Undertones for Asians: How to tell if your skintone is Cool, Warm, Neutral, or Olive

Monday, January 18, 2010

So I decided to write a post on Asian skintones, or more specifically Asian undertones, because I think that as an Asian, sometimes it's harder to tell if you're warm, cool, neutral or olive than if you were Caucasian. But why write a post specifically dedicated to Asian undertones, as opposed to undertones for everyone in general? There are two reasons for this:

  1. Most literature out there right now on discerning undertones still assumes a Caucasian reader (e.g. checking to see if your veins are blue or green, checking to see if your skin is pink or yellow, or classifying yourself as a Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter), which are not as helpful to an Asian girl. Most Asian girls I know (including me) have trouble using traditional classifying techniques, as sometimes they do not fall into any of the groups, or they fall into more than one group. In fact, for some Asian girls, these techniques tend to bring about more confusion than anything else.
  2. A large proportion of Asians have surface yellowness in their skin. Chinese people, like me, are the most obvious examples, although I've noticed some Indians have surface yellowness too. As a result, people tend to assume that you're warm just because your skin is yellow. However, this is not always the case. The reason why people often assume so stems from a conception of cool-toned skin as being 'pink', as in Caucasian-skin-pink, and this conception in turn is due to traditional literature on colour theory classifying people as either pink, or yellow. That classification is all fine and well - it's not inaccurate, but it's definitely not complete, because this literature makes the implicit assumption that the audience is Caucasian, because Asians in general don't have Caucasian-pink skintones, even if we are cool-toned. To say that all Asians are warm-toned because we have yellow skin is to confuse skintone (which is the surface colour of your skin: beige, tan, etc) with undertone (which is whether you are cool, or warm, or neutral), and not to mention a very horrible generalization.

Since Asians don't have Caucasian-pink skin, it's harder to tell what undertones we have just by looking at how pink or yellow we are - since we're mostly yellow! That has led tons of people (including people actually in the makeup business) to assume that Asians = warm undertones, when in reality, the surface yellowness of your skin does not necessarily make you warm, just like how having rosacae does not necessarily make you cool-toned just because you have a pink face. Like I said before, to do so is to confuse skintone with undertone, and there's a big difference between the two! Furthermore, I've noticed so many Asian girls wrongly categorize themselves as warm, and it really annoys me. Seriously! I can't tell you how many times I've seen a beautiful cool-toned Asian girl wearing peachy orange blush and bronzey orangey eyeshadow because some silly makeup girl at a makeup counter just took one cursory look at her skin and told her she was warm just because she was Asian (and yes, both Asian and Caucasian makeup assistants have been known to wrongly classify Asian undertones). And lastly, I'm writing this post because, after 3 years of experimenting and wrongly thinking I was warm-toned, I've come to realize that I'm really not warm, but olive, with cool-to-neutral undertones, and I want to save you guys all the time and money I wasted trying to figure things out.

That said, Asian skintones and undertones are confusing for lots of people, even makeup artists, because they were probably taught the "traditional" way of looking at skintones and undertones, which assumes Asian=yellow=warm. Unfortunately, the "traditional" method of determining skintones and undertones was developed way back in the 1970's or 1980's, and unfortunately, as a reflection of historical times then, was centered almost entirely around Caucasian skintones. If Asian skin was at all considered, it was all lumped together under one category - "Exotic" or "Ethnic", and people barely made any effort to separate coloured women from Asian women, or even the different types of Asian women from each other, when in reality, we all know a woman from India will have different colour cosmetic needs compared to say, a woman from China! Even more recent literature on this topic still tends to make the fatal errors I've described. So, this is my take on the traditional method. The principle I'm using - cool, neutral, warm, olive, is still mostly the same, but I'm tweaking it, and showing how it can be understood in the context of Asian skin.

So here we go. It's going to be a hefty post. I'm sure a lot of people are going to disagree with me, and insist that yellow = warm. And if this is confusing - well, I didn't say it wasn't going to be. After all, it took me three years to figure out all that I'm going to write!

First of all, if you're Asian - STOP ASSUMING YOU'RE WARM. Yes, that's you. Yup, don't look away! I said you! Please don't make the mistake of assuming you're warm just because some snooty girl wearing a brush belt at a MAC Counter told you so. You know yourself best, and you've probably experimented with various makeup colours on your skin before, and you know how they looked on your skin, so you'd be in a better position than some snooty makeup girl to know what undertone you are.

Instead of thinking of yourself as Warm-or-Cool, I encourage you to think of warmth and coolness as a spectrum. You know. Warm, Warm to Neutral, Neutral, Cool to Neutral, and Cool. And of course there's Olive, but I will talk about that later.

With this spectrum in mind, think about your previous makeup experiments. How did you feel with bronze eyeshadow on? Grey eyeshadow? How did you feel about a plummy lip? What about a coral lip? If necessary, do one half of your face with warm colours, and the other half of your face with cool colours. Go to a source of natural light (like a window) and look at one half, and compare it with the other half. Which half looks better? Do they both look equally good? If you looked better with grey eyeshadow, a plummy lip, and if the side of the face with cooler colours looks better, you're probably somewhere in the cool spectrum. If the side with warmer face looks better, you're somewhere in the warm spectrum. If they both look the same, you're probably neutral-ish. If you remember liking warm colours when you were more tan, and cool colours when you're more pale, then you just might be olive! You can even try this with clothes - think of your favourite pieces of clothing that looks best on you. Are they cooler or warmer colours on the whole? Is that favourite dress you look so good in a corally colour, or a deep navy blue?

