How to Determine Your Skin Type, Color and Undertones
Have you ever applied a fresh new foundation, only to realize that it doesn’t quite look right with your natural skin color and undertone? We’ve all been there. Finding the right formula and shade of foundation is no easy feat, but identifying your skin type, skin color and undertones can help. Here, we’re explaining how to do just that with the help of board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Joshua Zeichner.
Determine Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type
You may know if your skin is dry, oily, combination or normal, but did you also know that your skin can be classified by its ability to tan? “In dermatology, we typically define skin type according to its ability to tan or burn,” Dr. Zeichner says. “We call these the Fitzpatrick Skin Types, which range from type one skin which always burns and never tans to type six skin which always tans and never burns.” Knowing your Fitzpatrick Skin Type can help you to get a better understanding of your skin color and undertone. Consider these guidelines from the Skin Cancer Foundation to find out:
Type 1: You always burn and never tan in the sun.
Type 2: You almost always burn and rarely tan in the sun.
Type 3: You sometimes burn and sometimes tan in the sun.
Type 4: You tan easily and sometimes burn.
Type 5: You tan easily and rarely burn.
Type 6: You do not burn.
Identify Your Skin Color
Frequent changes to your skin, like tanning or skin conditions like rosacea can sometimes make identifying your natural skin color a difficult task. Do you really have a medium skin tone or did you just spend a lot of time in the sun? Luckily, there are a series of different tests that you can do on your own to help you determine your skin color. One of them is the jawline test. To identify your skin color, don’t use the center of your face as a point of reference but rather, your jawline. It tends to be a better representation of your skin color because the jaw is typically less impacted by color changes. Examine this area and see if it’s fair, light, medium, dark or deep. Once you have a good idea of what skin color you are, you can move on to your undertones.
Figure Out Your Undertone
There are three main undertones present in the skin: cool, warm and neutral. If you have cool undertones, your complexion may have subtle hues of pink, red or blue. Typically, people with cool undertones have blue, green-ish blue, gray or deep brown eyes. You can also tell if you have cool undertones by looking at your natural hair color. Redheads are a prime example. “Redheads tend to have less pigment in the skin than those with darker hair color,” Dr. Zeichner says. Less pigment often equates to cooler tones.
If you’re someone with warm undertones, your skin will lean yellow, peachy or golden. Those with these tones tend to have green, hazel, amber or warm brown eyes with hair that has gold, red, orange or yellow undertones. Dr. Zeichner says, “People with darker hair and darker eyes usually have warmer skin tones.
Then finally, there are neutral undertones which is when you have a balance of both warm and cool tones.
If you’re unsure of your undertone, there are a few quick and easy tests that you can do to help you determine what you are. First is the white versus cream test. You’re going to need two articles of clothing (or towels) — one white and the other cream. Hold the articles of clothing against your skin and if the white complements your skin tone better, you are probably warm-toned. If the white washes you out and the cream is more flattering, you are most likely cool-toned.
You can also try the jewelry test. If gold jewelry enhances your complexion, then you likely have warm undertones. If silver is more complementary then you are probably cool-toned.
If both cream and white, and both silver and gold look great on you, then you’re probably neutral.
You can also look to your veins on your wrist for some help. If your veins are green, you have warm undertones. If they are blue, you have cool undertones. If they appear a mix of a blue-green shade, then, you guessed it — you have neutral undertones. As a general rule of thumb, however, Dr. Zeichner says, “The lighter the skin type, the cooler the tone tends to be.” Therefore, skin types that fall under type one through type three on the Fitzpatrick Skin Types may identify with having cooler undertones whereas someone who is between type three and type six might be warmer.
Color-Correct Your Skin
If you bought a foundation that doesn’t match your skin color and undertones, don’t fret. There are a variety of products available that can adjust the shade of your foundation to help match your skin tone. Right now we love the NYX Professional Makeup Total Control Pro Drop Foundation Hue Shifter. The yellow shade adds warm tones and the red shade adds cool tones to your foundation to create a custom shade that matches your skin tone.
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn