The key difference between skin tone and undertone is that skin tone is the surface colour of the skin, whereas undertone is the colour underneath the surface of the skin.
Proper identification of both skin tone and undertone helps you to select clothes, makeup, and hair colours that compliment your skin. As you grow old, your skin tone might change due to the uneven distribution of pigment cells, but your undertone will remain the same.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Skin Tone
3. What is Undertone
4. Skin Tone vs Undertone in Tabular Form
5. Summary – Skin Tone vs Undertone
What is Skin Tone?
Skin tone is the surface colour of the skin. It is decided by the amount of melanin, which is a complex polymer produced by melanocytes on the upper layer of the skin. It is generally based on your genetic makeup. However, when your skin gets exposed to the sun, melanocytes act as a natural defence mechanism and produce more melanin, which then absorbs the harmful rays of the sun. Therefore, your skin tone depends on how much time you spend on unprotected sun exposure. Generally, people in sunny regions have darker skin because their melanin production is high to protect them from harmful UV rays. In addition, there are various other factors, like skin-lightening products and dermatologically proven ways, that change your skin tone.
There are four main skin tones: light, fair, medium, and dark. Light and fair skin tones are from northern European countries, which are cold and frequently have snow. Those people are sensitive to the sun and burn easily. People with medium skin tones are generally of southern European and northern Asian origin. This is a neutral skin tone and has a balanced beige look. It is also identified as an ‘olive’ skin tone. People in India, the Middle East, and Africa, where sun exposure is high, have dark skin tones.
There are several ways to know your skin tone. You can examine your jawline in the natural light and your skin’s reaction to the sun; if it burns easily, you are light or fair, but if you get a tan, you have a medium or dark skin tone.
What is Undertone?
Undertone is the colour tone under the surface of the skin. This is permanent and cannot be changed in any way. There are three types of undertones as warm, cool, and neutral. A warm undertone has yellow, peachy, or golden shades; a cool undertone has red, pink, or bluish hints, while neutral has olive colour or a mixture of the colours in warm and cool undertones.
You can identify your undertone using various methods. The vein test is one such method. If your veins are blue or purple, then you have a cool undertone. If they are greenish, then you have a warm undertone. If the veins are colourless, brown, or a mixture of other colours, then you have a neutral undertone. You can also do a jewellery test to decide this. If silver jewellery looks good on you, you have a cool undertone; if gold looks good on you, you have a warm undertone; if both look good on you, you have a neutral undertone.
The white t-shirt method is another such method to determine this. Hold a white t-shirt close to your face under natural light. If your skin is pink or rosy, then you have a cool undertone. If it is yellow, then you have a warm undertone. But if white and off-white both look good, you have a neutral undertone.
What is the Difference Between Skin Tone and Undertone?
The key difference between skin tone and undertone is that skin tone is the surface colour of the skin, whereas undertone is the colour underneath the surface of the skin. Moreover, your skin tone may change due to different factors, but your undertone does not change.
The below infographic presents the differences between skin tone and undertone in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Skin Tone vs Undertone
Skin tone is the surface colour of the skin. It is determined by genetics, but changeable due to age, sun exposure, and various skin whitening methods. The four types of skin tones are fair, light, medium, and dark. Undertone, on the other hand, is the colour tone under the surface of the skin. There are three types, and they are warm, cool, and neutral. The undertone does not change and remains the same forever. So, this is the summary of the difference between skin tone and undertone.
1. “Determine Skin Tone.” WikiHow.
2. “All About Undertones: What’s an Undertone and How To Find Yours.” Beauty Bakerie.
1. “Human Skin Colour Distribution 26,000 BC – 1500 AD” By VaurnheartDerived from original: Barsh GS (2003) What Controls Variation in Human Skin Color? PLOS Biology 1(3): e91. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0000091 – derivative work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
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