Different Skin Color Names + How to Find Yours

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Choosing the right foundation shade is extremely hard, especially if you’re ordering one online. 

But maybe learning about the different skin color names would help you figure yours out. 

If you’re one of those who want to find their matching shade and the right term to describe it, you’re in luck because you’re at the right place.

three beautiful woman with different skin color are wearing tank tops while looking sideways

There are over a hundred kinds of skin tones around the world. Let’s go over the most common skin color names for starters. 

Before that, let’s discuss the difference between skin tones and undertones.

Skin Tones

What is skin tone?

Skin tones are the actual color of the surface of your skin. 

The tone or color of your skin is determined by the amount of melanin (or the dark brown and black pigments) present in the skin’s outermost layer. 

Skin tones change from time to time, and there are many factors affecting it, like tanning, skin-lightening products, sun exposure, and dermatologically approved procedures. 

What are the main types of skin tones?

  • Fair — belongs to the lightest shade of skin tones and burns easily
  • Light — appears light-colored but has warmer undertones and likely tans in summer
  • Medium — tone is not too fair and not too dark, and usually tans when in the sun
  • Deep/dark — appears deep or dark-colored and tans fast when in the sun

Skin Undertones

What is a skin undertone?

Skin undertone, as the name suggests, is used to describe the color tone underneath the surface of your skin. 

These are permanent, unlike skin tones, and would not change no matter how much tanning or skin-lightening procedures you get.

What are the main types of skin undertones?

  • Cool — has pink or blue hues under the skin
  • Warm — skin has underlying hues of yellow, golden, or peach
  • Neutral — a combination of warm and cool tones

You can determine what type you have by following the methods in the next section.

How do I determine my skin undertone?

1. Veins

The easiest method is to check your wrist vein color under natural light. 

  • If your veins appear green, you have a warm undertone. 
  • If they look blue or purple, a cool undertone would be your match. 
  • If they’re a mix of both, are colorless, or are brown, you have a neutral undertone.

2. Jewelry

Have you noticed that either gold or silver complements your skin more than the other? You can determine your undertone by checking which one looks better on you.

  • If gold looks better on you, you have a warm undertone.
  • Meanwhile, if silver makes you glow, you have a cool undertone.
  • If both look equally good on you, you have a neutral undertone.

3. White Shirt

If you’re still unsure what your undertone is, try the white shirt method. All you need to do is hold the shirt beside your face under natural lighting and compare. 

  • If your skin appears pink or rosy, your undertone is cool
  • If your skin appears yellow, you have a warm undertone. Also, if you find that shirts with off-white or creamy hues suit you better than stark white, it’s also an indicator that your undertone is warm
  • If you can wear both white and off-white without looking washed out, you have a neutral undertone. 
plenty of arms on frame highlighting their skin colors

Skin Phototypes

Now that you know how to distinguish your undertone, let us help you discover your skin phototype.

The Fitzpatrick Scale is a tool often used by dermatologists to distinguish people’s skin phototype according to the amount of melanin found on the skin and according to each type’s reaction to sun exposure.

Here’s a quick rundown on the different skin phototypes:

TypeSun Exposure Effect
Type 1People with this skin type never tan; they get sunburned instead. 
Type 2They tan very lightly but usually burn.
Type 3These people get tanned but can still get slightly burned
Type 4They burn slightly and get tanned fairly easily.
Type 5People with this skin type rarely burn, and they tan very easily.
Type 6These people never burn.

Although helpful, the Fitzpatrick Scale has its limitations. If you’re still not sure how to determine your exact skin color, we’ve prepared a detailed list that can help. 

Read on to learn about the different names of skin colors from lightest to darkest.

Skin Color Names

Porcelain

Porcelain is the first skin tone from type I of the Fitzpatrick Scale. It’s one of the lightest skin shades and has a cool undertone.

If you have this skin shade, your skin is sensitive to skin damage from the sun, so we recommend that you don’t forget to put on sunscreen when you go outside. 

Alabaster

Alabaster is also found on the first type of Fitzpatrick Scale. People with this skin color are often described with bright-white, blemish-free, and even-toned complexion. 

It is darker than porcelain but lighter than ivory. This skin color has a subtle cool or neutral undertone.

Ivory

If you have super light skin but feel like porcelain isn’t your perfect match, try checking out ivory. It’s a little darker than porcelain and may either have cool, warm, or neutral undertones. 

However, people with this skin color should still avoid too much exposure under the sun as this belongs to type 1 of the Fitzpatrick Scale.

Peaches and Cream

This skin tone color is often described to be the attractive kind of pale complexion. People who have a peaches and cream skin color have blemish-free skin with light pink-colored cheeks.

Like the skin colors above, peaches and cream skin belongs to type 1 of the Fitzpatrick Scale.

