Bye Ashy: How to find your right foundation shade using undertones

Understanding your skin undertone is the trick to making sure you get the right match of foundation that will not leave you looking ashy or muddy.

Once you understand your undertone, you can kiss  foundation flashback and mismatched face to neck makeup good bye!

Skin undertones are grouped into:

Cool Base tone of your skin is pink, red or blue.  The veins on the inside of your wrist look blue
Warm Base tone of your skin is yellow or gold. The veins on the inside of your wrist look green.
Neutral  Mix of cool and warm undertones. It’s difficult to tell whether the veins on your inner wrist are blue or green.

Although there is now an increased awareness about the need for diverse shade ranges in the beauty industry, for a long time the shade spectrum for foundations did not take into account the unique needs of black women when it comes to makeup.

Some cosmetic companies  simply take a shade for white skin and add red tones to darken it for black consumers. This is why women of color are sometimes left with foundations that causes their skin to appear grey and ashy.

Some brands that are known for foundation products that take into account different undertones include: Plain Jane Beauty, Cover Fx, Bobbi Brown, Iman Cosmetics , M.A.C, Makeup Forever

Plain Jane Beauty foundations swatches

Plain Jane Beauty Undertone Chart

Foundation Matching Tips:


For darker skin tones, the best way is to look at yourself in a mirror or by taking a selfie while facing the daylight. Tones shine through better in the daylight and make it a bit easier to determine what undertone you skin tone is.

If you have trouble seeing your undertone yourself, do some research by watching beauty vloggers and influencers that you think are a similar skin tone to you. They always share what foundations they use in their  videos and Instagram posts.

At a loss for who to follow since they are a ton of beauty influencers out there? Check out previous posts that list 14 beauty bloggers with deep dark skin and 20 most popular Black Social Media Gurus.

Your undertone does not change

The rule of thumb is, if it looks chalky or ashy then you need to go darker, and if it looks dirty or muddy and doesn’t look clear, then you need to go lighter. You stay within the same undertone family; you just increase or decrease by a shade.

There are really only four things that can go wrong with color when choosing a foundation; it’s either too light, too dark, too pink or too gold. The way undertones work in foundation, is your skin will accept the color that compliments it, and will reflect the shade that doesn’t.

You will have better success with high end brands 

Especially if you are beginner, you will have an easier time finding your match with high end brands than drugstore foundation. Although drugstore brands are expanding their shade lines (Love Maybelline Fit Me!),  cheaper brands still need to catch up when it comes to foundation ranges that cater for a wide variety of undertones. Some great brands to try are  Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation,  MAC Studio Fix Fluid, and the NARS Sheer Glow and All Day Luminous Formulas.

For more foundation options check out previous posts on the Best Foundations for Oily Skin and Best Foundations for Dry Skin

Go for brands with a Heavier Texture 

Due to pigmentation and irregularities in skin tone, choosing a foundation with a heavier texture, which allows you to build up to the level of coverage you need works best especially for beginners. If you need to correct pigmentation, a CC Cream won’t do the trick.

CC creams are perfect for the summer time but if you need to actually change pigment colour you need a foundation with a heavier base to give a uniform finish.




Hi I am having problems finding makeup that is the right fit for my brown skin , I am older so I need to know what makeup to use on my brown skin. I don’t if this will help they say it goes the color of your veins silly but is what I have found online. I really need help. makeup always looks ashy in the mirror. I bought Maybelline instant age rewind 300 cocoa. then I bought FIT by Maybelline 370 deep bronze intense and my face looks dry. help me thanks


@Imani, the concealers may not be the right undertone if its coming off ashy. Personally, I like the look a lighter foundation with similar consistently as a concealer. It gives a softer finished look


Hi! This was a great article and I feel I have learned a lot from the information it presented. I do have a question about concealers. I’m having the problem that every Concealer is making me look ashy and I’m wondering if there is away to avoid this without throwing away expensive concealers! Thanks


Hello! Ive been having trouble with flash back. It seems that my foundation matches almost perfectly in regular light. Even day time light. But as soon as I take a picture with flash I look so white! I’ve used Mac studio fluid fix, a smashbox foundation (forgot the name), maybelline (it’s actually a little too orange in normal light but as soon as I take pictures it looks significantly lighter), and now I’m using nyx can’t stop won’t stop. I’m using a neutral foundation at the moment.


Came to this site with the same question that Ju posted.

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