What Is a Skin Tone Chart?
A skin tone chart is a chart that consists of the many combinations of skin colors that exist. Many charts exist for this purpose, as most makeup companies release their own.
You will notice that most skin tone charts are segmented into categories based on what are called “undertones.”
So, these charts will include warm skin tones, cool skin tones, and neutral skin tones, then separated into warm undertones, cool undertones, and neutral undertones.
What Is a Skin Tone Chart Used For?
A skin tone chart is used for determining what exact shade of makeup or color would flatter you most. No two persons with the same skin tone will necessarily use the same foundation because they might have a different skin undertone from each other.
A chart helps to save you the hassle of having to purchase multiple shades of foundation and other products, in hopes one will work for you. It’s also one way to get more acquainted with your skin and to better understand how to care for it.
How Do You Use a Skin Tone Chart?
Using a skin tone chart along with the tests mentioned below will make this process easier, but to use a chart, you only need to compare your skin tone to that of the examples on the chart.
Start with your skin tone (light, medium, or dark) and compare accordingly. You will notice how examples shift in color because each skin undertone is different. Do you notice that your skin matches a warmer undertone or a cooler undertone?
If you notice similarities in both, then you might have a neutral undertone. Neutral undertones will be more common in those with medium skin tones. Warm undertones will be more common in those with medium and dark complexions. A cool skin undertone will be more common in those with light complexions.
Why Does Your Skin Tone Matter?
When selecting a new makeup product, a signature color (relevant in the fashion industry), and so on, knowing your skin’s natural tone helps you to choose what would flatter you most.
If you’ve ever worn a foundation shade you thought would match your skin color, and it looked slightly off, then your skin tone is most likely the reason.
Learning your skin tone and skin undertone helps to avoid buying makeup and clothing online and discovering that it isn’t your shade.
What Is Skin Complexion?
Knowing what your skin complexion is can help you figure out the best ways to protect yourself from sun exposure, burning, and so on. There are six skin complexions, according to the system that was developed by Thomas Fitzpatrick in 1975.
Type 1: Very Fair
You will see makeup brands label this skin complexion most often as ivory or porcelain. People with skin complexion do not tan and are extremely prone to burning with little exposure to sunlight.
Type 2: Fair
People with fair skin also are pale in color and may even have freckles. Fair skin rarely tans, and people with fair skin will also burn easily when exposed to sunlight. It is most common for very fair and fair skin to have cool undertones as well.
Type 3: Medium
People with medium skin complexions have skin that is between fair and dark, but never is too much of either. They can burn; however, it is less common than with fair skin complexions. Medium skin can also tan, unlike fair skin complexions, and often have golden undertones.
Type 4: Olive
Olive skin complexions are beige with a subtle brown tone. People with olive skin complexions rarely have freckles and tan easily. They also rarely burn.
Type 5: Brown
Brown skin complexions range more in color, from light brown to dark brown. People with brown skin complexions rarely burn when in the sun for long periods of time, and almost always tan.
Type 6: Black
The last skin complexion ranged from very dark brown to black, a deeply pigmented skin tone range. People with deep skin complexions never burn and will always tan.
Why Should You Use a Skin Tone Chart?
A skin tone chart will make the process of determining what your true tone and undertones are much easier. You will be able to easily compare your skin tones to those on the chart and notice the personal differences in your skin to the chart’s examples.
What Are the Different Skin Tones?
Skin tones range drastically, but the primary categories for them are light, fair, medium, and dark/deep. This refers to the amount of melanin present in your body and skin and is a result of your genetics.
However, these four categories are only the broadest terms, as each category can be broken down into smaller, niche categories based on undertones.
A skin’s undertone is what sets everyone’s skin apart from each other, as not all cool skin tones are the same, for example.
What Factors Impact Your Skin Tone?
The main factor is your genetics. If you come from a primarily European background, you are more likely to have a light skin color. If you have a mostly African genetic background, then you will most likely have darker skin.
But the exact skin tone will vary depending on your environment and your ancestor’s environment.
So, like most Americans, you might have a combination of European and Middle Eastern genetics, so you could have lighter skin with warm undertones. There are many combinations because of genetics.
However, your undertone will not change will exposure to the sun, as your skin tone would. If you tan or work outside a lot, then the UV light and elemental exposure will impact your skin tone.
Your skin tone may also change as you age, experience hormone shifts, and even as a result of medication use and stress.
