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Makeup application jargon can sometimes sound so technical that you end up confused whether it’s an actual makeup term or something that’s been made up to just sound intriguing. This Makeup Basics series focuses on defining these terms in the simplest of ways!

This time we’re talking undertones! Undertones within makeup can be related to your skin tone or the colour of makeup products themselves and we’ll be delving into both in this blog post. You probably hear beauty YouTubers talking about their favourite lipstick having mauve undertones, or an eyeshadow having orange undertones. All undertone means is the subtle influence of one colour underneath the ‘main colour’ (which is called the masstone). If you think about it in the context of conversation, it becomes quite obvious – a whisper or murmur or implied meaning.



Undertones are often not easily noticeable until paired with another colour as the difference becomes more apparent, especially if the colour is a ‘true’ colour – for example, comparing an violet-toned red to a true red will immediately show you what the undertone is. Some undertones are more apparent and some are harder to distinguish, for example Turquoise has a masstone of blue and an undertone of green which is quite obvious, whereas a complex colour that is less ‘true’ will have undertones that will be difficult to determine.

So, this is definitely the easiest way to determine an undertone – compare similar colours from the same family and you can usually see which ones are more blue-leaning, which ones have more green, or pink and so on. Even white can have undertones, which is why there’s seemingly so many shades of white paint at the DIY store. Neutral colours tend to be the most difficult to determine, but if you compare the colour with various true colours, the undertone will show itself at some point. Beiges usually have yellow undertones, whereas greys will often have purple, blue or green undertones.



Now, in terms of skin tone, it’s usually quite easy to figure out your undertones. Skin can either be warm, cool, or neutral. Warm skin has a yellow or olive undertone, cool skin has a pink or red undertone and neutral skin is… neutral. The best way to find your personal undertones is by looking in a mirror in natural lighting and holding up something true white (like a piece of printer paper) next to your face. If you still aren’t sure, look at the veins in your wrist, or wherever else you have visible veins – if they’re blue, you have cool tones, if they’re green, you’re warm and if they’re a mixture or more purple, you’re probably neutral.

Now that you’ve discovered your undertones, it makes foundation shopping a lot easier! Shades like Ivory, Buff, Nude or Praline tend to be neutral, Rose, Porcelain, Sable or Cocoa tend to be pink-toned (cool) and Chestnut, Almond, Caramel or Beige tend to be warmer. Test foundation on your jawline to get the best match.


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