Your Skin’s Undertone: The 2 Most Important Things That Define It


“Oh, I can’t wear [insert colour here], it makes me look sick”.  Have you ever heard yourself using this as an answer when discussing clothes and makeup before?  I definitely have!  It’s probably to do with your skin’s undertone.  The mix between our undertone and our skin tone is what gives us our unique skin colour.  It’s also what makes some colours work so well for us and others make us look like we’ve come off the back of a hard night!  In this article, I’ll hopefully shed a bit of light as to why it happens and how you can find the perfect colours for you.

What the science says:

Our skin colour is mostly affected by a pigment called melanin.  Inside our skin there are cells called melanicytes which product melanin.  There are two types of melanin – eumelanin and pheomelanin – which determine whether we have dark skin or light skin, and therefore our skin tone.

Pheomelanin is a reddish-yellow colour and is prevalent in light -skinned people, and Eumelanin is a brown-black colour and the more of this someone has, the darker their skin will be.  Cool huh!

And then there’s what happens under our skin.  Did you know that when we see colour it’s actually different wavelengths of light being reflected back to us?  So it’s kind of an optical illusion!

We know our blood is red, but our veins are usually either blue or green.  It’s because as the light gets to our veins it has to go through the skin first and the red light gets absorbed and we’re just left with blue.  But if you have yellow-toned skin (from your mix of melanin), the blue and yellow wavelengths mix and you actually see green!

So now you know how we get the colours, what does that mean for our clothes and makeup?  Well, for that we have to look at art.

What the art says:

A man named Robert Dorr is probably the biggest influence in how we use colour today.  About 100 years ago, he discovered that we have undertones to our skin tone.  As he was painting posters for the movie theatres.  He noticed some people’s skin would be peachy and other would be more of a rosy colour.

Then when films started to be made into colour, he was asked to advise on colours that would show power, happiness, strength and beauty.  He started to see that warm colours would look great on warm-toned people and cool colours would look great on cool-toned people.  And so, the process of colour analysis as we know it today was born.  He was key in defining the groups of colours we should use to choose clothing and makeup, and created the colour palettes we still see in use today.

Mixing science and art:

Today we can take what we know about the science of skin tones and understones and use it to inform us about what art tells us.

Since defining warm and cool colours in the fashion and beauty industry, they have since been separated further into 4 main group – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter as a way to quickly associate the group of colours being described.

There are a few quick tests we can do that will tell us whether we are warm or cool toned, and which colour will work best for us.

And we now have the ability to make sure we are wearing colours that make our eyes sparkle and show our own personal beauty, strength and power within.

What colours do you love to wear? Which ones do you feel most comfortable in?  This is the first step in understanding your skin’s undertone.

If you’d like to find out more about your skin’s undertone, make sure you are following my Facebook page, The Beauty of You, where we talk about all things beauty, inside and out.  I am passionate about helping women live their best life, and feel good doing it!  I’d love to have you join us and be a part of the journey too.

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