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Foundation Matching and Undertones Demystified
By Vapour Beauty Expert
Vapour Blog

Vapour’s globally inclusive shade range

Artists are familiar with color as a language for expression and the same goes for Makeup Artists. But, with skin as their canvas, Makeup Artists have the unique challenge of selecting colors that will harmonize with a person’s specific surface skin color and their subtler undertones.

In our conversations with Annie and the Credo team, we’ve learned that most women have a lot of uncertainty when it comes to picking their foundation shade and identifying their undertones.

If that confusion describes you, don’t worry. Color is subjective and emotional, and undertones are subtle.

Undertone is a color theory term, describing how different colors mix and whether they appear warm, cool or neutral. Your skin isn’t just one even color—its surface color varies depending on what lies beneath and how thick or thin it is. At Vapour we’ve designed our foundation shades to be versatile and forgiving by including warm and cool pigments in almost every formula, making color matching easier on you.

Knowing your undertone helps you find complementary shades of makeup and clothing to accentuate your natural beauty. Undertones fall into three main categories:

WARM — earthy yellow, bronze or gold
COOL — jewel-toned pink, blue or silver
NEUTRAL — a blend or balance of warm and cool colors

Vapour Blog

Warm, neutral, cool skin tones

So, how do you know where you fall? Below are several techniques for determining your undertone(s). These suggestions may not work for everyone—you may need to experiment to discover your true undertone, and don’t underestimate your natural inclinations toward color in makeup and wardrobe. What makes you feel good inside reflects on the outside. 

  • Vein Color
    One common way of determining your skin undertone is by looking at the veins on the inner wrist or elbow in natural sunlight. If they look bluish, your undertone is cool, and if they look more green or yellow then your undertone is warm. If they are a mix, or you can't really tell, then you probably have a neutral skin tone. 
  • Jewelry
    Silver, white gold and platinum accentuate cool undertones, while yellow gold accentuates warm undertones. The metal that harmonizes with your undertones will give you a fresh, bright look. Neutral undertones are complemented by both silver and gold. 
  • White Cloth 
    First pull your hair back and put a white cloth, like a towel or T-shirt, around your neck and shoulders. The white fabric will draw out a subtle cast of color in your face. Blue or pink indicate cool undertones, while yellow and peach indicate warm undertones. Neutral undertones tend to look greenish next to the white cloth.

When researching undertones, we found there is much more information available for lighter and Caucasian skin so we asked Vapour friend and MUA, Dionne Belle, for advice.

To identify undertones on darker skin, Dionne recommends looking under the eye (on top of cheekbones) and on the side of the palm because skin can be lighter there. She also says that wearing white clothes can be really helpful. “It’s important to look at yourself in natural light as well because artificial lights can change how your skin looks,” she says. When asked how she likes using Vapour makeup Dionne replied, “I love working with Vapour, the colors are beautiful and so forgiving. They cover such a wide range of race and ethnicities; they really work for everyone.”

It’s not accurate to assume skin undertones are based on race. For example, we can’t assume all Asians have warm undertones. The surface yellowness of skin does not necessarily mean warm undertones—there are warm yellows and cool yellows. There’s also a difference between brown skin with warm orange-red undertones, and brown skin with cool, jewel undertones. This also applies to olive-toned skin.

Similarly, a person who has rosacea does not necessarily have cool undertones because of the “pink” seen on their face. There is such a broad spectrum of colors with skin, we recommend trying the above tips for all skin tones.

At Vapour we design Fine Art Infused color. Unlike synthetic FD&C pigments that lay flat on the skin like latex paint, we exclusively use natural pigments. Our color blends are more like oil paint, permitting light to pass through and harmonize with a wide range of skin tones. Our foundation shades are more versatile than those of some other brands, both because they include warm and cool pigments and they utilize the play of light on your skin. It can be surprising to see the same Vapour foundation shade or lipstick working perfectly on women who seem to have very different skin tones. We create color that responds to your unique coloring, so every shade becomes a custom shade. 


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On 6/21/2016 Cara Smith wrote:

Great Job Audrey! I really like the article I was not aware of all this but thanks for all of this. It really increases my knowledge.

Cara Smith

On 3/19/2015 Freya wrote:

Very informative! Way to go Audrey!

On 3/17/2015 Audrey wrote:

Thank you all for your comments. I am so glad you find the undertone blog topic helpful. Vapour is truly both a fun place to work and learn!

On 3/16/2015 Aura wrote:

Thank you, Audrey! I am cool it seems, but now I feel conflicted because I secretly want to be warm so that I can have caramel highlights and wear gold jewelry!! What's a girl to do?!?!


On 3/16/2015 Liz wrote:

Great blog, Audrey! Thanks for sharing your research and your experience. This is all such helpful information, and does explain a lot. 123s unite! xo

On 3/11/2015 krysia wrote:

Guess who is the new Vapour trainer for everyone who needs help understanding undertones!?! Your findings will be so helpful to so many retailers and web customers. Yay Audrey!

On 3/10/2015 Miquela wrote:

Awesome job Audrey! I also secretly color match everyone using the tools you showed us. :)

On 3/10/2015 Elise wrote:

Audrey! You totally rock. I am constantly referring to the information you provided all of us at that staff meeting. It has helped me personally, professionally, and see color in a totally different light. I now find myself looking at everyone around me, guessing what their undertones are. It is fun!

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