Discover Your Colours – Skin Undertone,Overtone & Makeup

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

skin undertone and overtone

Yesterday in the comments of the first part of Discover Your Colours – Warm or Cool – this comment was left by rb:

This is such a complicated thing. I have about the pinkest skin on earth so am a cool, but I have reddish brunette hair and blue eyes with gold flecks, so I’m an autumn. (And have been typed as such by a professional.)

I do think I look better in some warm colors – wearing fuchsia makes me look like I have a big red nose, while wearing a muted warmer shade calms all that pink down – but I have no idea why that’s so.

I want today to dispel the myth that pinkish looking skin is always Cool and yellowish looking skin is always Warm.

What I’m actually picking up from rb is that her skin’s overtone is pink, but from the other information: reddish brunette hair (warm), blue eyes with gold flecks (warm) and that fuchsia makes her look like she has a big red nose (typical of someone who is warm), that her undertone is warm and thus is the pinkishness is calmed down by warm colours, and inflamed by cool colours.  rb is definitely warm and needs warm colours not cool, despite that pinkish overtone.

I for example have a cool undertone, and warm overtone – my skin looks yellowish, not the pink we’re told that a cool person should have – but when I wear warm colours I look like I have a case of jaundice.

I’ve seen plenty of clients like rb who have that pinkish skin who are warm and they’re always surprised how warmer colours tone down their ruddy complexion, whilst the cool colours make it scream and look almost inflamed.

Now you may be more obvious and have a warm yellow or goldish undertone and overtone and therefore warm colouring, or you may have a pinkish undertone and overtone and be cool.

So how do you choose a makeup foundation – to tone with your undertone or overtone?

As foundation sits on the top of your skin, match it to your overtone and it will disappear rather than be very obvious and change the colour of your skin.   So rb’s choice will have a slight pink tint, and mine has a slight yellow tint.

When choosing foundation test as many colours as the range has, down the side of your face between ear and chin along your jawline and choose the colour that appears to ‘disappear’ as this will most closely match your skin and not create ‘tide marks’ around your chin.  This is the colour that matches the overtone of your skin.

What other questions do you have about choosing colours?

Don’t forget if you would like me to do a personal colour analysis it is part of my 7 Steps to Style – check it out now!

7 steps to colour and style

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

More from Imogen

Style and Taste at Every Age – Accessories

Factors When Choosing Accessories I wrote last week about quality and choosing...
Read More

60 Comments

  • I know i am warm cause i have peaches and cream skin, hazel eyes and mousy brown hair. I was just wondering are their any universal colours that sit outside this, that are nuetrals or colours that everyone can wear.

  • I am still so confused! I have very fair skin (goes translucent in winter), but I have no clue how to get the undertones of my skin. I know I look good in jewel tones, like deep purples, clear reds, maroon, dark green, browns and greys, but I don't know my warm or cool factor. I can also wear both silver and gold jewelry. Does this make me neautral?

  • Confused too! I am blond almost strawberry. My skin is fair but not as a red hair girl, not that white, I am actually a bit yellow. Grey changing from greenish to blueish ( more green).
    The other day I tried on trench coats of many colors: It was interresting. Apple green is nice on me, I look tanned,my skin looks gold.Light pinkish purple looked nice too, while dark turquoise accentuated the red spots in my face. Could it be a clue? Thanks so much I am a painter but still lost with having to find out if cold or warm…

  • Kathrine – I did a post on universal neutrals a while back – have a look at it https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2009/05/finding-your-neutrals.html

    Luinae – the right column is the cool, the left is warm – so if the colours on the right suit you better then it sounds like you have cool colouring. Many people can wear both gold and silver jewellery as they're not at the extreme end of warmth or coolness.

    Anonymous – sounds like you're warm if apple green suits you but teal doesn't.

  • Okay…I posted the comment about having a yellow overtone and a bluish undertone yesterday. I tried the colors below, but I am still having trouble. I actually wear all of the top three colors (left & right) and could not tell a huge difference. The gold and silver choice at the bottom both made me look pale. I have golden dark blonde /light brown hair and light brown eyes. I tend to gravitate towards bright colors(red,pink,orange,cobalt,lime and bright yellows); icy pastels seem to wash me out. I don't know if that helps.

  • OK, so I have mid-gold-blonde hair, pink skin and grey-blue eyes, and seem to be prefer silver jewellery, but I'm not sure why. So I'm a warmy-cool-undertone with dusky-light-bold chromatic semi-tones?

    Can I still wear all black every day?

    Damn. I think I need your help.:-)

    (actually, I'm discovering greys, too. But colours are still scary.)

