Skin Complexion vs Skin Tone oh and Skin Undertone…What’s the Difference?

We hear these terms often, but what are they actually? Confused about the two terms? If so, carry on reading & lemme explain…:) 

Our skin (& body) is amazing just how it is! People have different skin tone and complexion which is unique to each and every one of us therefore we NEED & SHOULD embrace it! The world would be a boring place if we all looked the same…anyway….

Definitions of Skin Tone & Skin Complexion 

Skin Tone is simply the colour of your skin (there is no such term as white, black or hispanic when it comes to describing your skin colour, by the way…) ! 

Skin Complexion is a term used to describe the texture & appearance (shade) of your skin.

How does it work?

Skin tone is determined based on the quantity of melanin (skin pigment) due to your genes and is present in the epidermis (uppermost layer of the skin). However, external factors such as UVA/UVB rays found in sunlight and sunbeds may affect the quantity of the melanin in your body. 

Understanding our skin tone (colour of the skin) requires understanding of your undertone. Undertone is basically the ‘subtle’ colour beneath your skin’s uppermost layer. 

3 Main Types of Skin Undertone

  • Warm (yellow, peachy golden undertones)
  • Cool (pink, red or bluish undertones) 
  • Neutral (mix of warm & cool undertones) 

3 Main Types of Skin Tones & its Complexion

  • Light Skin Tone
    Your skin is a pale complexion. When in the sun, you burn then tan. Most common in Caucasians. 
  • Medium Skin Tone
    Your skin is of a medium complexion. When in the sun, you usually tan with the rare occasion of burning.
  • Dark Skin Tone
    Your skin is of a dark complexion. When in the sun, you tan very easily & are more at risk of hyper-pigmentation. Most common in Africans / Asians.

So now we know what skin tone is…how do we determine it? Once you are able to do that you will help yourself enormously when shopping for make-up!

Okay so…

To determine your Skin Tone Type you can try the following 2 steps:

1. Examine your jawline
This is the least affected area by colour change. Wash your face and look at it under natural sunlight to determine your Skin Tone Type. 

2. Ask for opinion
If people say you look ‘fair’ you most likely have Light Skin Tone Type. However, if people say you looked ‘tanned’ you’re most likely to have Medium Skin Tone Type. 

To determine your Skin Undertone you can try the following 3 steps:

1. Vein Colour Test
Look at the underside of your wrists and examine the colour of your veins.

  • Greenish veins = warm undertone
  • Blue / Purple Veins = cool undertone
  • Mix of both = neutral undertone

2. Jewellery Test

  • If GOLD jewellery looks flattering on your skin = warm undertone
  • If SILVER jewellery looks flattering on your skin = cool undertone
  • If BOTH look flattering on your skin = neutral undertone

(PS. Whoever takes this test and the outcome is a Warm Undertone, snap! Now you owe me some gold jewellery hehehe)

3. Sun Test

  • If your skin tans easily without burning sensation = warm or neutral undertone
  • If your skin does not tan easily and you burn = cool undertone category 


If you’re a bit confused all you need to remember is that Skin Tone is the colour of your skin and Skin Complexion is the shade of your skin…:)

And by the way…Warm Undertone people don’t worry…you don’t owe me any gold jewellery 🙁 (I wish though lol). See if you can become an expert in defining a person’s Skin Tone and practise on your family / friends! Let me know how it goes and if you managed to discover your Skin Tone (I find this as fascinating as finding out your blood group I don’t know why lol). See you soon! xx

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