My last article on skin tones, Skin Tones and Complimentary Colors, gives a general description and explanation of skin colors and the colors that compliment them. However, the topic of skin color goes much deeper than “tone”, so for those interested in maximizing their wardrobe and image, read on for a greater understanding of “undertones” and how to determine your own.

So, what is the difference between skin tone and undertone? When we talk about skin tone, we’re referring to a person’s complexion: light, medium or dark, which are actually categories or classifications of skin color. A person’s undertone is the hue or tint within their skin tone. There are two colors that determine undertone: yellow and blue. This means we all have either a yellow or blue tinge to our skin, regardless of our skin tone (light, medium or dark).

Yellow and blue undertones translate into “warm and cool” – yellow is considered a warm color and blue is recognized as a cool color. You’re probably thinking you don’t look yellow or blue, and I’m sure you don’t, but if you refine your perspective you’ll begin to see an underlying tint of yellow or blue in both your own skin color and the skin color of others.

The value of knowing your skin’s undertone is so you can take dressing to a whole new level that will only enhance your appearance. Wearing colors that complement your skin undertone, rather than detract from it, makes a world of difference in how others perceive you, and, ultimately, how you feel about yourself. Here are a few ways of identifying your own undertone and whether you’re warm or cool:

  • Take a look at the veins on the inside of your forearm. Are they blue or green in color?  If they appear more blue than green, you probably have blue or cool undertones. If you see green veins, you have yellow or warm undertones.
  • Grab your jewelry and put it on. Hopefully, you have both gold and silver colored jewelry to test against your skin – if not, borrow some. It’s best to place the jewelry near your face, so if you don’t have earrings or a necklace to judge with, put your metal wristwatch or any metal jewelry up to your face. Which color seems to compliment or blend with your personal skin color best? Which color makes you shine? Not sure? Ask someone whose opinion you trust. Typically, cool undertones look best in silver and silver toned jewelry (white metals), while warm undertones look great in gold (yellow metals).
  • Another great way to determine if you’re warm or cool is with clothing or fabric in these colors: white, ivory or cream, light or baby blue, and orange or rust. While standing in front of a mirror in bright lighting, put the clothing up to your face or around your neck, and see how they make you look. Do not base the results on eye or hair color only, but instead your entire package, which includes skin color. So, which colors make you look awake, healthy and happy? Which ones makes you look tired, sickly or just plain blah? If you have a warm undertone, the off-white colors and orange/rust should harmonize with your skin, making you look balanced and blended. If you get that same result with white and light blue, it’s safe to say you have a cool undertone. Again, if you’re unable to determine which colors look best on you, ask someone you can trust… most likely a woman.
  • Some of you may find all colors look good on you, and you look equally dashing in silver and gold jewelry. If this applies to you, congratulations – you have neutral skin! Neutral skin means you have no color restrictions because all colors look great on you.


Now that you know if you’re warm or cool, what can you do with the information? Apply it to the clothing and jewelry you wear by choosing colors that accentuate and complement your undertone. Men with warm undertones should wear warm colors, and those with cool undertones should wear cool colors. The following color chart shows the most flattering colors for both warm and cool skin. Neither chart includes white or black. For the record, both white and black are cool colors.


Like I said in my article, Skin Tones and Complementary Colors, these guidelines are just that – guidelines. I don’t expect you to rid your closet of any color that’s not on your side of the color chart. However, it is valuable information to utilize when buying new clothing and jewelry, or for simply understanding why you look great in certain colors and not so good in others. Knowledge is a powerful tool, so put this information to work and prepare yourself for lots of compliments!

by Aaron Marino