  • Now more confused than ever! I seem to 'switch off' when I hear the words 'undertone', 'overtone' & anything in between!!!

    I seriously need you colour consult Imogen 🙂

  • Really interesting – I know I'm cool because I look like I've died in warm colours, but I have a yellowish tone to my skin. This explains it (although I still don't understand whether that's over or under!)

    I have two queries: as I get older my colouring is softer. I have green/hazel eyes, dark brown hair with silver streaks. I just turned 56. Would you recommend any adjustments? For example I used to look great in bright pinks, now they seem not to work so well on me.

    Secondly, I'm one of those people who is a bit stuck on dark neutrals. When I wear one of "my" colours as an accent, I feel like an air hostess (no offence intended) and when I wear top to toe shades of my colours I feel like I'm going to a wedding. Any ideas?

  • Imogen, I have a very, yellow/peach skin. I use Bobbi Brown's Sand II makeup, which is for people with a yellow skin tone. The only colours that look good on me are cools with blue undertones. This includes makeup colours aside from the foundation. Anything peachy, yellow-browny, lime-green or yellow-creamish makes me look washed out and sick. When I had my colours done centuries ago, the lady said my skin had blue undertones and this is why I looked so good in purples, blue-pinks, winter whites, and so on. Ditto for nail polish colours. What puzzles me is that I can't see any blue undertones. My skin looks almost Asian and I have no flushing or little veins. So where is this "blue"?

  • I'd like to switch from wearing black to colors. I'm in my 50's with dark blonde (no gold) hair, very dark blue-grey eyes and light skin with alot of golden brown freckles and some pink. I love cool pastels but most don't look good on me. Thank you for your help!

  • This is very interesting! I'd always thought that because of the ruddiness in my skin, I needed yellower foundations to tone down the red. May need to rething this…

  • Anon – intresting – your choice of colours that you gravitate to are on the warmer end of the scale. Your description of your colouring is warm too.

    LB – I think you sound like you need softer colours – though still slightly warmer.

    Sany – seeing you soon!

    Rosina – we never actually see the 'blue' what we see is the absence of carotene (so we see the blue blood under the skin, you know how your veins look blue). It's just described as a blueishness.

    Josie Jean – without seeing you this is hard to gauge – but you sound coolish (but not really cool), and would probably suit greyed down cool colours, not bright or pastel.

    Deja – next time you're in a department store, go try on heaps of different foundation colours as described, then go outside and see which colour seems to disappear.

    rb – glad it works for you now!

  • I'm sorry, but I completely disagree with this post (at least for some people — perhaps there are exceptions!). I have extremely pale skin, dark golden blonde hair, light blue eyes that can sometimes shift to aqua or green-blue depending on what I'm wearing. The majority of my best clothing colors are from the Spring pallette, though I can occasionally pull off a Winter color since my undertones are very clear. My best colors are shades like pale yellow, peach, coral, salmon, red, apple green, some purples, and any shade of teal/turquoise/blue-green. Neutrals, muted colors, and cool pinks are all horrible on me.

    However, I do have pink overtones (my face in particular always seems to have a pink flush, and my skin turns pink very easily when irritated!). Like RB, fushia clothing just makes my nose look big and red and emphasizes any imperfections in my skin! Makeup artists always tried to tell me I was cool, but the pink-toned foundations they gave me always looked very fake and mask-like. When I finally tried a foundation that matched my undertones (Aromaleigh's Voile in 1W — it has peach and yellow undertones) it was *perfect*! It cancels out the pink flush in my skin, matches my neck, and people told me that it looked like I wasn't even wearing makeup at all 🙂

    So I encourage everyone to at least try a foundation that matches their undertone, too!

  • Hello, I really need help in determining my colors. Can you help me?
    I have mousy brown hair, no blue undertones.

    Grey green blue eyes, some yellow flecks. No definite color in my eye stands out unless I use certain eye shadows.

    My skin is opaque, not clear. I think my undertones are more yellow, my cheeks are slightly rosy pink.
    I find I lean towards more golden eye shadows though, they seem to perk me up, blues seem to make me look tired.
    Thanks!

  • I look a bit like the commenter — very pink cheeks, brown hair with subtle red and gold highlights, blue-grey eyes flecked with gold. And, yes, the undertones of my skin are extremely yellow.

    I couldn’t see it until one day I put my wrist next to my husband’s wrist — if you looked at us you’d think I’m the pink one and he’s the yellow one (ghost-white skin, brown hair with striking gold highlights (used to be white-blond), very blue eyes) — but if you actually look at our skin side-by-side, his looks pink, mine looks yellow. I don’t have a great eye for color, but it’s not even a little bit subtle.

