Discovering makeup colors that look good on us can sometimes feel like a disappointing shot in the dark. How many times have you selected a lipstick or eyeshadow based on what you thought was pretty and what your eye was drawn to, only to find that it didn’t do you any favors? There are a few variables that affect how colors look on us, and fortunately, there are also a few foolproof tips and tricks to determining the right colors for you.
The most flattering neutral or natural-but-better lipstick should mimic a more pigmented shade of your natural lip color, so you’ll be able to get some good clues just by taking a closer look at your own coloring. Peeking at the inside of your lip may not be something one generally does in public, but it’s an easy way to find the best color for you. You can also match your shade to your flushed fingers—(gently!) pinch the tip of your finger or thumb and hold so that blood gathers in the area. It’s weird, but the resulting color is guaranteed to look great on you.
We generally turn to the color wheel to find the most flattering hues on each eye color. It’s basic color theory, just like we learned in elementary school: Colors on opposite sides of the spectrum complement one another. The best way to draw attention to blue eyes is with warm, rusty reddish and orange shades, including bronze. Green and hazel eyes look gorgeous with anything in the purple family. Brown eyes are neutral, so they do best with similar earthy shades like metallic taupe, shimmery champagne and olive green, as well as true, balanced blues from powder to cobalt.
If you’ve only ever been matched for foundation by makeup artists and sales associates, it’s entirely possible to go through life having no idea what your “undertone” is. Like wearing the wrong bra size, makeup that caters to the wrong undertone will have you looking subtly off without being glaringly obvious, which is why it’s easy to fail to identify the issue. The easiest way to tell your undertone is by looking at the underside of your arm or wrist. If the color of your veins leans green, your undertone is warm. If they look decidedly blue, you’re probably cool. If you have a strong preference toward gold over silver or vice versa, and strong feelings about which one looks better on you, there’s a good chance that you’re warm if you prefer gold and cool if you prefer silver.
Regardless of your hair or eye color, your undertone is also a great way to predict which makeup shades will work on you and which won’t. Warm tones are suited to peachy hues, orange, coral, and orange-leaning reds, while cool tones look best with rosy hues, blues and greens, purples and violets, and blue-based reds. And if you’re neutral, which means your skin leans beige rather than blue or yellow, you’re likely to be able to pull off nearly anything.
Read more: The Best Makeup for Your Hair Color