How to Find Your Skin Tone
View Yourself in Natural Light
It can also help to take before and after pictures of your face, with and without makeup, to notice a difference.
After you’ve finished putting makeup on, wait 15 minutes and go outside if possible. The natural light will expose grey tones and color mismatch often in the jawline.
Do you burn easily? Or do you tan easily?
People who tan easily typically have medium to dark skin tones, whereas those who burn will often have light skin tones.
However, this doesn’t exactly help with determining your skin undertone, as sun exposure cannot change this.
The Jewelry Test
Do you prefer wearing silver or gold jewelry? Well, your preference may have been influenced by your natural skin tone!
If you tend to get more compliments when wearing gold, rather than silver, your skin tone may be the reason. Natural light skin tends to look better with cooler metals, including silver, whereas any dark skin tone looks better with gold.
Of course, your undertones will also impact this test.
If you can wear both, then you most likely fall under the neutral undertones or neutral skin tone category.
The Vein Test
This test is quick to use to assess your skin tone. Just by looking at the veins on your wrist, you can gauge what direct your skin tone leans.
This test originally was split into three categories (neutral, warm, and cool) but now includes a fourth category: olive.
Neutral skin tones are a combination of any of these three colors: blue, purple, green/olive. Neutral skin tones most often fall in the middle of all skin tones, as they are a combination of both warm and cool tones.
However, you might find it tricky to match makeup shades because you could either be slightly more cool-toned or warm-toned than what you expect.
Cool skin tones are a combination of blue and purple that are noticeable in the veins. Cool tones often have a shade of pink, blue or red in them, so you might find that those colors also flatter you most.
Olive skin tones are a combination of green and yellow tones. The “newest” category when it comes to skin tones is similar to neutral with how centered or balanced the skin tone can be.
Warm skin tones are a combination of golden yellow and green, but more often are solid green veins. Your skin tone often looks best in warmer colors as well, including bold reds and oranges.
Skin Tone vs. Skin Undertone
One’s skin tone and skin undertone are different shades. Skin tones range from light to dark skin tones, but are primarily separated into four categories: light, fair, medium, and dark (or deep).
When shopping for makeup, you may have noticed product labeling, including words such as ivory, fair, golden, chestnut, espresso, and so on. These refer to your skin tone, the main pigmentation of your skin.
Skin undertones, however, are often the reason it is difficult to find the right foundation shade. You can have a warm undertone and light skin, and a cool undertone with darker skin.
There are multiple combinations, but most makeup companies cannot produce a shade for every unique shade of skin.
So, your skin undertone is essentially the “temperature” of your skin. Undertone is what determines the complexion that you have. Skin can vary greatly because of this, ranging from pink shades to golden shades.
Skin undertones often appear as one of the six shades: warm (yellow, peach, and gold) or cool (pink, blue, or red). Finding your undertone can take a bit of time, as everyone’s undertone is unique and can be slightly warmer or cooler than anticipated.
“You’re Wearing the Wrong Undertone”
A few years ago, this comment would throw off almost anyone who was wearing makeup. “What is an undertone, and how am I wearing it wrong?” you may have thought. Today, there are more adjusters available in the makeup world that can be directly mixed in with your foundation.
But for the sake of full coverage, warm undertones, and cool undertones benefit most from different products. If you have a more neutral undertone, then you can mix and match to find the right combination.
So, if your foundation is too light and you have a warm undertone, try using a bronzer to deepen the shade. For a cool undertone wearing darker makeup, try using a lighter shade setting powder.
“You’re Wearing the Wrong Shade”
This is extremely common, mostly due to the wide array of lighting in makeup stores and your own home. Cosmetic stores have illuminated lighting that makes everything glow and seem flawless, whereas your everyday lightbulbs can shift the color of your makeup (yellow lighting vs. white lighting).
Most people today purchase makeup online, so they cannot swatch it. Picking the right shade starts by determining skin tone correctly, which is why skin tone charts exist. Of course, every foundation formula is different, and you may still need to mix and match products to get the color just right for your skin (which is highly encouraged anyway!).
No matter the skin tone, everyone should take precautions to protect their skin. Many makeup brands have products that contain SPF sunscreen but wearing sunscreen on a regular basis is strongly recommended as well.
Use a skin tone chart when you notice that your foundation or other makeup looks off in color. You could be using the wrong warm tone or cool tone, and are in need of an adjuster.