The best makeup colors for your skin tone

There are plenty of fun makeup trends to try, from glass skin to neon eyeliners. Still, it can be daunting to dive headfirst into the latest fads if you're not quite a cosmetic connoisseur. While you may appreciate a well-drawn cat eye, you might still be struggling to find a foundation that simply matches your skin tone. You know, one that doesn't create that dreaded harsh line as it transitions from your jawline to your neck. The task seems easy enough, doesn't it? But with a trip to the local pharmacy or beauty supply store, it's easy to get confused. There's nothing quite like being faced with a wall of foundations and concealers to make you unsure about which product you really need.

We get it. And that's exactly why we've rounded up the best advice from makeup artists and beauty experts all around the country. Here's how to know what complexion you have and which makeup colors are going to work well for you.

Watch your (under)tone

Before you venture out to try to secure the perfect makeup for your skin tone, you first have to know your skin's undertone. Makeup artist Lauren Gott explained the difference when speaking to Allure. Undertones are subdued hues — cool, warm, or natural — under your skin's surface. You can easily tell your skin's undertone by simply looking at the veins in your wrist. If your veins look either purple or blue, you have a cool undertone. If you have a warm undertone, your veins will appear green. Lastly, if you have blue-green veins, your skin has a neutral undertone.

Skin tone, on the other hand, is your "surface skin color," according to Gott. Fair, medium, and deep are just a few examples of skin tones — and often the names you'll see on foundations and concealers. Okay, now that you know what's what, here's how you can find the very best shades for your unique tone.

Fair skin: stick to light pinks

"Those with cool undertones tend to have fairer skin," explained makeup artist Afton Williams in a piece published by Byrdie. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be easy for you to find your perfect shade — especially if you have very fair skin (think: Rachel Brosnahan). This is because "the colors can often be too pigmented and harsh," according to makeup artist Christine Walsh. "When it comes to foundations, they can often look too pink or too yellow. And most bronzers are often too red or too intense," she explained to DermStore.

California-based makeup artist Tasha Reiko Brown-Jovel told InStyle that you'll want to avoid any makeup — foundations, blushes, eyeshadows, and even lip colors — that are too orangish-red. "They can make skin look sallow and washed out," she explained. Instead, it's ideal to stick to soft pinks and beiges. To further avoid an orange-tinged complexion, you'll also want to pick a bronzer that is more cool than warm, according to Welsh. This will give you the look you're going for without any hints of orange or red.

Light skin: reds with hints of blue

If you have a light complexion that's not quite alabaster, it's likely that your skin still has cool undertones. Since your skin is not quite as fair, it might even be a bit easier for you to hunt down the right shade. Nevertheless, there are still some guidelines you'll want to keep in mind.

Makeup artist DeeDee Kelly told Reader's Digest that you should stay away from warm brown shades for the same reason very fair-skinned folks should avoid orangish-red hues: they all appear orange. The makeup artist said she's personally a fan of NYX Professional Makeup Highlight & Contour Pro Palette because the "colors are cool tones and they blend really well." You'll also want to look for lipsticks with similar undertones to yours, makeup artist Afton Williams advised to Byrdie. This is especially important when choosing a red lip color. Instead of reds that read any bit orange, find reds that have a hint of blue.

Medium skin: glow up

If you have a complexion that is somewhere between medium and fair, nude and neutral hues are definitely your friend. When speaking with InStyle, New York City-based makeup artist Gita Bass recommended that people with medium-fair skin tones should choose a foundation with yellow undertones or even ones with a little bit of a gold glow. Peachy-gold blushes and creamy beige eyeshadows will work well to compliment your skin tone. You can even pull off a reddish-brown lip with no problem.

If your complexion is more medium-dark than medium-light, you'll want to try out a foundation that is more of a honey color. If you have this skin type, you'll also probably find that it's pretty easy to locate a wide variety of products that look good on you. Multiple makeup artists revealed to InStyle that this skin tone can look great in almost all extremes. You don't have to shy away from bright or metallic eyeshadows, concentrated pink blushes, or even pale lips.

