Makeup newbie to makeup maven: What are undertones?

My journey into makeup began innocently enough… I started researching drugstore foundations.

The problem with drug store foundations is that you can’t test them out. You just buy a product. It may only be $6. But you also may not like the way it feels. It may break you out. Perhaps the color doesn’t match your skin tone like you thought. Maybe it oxidizes.

So you spend another $6 on another option. And another $6. And before you know it, you might as well have gone into a Sephora and had someone color match you. (Note: You can always return products that don’t work for you!)

With the knowledge that I was spending more trying different drug store options willy nilly than I would if I just picked one, I started doing some drugstore foundation research. I made lists and cross referenced different reviewers. It got intense.

But when I came to the drugstore, I still always picked the wrong shade.

The color of my skin in my mind does not quite match the color of my skin in real life. I could never figure out why. Do I just need a tan? Do I need a separate “winter” shade?

Then I learned about undertones.

Undertones are the idea that skin is not a spectrum of tan/brownness. Rather, there’s tones under your tan/brownness that are red or yellow or olive. Those tones help determine what looks good on you–and can be essential for matching your foundation.

This was not something I had considered generally prior. I wear colors I like, and I feel confident in the ones I choose. When I took quizzes to determine my undertone, they asked surprisingly complicated questions, like “Are your veins blue or green?” (Trick question, they’re both.) “Do you look better in silver or gold?” (I wear silver, but I think gold is fine on me.) Etc.

At some point I should’ve realized that I am a “neutral” undertone. But I didn’t feel like my skin was “neutral.” That word has connotations of evenness and a generic quality that didn’t seem accurate.

I ended up going to Sephora for a makeover with a friend, and they used their ColorIQ product on me, which matched me to a foundation that works really well for my skin tone and confirmed my neutral undertones. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Sephora ColorIQ process, but I have to say… it’s a simple (and free) way to solve that conundrum.

But if you’re at home and wondering… what are my undertones??? Here are a few resources that I found most helpful.

This is my number one YouTube video. Stephanie Nicole is such a knowledgeable resource. I love her videos.

Justine Leconte is a great fashion blogger. She doesn’t talk about trends, but rather how to tell what’s quality and figure out what works for you. Her video leans more toward talking about how your undertones can change how you think about your clothing colors.

Finally, here’s a pretty good video from Sephora that specifically talks about matching foundation. This also has some practical suggestions for figuring out your undertones.

Have you struggled to find your undertone? What helped you figure it out?

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