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How to Apply Makeup Based on Your Skin Tone

If you want your makeup to really complement your face in the best way possible, you need to make sure that the shades you have chosen work with your skin tone. 

From your foundation to your eyeshadow to your lipstick, here is everything you need to know about how to apply your makeup according to your skin tone. 

What’s Your Skin Tone and Undertone?

The very first step that you should take before applying any makeup is to determine your skin tone. 

What exactly is skin tone? 

It is the color that you see on the surface of your skin, and usually falls under one of the following categories: 

  • Fair
  • Light 
  • Medium 
  • Tan 
  • Dark 

What determines your skin tone? 

The amount of melanin that your skin produces. This is the pigment that gives your skin its color. Those with darker skin tones have skin that produces more melanin, while those with lighter skin tones have skin that produces less. Melanin also offers the skin a small degree of sun protection, which is why those with lighter skin tones tend to burn faster than those with darker skin tones. 

You should be able to tell which category your skin tone falls under just by looking at it. 

That was the easy part…

Now that you have determined your skin tone, you also need to identify your skin undertone. 

This refers to the subtle hue that comes through from beneath the surface of your skin, and your undertone will usually be one of the following: 

  • Neutral 
  • Warm 
  • Cool 

How do you work out what your skin undertone is? 

Take a look at the skin on the underside of your wrist, as this is the part that will have experienced less sun exposure. 

Then, ask yourself the following questions: 

What color are the veins here?

Blue or purple points to a cool undertone, blue-green suggests neutral, while green or olive veins are a sign of a warm undertone.

When holding a piece of blank white paper against your skin, what tinge of color do you see?

A pink, red or blue tinge is usual for cool undertones, while a peach, gold or yellow tinge suggests a warm undertone. If your skin is somewhere in the middle, then this is a sign of a neutral undertone. 

Which tends to look better on you – silver or gold?

Silver and platinum will flatter a cool undertone more, while gold is most complementary when placed against a warm undertone. 

Now that you know what your skin tone, as well as its undertone, is, you can really start to make the most of your makeup…


Foundation is the first step for many when it comes to applying makeup, and while this may be a product that provides a layer of smooth coverage for your face, it is also one that you need to be extremely careful when choosing. 

Did you know that only 15% of women choose the right shade of foundation

It goes without saying that you will want to be one of the 15%, but how do you actually choose the best shade for your skin tone? 

Well, matching a foundation to your skin tone is actually quite easy…

Make sure that you test out every shade that you are considering, on your face rather than your hand. Your jawline tends to be the best spot to do this.

When you find a product that seems to just disappear into your skin, this is the foundation for you, although you need to be sure that you are doing this under natural lighting. 

Don’t forget…

Your skin tone will vary on different parts of your face, depending on which parts are more exposed to the sun. You will need to decide whether you want your foundation to match this color, or to match your true base color. 

If choosing a foundation is so easy, why do so many women get it wrong? 

Because they only pay attention to their skin tone, rather than their undertone as well. 

In order to really work well with your skin tone, the foundation you use should contain a subtle hint of your skin undertone. 

If your skin undertone is cool, your foundation should have a very slight pink tinge to it. On the other hand, if your undertone is warm, you should be able to just make out a golden or yellow tinge to the foundation.


Highlighters are designed to attract light, which then brightens up the face and makes it look so much more radiant. 

Compared to many other makeup products out there, the range of highlighter shades is much more limited, but you do still need to pay attention to your skin tone when choosing one.

Ideally, you want your highlighter to be one or two shades lighter than your natural skin tone, as this will ensure that it is really flattering. 

Here are some extra tips: 

  • Fair and light skin tones – a pearlescent or champagne tint to your highlighter will give your face some radiance without making you appear ghostly. Avoid anything too warm, as this will look too obvious, rather than blending into your face in the subtle way a highlighter should 
  • Medium and tan skin tones – a hint of color works well, such as a peach or a gold 
  • Dark skin tones – a rich gold or bronze is best, but make sure you choose a product that contains plenty of pigment 

Don’t forget, a highlighter isn’t just for your cheeks…

They also work well when applied to the inner corners of the eyes, brightening up the entire eye area and really helping your eyes to stand out. 

Here are a few other areas on your face that could benefit from a touch of a highlighting product: 

  • Above your cupid’s bow, as this will draw attention down to your lips 
  • The bridge of your nose to make it look thinner 
  • Beneath your eyebrow arch to open up your eyes and define the shape of your brows 
  • The center of your forehead and the center of your chin, to add contours to your face 


A little blush goes a long way, with this makeup product being one that can really brighten up your face. 

