and powder that will match your skintone the best. That can be a problem since most brands make their palest shades with pink undertones only. Don't be tempted to go for a pink shade if you're not cool, you're just going to look odd.

The most famous system in classifying foundations according to skintone is the one used by Mac with the NC and NW references. Excepted they reverse the terminology - thanks for confusing us, Mac. So just think about it this way:
- NW = not warm (which means cool, pink undertoned)
- NC = not cool (which means warm, yellow undertoned)

For neutral people, it's trial and error... some will find they look better in NW, some will find the best match is NC. Since I'm clrearly neutral warm, I use NC shades, but sometimes they're too yellow for me.

As far as the rest of makeup is concerned, it's said that warm people look better in earth tones (which are warm as well) and cool people should wear jewel tones (which are cool). But this gets tricky when you have cool skin and warm eyes or the contrary... So as far as eyeshadows and blushes are concerned, my advice would be to try different things and see what works for you. Chances are you can wear shades from both groups, but not all of them. For example, cool eyeshadows look great against my blue eyes but cool blushes are really not pretty on me.

Hopefully this was helpful and clear. If you have questions, ask away in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Great post with useful info! I'm fair and I would say neutral, I'm not cool toned like the pic but cool colours suit me and warm colours look decidely awful on me. I can't wear NW/NC foundations from MAC as they're far too extreme in colour and look nasty on my skin, I use an Estee Lauder Neutral shade which is perfect.

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