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What You May Need to Tell Your Clients about Skin Undertones

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

Makeup Artist Insurance

How to Advise Your Client about Skin Undertones

When one of your clients wants a particular type of skin treatment, they may often have an idea of what they want to achieve in their mind’s eye. For example, they may have come across a specific look in a magazine or want to replicate the appearance of a friend or other family member and are turning to you for advice. As the expert, you will have access to various skin products that can help them get to where they want to go, but you may also need to steer them in a certain direction based on their skin undertone. How do you describe the process and make it easy for them to understand what their skin undertone is?

How to Determine the Skin Undertone

You can use all the best skin products in the world, but if you don’t carefully match them to your client's skin makeup, the result may be wide of the mark. Some artists are able to determine the exact skin tone just by looking at the client, but in other cases, they may have to perform a skin undertone test.

The Vein Test

One way to determine a client's skin tone is to look closely at the colour of the veins in the client’s wrist. This can tell you whether you’re dealing with a client that has a cool or warm tone right away. If the client has purplish or blue veins beneath the skin, you could say that they have a cooler skin tone. In this case, you may be able to add shades like blue, light green or purple to enhance the overall look. However, if the client tends to have a greener look to their veins, this means that they have a warm undertone and colours like yellow, orange and red would pick up very well.

The Nail Test

Staying with the hands, have a close look at your client’s nail beds. Of course, this test will only work if they do not have any nail polish in place, but you want to look at the natural nail beds for some guidance. If they appear to be pink, you could say that they have a cool skin undertone, but if it is more of a peachy colour, then warm.

The Beach Test

Some experts determine a client's undertone by asking them a simple question. What happens when they spend several hours on a sunkissed beach? If they tend to turn pink or could burn if they have too much exposure, they are generally cool tone. However, if they tan easily in these situations, the opposite is true. Of course, this is not a scientific test and will depend on the client’s interpretation based on memory. If they don’t fall in one camp or the other, you can always try another test.

The Jewellery Test

What type of jewellery does your client favour? In other words, what makes them look really good and is a “go-to” piece of jewellery whenever they want to get dressed for a night out on the town? If they tend to choose something gold, then your client is probably a warm tone. If they invariably opt for silver, this will typically complement a cool tone very well. Again, this is not a definitive test but just something that will give you an idea as you start.

Perform a Real-World Test

You also have to pay close attention to the undertone of your pigments. Here, you can use a swatch test using an applicator tool or even a Q-Tip. Just apply a small layer of petroleum jelly on your client's brow, which will help you get an accurate colour reading. Next, apply a very small drop of pigment using the applicator to the brow and tap it with your finger. You’ll be able to see how the pigment reacts with your client’s specific undertone. This will then give you an opportunity to modify or mix the pigment so you can end up with the correct result. You can always reapply the test to the modified pigment to see if you’re on the right track.

How to Move Forward

If you determine that a client has a warm skin undertone, you need to work with powder or liquid foundations with warm tones. The opposite would be true for those who have a cool undertone (or are essentially neutral). Most of the best skin products have a cool, warm or neutral designation to make life easier.

How to Help the Client Achieve Their Objective

Of course, as an artist, you want to perfect your craft and have taken a lot of time to learn about what you’re doing so you can always get the right result. The same goes for all of your staff, who should be equally invested in client satisfaction. However, don’t override your client if they want to choose a different product, pigment or process. In other words, their voice matters as they’re opting to alter their appearance permanently and have to live with the end result. Certainly, you should discuss everything carefully with the client and give them your professional opinion. It’s best if you give them options that you know should react well with their skin tone and undertone. Then, help them to make a decision that falls in with their general ambition and that they are likely to be happy with.

Make Sure That You Have the Right Protection in Place

Finally, remember that nobody is perfect, and you (or your staff members) could occasionally make a mistake. Alternatively, your client may be unhappy with the end result and believe your professionalism is in question. Of course, this opinion may be contrary to yours, but you may nevertheless have to deal with a claim of some kind as the process unfolds. So, is your insurance up-to-date, and do you have sufficient protection in place to deal with this (and other) situations? If in doubt, get in touch with a professional salon insurance provider like Salonsure for their help.


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