Now that you've done that, you'll have a rough idea of where you fall under. Warm? Cool? Neutral? Or still not sure? Now, we'll go on to refine and clarify further by looking at your photos! :)

Huh, PHOTOS? Yup, take a look at your photos of yourself with your friends and family, both Asian and Caucasian, and photos in natural light are better. The reason why I suggest doing this is because Asians have a huge variance in undertones, and sometimes it's easier to figure out where you are by comparing yourself with others. On a fundamental level, its harder to tell cool-toned Asians from warm-toned Asians when we're all yellow - after all, a cooler yellow is harder to discern from a warmer yellow, than a pink is from a yellow, if you're looking at Caucasian skin. So, sometimes the best way to judge whether you're a cool yellow is to look at photos of yourself, especially photos with other Asian friends, so you can find your place within a whole spectrum of yellow. Look at your photos, and notice how your skin looks when you're next to them. Do you look cool sometimes, warm other times? Do you consistently look pink? Do you sometimes look greenish? Do you consistently look yellow? By looking at your own photos, you can get a sense of where you are on the undertone spectrum. And also, by comparing how cool/warm you are relative to other Asians, you'll avoid making the "Asian yellow skin = warm undertones" mistake, since you'll get to compare colours relative to each other, and give yourself a more nuanced appraisal of your skintone, and avoid mistaking surface yellowness for undertone yellowness.

I know most people have it drilled into their heads the all yellows are warm, so most people have trouble visualizing how a yellow can be cool. Think of a pale, lemony yellow vs a rich golden yellow. The pale lemon yellow is cool, while the rich golden yellow is warm. Here's an example of a warm yellow vs a cool yellow (thanks to pandamic on MUA):

Warm vs Cool Yellow

The yellow on the left is what most people think of as "yellow" - its a golden yellow, and would pair best with warm colours - grass green, orange, rust red etc. However, the yellow on the right is a cool lemon yellow, and that actually looks better with cooler tones, like emerald green and deep blue-teal. So don't make the mistake of thinking that just because the surface of your skin is yellow, it automatically makes you warm. It doesn't, because yellow in itself can be warm or cool.

UPDATED TO ADD: Whaddaya know, other people have also put up diagrams and illustrations of cool yellow too! These aren't makeup artists, they're actual artists, so I guess they should know their stuff! Here's two of the best illustrations I found (Source links at the bottom of each picture.):

This first picture (love the hand-drawn effect) shows you not just cool vs warm yellow, but also cool vs warm blue, and cool vs warm red. Yes, red and blue can be cool or warm too. I'm also, by the way, sick of people telling me they can't wear red lipstick or blue eyeshadow because they are this undertone or another. It's all about finding the right shade, I say!


This picture below shows you why this is the case. The reason is that on the colour wheel, every colour blends into other colours. The implication is that every colour, e.g. blue, red, or yellow (of course), all run along a gradient of warm to cool. The implication this has for Asian undertone analysis, of course, is that yellow also runs along a spectrum of cool to warm.


So even if you're absolutely clueless, based on how you appear in your photographs with your friends, you can get a good idea of how cool or how warm you are. If in general you tend to look pink, you're cool. If in general you tend to look yellow, you're warm. If you tend to be neither, you're neutral. And if you tend to look pink, but notice you have a green tinge to your skin sometimes (especially when compared to others) then you're olive with cool undertones, and if you tend to look yellow, but have a little bit of green, then you're olive with warm undertones. And if you look green sometimes, but equally pink and yellow, you can be olive, with neutral undertones. The more photos you look at, the wider your sample size, and the more accurate your judgement.

I know that sounds confusing, and it's useless without show-and-tell, so here are a few examples, using my own photos. These are all my facebook account photos. And they're also mostly from my college graduation because it was outdoors so we had good lighting in abundance. I'm going to walk you through each of the photos, and show you how I deduce my own skintone from my own photos. Hopefully after this you'll get an idea of how to go about looking at your own photos, and what to pay attention to when you take out your photo album!

Let's start with an easy one. Take a look at this picture.


Notice the guy on the left is definitely warmer than me, the girl on the right. In fact, next to me he looks burnt orange, and I look horribly pink. So he's warm, and I'm somewhere in the cool spectrum. See how this is so much more helpful than just looking at pictures of yourself in isolation? If I had just given one of me alone, you might have made the mistake of just thinking I was warm because of my yellow Asian skin. But here you can see there's a spectrum. Eventually, with enough practice, you'll be able to look at photos of yourself or your friends in isolation and discern their undertones, but before you get to that stage, it's really helpful to have a spectrum to compare to.

Next photo:

This one is also an easy one. Here you can tell we both have the same undertone - unlike the previous photo, there are no weird skintone clashes, and we look pretty harmonious colour-wise. So based on this photo, you can hypothesize that we are both cool-toned.

Let's try a third:


Here, it's obvious that my friend on the right is warmer than me. So she'll be in the warm spectrum, and I'll be in the cool spectrum. This photo is a really good comparison of Asian cool undertones vs Asian warm undertones. As you can see, it's possible to be cool-toned without being Caucasian-pink, because some yellows are cooler-toned than others. Notice also that both me and my friend have a weird green tinge to both our skins? The green tinge is a dead giveaway of olive skin. So we're both olives, too - only thing is that I'm olive with cool undertones, and she's olive with warm undertones.

If you didn't get what I meant, compare her with the guy in this photo.


That guy is one of the smartest guys I've know in my entire life. He's also a lot warmer than me. However, unlike the previous friend I posed with, he doesn't have a greenish cast to his skin, so although he's warmer than me, he's not olive as well. In fact, you may notice that he isn't as warm as some of the other people I've shown you. He's probably more neutral. I'd place him as neutral, or neutral-warm. And as you can see in this photo, my olive undertones are really showing through. I look really green.

Here's another:


That's my mum and I at graduation. Yes, she looks young, doesn't she? I hope I age as well as her. Anyway, as you can tell, she's warmer and more olive than me - next to her I look really pink. But you can still sort of see a little bit of olive peeking through though.

Let's try another one:


Don't you just love Orlando?! Florida is SO AMAZING. Anyway, here you can see I'm cooler than my friend, although my friend isn't warm either. We're both cool, but she's less cool than I am, and next to her, I look really, really pink! I'm going to place her as neutral, to neutral-cool, while I'm definitely in the cool range here. If you notice carefully, you'll also notice that my skin looks a little green, as opposed to my friend, who looks more yellow - check out the shoulders and neck - and this is my olive-ness showing through again.

Now let's look at another one:


Wow, that's an embarrassing photo. Remind me not to let my friends take photos of me clubbing again. But anyway, I included this because it's a really good differentiation of olive versus cool undertones. Notice that my friend is really pink, and I look kind of green? That's the difference just being cool, and being olive with cool undertones.

