Your Color Signature: Know Your Undertone Pt. 1

Ever talked your stylist into giving you that hair color you fell in love with in a magazine only to find out it didn’t look ‘like that’ on you? Ever borrowed your best friend’s gorgeous navy sheath that made her eyes pop but looked blah on you? Ever had trouble finding a foundation that isn’t too pink or too orange-y?

Your Color Signature

It’s not about the shade but your undertone. It’s unique to you. Sure, other people share the same shade but not exactly like yours. Your hair, eyes and skin colors conspire to create your personal color palette. When you discover it, you’ll have found your color signature.

What’s your undertone?

According to Makeup Magazine, a person has three possible layers of tone that contribute to their overall skin tone:

Your Shade. Are you dark, olive, tan or fair? Your shade is your surface complexion color — where you fall in the range of fair or dark.
Your Undertone. This layer is far less obvious. It determines whether you’re pale skin is beige or pink … or your dark complexion is blue/indigo or deep bronze.
Your Overtone. This layer can be temporary. If you have freckles or patches of discoloration due to rosacea or acne, they can affect the overall appearance of your skin’s tone.(Attribute)

Warm, Cool and Neutral

The first step is to discover whether your natural coloring falls in three common categories: warm, cool and neutral.

Diagram by Stephanie Nicole

Diagram by Stephanie Nicole

So what’s that mean? Well, makeup experts at Glo Cosmetics suggest you think ‘sunshine’ and all colors associated with sunny-ness as warm. When the sun shines high in the sky, everything has a warm golden cast.

Conversely, think of the colors of a snowy day as cool. The sky is steel blue while silvery flakes fall to the ground. Everything is crisp gray, blue, silver, black, pine and white. Get it?

In theory, those with neutral undertones can wear colors within both warm and cool palettes. I beg to differ. In my experience neutrals have olive or beige undertones which lean a little toward one direction or another. For instance, neutrals with dominant cool tones can wear some but not necessarily all the colors in the cool palette, and vice versa. Depends on the variables (which I think I’ll discuss in another post).

This 3-base-color system is extremely broad yet the easiest for novices to remember. So, how do you figure out your base palette? Start by taking a few minutes to test yourself.

1. White Balance Test

A professional videographer will color-calibrate a camera by shooting a few frames on a white piece of paper to ensure they shoot the truest color and avoid discolorations on screen. It’s called taking the White Balance.


luckyoffwhite-mThis method does the same thing. It tests how your skin reflects on the color white. But, first, you have to start with a bare face — no makeup. Also, pull your hair back.

You’ll need two towels or t-shirts — one stark white, the other, off white or eggshell. Most bathroom lights are fluorescent which has a green filter. So, do this in two locations — in artificial and natural light.

Wrap the pure white towel or tee around your neck then look at your skin in the mirror. Does your skin reflect a yellow cast (warm) or a blue or lavender tone (cool). Go outside or near a window. Lay the material over your arm. Same thing?

Now, get the off white material and lay it against your skin. Which makes your skin come alive? If it’s the stark white color, you’ve got a cool undertone. If it’s the off-white color that works for you, your undertone is warm. But, if you look and feel great in both, it’s likely you’re neutral.

2. Vein Test

Once again, go somewhere with natural light. Palms up. See the veins on the lighter side of your wrists? Do they appear green or blue? If they’re green, you’re warm. If they’re blue, you’re cool. If you can’t get a clear reading, chances are you’re neutral.

3. Color Attraction Test

Is there a paint or art store nearby? Take a few minutes and stop by Home Depot or Michaels. Go where the art or paint swatches are. As you peruse the colors, which three do your eyes settle on? Are they within the same color family (monochromatic) or opposite (complementary)?

If you love fire-engine red and robin’s egg blue, you’re color preference is cool, although you love red. It’s the type of red. Fire engine red is a cool red. Or maybe you love olive green and burnt orange. That’s a surefire sign you’re warm.

If you like a variety like mustard, powder pink and Kelly green, you’re color preference straddles the fence. You may be neutral. Also, many neutrals prefer natural, muted and neutral colors and occasionally lean toward monochromatic palettes.

In theory, you’re subconsciously attracted to the color palette that best complements your undertone.

4. Gold-Silver Test


This one’s easy. Wearing a white shirt, go to the jewelry department or your jewelry box and pick out two pieces — one gold, one silver. Now put each on and look at yourself in the mirror. Which one makes your overall appearance pop? If you look absolutely chic in silver, it’s likely you’re cool. If you’re sexiest in gold, you’re warm. If you look fabulous in both — you’re probably neutral.


By now, you should have a good idea if you’re undertone falls into the warm, cool or neutral category. You’re off to a good start and can pretty much begin to pick out clothes and jewelry that will complement you. So, if you think you can take it from here, go for it. If you need a little more help, read Part 2.



“Back to Basics: How to know what skin undertones you have,” Makeup Magazine, July 8, 2013

“How to Figure Out What Colors Look Best On You Using Your Skin’s Undertones,” SyleCaster,com,

“Expert Tips — Foundation Guide,”,

How to Determine Your Skin’s Undertone,,