Understanding your Undertone

It is summer, the sun is finally out, and every girl is stressing out because she’s in between foundations. Finding a new foundation for the bronze goddess you are becoming can be stressful. This has always been very stressful for me, because it was a rare that I actually found a foundation that completely matched my skin tone. I always just thought it was because I didn’t look at the right products or I wasn’t looking hard enough. It wasn’t until recently that I found out that the reason this perfect matching foundation was so hard for me to come by was because I’m an olive toned gal. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to have naturally tanned skin to have an olive complexion. Even those with very fair skin can have an olive undertone and this will cause confusion in purchasing foundation. Foundations are typically broken down into three categories: warm, neutral, and cool. Olive complexions do not clearly fall into either of these categories. Someone with olive skin will either be warm or cool toned with a slight green cast to their skin. For me this means that I am somewhere in between warm and neutral; warm foundations can be too yellow on me and neutral pulls too grey or brownish/beige on me. If I can’t find an olive toned foundation I choose a warm foundation because I lean more warm than neutral. I know this might seem really complicated but if you have had this struggle when buying foundations and you think your skin has a slight green hue to it than you are most likely olive toned like me!


Now that we got that out of the way, I’m going to give you guys a few tricks to finding your undertone.

  • The vein test: Take a look at the veins inside of your wrist and decide if they are blue, green, or a mixture of both. If they are blue, you are cool toned. If they are green, you are warm toned. If they are a mixture or you cannot tell, you are neutral.
  • The shirt test: Put on a yellow or orange top. How does that look on you? Does it give you a great glow? If so, you are warm toned. Does it look unflattering to you and is this color something you never reach for? If so, you are cool toned. Are you wondering why I made you do this dumb test because you look great in any color? If so you are probably neutral, or just a boss lady who slays anything she gets her hands on. Either one.
  • The sun test: What happens when you go out in the sun? Are you someone who burns even with SPF 75, hiding under a blanket, sitting under an umbrella? Are you able to tan easily (even if you burn a little at first)? Now I think this test is tricky because how light your complexion is will affect if you burn or not, along with your undertone. I think of this test as more of a red flag for cool toned girls because if you are cool toned you are going to burn a lot easier. It is harder to use this test to measure warm or neutral.
  • The jewelry test: I like this test because I think it’s interesting that we pick our jewelry based on our skin tone without even realizing it. If you like gold jewelry better, you are most likely warm toned. If you always wear silver jewelry, then you are probably cool toned. If you like both gold and silver against your skin, than you are most likely neutral toned.  I typically chose gold for myself and occasionally will wear silver.
  • The paper test: Put a blank white piece of paper against your face and look to see what colors pop out against the white. If you see yellow, then you are warm. If you see pink, you are cool. If you see nothing or even a hint of grey, you are neutral.


I want to throw in a quick foundation suggestion for olive toned people. I use Nars Sheer Glow Foundation in the shade Stromboli during the summer months and it matches me perfectly. It is a medium foundation with olive undertones. It leans a little yellow which is perfect for me because I am warm with olive undertones. I’ve heard that Gobi is a great light shade for olive skin in this line. You can go to your local Sephora and they will match you with their color IQ system. I found Stromboli with this system and it hasn’t failed me so far. There are tools online such as Foundation Matrix to use an existing foundation to find another foundation with a different finish in same shade, or to find a cheaper alternative.

FOUNDATION MATRIX WEBSITE: http://www.temptalia.com/foundation-matrix/match

I hope this all helped to ease your stress in finding a new foundation for the summer. This test doesn’t just work for makeup but can help you to choose things like clothes and hair color that flatter you. Remember to hold onto your lighter foundation for when that tan starts to fade… or you’ll look like the peanut butter baby.



Happy foundation hunting!

– Katie

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