  • Hi Imogen. I’m totally confused. I am mixed (East Indian, Black, a trace of Scottish) and I thought that I should be a warm (Autumn). I used to have distinctly green veins but now they are mostly blue with some areas looking green. I also have a reddish look to my skin along with yellow. I look good in both silver and gold jewellery I think.. although I may look a bit better in gold. Honestly, I’m quite confused. Would a picture help you tell? Thanks so much.

  • Imogen please help me figure out what coloring i have my father is european/latin slight olive coloring and my mother is caucasian with the rosy white coloring i believe i have very pale skin with blue undertones (lack of rosy glow) with a yellow cast to my skin ( i once had porcelain looking skin until i made the mistake of exposing my skin to the sun i want my porcelain back! (i burn first then tan but it takes a very long time for me to maintain a tan(which i’m not doing anymore) i have hazel yellow gold & med olive green eyes sometimes i have amber sometimes i don’t. i have dark brown hair naturallly but i dye it black/brown people say the snow white look is best on me…i’ve been told the best colors on me are fuschia violet type colors royal dark blue, berries, browns, black, pinks (pinks give me a glow) any jewel tones really ..my worst color is tomato red ..i know i wrote a lot hopefully you can give it a guess?

    • Hi I can’t guess colouring from descriptions. In fact I don’t like to guess colouring without draping (from a photo) as print and screen colours are rarely accurate. You would need to see a professional who can do a colour analysis.

  • I disagree as well, all make up consultants tell me i need pink based and according to this blog i would as well.until they put it on and look like i have pink face mask on. Finally wearing a yellow base ppl told me how good my skin looked. Itnreally annoys me i cant go in and get them to try neutral or yellow based foundations on me because they think they know better. I always leave looking like an idiot, i thinkmundertones and overtones are just not obvious enough without trying on the different colour bases and looking in natural light.

    • Kim, I don’t think you understood what I was saying. I too look weirdly pink if I wear a pink foundation and so i wear one that is slightly yellow. If you match the overtone of your skin, which is probably yellow the foundation should match and disappear almost into your skin. Any colour that sits on top and is obvious is not the right colour for you. What I was trying to get across here is that pinkish skin is not always cool and yellowish skin is not necessarily warm and those basic tests that most cosmetic counters do are often wrong.

  • Hi! They allways say we should determine are we cool or warm by looking at our veins. Does this apply also to ruddy/pink skin? I mean can people with pink skin have green veins or are they allways blue? I have pink skin, freckles during summer, greyblue eyes with a black ring around iris (but they look almost turquoise if my eyes are red). I have lost my haircolor, I have dyed my hair since I was 13, but it used to be dark blond/light brown, and root looks almost greenish grey if I dye my hair with a warm color.

    • I never look at veins, I look at what a colour does to someone’s complexion on their face, when that colour is placed near it. Ruddy skin can be either cool or warm.

  • Hey! I just read your article and it’s great to know. It’d explain a lot of things.
    Can you help me out with my colors?
    I have a dark blue and gray scarf I love to wear, because it makes me look good. Also teal looks good on me too (or so I’ve heard). Beige/brownish colors look awful on me.
    This is a pic of my skin and hair:
    http://cdn.makeuptalk.com/1/1d/500x700px-LL-1d13bf86_wLxCAY6.jpeg
    I always thought I was yellowish but then again, like you said, maybe I have a blue undertone anyways?

    • PFff – sadly I can’t tell anything from such a small photo – I need to see your whole face in good natural lighting, no flash, or sunglare.

      Teal looks good on everyone – so it’s not a deciding colour.

  • Hi Imogen,
    I’m an exited reader from Germany and have found so much helpful information on your blog, especially about body types!
    But I have massive problems with finding my skin tone. I have dark ash blonde hair, blue-green-grey eyes with gold flecks, a yellowish skin and pinkish cheeks. When placing clothes with different colours near my face, a flattering effect seems to be determined by brightess and saturation rather than the colour tone itself. I’m afraid I cannot even tell if I’m trying on a warm or a cool tone as every colour may have warm or cold shades (lemon vs. maize yellow or aubergine vs. plum). I’m very confused. Do you have any tip?

  • Hi Imogen! Thank you so much for your article! For a while now I’ve been reading about color analysis, and I pegged myself as a deep winter. I have dark almost black hair, blue veins, and I definitely look way better in silver than in gold. I look okay in brassy looking jewelry but actual yellowy gold looks terrible. But every time I go to a makeup store, people comment on how my skin is ‘warm’, and I actually think my skin looks a lot like yours on the surface. Somewhat yellowy. But if you look at pictures of me as a little girl, I have the most obviously white translucent, almost typically pink-blue skin ever. But weirdly, even though I’m almost sure I’m deep winter, I can pull off, and even look great in this sort of corally color. It’s not orange, and definitely not rust orange, but this almost pinky coral, perhaps even blue red. But other than that, I think the cooler brighter colors look way better on me.