How should you choose a blush? 

Here are some tips: 

  • Fair and light skin tones – stick to subtle blush shades, such as a peach, light coral or soft pink, as brighter or more vibrant shades usually look garish on lighter skin tones 
  • Medium and tan skin tones – pink or peach will work well for you too, although you will likely need this in a deeper intensity than those with lighter skin tones. A richer pink, or even a mauve, will give you some extra contrast 
  • Dark skin tones – deeper shades of orange, red and brown work well on darker skin tones. You need something with plenty of pigment, so that it makes your skin radiate rather than washing it out. If your undertone is cool, try a tangerine shade, while warm undertones on dark skin look great with a fuchsia 

Don’t forget to also keep your skin type in mind when choosing a blush, as well as a foundation…

If your skin type is either dry, normal, or sensitive, you would be best off with a creamy formula. 


Because this will moisturize your skin at the same time, and will not cake up if your skin dries up even more through the day. 

If you have oily or normal skin, a powder blush will work well for you, as these will absorb up any excess oil and sweat that is sat on the surface of your skin. 


Just about every color you could imagine is available in eyeshadow form, and while this range of options may be fun, it does also make it easier to go wrong when choosing a shade. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind depending on your skin tone: 

  • Fair skin tones – go for earthy colors, such as bronzes and golds, as well as soft shades of plum and green. Rose and champagne also work well on fair skin. Whichever you choose, make sure that you add in a touch of a highlighting shadow to the inner corners of your eyes to brighten the eye area up 
  • Medium skin tones – illuminating shades, such as gold, copper, bronze and honey, will really brighten up your eyes, while metallic finishes will also complement your skin tone. If your undertone is cool, give lavender or gray a try to really enhance your eyes 
  • Dark skin tones – rich shades work well against dark skin tones, with deep purples and vibrant indigos standing out dramatically against your skin. For something more subtle, try a metallic gold or a burgundy

One more thing to keep in mind when choosing eye makeup is your eye color…

Since you want your eye makeup to really enhance your eyes, choosing shades that are complementary to your actual eye color can really make a difference. 

Here are some guidelines: 

  • Brown eyes – this is the most versatile eye color, with just about every shade bringing out your eyes. Try a deep purple or a bronze/ gold for some extra drama 
  • Blue eyes – an orange shade, such as a terracotta or a rich brown, will highlight your eyes best. On the other hand, gold and champagne will bring out the gold highlights in your blue eyes
  • Green and hazel eyes – colors that have a red undertone, such as rust, mahogany and pink, are best for making your eyes stand out 
  • Gray eyes – this is the most unique eye color, and works well with gray-ish shades, such as silver or an icy blue


When it comes to lipstick, both your skin tone and your skin undertone should have an impact on the shade that you choose.

Let’s begin with undertones…

It is actually quite simple – if your skin undertone is warm, go for a warm shade of lipstick, whereas those with a cool undertone should look for a lipstick that has a blue or purple tinge to it. 

Many lipstick brands actually state warm or cool as a part of the shade’s name, and this can definitely be helpful when it comes to choosing a color. 

How about your skin tone? 

Here are some tips on the best lipstick colors for each skin tone: 

  • Fair and light skin tones – coral, peach, light pink, nude, dusty red shades
  • Medium skin tones – cherry red, mauve, rose and berry shades
  • Tan skin tones – deep pink, bright red and coral shades, as well as many other colors, but try to avoid purple and brown 
  • Dark skin tones – brown and purple shades, as well as blue-based red shades 

Don’t forget to also keep the size of your lips in mind when applying lipstick…

If your lips are thin, try to avoid using any overly dark or bright shades, as these will only make your lips appear thinner. Subtle shades are best, especially with a glossy or creamy finish. 

For those who have plump lips, stay away from lipstick shades that are glossy or too light. Glitter lipsticks are another one to avoid.

While you may be tempted to impulsively buy a makeup product in a stunning new shade that you have just seen on the shelves, you really should take all of the above into consideration before choosing a product to use. From your eyes to your cheeks to your lips, your skin tone will have a huge effect on how your makeup looks when you are done applying it, so make sure that you take a few minutes to properly match up your skin tone with your makeup. 


By Lionesse

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