If you’re a professional makeup artist, you know just how important it is to match the right products to your client’s skin tone. Why? Because if you don’t, the results can be terrible! Particularly when it comes to foundation, if you choose a colour that’s too light, to risk turning someone into Casper the friendly ghost. Or, if it’s too dark, it looks a bit like clown makeup as their face turns orange and their neck is super pale.
Skin tone is such an important factor to consider when you’re planning those fierce looks. But it can be hard to get it right – so let’s do a deep dive into the topic so you know what to look out for and how to best match makeup to any and every face.
Put simply, skin tone is the colour of your skin. The shade, or hue, of your skin is the result of your parents’ genes and the level of sun exposure you’ve had in your life. Skin pigmentation comes in every shade, from the lightest hues to the darkest of browns, and is made up of a substance called melanin. The more melanin your skin has, the darker it will be. There’s a whole science lesson here that we don’t have time to delve into, but recognising that different skin tones will need different products is one thing to keep in mind at all times.
You’ve probably seen the different categories of skin tones when you were last shopping for a makeup essential, like foundation. Depending on the brand, you may have only a couple of options to work with (like light, medium or dark), or some of the more progressive brands now offer a full spectrum of tones to suit a variety of skin types.
Here’s a quick shortcut to help you determine your skin tone by looking at the veins on the underside of your wrist:
Understanding your skin tone (and your client’s skin tone) can help you match the right products and use colours that will really work with – not against – their natural beauty.
Key to doing your best work as a MUA is having the right lighting. This is especially true when it comes to skin tone, too. When you know whether someone’s skin tone is cool or warm, you can adjust the lighting to match, which will help you make better choices and not overdo it on all fronts.
For applying your own makeup, check out the Cosmetic Clip-On Duo Ring Light. This handy USB ring light clips easily onto benches or desks and has adjustable controls, making it the perfect solo light. It also features a phone mount so you can record those makeup tutorials in style.
For something a little more glam, take a look at the LUVO Crystal Vanity Mirror. Its three light temperature settings (cool, warm and neutral) make it easier to get a more accurate read of the skin’s surface. Plus, it has fully adjustable brightness controls, so you can amp it up in low lighting situations.
So you’re all over what skin tone you’re working with and have a stellar lighting set up, now what? Choosing the right makeup for skin tone relies a little on science and a little on personal preference. Start with your essentials – like foundation, concealer and powder – before diving into other products, like blush, bronzer and eyeshadow. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples to get your creative juices flowing.
If you’re working with lighter skin, embrace the mantra ‘less is more’. Start with a primer that has some SPF sun protection so your light skin doesn’t cop a beating from the sun. For more natural looking makeup, avoid applying too many competing colours or harsh contours. Opt for cream-based eyeshadows as they work well with lighter skin, but go bold with your lipstick – bright pink, peachy and neutral colours look fab!
If you have a darker skin tone, you might like to try testing foundation on your chest, rather than using your wrist, as this can often be a better way to find the right shade. When it comes to finishes, loose powder is great especially if your skin is a little on the oily side. For colour, it’s all about experimenting and finding what makes you feel good – for lipsticks, play around with cranberry or plum shades, or even a bold orange. No matter what skin tone you have, makeup should make you feel beautiful and confident, so don’t be afraid to try before you buy – many retailers offer samples so you don’t get stuck with something you’ll never use.