Woman with sarong at beach

Both your skin tone and type play a role in your overall complexion, or the look and feel of your skin. Getting to know these factors can help ensure you find the right skin care products and makeup to enhance your skin's condition. While everyone is different, certain categories of skin tone and type can apply to just about anyone.

One widely accepted classification of skin tones is The Fitzpatrick Skin Type Test. Based on the skin's reaction to sun exposure, this system classifies skin tones into 6 basic categories:

  • Type I: Light skin that always burns and never tans.
  • Type II: Fair skin that usually burns, then tans.
  • Type III: Medium skin that may burn, but tans well.
  • Type IV: Olive skin that rarely burns and tans well.
  • Type V: Tan brown skin that very rarely burns and tans well.
  • Type VI: Black brown skin that never burns and tans very well.

Variances in each of these 6 basic classifications of skin tone occur in the form of skin undertones. Whether you have very fair or dark skin, there is an undertone to your coloring that is either warm, cool or neutral.

  • Warm Undertones: The veins on the insides of your wrists have a purple-bluish hue, you look best in gold jewelry and your skin tends to get a golden or honey color from sun exposure.
  • Cool Undertones: The veins on the insides of your wrists have a green-bluish hue, you look best in silver jewelry and your skin tends to burn or gets a rosy color from sun exposure.
  • Neutral Undertones: It's hard to tell if the veins on the insides of your wrists appear more purple or green, gold and silver jewelry are equally complementary and you tan as well as burn from sun exposure.

Skin types refer to the condition or feel of your skin. Skin types vary based on water content, oil content and sensitivity. Regardless of skin tone and undertones, just about everyone's skin can be categorized based on these factors.

  • Normal Skin: Not too oily or too dry with few or no imperfections, an even complexion and no sensitivity.
  • Combination Skin: Can be oily in some areas, like the T-zone, and dry in others with overly dilated pores and a shiny complexion.
  • Oily Skin: Oily all over with enlarged pores and a thick, shiny complexion that is prone to blackheads and breakouts.
  • Dry Skin: Allover dryness with a rough, reddish complexion, almost no visible pores, less elasticity and more visible lines.
  • Sensitive Skin: Easily irritated skin that shows up in the form of redness, itching, burning or dryness.

To figure out the tone and type of your individual complexion, start by looking at which of the six basic skin tones from The Fitzpatrick scale you identify with the most. Then use the vein and jewelry test to figure out which undertones apply to your skin.


Once you know your coloring, examine the condition of your skin without makeup. Look for indications of the skin types listed above. Your skin type can differ slightly based on both age and environmental factors. Anyone going through puberty will likely have more oily, breakout-prone skin. Harsh weather conditions such as cold winter winds tend to make skin more dry and prone to redness. Examine your skin during spring or fall to get the best feel for its natural condition.