    Now I feel like I can pick up yellowy foundation, but what about lip colors?? Do you think that cooler pinks look nicer on your lips, or do you feel like your lip color should match your overtone better? I guess I’m asking because I think we have similar skin tones! I personally feel like orange toned reds and pinks look strange, but now I’m wondering if overly cool tones clash with my yellow overtone or not. Thanks so much 🙂 I really like your blog!

  • Finally somebody is talking about that! My skin and my blond-reddish hair are cleary warm-toned, but my blue-grey eyes are very cold. And cold tones bring out my eyes, I look very dead in warm colors.

    This being clear I personally only wear warm make up, lots of apricot and warm browns. But I always wonder because warm make up seems to clash with my cold clothing! It always bothers me.

    How do you deal with that?

  • I need help in understanding my skin coloring. I have medium auburn hair, yellow green eyes. My skin is a warm beige with a low golden contrast. I am having problems determining what blusher and lipstick colors I should be using. I have tried a medium pink and it made me look like a made up doll. Peach is too light also. I am afraid to use something too bright because I don’t want to look like a clown.

    I have found my clothing colors, which I have been wearing all along. The problem is the makeup. My overtones are pink, my undertones warm. (if I have determined that correctly) Does anyone have any suggestions on what color blusher and lipstick I should use to look natural? I would appreciate any suggestions offered. Thank you…

  • I`ve a cool undertone, I think, because warm colors or wash me out or look like mud or just jump from my skin, not blend.
    but… I can`t wear blue because it makes me too blued, or greyed.
    or eggplant, it is just terrible, and mustard is worst (what a pity, it`s a very rich color). And black… no way in this life. So, I have no idea.

  • Hi Imogen,

    Your description of your skin sounds very similar to mine. I appear to be quite olive and yet warm colours make me look quite drab and the cool,clear and bright colours overwhelm. I have been told at the makeup counter that my skin is neutral. Would you agree that you can slide between warm and cool colours in a few instances?
    I feel I can and it always poses a question for me to find my “power” colours you mention with Jill Chivers. I want a wardrobe that is harmonious and I wonder if you would be able to answer that question. In some of your earlier you tube clips you are quite similar to me in colouring but perhaps your skin is a tad lighter.
    I’ve been on a school holiday last moments of sunny weather clean up and my wardrobe is on the list – for a more harmonious and well chosen colour scheme.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Hi Imogen! I have been trying to identify my own colouring for a long time, and the part about skin overtones and undertones was very helpful.

    My skin is fair, and has a yellow tone to it. My eyes are blue-grey, and are neither medium nor light, kind of in the middle.

    My problem is identifying my hair; from the roots, it is kind of that value between blonde and brown, and it is very neutral in colour, so I am having difficulty figuring out whether it is warm or cool. From colour draping, my colouring is definitely soft, and I have tried looking at the undertones of my hair in a mirror by the window.

    You mentioned that colours which sink into your eyes are often good and ones that don’t are maybe not the best; soft gold matches my skin so well, but soft blue really goes with my eyes. In that case, should I just assume I have a cool undertone if my eyes are blue-grey?

    Thank you

    -Anonymous

    • Hi

      Skin is more important than eyes. Skin is the part of our body that makes us look healthy or unhealthy more than anything. Mouse/dark blonde hair can be warm or cool – not necessarily obvious. This is why when I do draping I’m looking primarily at the skin to see what makes it look healthy. If you’re interested in my professional opinion and advice I do colour analysis as part of my 7 steps to Style program https://insideoutstyleblog.com/7-steps-to-style-system – having the right tools to determine your colouring can really make it a lot easier.

  • hi imogen,

    i am very confused about whether i am cool or warm. i don’t look overly yellow or pink. i know that i am very light and very low contrast.

    as a young person, i had very pink skin and all shades of pink were very flattering. now i am 50 and i notice that even neutral-looking pink lipsticks in the tube look too cool when i put them on. i look much better in peachy pink/salmon.

    i am generally more attracted to colors that have a little bit of warmth to them. when i look at the swatches, for example, the spring looks better to me than summer.

    my hair was strawberry blonde as a child, mousy dark ash blonde as a teenager and i now have highlights that are natural looking light blonde. my eyes are hazel.

    i have looked over the tips for determining cool vs. warm online, but i am still confused. for example, gold jewelry looks best on me because my hair is yellow, but i am not sure if it really looks best on my skin.