Here's another example of the same thing:


Once again, as you can see, my sister (on the left) is a lot pinker, and less green than me - obviously she's cooler and has none of my olive. Meanwhile, I look really green.

Now that you've got the basics, let's do a few people at a time:

For starters, let's try this photo.


Can you tell who is what undertone? The guy on the right is obvious - he's really warm compared to everyone else, and he's most probably warm. The other two people are cool-toned, but if you look closely, you'll see the guy on the left is more pink, while I'm slightly more green.


Wow, a row of Asians! LOL. But seriously, photos like these are extremely useful for telling you where you are in the colour spectrum. Can you guess these people?
Left - Right: Warm, Warm (and if you noticed, he's more warm than the previous guy), Cool (and Olive - here you can see I look greener than everyone else), Neutral, and Warm.

Next photo:


I know, I know. Aren't Asian girls hot? :P And as for FOB hand gesture - we know it's considered FOB, but we do it anyway because we like it. Hah. So there. And I might add, the peace hand gesture is only considered FOB in America anyway, so in a wider, world context, it ain't so FOB, y'all. Anyway, if you've learned well, the first thing you'll notice is how the girl that is second from the left is so much warmer than everyone else. Let's start: neutral, warm, neutral, and neutral, with just a hint of pink. If you have a photo like this, that makes you look like a totally different undertone, I encourage you to think in terms of a spectrum once again. From this photo, I know that although I'm cool, I'm not on the extreme end of the cool spectrum, and so maybe neutral-cool is a better description of me.

Here's another photo with Asian (and non-Asian) girls:


Look at the three Asian girls at the right of the photo. Can you tell that the two in the back row are cooler than the one in the front row?

So after looking at all my photos, I'm able to conclude that I'm olive, with neutral-to-cool undertones.

Now that's done it. You should be able to look at your own photos and see where you stand relative to your friends.

And because I love you guys, I'm going to talk a little more about olive skintones, because those are tricky, particularly for Asians.

A Very Short Note on Olive Skintones

(Edited 4/3/2010: I added that heading above because I realised that people were referring to this post not just for Asian skintones, but also for clarification on Olive skintones, Asian or not. I hope this heading helps such readers find the "Olive section" more easily without having to wade through the entire post. If you are one of those readers, I do encourage you to take a look at the photos before this section and my comments on them, as I do talk abit about Olive skintones in the previous section too.)

First of all, olives are tricky to begin with, regardless of whether you're Asian or not. People tend to have a misconception of olives being the exclusive domain of tanned people like Eva Longoria, but that's NOT true. You CAN be fair, AND be olive. Olive is NOT a measurement of how dark or light your skin is, but it is referring to the fact that you have both warm undertones and cool undertones in your skin. So yes, you can be NC10 and still be olive. Heck, I'm NC20 and I'm olive.

Another thing that I've noticed is that people tend to have a miscoception that all olives have warm undertones, just like how they tend to have a misconception that all Asians have warm undertones. That's not true. Olives can be either warm or cool. So olive itself isn't a undertone per se, but it IS a property of your skintone, and something that can impact whether you are cool or warm. A lot of people are going to disagree with me on this, but the way I see it is as such: if you have olive skin, you have a mix of both cool and warm undertones, which complicates matters when you try to discern your undertone. Depending on how much cool, how much warm, and how fair/dark your skin is, you can either have cool or warm undertones. So you can be fair or dark olive, with warm or cool undertones. Which means you can be any of these if you're olive:

  1. Dark Olive with Warm undertones (this is most common, and I'll explain why later)
  2. Dark Olive with Neutral undertones
  3. Dark Olive with Cool undertones (this is rare, and I'll explain later)
  4. Fair Olive with Cool undertones (most common, once again I'll explain)
  5. Fair Olive with Neutral undertones
  6. Fair Olive with Warm undertones (this is rare, and I'll explain)
  7. Medium Olive with Warm undertones
  8. Medium Olive with Neutral undertones
  9. Medium Olive with Cool Undertones

The reason why dark olives with cool undertones are rare, and fair olives with warm undertones are rare, is that olive skin tends to change undertone with depth of skintone. This shouldn't come as a surprise - after all, one of the things that makes someone olive is that he/she has both warm and cool undertones. So, because of that, when you get darker through tanning, the yellow in your skin tends to show through more, so the darker you get, the more yellow you get, and you become olive, but warm. However if you are fair, and olive (like me), the olive in your skin tends to show through more, and this is actually a shade where cool colours are more flattering. So you become olive, but cool. This also explains why a lot of cool olives (especially Asians) kind of look "greenish" in some lights. It's a result of their olive undertones and fair skintone mixing together. So most olives tend to be warm if they're dark, while they tend to be cool if they are fair. Most people only conceive of olives as being dark, which is why sometimes they assume that olives are necessarily warm, which is not the case all the time, because if you're olive and fair, you can be cool, and you're more likely to be cool than warm. And if you're medium olive, you can be either warm or cool, but you can also be neutral. Cool right? So remember folks, olive is NEITHER cool nor warm, but it can be EITHER, because it just means that you have both undertones in your skin. Thus, if you are olive, depending on the depth of your skintone, you can be cool, warm, or neutral!

If that hasn't convinced you, or if you aren't sure if you're really olive or not, take a look at pictures of yourself in natural light. One of the things about being olive is that sometimes you'll look more yellow in photos, but other times you'll look more pink, and sometimes you'll even look green (especially if you are a fair Olive), depending on the lighting.



In this photo, I look really warm. And for anyone wondering why that guy on the left is always in so many of my photos, it's NOT because he's my boyfriend, or my cousin, or related-to-me-in-some-special-way. It's because he's the resident facebook photo whore, so most of these photos were taken with his camera and uploaded there. And also because he's obviously warm, so having him in photos makes for a good tutorial on discerning Asian undertones.

Anyway, as you can see, I look warm in the above photo, but in this photo below, I look cool. (See what I said about knowing that it's FOB and still doing it? And on another note, I have no nail polish on! Gosh.)


