UNDERTONES & MAKEUP – are you cool, warm or neutral?

undertones cool warm neutral

makeup and undertones

Finding the perfect foundation match is hard, because it needs to not only suit your skin tone, but also your undertone. Wait, what – does it mean you have two tones? Well, not exactly. But also, yes.

Skintone is the color of your skin and that can change when you tan. It can be described as fair, light, medium, dark etc. Usually when you look for a foundation, it’s quite easy to go for the somewhat right color direction – it’s basically about how light or dark are you.

Undertone is exactly that – the undertone of your skin. It’s either warm, cool or neutral. We all have red, bluish, yellow and gold undertones and these are the colors that determine your undertone. Undertones are the reason why your foundation may look orange or red or just wrong on your skin – even if it was supposed to be the right color (for your skintone).



Here are the three main undertones:

Warm – yellow, peachy and gold undertones
Cool – red, pink and bluish undertones
Neutral – mix of warm and cool undertones (=doesn’t really suit warm or cool and is somewhere in between)

But keep in mind: having redness on your skin doesn’t necessarily mean you are cool toned. You can have redness on your skin even if your undertone was neutral or warm. So don’t stare at your cheeks too much here – instead look at the skin on your neck, décolleté and body.

Once you figure out your undertone, foundation matching is easier. Foundations are usually marked either warm, cool or neutral so shopping is easier as well. Once you find your exact foundation match, you are never going back. Having just the right color with just the right undertone is magical. The foundation then blends seamlessly into your skin and looks flawless.

Let’s look at some examples of different undertones (and also some pretty makeup looks I’ve done on my friends during the years!):

Here is my gorgeous friend Eve. Her undertone is cool. No wonder red hair suits her perfectly!

mom makeup

Here is my mom. She’s warm.

warm olive undertone pinja

Meet my best friend Pinja. Her undertone is warm. It’s actually so warm, you could describe it olive.

easy tutorials blog

Here is my sister Janika. Her undertone is neutral, leaning more to warm.

makeup and undertones cool warm neutral

When you put the pictures together you can see clearly the different undertones on different people. On the left we have cool undertones, in the middle we have warm undertones and on the right we have neutral undertones.

How to determine your undertone?

There are different tricks to determine your undertone. I think these give you an idea and might help, but still the best way is to just try different foundations. But before getting to that, I think these two questions are the most helpful in determining your undertone.

undertones veins on hands

What color are the veins on your hand? Check the veins on your hand and try to determine their color. If you are cool, they appear blue or purple. If you are warm, they look green. And if you are neutral – like me – you probably have no idea of the color of them. They are somewhat in between and not clearly blue nor green. Also, some people have more visible veins than others. So this can be tricky.

gold silver jewellery neutral undertone

What colors look best on you? Cool tones and silver jewellery, or warm tones and gold jewellery? This is a good test and you probably do know what suits you. However, I also think it depends on your hair and eye color. For example I used to think of myself as cool toned, when my hair was ashy white. I wore silver jewellery, because it complimented my cool hair. Later I found out that I can actually also wear gold and I’m definitely not cool toned.

gold silver jewellery undertones

There is an awesome blog post on Mateja’s Beauty Blog, where she shows all the different ways of testing your undertone. I recommend readind that as well.

how to find foundation match

Determining your undertone by testing foundations

The best way to find your undertone is to just try on foundations. Pick warm, cool and neutral shades and apply them on your face/neck. Apply them next to each other and try and blend them to your skin. Is one of them looking pink? You are not cool. Is one of them too yellow? You are not warm. Is one of them blending seamlessly into your skin? Congratulations, you found your match.

Testing the foundation on your face/neck is good, because then you can find a foundation that matches both your face and neck. But I personally have a small problem with this, because my neck is significantly lighter than my face and body. You can see this just by looking at my hand. If I match my neck, I look really pale (because my face is more tan). And if I choose the right color for my face, it can be a bit dark for my neck. But that is still what I do. I just blend it on my neck or I bronze my neck a little.

Sometimes the shade names are not that easy to read, but they give you an idea of the shade. These are quite common:

Cool toned foundation names: Fair, Ivory, Porcelain, Rose
Warm toned foundation names: Honey, Sand, Golden, Olive
Neutral toned foundation names: Buff, Beige

But these are not written in stone. Some brand may for example have a warm foundation called Ivory.
Every brand has their own way of naming the foundations and marking their undertone. For example MAC has a completely weird way of naming their foundations. Their warm toned foundations are called “NC” which means “neutral cool” and cool toned foundations are called “NW” meaning “neutral warm”. So confusing! It helps to think of them as “not cool” or “not warm”.

swatches 1. Rimmel Lasting Finish Nude Foundation, Ivory 2. Pretty By Flormar Weightless Foundation, Light Ivory 3. IsaDora Active All Day Wear Make-Up, Fair 4. Clarins Everlasting Foundation, Sand 5. IsaDora Active All Day Wear Make-Up, Light Honey 6. Pretty By Flormar Weightless Foundation, Golden neutral 7. Estee Lauder Double Wear, Ecru 8. Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation, Warm Ivory
1. Rimmel Lasting Finish Nude Foundation, Ivory 2. Pretty By Flormar Weightless Foundation, Light Ivory 3. IsaDora Active All Day Wear Make-Up, Fair 4. Clarins Everlasting Foundation, Sand 5. IsaDora Active All Day Wear Make-Up, Light Honey 6. Pretty By Flormar Weightless Foundation, Golden neutral 7. Estee Lauder Double Wear, Ecru 8. Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation, Warm Ivory

In the picture I have foundations with different undertones swatched on my arm.
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Cool red undertones:

Rimmel Lasting Finish Nude foundation in the shade Ivory
Isadora Active All Day Wear foundation in the shade Fair
Pretty By Flormar Weightless Foundation in the shade Light Ivory

Warm yellow undertones:
Clarins Everlasting Foundation in the shade Sand
Isadora Active All Day Wear in the shade Light Honey
Pretty by Flormar Weightless Foundation in the shade Golden Neutral (actually this is a warm neutral color)

Neutral undertones:
Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation in the shade Ecru
Bobbi Brownin Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation in the shade Warm Ivory

Now as I said I’m neutral and figuring that out as helped massively. I’ve actually always thought of myself as warm, since I feel like yellow foundations blend easier to my skin. But at the same time, I’ve thought of myself as cool toned. Even though many foundations look pink on me, when they are cool toned. To be perfectly honest, I’ve felt a bit lost in the undertone world. Like I just wasn’t sure. If you are feeling like that as well, chances are you are neutral like me.

The exact description of my undertone would be: neutral with yellow undertones. Or golden neutral (because who doesn’t like to feel like a royal?). That means I’m neutral, but almost leaning to warm. When I tan, I get even more yellow. If I have two foundation choices and one of them is cool and one of them is warm, I have better luck at blending out the warm foundation. Or – mixing them together!

how to mix foundations for neutral undertone
IsaDora’s Fair & Light Honey foundations mixed.

How to mix foundations to get them suit a neutral undertone?

Besides buying a straight up neutral color, you can mix a neutral color with two foundations. You just pick a cool (pink) foundation and a warm (yellow) foundation. Mix them up and you have a beautiful neutral color.

Lately I’ve been mixing IsaDora’s new Active All Day Wear Foundation in Fair and Light Honey. When I mix them up I get a perfect color that is not too pink or not too yellow. Actually the shade is very close to Estee Lauder’s Double Wear foundation shade Ecru, which suits me well. It becomes this nice peachy color.

If you are neutral, chances are you have both cool and warm foundations in your arsenal. Try mixing them up!

Foundations that match me:

IsaDora ACTIVE all day wear make-up, Fair & Light Honey mixed (cool + warm mixed)
My review here.

Clarins Everlasting Foundation+*, sand (warm)
My review here.

Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-In-Place Makeup, Ecru (neutral)
My review here.

