Amakeup application is a work of true art. It is an enhancement of a client’s beauty, and our ability to help them look and feel their best depends simply on our cosmetics and how we layer them. When you choose the wrong color of foundation, blush or concealer, you inherently know there is a total disconnect in colors harmonizing together. The perfect makeup look was in your head when you started, but one wrong misstep in color throws everything off. The key to starting off on the right color path is the undertone.
Selecting the correct undertone for a client’s foundation is where the “foundation” of your makeup application really begins. It’s one of the key elements to perfecting the complexion, enhancing key features on the face and achieving a more natural look. Harmonizing the foundation shade with the skin sets the tone for the rest of the makeup colors applied thereafter. Ignoring the importance of the undertone makes makeup look fake and mask like, detracting from the beauty of your client’s face. Choosing the right foundation shade requires the following:
THE CORRECT UNDERTONE OF THE SKIN MUST BE IDENTIFIED CORRECTLY.
THE RIGHT UNDERTONE OF THE FOUNDATION MUST HARMONIZE WITH THE SKIN.
THE VALUE OF THE FOUNDATION MUST MATCH THE VALUE OF THE SKIN.
What exactly makes up the skin’s undertone? Undertones can be complicated because each person has their own unique undertone coded into their DNA, but it can be slightly altered by factors such as one’s phase of life, hormonal fluctuations, illnesses, diet, stress, sun exposure or the natural aging process.
Essentially, the undertone is made up of three basic components:
- Melanin (A Shade Of Brown), Known As Our Skin’s Pigment.
- Hemoglobin (A Shade Of Red), Known As Our Blood.
- Carotene (A Shade Of Yellow),known As Yellow Pigments Or Carotenoids.
Undertone is not entirely uniform across one’s skin, so it is essential to test foundation in multiple areas of the face such as the jawline and forehead.
Correctly identifying the primary undertone is the key to selecting the right color family for your makeup application, and it makes the application look less contrived and very natural. Identifying a color category for the foundation that matches the skin makes choosing the right shade quicker and easier. The simplified categories of foundation colors include yellow (golden undertones), peach (red and yellow mixed undertones), pink (fair with pink undertones), olive (light green undertones) and beige (tan or brown undertones).
The goal is to determine which color category harmonizes with the unique blend of colors (melanin, carotene and hemoglobin) in your client’s skin, so the foundation shade blends uniformly on the skin.
Start by categorizing your foundation into the color categories, then start swiping it on different areas of the skin. Allow 30 seconds to dry and analyze how the foundation sits on the skin. The ideal outcome is for the foundation to perfect the complexion but barely be visible. Blend along the jawline to eliminate telling lines.
There are primary undertones and secondary undertones, and the secondary undertone can throw you off if it is considerably present. For example, a client may have a lot of yellow in their skin, but maybe they also have a secondary olive undertone, and so both colors need to be present in the foundation so it blends flawlessly with their skin. Identifying a secondary undertone can be more challenging than a primary undertone.
Clients with a strong secondary undertone are always more difficult to match in pre-made foundation because they don’t fit in the basic foundation undertones: yellow, peach, pink, olive or beige. These clients actually need a combination of more than one of these foundation colors, and often struggle to find the right match. Blending multiple shades is the key to getting the foundation undertone correct for this client. Once you nail the shade, tell your client which shades you blended to create their perfect combination. They are likely to buy those two or three shades from you on the spot.
It is also essential to ensure that the value of the foundation is correct. The value is a measure of how light to dark a shade is on a scale. The value does not change the inherent undertone. The most common foundation values are extra light, light, light medium, medium, medium dark, dark and extra dark.
When choosing the right value, consider the lightest and darkest color of the face (such as an age spot or freckle), then choose something in between those shades. If you match just one part of the face, such as the lightest area, the disconnect is easily visible, and looks like a mask once the light foundation shade is applied all over the face.
The industry standard when deciding on undertone consists of two main dividing categories: warm and cool. This method is still valid as long as the light used to identify the undertone is full spectrum so all color is seen in the skin. I always prefer full spectrum light when doing makeup. Natural light is the best, but when indoors, specialty bulbs can be used to create full spectrum color. Yellow is the dominant undertone of warm skin, and cool skin has beige or pink undertones. Olive skin can be either warm or cool because it can fall into yellow-olive or beige-olive, which again is a secondary undertone.
When relying on warm and cool categories, take it a step further to truly understand the color depth of the skin through a color analysis service. The newest color analysis services identify warm, cool, warm neutral and cool neutral; as well as other color characteristics. This is a great add-on service to offer at spas, salons and image consultants.
A color analysis reveals undertone by simultaneously draping different colors to see a comparison of which shades look best. Not only does this give you a good understanding of undertone, it also helps you identify the colors that look best on your client, which makes choosing makeup shades easy. Also, you can give your clients a palate of their best colors as a guide for buying clothes.
Tying It All Together
Foundation is only one of the different complexion perfecting products you need to choose for your client when doing makeup. It is important to keep primers, concealers, highlighters, bronzers and powders in the same tone as they are layered upon each other.
Organize your cosmetics by color categories (yellow, pink, peach, beige and olive) as well as by value. This makes selecting your color harmonizing products very easy, and trains the eyes to see undertone. Swiping the colors on a neutral white background such as an artist’s palette is a quick way to help you see which color is prevalent, and what goes with which undertone.
Selecting the right undertone in the very beginning of your application saves time and makes your work look flawless. Become an expert in identifying all skin undertones and your diverse client base and retail sales are sure to grow exponentially!