And here, I just look green (and yes, I'm such a makeup nerd that the highlight of my day is seeing an awesome looking Max Factor store).:

I'd like to clarify that this slight green tinge isn't always present in ALL olives, and even if it is, is present in varying degrees. In particular, pale olives who are cool-toned tend to have the most green in their skin, while darker olives who are warmtoned tend to have little to no green in their skin. But if you do see it, it's a clue that someone might be olive.

The interesting thing about this is that all these photos were taken in natural light, but as you can see, sometimes it can be tricky to deduce what undertone you are just by looking at yourself in isolation. Hence, this is why I recommend looking at yourself relative to other people in a spectrum of undertones, because the spectrum of undertones for Asians is much more nuanced than for Caucasians (in my opinion anyway), and sometimes, you need to make comparisons and see colours in a spectrum to break out of the "Asian=warm" fallacy. Eventually of course, with practice you'll get so good at it that you'll be able to just look at photos of one person only and figure out what undertone they are, but at first its always useful to compare to other people. After all, it's precisely because Asians have yellow skin that makes it so hard to discern their undertones with accuracy - distinguishing between cool yellow and warm yellow is not easy for most people, which is why so many people tend to pin any yellow person as warm, which is wholly inaccurate.

EDITED TO ADD: I'd also like to point out that this "yellow/olive = warm" fallacy doesn't just apply to Asians, although of course Asians are more prone to being wrongly classed as warm than Caucasians are. In general, a lot of pale olive Caucasians are also often wrongly classed as warm when in fact they are cool.

I've put up a photo here to illustrate the difference. This photo is from fellow makeup addict and friend Musings on Beauty. She's a pale olive with neutral-cool undertones who keeps getting classed as warm because of the yellow in her skin due to her olive undertones. However, her dad is clearly warm, and her mother is clearly cooltoned. So I though a photo of her lovely family together (all with her permission, of course) would be the perfect thing to illustrate the difference in Caucasians, and show that this "all-olives-are-warm" thing is fallacious for both Asians and Caucasians alike:

From left to right we have: Marie's dad, who is warm, Marie, who is pale olive, and her mum, who is cool.

You can clearly see the gradiation in skintone here. The dad is a lot yellower than either of them, and Marie is a lot cooler-toned than him. But she's also warmer-toned than her pink-toned mother. And in between both of them, Marie's skin has a bit of a green tinge too - a dead giveaway that she's not totally warm like her dad, but that she's olive. So you can see that there's a difference between being warm, olive, and cool.

So, that's it for today! I wish you good luck and all the best in your skintone evaluation!


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  1. just forget to describe myself. My skin is quite pale and "white" since I live in the cold area for 4 years with lots of snow and not much sunlight. But when I get back home where it is always sunny, my skin is easily to get quite tanned (just a little bit tan). My wrist vein is quite green and purple. In some pics I found myself warm but in other pics I think it is quite cool... so its freaking complicated.

    1. @Anonymous: Thank you for your comment, I'm glad you found my blogpost useful! Looking at your photos, I do think you are slightly cool in undertone, I'd probably pin you down as neutral-cool. I hope that helps! :)

  2. I can't believe I discovered this article years later. Going to show people

  3. Hi! Thank you so much for doing this post! I've been always doubting about my skintone.
    I found that coral and orange liptiscks are the best looking colors con me, and whenever i tried with purples, or cool pinks i always look awful and dull. Also they've to be intense colors; nudes always make me look ill, but i don't if this is related or not.
    So i guess i'm warm, right?. But with clothes isn't the same, i look good in both warm and cool colors. Why is that?
    And what about eyeshadows? Should i wear warm colored eyeshadows too, i suppose?
    Today,while waiting for the bus, i compared my skintone to the girl next to me, and i found myself to be greener, so maybe i'm fair olive with warm undertones?

    If you have time and isn't too much trouble for you, please take a look of my pictures and tell me your opinion about my skintone (I'm NC20 and always get tanned very easily in the beach, i don't know if this information is useful to figure out my skintone).
    I'd be so grateful! Thank you very much for your help!! -Minyi


    1. @Anonymous: Based on your description of yourself, I thought you were probably warm (primarily because you mentioned that "coral and orange liptiscks are the best looking colors con me, and whenever i tried with purples, or cool pinks i always look awful", which would imply a warm skintone). When I looked at your photos, I felt like it was harder to tell, because in some photos you look a little warmer, and in some photos you look a little cooler. I would think that you are perhaps neutral, with maybe some olive undertones.

      Regarding your question about eyeshadow, if you're comfortable wearing warm colours on your lips, then warm colours for your eyes is a good place to start as well - but feel free to branch out and try cooler tones if you want - judging from your photos, it seems to me that you can probably wear a fairly wide range of shades, so feel free to experiment! Hope this helps!

  4. Hi! I found your post to be SOOOO helpful! Judging by your numerous helpful examples I think I have correctly guessed my skin tone to be warm - neutral, but it would be an immense help if you give me some of your input. I just emailed you some of my pictures and it would be great if you could take a look at some of them! Thank you!! -Katherine

  5. I know I'm not the intended audience, but I'm a caucasian girl and this helped me figure out my undertone (actually I'm almost identical to yours, so when I saw your picture and you said you were cool it helped me speed up the process!!). I think I'm neutral/cool toned... I don't seem to look terrible in any particular color thusfar except that for some reason I really hate how I look in warm purples...

  6. YESSSS You have no idea how happy I am to read this. I always knew I was more cool-toned, although yellow but so many yellow foundations are too warm and look super odd on me! THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING. haha!

    Sheri | Behind The Frames

  7. Hello Musicalhouse,

    First of all, THANK YOU FOR YOUR POST!

    I recently heard of getting a color analysis from a consultant (House of Color, Color me Beautiful) but as I started to do my research to find someone, I realized that there was a lack of color consultants in the area where I live. (I am currently living abroad in South Korea). I decided to try and figure out my "colors" on my own and searched the internet but ended up getting really confused because most of the information out was catered towards Caucasian people.

    Then I found your blog. Your are freaking awesome! It was really detailed!! I love how you put up your pictures online and went step-by-step for us newbies out there to show us how to analyze our skin tone. That being said, I am still confused to what my skin/undertone is.