Olive skin: scrap the blues

"Olive skin ranges from lighter to darker, depending on your undertone," Clarins makeup artist Sonia Merlo explained to Vogue. "Olive skin tone has neutral or yellow undertones with a greenish hue, hence the name 'olive.'" Finding the right shade for this complexion can be a challenge. Makeup artist Suzy Gerstein told Reader's Digest that many of the makeup colors marketed for olive skin types are "too deep or too red." As such, there's probably going be some trial and error involved in finding the right foundation.

Merlo suggested picking three colors: "one that you feel is closest to your skin tone, one that is a shade darker, and one that is a shade lighter." After applying each color along your jawline and letting them dry, you'll want to choose the one that blends seamlessly. When it comes to eyeshadow, you'll also want to ditch the blues in favor for teal — which is essentially the it color for olive skin (via InStyle).

Tan skin: all about the gold

Makeup artist Carissa Ferreri told Refinery29 that she loves "tan skin to be radiant and healthy." If you have tan skin, you no doubt strive for the same. Ferreri accomplishes that look by using very rich, pigmented blushes. Warm-toned blushes are "perfect" for a variety of medium skin tones, including tan complexions, according to the expert.

If you're someone who tans in the summer, you'll have to make seasonal adjustments to your makeup routine. But that doesn't mean you have to buy a different shade of foundation. When talking with E! News, "beauty pro" Ashley Rebecca said to "simply use a liquid bronzer and mix it in with your makeup to change the shade."

If you're looking for the perfect eyeshadow color to compliment your tanned skin, choose gold. Makeup artist Kirin Bhatty told Refinery29 that you can repurpose your gold shadow to work as a highlighter too, which is a perfect accompaniment to tan skin.

Dark skin: "three-dimensional" foundation

If you have a dark complexion, there are a few things Sir John, Beyoncé's makeup artist, advises. "Women of color have to understand that they're not just one color everywhere; that is the biggest misconception," he revealed to InStyle. "You want a lighter foundation and a deeper one, because you should aim for your skin to look three-dimensional." By using just one foundation, you get just one dimension. Thankfully though, the makeup guru revealed that he has plenty of favorites for you try. From the inexpensive L'Oreal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation to the pricier NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation, you can experiment with plenty of brands and shades.

Once you've picked your perfect foundation — or, rather, foundations — you'll also probably want to check out some of the accent colors that complement your complexion. Deep shades like chestnut, plum, and burgundy, as well as other shades of reddish-browns, will become your faves for sure (via InStyle). 

Deep skin: a bold mauve lip

If you have a deep complexion like that of actress Lupita Nyong'o, there's perhaps no expert better qualified to help you find your shade than Nyong'o's makeup artist. The expert, Nick Barose, revealed to BET, "[The biggest mistake] is being literal with the way the color looks in the packaging," noting, "It's really more about how the color and formula translates onto the skin." When selecting a color, he said it's important to be "open-minded" and always try the color on your face as opposed to your hands as they often do not match. He also revealed that he sometimes blends two different colors of foundation: "one in the center of the face and one darker around [the] perimeter of the face." 

After you've found your base color, the addition of some nude eyeshadow, a warm powder, subtle gold highlighter, and a mauve lip will look stunning against dark to deep skin tones (via Refinery29).

Makeup that works on every skin tone

Thankfully, there are some makeup colors that look great on literally every skin tone. As it happens, neutrals are everyone's bestie. Makeup artist and expert Bobbi Brown told Real Simple, "Neutrals include tones naturally found in the skin, like peach, rose, bronze, and even plum." Which shade of neutral you'll want to choose does, however, depend on your skin tone. 

To choose the perfect neutral for you, you just have to follow the universal guideline: Pick a color within two shades — either lighter or darker — than your natural cheek, eyelid, and lip color. When following a neutral makeup routine, Brown said "concealer is an absolute must" to keep your makeup looking radiant and natural. Highlighting with neutrals within the two-shade realm is also a sure bet. "Shimmer draws attention to areas you want to highlight," Charlotte Willer, a makeup artist who works for Maybelline New York, told the publication. And who doesn't love a good highlight?