How to Choose the Right Makeup for Your Skin Tone

There are hundreds of options in the makeup aisle—but if you don’t get the right kind for your skin tone, it can hurt you instead of help you. Mally Roncal, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Mally Beauty, shows you how to find the perfect matches for your skin.  

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Undertones, How to Test, and More

Woman testing foundation shades

Photo by Joshua Pestka

Photo by Joshua Pestka

Nudes When choosing a nude lip color, find a lip stick or lip stain that matches the color of your inner lip.

Concealer Concealer should always be one shade lighter than foundation, says Mally Roncal.

Undertones A quick flip of the wrist is all it takes to figure out your undertones. If veins appear green, you have a warm skin tone; if veins appear blue, you lean toward cool. Use this as the base for finding colors that complement your skin tone instead of making the makeup stand out.

Testing The best place to test makeup? Your collarbone—it will give you the closest match.

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Fair Skin Tone

fair skin tone makeup

Photo by Peter Ardito

Photo by Peter Ardito

Fair skin tones are usually the lightest skin, with cool, pink undertones. Look for yellow-based makeup to help neutralize them. Your face will appear less red, and breakouts won’t stand out as much.

Shade Suggestions → alabaster, porcelain, milky

Makeup Tip A highlighter with silver or lavender tones brightens skin without washing you out.

From left: It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Concealing Pot in Light,, $28. Maybelline New York Fit Me! Blush in Rose,, $5. Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter in Iridescence,, $12. IsaDora Perfect Moisture Lipstick in Summer Red,, $18. Almay Best Blend Forever Makeup in Porcelain, drugstores, $17. Too Faced Sun Bunny Natural Bronzer,, $30.

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Light Skin Tone

light skin tone makeup

Photo by Peter Ardito

Photo by Peter Ardito

If you fall into the light skin tone category, just a touch warmer than fair, so you’ll still want a yellow-based foundation, but slightly darker.

Shade Suggestions cream, vanilla, ivory

Makeup Tip Honey or golden shades of bronzer add warmth without overpowering. Avoid red or orange undertones.

From left: CoverGirl Vitalist Healthy Concealer Pen in Light,, $12. Burt’s Bees Blush in Shy Pink,, $10. SinfulColors Face Forward Allover Highlighter Stick in Glow Potion,, $5. Lipstick Queen Dating Game Lipstick in Mr. Right,, $18. Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation in No. 22 Rosé,, $60. NARS Sunwash Diffusing Bronzer in Seaside,, $40. 

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Medium Skin Tone

Medium skin tone makeup

Photo by Peter Ardito

Photo by Peter Ardito

Medium skin tones aren’t too warm or too cool, so neutral shades are ideal. The color shouldn’t be too orange or gray.

Shade Suggestions sand, beige

Makeup Tip A peachy-coral blush creates the perfect natural flush for medium skin tones.

From left: Wander Beauty Dualist Matte & Illuminating Concealer in Medium,, $29. Urban Decay Afterglow 8-Hour Powder Blush in Indecent,, $26. L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Shimmerista Highlighting Powder in Sunlight,, $15. Ardell Beauty Ultra Opaque Lipstick in Crushed Flame,, $13. Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15 in Medium Honey,, $39. CYO Cosmetics Bronzing Powder When The Sun Don’t Shine,, $5. 

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Tan Skin Tone

Tan skin tone makeup

Photo by Peter Ardito

Photo by Peter Ardito

Warm is the key word for tan skin tones—try makeup with hints of yellow or orange to balance out your complexion.

Shade Suggestions bronze, olive

Makeup Tip Choose a matte bronzer with undertones similar to the ones in your skin.

From left: Mally Beauty Ultimate Performance See the Light Concealer in Medium,, $24 (NO LONGER AVAILABLE). Chanel Joues Contraste Powder Blush in Vibration,, $45. Make Up For Ever Pro Light Fusion Highlighter in Golden,, $39. Avon True Color Nourishing Lipstick in Berry Sangria,, $6. Revlon Photoready Insta-Filter Foundation in Caramel,, $18. Christie Brinkley Authentic Beauty Sun-Kissed Sheer Powder Bronzer in Burnished Bronze,, $22. 

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Deep Skin Tone

Deep skin tone makeup

Photo by Peter Ardito

Photo by Peter Ardito

You want a dark-colored foundation with a slight reddish undertone to avoid looking ashy or gray if you have a deep skin tone.

Shade Suggestions → cocoa, chestnut, cappuccino

Tip A bronze highlighter adds warmth and luminosity to deep skin tones.

From left: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Skinstick in Mocha,, $25. Glossier Cloud Paint in Haze,, $18. bareMinerals Invisible Glow Powder Highlighter in Dark to Deep,, $28. Flower Beauty Petal Pout Lipcolor in Hibis-Kiss,, $7. Marc Jacobs Beauty Shameless Youthful-Look 24-H Foundation SPF 25 in Deep Y570,, $28. Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Powder Bronzer in Deep,, $45.