NYX Total Control Drop Foundation, Buff (neutral)
Review coming up, because this is awesome!

makeup and undertones

Have you found your undertone?

Makeup tips from my childhood makeup idol

makeup tips

makeup tips jane iredale gwen lipstick


When I was a kid I used to read this makeup guide book written by Raili Hulkkonen, a Finnish makeup artist. That book taught me the very first things about makeup and I remember being so excited about it. Makeup and beauty was truly interesting to me, even as a kid.

Raili has been on the industry already over 50 years and she’s very well known here. I have so much respect towards her and her work.

I never thought that one day I would learn makeup tricks from Raili herself, in person. But it just so happens that I have been lucky enough to participate already in two of her classes. The last one being yesterday, at Jane Iredale’s pr event.

I was super inspired after the event. I thought it would be fun to follow a makeup artist’s advice and do my makeup accordingly. So I created this very natural makeup look using some of the same products Raili used in her makeup demos. And obviously I wanted to share some makeup tips with you.

Who wouldn’t want to get makeup tips from a makeup artist, right?

makeup tips

Makeup tips from a makeup artist

  • Less is more, when it comes to foundation.
    It surprises me every time a makeup artist says that they usually do a very light base. Raili is not the first MUA to be horrified of the full-coverage trend. She said that it’s okay to let some skin show through. Not everything needs to be covered. So good news, everyone: we don’t have to look like perfect dolls.
  • Skip powder – or use it minimally.
    I tend to go a bit overboard with powder, I must admit. But even with oilier skin types, you should only powder the t-zone. No need to go all matte! Raili revealed that she might not even use powder for all of her clients. If you have dry skin, skip powder altogether. It’s true that a bit glowy skin looks more natural and alive.
  • Stick with the basics.
    When Raili did makeup on a model, she only used blush besides the foundation. We tend to get worried about all the latest makeup trends like contouring and highlighting, but forget that makeup doesn’t need to be that complicated. Learn to use blush and that’s all you need. I have to say I kinda agree with Raili, I think blush is a vital makeup product.
  • Beige kills.
    This is not a makeup tip per se, but I just had to include it here, because I found it so funny. Raili was all about red lipsticks and her opinion on nude lipsticks was that – well, apparently beige kills. Red is a classic I agree, but there is still a place in my heart for nude lipsticks. But if you’re just starting out with lipsticks, a red color is easier to pull off (you can always choose a lighter red, like a rose color for example).
  • To hide, draw attention to somewhere else.
    If you’re tired and want to hide your dark circles, instead of applying a ton of product on the thin skin around your eyes, try and emphasize your eyes by using eyeshadows. When you’re wearing eye makeup, the attention goes from your dark circles to your eyes. Same goes to aging and wrinkles. You don’t need to try and hide your skin with a thick foundation. You can draw the attention to your eyes and lips. Red lipstick is a great choice for older women as well – it draws the attention to your lips.
  • Keep it natural.
    Everything doesn’t have to be over the top. Makeup is also all about showcasing your natural beauty and everything doesn’t need to look so drawn on. For example eyebrows: they don’t have to be thick! You can just follow your natural brow shape and keep everything quite natural-looking.

Jane Iredale contour kit cool

I did my makeup today with these tricks in mind and I used mostly Jane Iredale products.

It felt quite liberating but also weird to wear my brows this natural. I’m so used to making them thicker.
I liked the lighter base, even though it’s not that long-lasting on my face (since the primer is so moisturizing). I loved the red lips. Iredale’s new lipstick formula is amazing and I have a feeling I will wear this red color a lot this season. If you haven’t already, go read my full review on the new Triple Luxe lipsticks here. Because these new lipsticks are good.

Products received as pr-samples

Products used

Jane Iredale Smooth Affair Facial Primer & Brightener
Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage BB Cream, 5
Jane Iredale Great Shape Contour Kit, Cool
Jane Iredale Retractable Brow Pencil, Ash Blonde
Jane Iredale Triple Luxe Lipstick, Gwen

makeup tips


What is the best advice you’ve received from a makeup artist?