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How do I know what skin tone I have?

Knowing your skin tone is important for finding makeup, clothing, and hair colors that complement you. Your skin tone is determined by the amount of melanin in your skin and falls into one of these general categories:

Fair Skin Tones

Those with fair skin tones tend to burn easily in the sun, may have freckles, and have a hard time tanning. Fair skin contains lower amounts of melanin. There are three subcategories of fair skin tones:

  • Fair/Porcelain: The lightest of fair skin tones with strong undertones of red, very pale with lots of freckles
  • Fair: Pale with beige undertones, burns easily and doesn’t tan much
  • Fair/Light: Slightly darker than fair, may have very light tan potential

Medium Skin Tones

Medium skin tones tan moderately and have more melanin than fair skin. There are also subcategories within the medium range:

  • Warm/Golden medium: Yellow/olive undertones
  • Neutral medium: Mix of warm and cool tones
  • Cool/Rosy medium: Pink/red undertones

Tan or Olive Skin Tones

Tan or olive skin has a larger amount of melanin and easily tans. Common traits include:

  • Tans easily
  • May be warm-toned (golden brown) or cool-toned (ashy brown)
  • Resists burning from sun exposure

Brown Skin Tones

Brown skin is very dark with high concentrations of melanin. Features include:

  • Very resistant to sunburn
  • Dark brown in color
  • Warm golden undertones

Dark Brown or Black Skin Tones

The darkest skin tone with the highest levels of melanin. Properties include:

  • Very dark brown to black skin
  • Very resistant to sunburn
  • Cool undertones

How To Determine Your Skin Tone

Figuring out where you fit within the skin tone spectrum involves looking at these factors:

  • Your natural hair color
  • The color of your veins
  • How your skin reacts to the sun
  • What jewelry metals complement you
  • What colors look best on you

Here is an expanded explanation of how these factors help determine your tone:

Natural Hair Color

Your natural, untreated hair color offers clues into your skin undertones. Typical associations include:

Hair Color Associated Skin Undertone
Platinum blonde Fair cool
Golden blonde Fair warm
Ash blonde Fair cool
Strawberry blonde Fair warm
Red Fair warm
Light brown Medium beige neutral
Dark brown Tan/olive warm
Black Dark cool

Vein Color

The tone of the veins inside your wrists can also indicate skin undertones:

  • Blue or purple veins = Cool undertone
  • Green veins = Warm undertone
  • Blue and green mix = Neutral undertone

Sun Reaction

How your skin reacts to the sun offers essential clues to your tone. Typical sun reactions for various skin tones include:

Skin Tone Sun Reaction
Fair Burns easily, unable to tan
Medium May burn at first, then tans to light brown
Tan/olive Rarely burns, tans easily to medium brown
Brown Very rarely burns, tans dark easily
Dark brown/black Never burns, always very dark tan

Complementary Jewelry Metals

The undertones in your skin are enhanced by certain metal tones in jewelry:

  • Warm skin = Looks best in yellow gold jewelry
  • Cool skin = Looks best in white metals like silver
  • Neutral skin = Can wear both yellow and white metals

Most Flattering Colors

Certain clothing and makeup colors naturally complement your individual skin tone. For example:

Skin Tone Most Flattering Colors
Fair cool Blues, pinks, plums, emerald green
Fair warm Peach, coral, gold, mossy green
Medium neutral Variety of jewel tones like ruby red, sapphire blue, purple
Tan/olive warm Mustard yellow, forest green, teal, terra cotta
Dark brown warm Orange, wine red, magenta, neon pink
Dark cool Emerald, plum, deep red, magenta

Tips for Determining Your Tone

Here are some quick tips for zeroing in on your skin tone:

  • Look at your overall complexion in natural lighting, away from the sun
  • Drape different color fabrics like white, silver, gold, orange near your face
  • See which jewelry metals enhance your skin’s glow
  • Try foundation shades labeled cool, neutral, or warm to test which flatters you
  • Determine how sun exposure affects your skin
  • Ask a makeup artist at a cosmetics counter to help determine your tones


Discovering your skin’s undertones by assessing your natural hair, veins, sun sensitivity, jewelry metals, and color preferences helps you find makeup, hair color, and clothing that complements your complexion. Fair skin can be cool, warm, or neutral. Medium skin runs the spectrum too. Tan skin is usually warm, while dark brown skin is typically warm and black skin is often cool-toned. Knowing your skin’s properties allows you to accentuate your natural beauty.