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.




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


Nice article!
Where can I find the undertones for Iman cosmetics, particularly the color Earth 2. Unfortunately the information is not on the website.
Thank you

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