    I am guessing I am a cool tone. Not sure if I am olive/neutral/warm but I am going to guess cool neutral.

    I was wondering if you could look at some photos of me and help me out? ^^


  8. Hello Musicalhouse,

    First of all, THANK YOU FOR YOUR POST!

    I recently heard of getting a color analysis from a consultant (House of Color, Color me Beautiful) but as I started to do my research to find someone, I realized that there was a lack of color consultants in the area where I live. (I am currently living abroad in South Korea). I decided to try and figure out my "colors" on my own and searched the internet but ended up getting really confused because most of the information out was catered towards Caucasian people.

    Then I found your blog. Your are freaking awesome! It was really detailed!! I love how you put up your pictures online and went step-by-step for us newbies out there to show us how to analyze our skin tone. That being said, I am still confused to what my skin/undertone is.

    I am guessing I am a cool tone. Not sure if I am olive/neutral/warm but I am going to guess cool neutral.

    I was wondering if you could look at some photos of me and help me out? ^^

  9. Rock on!!!! THANK YOU!!!

  10. This is very interesting even for non asian skins as a lot of mixed persons have yellow-ish skin althought not all of them have systematicly warm undertones.
    Something I have noticed althought I have not tried it in a large scale is to look at your bare nails and lips. They tend to look more pink-ish with cooler undertones, more on the beige or brown side with warm undertones and a bit purple-ish whith neutral skintones and that seems to be the case even among yellow-ish or olive skins. Can some people try and tell me if this works for them ?

  11. Hi! Are you still taking comments on this site? I see that the last posting here was on January 21, 2012, and it's now almost 2015. I'm going to try anyway. Your explanations were extremely helpful!! I think (I think) I may be a light, warm, slightly olive skin tone. Would you be willing to check? I could email you more information if I get a response. Thanks so much for this page!!

    1. @Anonymous: I still am! Blogger only loads 200 comments at a time, so you'll need to click the "newer" or "newest" link to see the newer comments! (The link is near the top of the comment space, under the bit that says "413 comments"). I'd be happy to help check and answer any questions! :)

  12. Really informative, thank you!

  13. Hey, is there a way that you could help me analysing my skin tone? Could I send you a photo of me? I look green/olive very often,and like a Mix between cold and warm
    I'm just a quarter asian (syrian) but this is really interesting!

  14. Thank you so much for posting this! You're definitely right about the wide spectrum of Asian undertones. And most literature on the web has been rather focused on the Caucasian counterpart, so reading this long post has been a god send!

  15. YOU ARE A GENIUS!!!!
    I wish I had seen this earlier!!
    So, I'm half white, half Chinese. Dad has ivory or very cool toned skin and ash blonde hair, Mom is a textbook warm olive. She looks better the more tan she is, and when she's pale she looks green. we both have thin skin that shows our veins through it, resulting in that green tinge!
    Anyway, I ended up with that mysterious olive tinge, yellowy skin, and randomly pink cheeks. In the winter, I am so green that I look like a sea creature, but I still have those pink cheeks! This would have me think I'm a cool toned person, and silver looks better than gold. But, in summer I tan easily and suddenly become really warm-looking, but still I have that olive undertone!
    finding makeup that looks natural over BOTH my green tinge AND yellow skin AND pink cheeks is a nightmare. but now I know why!
    thank you so much! I doubt you are still reading these comments, but can I send you a picture to verify my theory?

  16. I tried to comment on this but I'm not sure if it went through or not so sorry if I made a duplicate post. I just wanted to say you have really similar coloring to mine and I'm not even Asian (Scottish & Italian actually) but I have seen fewer Caucasians with my skin tone than Asians, so I find makeup tips etc for Asian complexions can be sometimes helpful. Have you ever typed yourself using the season method (dark winter, cool summer, etc) According to traditional season typing, it would seem to put all Asians in winter category. Can you be a summer complected Asian? What would that look like?

  17. Hi! This is all very interesting but confusing for me. Could you help me determine what skintone I am? Can I email you my photos?
    Thank you.

  18. Hello Could You help me to find out ? i have sent email to you hope u can reply it

  19. Hey this is so helpful and I already posted once but I am not sure whether I commented or not .Could you help me define my skin undertone since I am still confusing about mine .I think I am warm tone or neutral-warm tone since I always look yellow . But my dad is cool tone and my mom I think she is warm .I have both blue and green veins but the green veins seems slightly more .I always pale and yellow .Thanks a lot :) I will send you some photos under nature light :) Looking forward for your reply !

  20. Wow. Mind=blown! Thank you so much for this post. As a fair olive, neutral-cool leaning Caucasian/Hispanic/Asian/Pacific Islander, this post was illuminating in so many ways! I now understand why: I look pink/golden/green in pictures depending on the lighting, look cooler in winter and more golden in the summer, and why the too-yellow foundation "matches" I tried on at Sephora (Pantone Color IQ 5y04) looked "off" anyway, and neutral colors look more natural.
    You are my hero. My drawer full of bad makeup matches is about to be banished...for good. Yes, I am olive, but I am not warm and brownish lipsticks made me look ill; don't try to sell me that shizzzz anymore!
    Also- I used to live in Shanghai, so FOB peace signs in pictures make me sooooo happy and nostalgic.

  21. Hello Musical Houses/ Face and Fingers lady!

    Thank you so much for your hard work in delivering such an exceptional, instructive post. I've never seen anything of this kind on the web!
    May I ask you a favor? Would you mind to help me by email to identify my skin color? Seems like it's easier to find out for other people, rather than for oneself lol.
    I prefer to ask you 1st, instead of spamming you with pics and rambling straight away :)
    Thanks a lot for your answer!

  22. Your writing is so unbelievably verbose. You say the same thing over and over again in slightly different ways, and it's really annoying to read. Say what you mean, say it clearly and say it once.

