How to determine your skin's undertone when selecting your fake tan - for the perfect sunkissed glow

Want to achieve a natural-looking tan? Here's how to determine your skin's undertone for the perfect colour match, according to pros...

A close up of someone applying a cream product to the skin on their arm/ in a beige and grey sunset-like template
(Image credit: Getty Images/AH86)

Struggling to find a fake tan product that actually offers a natural-looking radiance, rather than a tinge of orange? Well, according to the experts, your skin's undertone is key to finding your perfect colour match...

Whether you're a lover of the best gradual tans for their simplicity or swear by the best fake tans for mature skin, finding the right shade to compliment your natural complexion is essential. After all, most of us likely have a tanner-related horror story that we'd rather not repeat again, where the results were giving more tangerine than bronzed goddess. And while you can't sample a tan before buying, your skin itself can offer a few clues as to what shade to opt for.

Indeed, like with the best foundations, your natural undertone is crucial for selecting the perfect, complimentary shade of fake tan - and the pros have shared exactly how to determine yours...

How to determine your skin's undertone for fake-tan

Whether you're relying on the best fake tans for pale skin to add a glow to your complexion before the summer strikes, or are looking to even out an existing tan, your skin's undertone is crucial for picking the perfect, flattering shade.

Undertone-wise, there are three types; warm (golden or yellow) cool (peachy, pink, red, or blueish), or neutral (a blend of both tones) - and according to Melanie Brownlow, founder of St. Moriz, there are four easy ways to determine which category your skin falls into...

1. Throw on a white t-shirt

"Put on a white T-shirt in the daylight," says Brownlow and if your skin looks pinky or rosy by comparison, you're likely to be cool-toned.

Brownlow continues, adding that if it appears, "more yellow, you are warm toned or if off white is more flattering than stark bright white, you have a warm undertone. If either suits you, you are neutral."

2. Consult your go-to jewellery

If you don't have a white T-shirt to hand, your every day jewellery is also a good tell. Brownlow notes, "Gold jewellery tends to suit warmer undertones so much more than silver. Silver suits cooler undertones and if you can wear both you are likely to be neutral."

So, if you've always gravitated more to silver rings and necklaces, finding that they seem to compliment your skin more, your complexion is likely to be on the cooler side and so on.

3. Check your veins

While it makes us feel a little squeamish to say this, check your veins - as their colour is another indicator to your undertone.

"Look at your wrists and then at veins around your face and neck," Brownlow instructs, adding: " You have cool undertones if veins appear blue, warm undertones if veins appear green and neutral is a mix of both."

4. Have a good look in the mirror

Next up, is to take a good look at yourself in the mirror because your complexion, hair and eye colour can also provide some clues.

"Hair, eye and skin colouring can play a part too," Brownlow quips, "If you have a deeper skin tone and darker hair or eyes this often means you have a warm undertone. If you are fair and have light eyes, you are often a cool or neutral undertone."

Once you've determined your undertone, it takes some of the guessing out of self-tanner selection. If in doubt though, we'd suggest opting for a gradual, buildable tanner as they're a tad more forgiving or can be layered up if the initial shade isn't quite right.

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Brownlow also reminds us that aftercare is very important when fake tanning and says to, "ensure you top up and regularly hydrate your skin following your self tan application. If you don’t, it can cause the tan to become patchy, and cling to dry areas."

Naomi Jamieson
Digital Beauty Writer

Naomi is a Digital Beauty Writer from woman&home, where she covers everything from skincare to fragrance but specialises, particularly, in makeup and nail trends. Through her work, Naomi gets to share her trend expertise and share her own shopping recommendations and product reviews. Previously, she worked as a Lifestyle News Writer for My Imperfect Life magazine, where she used her savvy for TikTok to bring readers the latest beauty buzzwords, fashion movements and must-have products. 

Before that, Naomi split her time between both GoodTo and My Imperfect Life, whilst training for her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ, for which she earned a Distinction. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but leapt into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing. Now, when she isn’t reporting on the best perfumes and latest beauty releases, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping...