June 25, 2013

Why is it important to know your skin undertones?

Hey everyone,

When people ask you, what shade/color of foundation should I go for , I've heard the vaguest of answers like 

  • Go for the one that matches you skin (Of course, who wants to match foundation shade to hair!)
  • Forget about blue and green (Really??)
  • Don't rely on an arm/wrist swatch (Everybody who's ever looked at himself/herself in a mirror knows that arm and face are mostly different shades depending upon UV exposure, we don't need someone to tell us that, and yes, even fluorescent lighting indoors has UV radiations so if you aren't wearing UV protection indoors ,you could have uneven tanning/burning depending upon your skin's sensitivity!)
  • And then the same people say, match the foundation to the rest of your body (Holy Lord! rest of your body????Did you really mean if my face is lighter and arms are tanned and darker, so I should go for a foundation that's 3 or 4 shades darker than my facial skin just so I can match it to my body .... all the more confused,right?)
So a person looking for an answer to a  question like , "What foundation shade should I go for?" is left in confusion by all of those vague answers which aren't even remotely helpful.

Today I'll try to answer some of those questions using MAC's shade coding for reference.


First thing you need to know:

Broadly classified there are three types of skin tones, Warm, neutral and Cool. If you've been thinking all this while that there are only warm and cool undertones, and somehow you don't fall into either category , then maybe your skin undertone is NEUTRAL.

Which Foundations are for what undertones?

I researched on the internet and this is the classification given by a MAC makeup artist that I came across.

NC  Neutral Cool (yellow based) 80% yellow tone 20% pink tone
NW  Neutral Warm (pink based) 80% pink tone 20% yellow tone
C  Cool (yellow based) 100% yellow tone
N  Warm (pink based) 100% pink tone

How do I find out my skin undertone?

DO NOT WORRY girl, Google has answers to all your queries with no exception to this one in particular. Search the net and you will find a lot of posts and videos that can help you know your skin undertones. There is this particular video by PurseBuzz that I really liked, watch this to know more.

Never rely completely on MAC SAs. :(

Is it really important?

Knowing your skin undertone will help you find the right foundation for yourself, or atleast you'd know which category to look into.

Example if you know your undertones are warm/olive with medium complexion , you will look into the NC or C categories and can further refine your shades search between say 37 to 42.

Imagine without that basic info, you will keep looking from NC15-55 and NW 15-55 and a whole lot of N and C shades too. 

Also, you can know what kind of shades in makeup and colors in clothes will flatter your skin.
Right shades can help you look radiant as compared to wrong shades that may make you look washed out!

Of course there is this lucky set of Neutral people who can carry off both warm and cool tones in outfits/makeup/accessories. We wouldn't talk about them :P

Okay, so I know my undertone now, what shades should I opt for?

If you're warm toned, these are the shades than can flatter your skin:

Earthy tones like Brown , Olive or Rust..Colors like oranges, bronzes, golds, peaches, brick reds, earthy greens, mocha browns, and ivory

For women with cooler undertones:

Try out shades like blues, violets, and vibrant emerald green, royal or icy blues, rosy pinks, silvers, plums, blues, greens, pinks, purples, blue-greens, and magentas.

Of course these are no hard and fast rules, if you like a shade or color fromthe opposite color family, just go for it, and wear it with confidence. That's all you'd need!

My face is lighter than the rest of my body, should I apply a dark foundation to match my face to my arms?

NO...please....Your foundation should match the shade on the sides of your cheekbones and the neck, that's the best indicator. Please don't match it to anything else, atleast not your tanned limbs , for God's sake, unless you want to look like a bronzed clown. Yes, foundation is not to make you look fairer, but just even out the skin. 

How do I check if my shade is right or not?

A lot of people will tell you that lighting inside a store is a good check, but I'm sorry but I disagree. Store lights are mostly yellow and they alter the shade of foundations on your skin and you'll never know what they really look like unless you go and check in natural light. Always and without fail, after you've tried the foundation on cleaned skin , take a hand mirror and check in natural light. You will know what looks good and what doesn't. Never buy foundation when you can't check in natural sunlight! Period!

I hope you find the post useful, if you have any more questions, feel free to ask me. I will try my best to answer them for you.
Have  a good day everyone!


  1. Seriously. This post was much needed.
    One i fought with an SA as she was trying to seel my mom a pink fOundation? It was all pink.
    Here i try a fOundation on my jaw or lower cheek . Trying on the inner wrist is also wrong.

    1. I know Bee, learning to find the right foundation is such a task..I've wasted so much money trying to find a good one for myself until I knew warm, cool and neutral. Now , I fight back....
      Although, I still haven't found my perfect foundation, I'm better informed than before to make a choice and not completely rely on those stupid SAs :)

  2. absolutely fab! these days I never buy a foundation without testing it first with a sample! MAC is expensive and we are the one with a purse so definitely shud never trust MAC SA's blindly! I have learnt this the hard way..the first concealer MAC gave me was NC44 which is way tooooooo dark and looks all orange still I am trying to finish it up! shud have bought a sample first :(

    1. Right Parita, I think all of us have faced problems sometime or the other with SAs giving us the wrong shades..I don't entirely blame them because even the store lights are a bad indicator. Its always better to ask for samples first :)

  3. Informative post Agni.I have tried tonnes of foundations and now I can take one look at a foundation (even in bottle) and tell whether or not it will be a perfect match! In the new era of awareness among Indian women about our yellow undertones, we tend to swing too much to that extreme.Most women tend to forget that if too much pink makes you look ashy, too much yellow can also make you look unnatural and jaundiced! After much trial and error I have discovered that my skin tone does particularly well with a salmon/peach based beige shade.I'll never forgive a salon MUA who slapped on a muddy beige foundation on me,saying she was doing so because I have a 'wheatish' complexion..(fair,wheat,dark..who cares about undertones right?)

    1. The ignorance is not only limited to trashy MUAs..
      It's sad when I see Indian makeup drugstore brands like Lakme and Revlon coming up with only 2-3 shades of foundations, the lightest is usually pink based and the medium one is sort of neutral but lighter shade again, and a dark one with yellow base...I mean wth, how would the entire population if Indian women fit into those three shades, how can you even expect that..Sad!!


Drop me a comment and make my day!!