  • thank you. i will definitely consider that. i am mainly interested in the color but i am sure that i need all of it ; )

  • The picture of the model that you use for the beginning of this article, what is she? I look just like her! Need to know!!!

  • Hi Imogen,

    This thing about overtones being different to undertones is the only thing that confuses me…

    From your site and lots of analysis, I have ascertained I’m a light/medium Spicy colour palette (soft oranges, bronzes, golds, and corals being my best colours; black, greys, blues, and neons being my worst), as well as my value and colour contrast being medium (neutral plus 2 colours) as I usually have golden blonde hair with dark green eyes…

    When my hair is dark brown or deep reddish brown I’m the same pallette but with perhaps more room for manoeuvre towards deeper values and a bit more value contrast.

    It all works.

    But! For some reason, I see a very cool/neutral tone to my eyes (though they’re green, they are a cooler shade – maybe forest green), and I have a lot of pink flushing over the centre of my face. This seems to occasionally lend itself to a bit of crossover into dark pinky reds and makes mustard yellow a bad choice as I look very yellow skinned!

    Am I correct in understanding that my overall undertone is what fits into Spicy but that the overtones are a bit more influential than usual?

    I’ve tried and tried to wear blues, greys, and cool greens but I look horrendous in them. So why can I go into cooler sides of traditionally warm colours when Spicy seems to be generally only warm?

    Am I being too strict?

    Thanks in advance for reading my (long) post!
    Sarah 🙂

    • Hi Sarah,
      Without seeing you it’s very hard for me to make an analysis. Eyes are the smallest proportion of colouring, so a tiny bit of something cool in them isn’t going to change your colour grouping from warm to cool. Remember too that each of the three colour properties – value, undertone and intensity are a continuum so there are really warm colours, and medium warm and then not so warm but still warm and then you move into just cool, medium cool then really cool. Pink flushing is common in many warm skins. It often means that you don’t want to wear too many of your warmer overtone colours as it can make it look even more flushed.

      Warmest
      Imogen

      • Thanks Imogen.

        I’d be happy to send along a photo if you would want me to (although I don’t know how to attach it here), but I am not demanding you look at me. 😉

        It was more of a general question – in that I am certain I’ve found the right palette but was wondering if flushing/cool glints in eyes were unusual in these circumstances. As you’ve indicated they’re not especially so, I will be a bit less of a pedant with myself about it! 🙂

        It’s interesting when you put it like you did, that eyes are a relatively small element, it seems obvious now that skin colour would dominate more since it’s the largest area of colour.

        I have to say I am finding it fun looking at people and secretly assessing what colours and depth values they hold in their features. It’s a lot of fun!

        Sarah

        • I don’t know if it was advert blindness or what, but I had been looking for a way to confirm what I *think* I know, and I finally found the 7 steps to style challenge! LOL! I have signed up, so someday soon I’ll be able to get you to help me confirm/change my colours after all! But I have to tell you, I’m enjoying so much more than just the colours… The personality stuff just on it’s own is a revelation! 🙂

          Sarah

          • Thanks Sarah! The personality stuff is super important in style, in my opinion! Without it you’ll never feel like the best version of you. Can’t wait to help you with your colours.

  • I have green veins so I suppose I have warm undertone but my face is red 3/4 of the time so my question is do i wear a cool hair color and what type of foundation also I am 61. Thank you.

    • I don’t go on the colour of veins – as you’d read here – I don’t find it so accurate. Red faces can be warm or cool, and they are common with some of the very soft warm colouring. I do personal colour analysis as part of my 7 Steps to Style program if you’d like my professional opinion as it’s very hard for me to diagnose without seeing you.

  • Hi Imogen, I love your posts about colour. They are really interesting. I’m not completely sure about my undertone and overtone but I think that I may have a warm overtone and cool undertone. But unlike you I don’t think my skin has yellow tones. I would say the underside of my skin is pale with bluish appearance but my overtone is quite peachy and I do tan after burning and have a few freckles. I have light brown hair which is slightly warm and teal/grey eyes poss some yellow flecks. I am naturally drawn more to warmer colours though I find it difficult to tell what actually suits me. Do you advise people to match undertone or to work with overtone as well. Should I look for colours that also have a cool undertone but warm overtone? If only you were based in the UK 🙂

    • When wearing colours – work with undertone – these are the colours that will make you look healthier – It’s only foundation that should match overtone. Some people are warm, but don’t look super warm. Often a peachy look is warm (rarely is peachy cool) I do colour analysis as part of my 7 Steps to Style program

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *