Sometimes, the concept of undertones feels a little Emperor’s New Clothes — everybody talks about them but, well, we can’t see them. Like, at all. We asked three makeup artists to explain them to us like we were total newbies, and then give us the scoop on when and why they matter.
“Undertones basically refer to the dominant colors that make up the shade of your skin,” says makeup artist Andre Sarmiento. In general, red, orange, and yellow are considered warm colors; green, blue, and violet are cool. Okay, fine. Now, considering your skin probably looks like some variation of white, tan, or brown, what exactly does that have to do with makeup?
An easy way to determine your undertones is by looking at any veins that are visible through your skin. If they look greenish-brown, you’re likely warm-complected. If they’re blueish-violet, cool tones dominate your complexion. Sarmiento likes Sephora’s free in-store Color IQ technology, a handheld digital device that scans the surface of your face and matches you with suitable makeup options.
Now, what to do with that intel? Read on to learn how to choose your best makeup matches depending on your undertones — and find out for which products you can ignore them.