  23. Hi, this is the most clear post for asian skin tone I've read. But I'm still confuse whether I'm olive with warm skin tones or olive with neutral skin tones. Could you please help me to find out what my skin tone is? I've sent you my photo through your hotmail. I'd be glad if you'd help me :) -fanny cen

  24. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this post and including so much detail and examples! Particularly helpful for me was to look at photos of myself after reading (all of!) your post. Helps so much to now know my true undertone and how it can change, and not just for makeup colouring - I can clearly see what colours in clothing look better/not good on me. For general info, I'm mixed Asian/Caucasian. I love your warm-yellow and cool-yellow concept, it was the key to unlocking my not-yellow, not-white situation :)

  25. Great article with detailed information and examples. Please ignore the silly negative comment. You can tell a great many people loved your article.

  26. Would u be able to help me identify mine? Im lost!!

  27. Thank you so much, this is the best thing I've ever found on the internet.
    Definitely olive with neutral-warm undertones.
    Do more 'olivepeople' with neutral (I guess) undertones veer towards cooltoned clothes and jewelry because that doesn't class with the green so much?

  28. Hi, thank you for sharing your thoughts! Can you help me determine my skin undertone? I feel like i'm more on the warm undertone but i'm not entirely sure. Please help. I'd appreciate it a lot. Thanks! 😄

  29. Your article is really helpful! Thank you so much now I have better idea of what to look for when I'm shopping for make up. I find it hard to choose which color is suitable for me because I am also Asian, I'm from South-East Asia, I have cool undertone but not exactly pink and it always confused the heck out of me especially now that plan to color my hair with ashy color. Again, thank you for the article, hope you write more in the future.

  30. This is the best written article on this subject. I am indian and for a bit started using warm tones based on what i had been reading... went horribly wrong with my lipsticks looking washed out most of the time :D and then i went on this quest to see if these undertone tests were valid for all races, turns out they are not! Well done... this was eye opening!

  31. Hi..could you plz help me determine my skintone.I use NC 25 from M.A.C of which I'm not sure suits me.I can share my pictures without foundation and with foundation on.

  32. Thanks so much for writing this! I always had trouble with yellowish foundations looking too visibly yellow/gold, and pinker foundations making me look peach, even when the intensity is right. I look much better in cool colors but am neutral enough to pull off warmer tones as long as they have no orange. After reading through your post, my suspicions of being olive with neutral-cool undertones have been confirmed. I think we are about the same skintone and undertone, although I might be a shade darker. It makes me so happy to see someone who looks the same way in photos as I do!

    Also, your explanation of olives changing from cool to warm makes a lot of sense. I don't tan easily, and tend to get grey and ashy when I do, but with a certain degree of tan, I can pull off warm colors I can't wear normally. Thanks for writing a great explanation to clarify what's going on!

    Now, I just need to find a great olive foundation for NC25 o_o

  33. This is so helpful! As a Filipina who can sometimes pull off cool colors but really gravitates more towards warm colors, I've always been really unsure about my skin tone. This was incredibly useful.

    Also! You're a UChicago alum! I am too. :) I recognized that ivy in the background of your graduation pictures immediately.

  34. Great post! I just realized you wrote this four years ago, but yea, I have always assumed that I was warm because I was Asian. This is almost always the automatic assumption in make-up counters also. However, sometimes I would find warm-toned make-up to be too warm for me. I also found that I don't fall into the traditional wear this vs. that color theory. I find that some colors recommended for warmer tones make me look dead (ex. muted-brownish green), while some cooler toned colors brightened me up (fuchsia). Now, looking at my photos (and comparing myself to people) I realized that I am neither warm nor cool, I am actually neutral. I have pink and yellow undertones in my skin, and I realize now, a whole lot of green which means I am also olive--this explains why certain green or brown tones make me look dead. I also don't like it when I tan, because I tan with a gray-ish cast (or maybe because my skin is so dry lol).

    However, I still find it a bit harder to categorize darker Asians, like South Asians and South East Asians, according to their skin tones. Like for example, in the photos above, I tend to see fairer Asians, such as yourself, as cool, while I tend to see your tanner friends as warm. It would be great to read a post on categorizing Asians with darker/deeper skin also *wink*. Hehehe.

  35. Hi musicalhouses! I was thrilled to read this because since I was in high school I loved the book "Color Me Beautiful" and spent years trying to figure out my season. I couldn't understand why I look so yellow sometimes... but the clothes I like and look good in are obviously more on the blues and pinks, or army green (see why I'm confused?).
    So I had decided summer; but then I realized I looked good with coral lipsticks and found this blog trying to find out why.
    This is the ONLY BLOG I have ever seen that caters especially to Asian skin tones!!!
    Anyway, that said, I still haven't completely figured myself out, but it's so refreshing to find a blog like this! Thanks! I will certainly start looking through my own pics to find out where I am in the Asian spectrum :)))

  36. This is amazing, it really explains why I've been having such a hard time finding a shade, and why makeup artists keep putting me in foundations that look oompa loompa orange. I have a LOT of surface yellowness but 'warm' foundations just look orangey red on me. Do you have any suggestions for finding more olive-friendly foundations?

  37. This is very spot on, I noticed I have warm olive skin a few years back. With my Asian friends I looked lighter/kinda washed out compared to them, they had a more warm yellow hue.
    Alone, I definitely looked yellow but lighter then them even though we were around the same depth of color.

    Although, I'd disagree on olive skin being more noticeable on lighter skin. I think that as the skin gets lighter so do the undertones and green cast.
    The only time I've seen a fair olive person was when they were next to other fair skinned people.
    When it comes to darker people I find that it looks more obvious even when they're not in fluorescent lighting.
    I can spot a darker olive complexion more easily. And I've noticed a decent amount of people with green eyes tend to have the olive cast, Mediterranean people, south Asians and southeast Asians

  38. THANKS FOR THIS. I think based on your info, I might be cool toned because while I'm tan, I get reddish on the cheeks and warm foundation never quite looks right, or too yellow. :))))

  39. Thank you for writing this. So far, this is the only online article that I found to be the most helpful for determining my Southeast Asian skin tone. It's been really confusing and it was somewhat complicated to figure out. After reading your article and the guidelines you provided here, I think my skin tone is medium olive with cool undertones to neutral undertones. I'm neither fair/pale skinned nor dark skinned, so I figured that I may have medium skin tone The photographer, who took my recent portrait photos, told me my skin is olive, which I immediately thought he meant "dark" skin. But after reading this article, I learned more about what it's meant by having olive tint in the skin tone. I had used warmer/yellowish facial foundation in the past, and it didn't look right. My aunt noticed it, and told me my face looked dark or too yellow compared to the skin areas on my shoulder and neck. I also used a vegan/natural foundation, at Whole Foods Market, which came in very limited selections of shades. I believe these types of facial foundation and available shades are more appropriate for Caucasian skin. I also had compared my skin to another Asian (Laotian) woman in the past,and easily determined that she had a yellowish skin tone compared to mine.

