The VERY First Step To Choosing The Right Foundation

My skill in the makeup department dramatically improved after learning this fact. Are you ready?

All foundations can be divided into two basic categories: colours with pinky (cooler) undertones and colours with yellowy (warmer) undertones.

In fact, all make up can be roughly divided into two categories. Products for people with cool undertones and products for people with warm undertones. There are products for people with neutral and mixed undertones but they can usually be placed in one of the aforementioned groups.

People with cool undertones have pinks, reds and blues in their complexion while those with warm undertones throw peach, yellow and gold. Someone with a neutral undertone usually has a mix of both, and that mix is not usually 50/50.


Once I learned about undertones I felt like I finally had the key to crack the makeup code. When it comes to choosing an optimal product, shade and formula are important but most essential is choosing a product with the right undertone for your skin. This applies to foundation, concealer, bronze, blush, eyebrow pencil and so much more.

Picking a product with the right undertone is the difference between looking better with make up or looking so much worse. You know what I am talking about? Reverse panda eyes. Pink face—tanned body. Really obvious eyebrow pencil and not in the #browsonfleek kinda way.

foundation with pink undertones and foundation with yellow undertones

So how can you use this knowledge to crack the code and take your makeup game to the next level?

First, identify your skin undertone

How do you know if you have cool or warm undertones? Almost every other article on the Internet will tell you to do things like look at your veins. Do they look blue or green ? Do you look better in yellow and silver jewellery? If you find this helpful, great. I don’t find it helpful at all.

The best thing to do, head to a makeup counter and ask an assistant to help find the right foundation for your skin undertone. Real life road testing y’all.

Now, please note that MUAs at counters can be wrong , I have left a store with a pink face before. Lighting issues and all that. So if you are unsure. Take a sample of a shade in each undertone—pink and yellow. Assess which one looks better and use this choice to ascertain whether you have warmer or cooler undertones.

Second, understand the system

Each makeup brand will have some sort of system that divides foundations into cool and warm categories.

For instance any product from MAC with the letters NC means it has warmer undertones while NW products are for the cool among us (HA!). Sometimes brands will use numbers to identify foundation types. Every colour marked with an odd number may have a yellow base, while even numbers are pink or vice versa. How to figure this out? Well you can ask a sales assistant if they are handy, whack some product on the back of your hands and sort it out or match numbers to names.

Names, you say? Have you ever paid proper attention to foundation names? Unlike OPI nail shades, foundation shade names usually convey technical meaning. Any foundation with the words “rose” or “beige” will have pink in it, whereas product with the words “warm” or “honey” will have yellow undertones. So a product called Rose Beige (translate: pink with more pink) means VERY PINK foundation. Warm Sand (yellow with more yellow) means very yellow.

Third, crack the code

Now you have the information you need to crack the foundation code. If you are looking at foundations and notice a colour called 3C Rose Beige and another one called 3D Honey Beige, then you’ll know every colour with the number 3 has pink in its base. You will also know whether or not a pink-based foundation is what you need. Yep, it will now be much easier to fend for yourself at the next 50% off sale at Chemist Warehouse.

Now this is the part where I tell you to always keep an open mind. Various factors can influence how your skin undertones express themselves and thus affect how products, foundation and otherwise, will look on you.

Hair colour for instance, plays a big role on what types of makeup will suit you. I had honey brown hair with highlights and used Hot Chocolate Dip Brow from Anastasia Beverly Hills. I changed my hair to a darker brown colour and suddenly this eyebrow colour looked RIDICULOUS. I needed to switch to a cooler brown shade. How did I know what the issue was? Well, when I put the Hot Chocolate shade on it looked red against my skin. Red equals warm so I figured I must need something cooler. Now if I remained married to the idea that only warm colours suited me then I would be walking around with weird red looking brows (wearing no brow product was never an option).

Yep, having knowledge about skin undertones can help you crack all sorts of makeup conundrums.

Ever try a bronze contour shade and notice it makes you look dirty? Ascertain whether the bronzer is a warm red or cool grey shade and try the opposite. If a contour kit has bronzer with a specific undertone, then you want to make sure it suits you before buying the entire product. The Australis Contour Kit for example includes a very cool grey bronzer—definitely not a shade for one and all in my opinion.

Knowledge about skin undertones can also help you make really speedy purchases.

Need a blush real quick? There are two shades to choose from, Coral and Rose Pink. How do you decide? Well coral is a shade of orange, which has yellow undertones. Use this fact to help make your decision and go, go, go!

Now friends, it is important to know I just simplified a shit ton of colour theory and any aficionados reading this might find their eyeballs bleeding right now. There is a whole art to this and people who make a living as colour analysts. I respect that this goes deeper than, pink vs yellow, and I would encourage anyone who wants a better understanding to do more research.

However, for those us who want just want their makeup to look better and to feel less stressed when approaching the cosmetics section, then the basic information I am relaying is going to be really helpful and may be all you wish to know on the subject.

OK so that’s me over and out. I would love to know if you already knew about cool and warm undertones. If you did, how did you find out?! If you didn’t, do you think you will find this info useful? TELL ME ALL!

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