  40. Wow..the best article on Asian skintone to date.I have'nt determine which category of skintone I'm in as I tend to look yellow, pink and even green sometimes under natural light..but hey, thank you for the elaborate explaination.

  41. This is what I've been wondering lately since I found my skin looks pinkish green in natural light and I tend to look fresher and healthier in blue or cool lemon or white clothes than in warm orange clothes..but some cool color clothes also not work for me like cool green or cool blue-green It always make me look extremely sick.Moreover, even if some of my friends look more pink than me but they're also more yellow than me cause I tend to be colorless with a hint of green. LOL.. Now I realised that I have pale olive skin with neutral-cool undertone.

  42. Hey, can you please help? I am really confused. I can't decide whether I have warm, cool or neutral undertone.
    I am from India. I have tannish and kind of dull skin tone, but my cheeks and my nose always remains pinkish red. My veins appear green to me .I like to wear blue, black or white cloths. I don't like orange color. I am not fonds of either silver or gold, so i don't know which suits me better. I get tan easily, especially my arms. I have brown eyes (they are not dark, but not light enough to be called light brown).
    What am I?
    (I know I am too late, but I still hope you can reply)

  43. thanks for writing this :)

  44. I cannot quite perceive the colors that you're pointing out, but I'm really grateful for this blog post.

  45. Hi! If I found my face look greenish and pinkish in natural light, with yellow in surface, does it mean im olive with fair skin and cool undertone? I'm chinese descendant. I have vein in my face which look green next to a vein which look blue-purplish, with blushing pink cheek. And it's confusing to look for foundation.because my neck just look green and have lighter tone compared to my face. Can you help me? Thanks.

  46. just curious what foundation is best suited your you? I think I have the same undertone as you. Most foundations drug store brand are either too pink or too pale!!?

  47. So I found this post while looking for ways to determine my undertones for foundation (I'm like medium on the South Asian skin tone spectrum), and as I was scrolling, I thought that your graduation pictures looked very familiar--and then realized that's because I also went to UChicago! Just years later :P Of all the pages I landed on!

  48. Also just wanted to thank you for posting this. Clearly it's still something that makeup counters are (mostly) incapable of discerning, which is how I and I assume most others got to this page in the first place--and that's ridiculous, because c'mon, it's now 2017. But you've armed me with a lot more information to take into Macy's next time I'm hunting for foundation, so thank you!

  49. This is brilliant! It's the best post I've ever read re: "yellow" skin. Mine is pale yellow, and my sister's is light olive that tans to dark, yet we are both definitely cool. We both look awful -sometimes ill- in warm color make up and clothing. 'Normally' we would both have been classified as warm.
    I'm so glad I landed here today... I hope to find recommendations for foundation for 'light yellow' skin tones.

  50. It's 2017 and your post continues to be admired 6 years later! Prom season is coming up and I am struggling to pick between 3 dresses (pale blush/rose, wine red, or navy blue. I've done my research on skin undertones to help determine which dress would look suit me best since I will be ordering online but I just can't seem to decipher what end of the spectrum I land on. Do you think you could help me if i include a couple pictures?

  51. Omg Thank you!!! I am not Asian, but a fair skinned Caucasian. I, nor the girls who work at beauty counters, could figure out my undertone. I'm probably olive. I cannot count the number of times my (obviously) warm toned family members asked if I was sick because I looked *GREEN*. It never even occurred to me that I could be olive toned because the only examples of olive toned people on forums, youtube, etc etc is medium or darker, warm toned (Italian-looking) women.

  52. You may be lighter skinned than many other asian people but you aren't cool toned... people who can tan are not cool-toned and your forehead especially looks pretty tan-yellow in most of the photos. Pale does not equal cool toned... your undertone is decidedly yellow. You're over-complicating things.

  53. Girl, THANK you for this post. Analytical skills for the win! I never knew why foundation by recommended by some girl in the store with inhouse lighting looked good but then back home I look like an orange clown :s I will send you some pictures, hopefully you can commend on them!

    Fellow European Asian

  54. omg I stumbled on this and it has been so so helpful???!!!! Finally someone understands the Asian girl problem T.T
    Ps. If you manage to see this, I hope you could help me confirm if I have olive/cool toned skin? I'll drop you an email hehe
    Thanks so much for this informative post!!!!

  55. Hi! Very well done blog! Really! It's difficult to me to read at thesevhoura of the night, But I've understand! I'm not asian, but my skin it's very yellow! Xd I don't know why honestly! But my skin change color too :) as my veins do! :) Sometimes greenish violet and blue veins and sometimes greenish blue and violet veins xD Don't know! So strage! I made all the possible test! Even those less used! Cool and satured color don't suits on me, neather cool dusty colors xD as do warm satured color and warm pastel colors xD Muted color Too! gOLD, ROSE GOLD AND SILVER... NI THANKS Xd NOT FOR ME...WHITE? nO... bLACK? wORSTE Xd gREY...ONLY IF IT'S A YELLOWED GREENISH GREY Xd bEIGE? sO AND SO WARM CREAMY BEIGE...i'VE TRIED EVEN GREENISH COLOR, AS BRONZE, MILITARY GREEN...ETC BUT NOTHIN TO DO! i'VE ALSO PROVED ALL BROWN SHADES, PINK SHADES AND VIOLET SHADES, total 0! What can I do?! xD what about my colors' palette?? xD Thanks for helping me in the case you will! ^-^ kISS

  56. Thank you for the time and thought put into this post. I was in Hong Kong 2 years ago offering Colour iD to students and as a caucasian personal colour analyst I knew that I was getting it totally wrong trying to stick to the 4 groups of colours that I had created. I'm just getting round to creating our 5th colour collection and your post has confirmed what I've been learning over the past 2 years. Thanks for sharing your enlightened knowledge!

  57. good info tho a tad bit wordy. i was trying to get to the calculation without having to know how many people get (and in how man ways they get) asian skin tones wrong. the unspoken topic was address nonetheless so much appreciation!

  58. This post was very informative and well-written!
    If it's not too much, I'd like to ask for your help deducing my skin tone. For years, I've thought I was cool, but perhaps that's not the case anymore. See, the thing is- I am mixed. I am 50% Vietnamese, 49% Caucasian, and 1% Cherokee. So I am terribly confused at trying to figure out whether I would fall underneath Caucasian or Asian categories concerning skin tone.
    So I'd be delighted if you could help me via e-mail, at marthaf745@gmail.com
    Thank you!!

  59. hello i think i have a yellow undertone but my veins are both green and blue. My foundations are normally 'beige' and all of them have a yellow undertone. I am not too sure whether i look pink or green at all>? Could you help me discern as to whether i am warm or neutral or olive? thankyou!


  60. I thought I was a cool undertone. After reading this article, and especially after seeing the photos, I am totally confused. And I have a normal IQ.

  61. Wow!!! You have really helped out a lot!!! I'm sure everyone asks you this, but can I please send you some photos for you to determine what I am? I keep being told I'm warm and get put yellow based foundation on me and I turn out looking like I have jaundice....

  62. Will it be more accurate to gauge the undertone if the face is devoid of makeup?

  63. I absolutely loved this post, and being an Asian myself I related to a lot of the difficulty you mentioned in determining your undertone. I'm sending you an email, CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME?!

  64. Hello! I know this post is old and you must get so many emails already but if you don't mind could you plesse help me work out my undertone? I've never used makeup before and I'm just starting to get interested in it now! I would really love if you could help, although of course you are free to refuse! Also, as for the pictures I'll send (only if you agree!), I read quite a few sites saying undertone doesn't change, so I guess that means it doesn't matter how recent they are? Thanks so much :)

  65. It's now 2018, i wonder if this is still active. If it is, could I send u a pic of myself so that u can help me determine my undertone? Im so confused! Thanks!

  66. Hi,

    @Musicalhouses thanks so much for this post! I was wondering whether you still do the thing where you determine the undertones? I know it's been a long time!

    I was researching the best colors of dresses to match my skin tone (for 8th grade graduation party) and that led me to a whole ton of information on undertones. However, I couldn't figure out my undertone using the western methods, so I came here. It was a very informative blog post, but after comparing my photos, I still couldn't determine my actual skin tone!

    So if you are still willing to help me, I'll post a group photo including me here.


  67. Hi Musical house, thank you for your amazing post, I wish I find it sooner. But I'm still very very confused about my skintone AND undertone, it's very confusing because I'm Vietnamese and my most of the time I look too green, so green that it makes people think that I'm sick and I could not tell my if I'm dark or pale. My vains are obviously blue and some parts of my body look a little warm but my face is dramatically green. I was shock when I figured out that my face tended to be 'darker' then my hands because it was so so green. I hope you could see my comment and please help! Thank you so much. Lost of Love <3

  68. This helped me so much! My whole life people have said oh you're so tan even when I'm paler than them! They just get confused because I'm olive and am very green and yellow because I'm asian. I always thought I was warm toned. Now that I know I have both undertones it's going to be really tricky figuring out if I'm more on the warm or cool side of the spectrum or maybe it changes with my tan haha.

  69. Thank you so much for this article! I am Middle Eastern and Scandinavian so I really appreciate you covering the changing nature of olive skin.♡

  70. Hi! Finally someone who speaks about asians' undertones. Even if I'm not asian, I observed that my skin undertone is yellower then asians in my city. There's not a lot of color that I can wear quietly, maybe that color overwhelm me but those colors are the one that make appear my skin color beautiful without appearing like marge simpson, or the greyish pale version of her. I've tried with wigs with different temprature and the one that suit me were the light golden blonde one, but it's even too light to me with the risk that overwhelm me and if I have to darken the tone it will become brown, golden, but even so brown, that look on me so monotone and sometimes creates shadows. Those three color that I found good are: scuba blue (light version) emerald/bottle green and light bright yellow. My eyes are amber brown, muddy brown and discontinuous lines dusty light blue/green. I''ve ephelides but only on the nose and under the eyes. So what color hues, saturation and lightness I have to wear and diy my hair? Thank you if you answer me

  71. It’s 2019 and thank you for this article :)

  72. Hi, thanks for the very informative post. I’m still not sure what my skin undertone is, however. Can I send you a pic?

  73. I don't usually comment but I gotta tell thank you for the post on this great one :D.

  74. Wow, this is amazing, thank you so much. Pale olive! I am half Chinese so you can imagine how confusing figuring out my "season" was and I'm really grateful you helped me give this idea up. I went to Sephora and had them scan my skin with an app. They gave me Laura Mercier bb cream in Natural and it works perfectly in the summer and is sheer enough to be ok in the winter. I also know Shisheido is a great foundation to try if you are Asian. I am so so greenish sometimes, I think my doctor literally thinks my gallbladder is sick hahaha. But pale.I also have a scarf that goes perfectly with my complexion (it's kind of Bartlett pear green with little bits of azur, tomato red, gold, indigo) all the colors I wear in it, and I put it on with bright colors like vivid magenta that usually make me look green, and it all works out, I get compliments. <3

  75. Though this has been a 9 years old thread, I just want to thank you so much for writing such a comprehensive article!

    I have a very tricky skintone.
    I think I have a neutral-warm olive undertone.
    I am a descendant, mixes of Chinese and a 1/8 of Nyonya and 1/8 of Siamese.

    I'll write you an email when I'm free, together with photos to figure out my actual skintone.
    Hope you would hand me over some helping hands.
    Just take your time, no hurry =)

    Many thanks =D

    Loves from Malaysia,
    Joanne Kor

  76. Just wanted to leave a note that your post is still very helpful 10 years later in the year 2020. Some pics don't load anymore but thanks for this!

  77. I'm still so confused about my undertone. Can I send you a bunch of photos of me and pay you to determine my undertone 😫


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