Sand

This skin color name is often described to be lighter than beige and darker than ivory. It’s the darkest of fair skin tones and still belongs to type I of the Fitzpatrick Scale.

People who have this light skin color tend to have warm yellow undertones.

Beige

This skin color belongs to type II to III of the Fitzpatrick Scale, which ranges from light to medium skin tones. It is generally a lighter version of olive skin and can either have a cool or warm undertone.  

Marshmallow

Marshmallow is one of the lightest skin shades for brown-skinned people. It’s usually associated with the slightly toasted, warm yellow undertone color, like Zoe Kravitz’s skin.

This skin color is found under type II of Fitzpatrick Scale.

Honey

As the name suggests, this skin color is usually a light-brown shade with a warm to neutral undertone. This belongs to type III of the Fitzpatrick Scale.

The most famous example is Penelope Cruz’s skin, with her light-brown, honey-hued shade that never fails to attract a second glimpse.

Bisque

It’s hard to distinguish bisque from the almond skin color, but if you look closely, this one is lighter than the latter. Bisque is a medium skin tone with cool to warm undertones. Also, it belongs to type IV of the Fitzpatrick Scale.

Ethnicities like Eastern and Western Indians, Armenians, and Hispanics are believed to have a bisque skin tone.

Almond

Almond skin tone, like the name suggests, is used to describe a beautiful tan with a lighter shade.

People with almond skin have cool undertones. Like bisque, almond skin belongs to Fitzpatrick Scale’s type IV. 

Popular ladies with an almond skin tone are Vanessa Hudgens and America Ferrera. 

Olive

This skin color describes people with light to medium tan skin with cool or warm undertones. Depending on the shade, olive belongs to types III, IV, and V on the Fitzpatrick scale. 

Like Eva Mendes, you may also have a stunning olive skin color. 

Pecan

This describes a rich, buttery color usually associated with people with a type III to type V on the Fitzpatrick scale, and depending on the season, they usually appear a bit fairer in winter and tan easily in summer.

Pecan skin tone has warm to neutral undertones.

Caramel

Caramel is a slightly darker shade of pecan and is often called the medium brown skin tone. Those with caramel skin have stunning golden or warm undertones. Others would refer to this shade as the rich, buttery shade of brown. 

On the Fitzpatrick scale, this belongs between Types IV and V.

Bronze

This falls under the type V classification of the Fitzpatrick Scale. Similar to bronze as a metal, this color usually describes a medium skin tone with warm or neutral undertones. 

Another popular skin color name for this is “suntan” because people with this tone usually spend a lot of time under the sun.

Although it appears darker than suntanned skin, this complexion radiates a distinct golden glow.

Mahogany

The slightly darker version of bronze, this skin color describes a copper tone with cool to warm undertones that’s commonly seen in Southeast Asians, South Asians, and Eastern Africans.

Like bronze, this skin color is also on type V of the Fitzpatrick scale.

Chestnut

Chestnut, also called “milk chocolate”, refers to those with a skin color that has a dark tan or medium tone. This color falls under type V of the Fitzpatrick scale.

Cacao

Cacao is a deep shade of brown mixed with a tint of brownish-red undertone. This melanin-rich skin type belongs to type VI on the Fitzpatrick skin scale and appears glowing and silky smooth.

Saddle Brown

This skin color name is believed to originate from the color of a typical horse saddle. 

Saddle brown describes the rich brown shade with red undertones, but there are also cases where this would mean a darker shade of brown with hints of yellow.

Simply put, this deep-colored skin tone can have neutral to warm undertones. 

Like espresso, saddle brown falls under type VI of the Fitzpatrick Scale. 

Umber

This shade is similar to saddle brown, though a little darker. It’s similar to mahogany and chestnut shades but with a reddish undertone.

This belongs to type VI of the Fitzpatrick Scale, which means it’s pretty resistant to sun damage or aging.

Espresso 

Like the drink it’s named after, espresso is what you call the several shades of deep brown. It belongs to type VI on the Fitzpatrick Scale. Compared to beige, chestnut, and bronze, this skin color has a richer, deeper brown shade with neutral undertones.

Celebrities Viola Davis and Tika Sumpter are two beautiful women with gorgeous espresso-toned skin. 

Sable

Sable is the name for a skin color that has a very deep brown with an almost black tone. To some people, this unique dark hue almost looks like blue. This also belongs to type VI of the Fitzpatrick Scale.

This is considered a unique color because not a lot of celebrities in mainstream media have this tone, so consider sable-toned personalities like Nyla Lueeth, Lola Chuil, and Khoudia Diop special! 

four woman posing at the camera highlighting their skin color differences

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Know My Skin Tone?

Figuring out your skin tone may seem like a difficult task, but with the right tips, it can be easier than you think. 

Start by looking at the color of your skin in natural light, such as sunlight. 

If your skin appears to be fair, you likely have a fair to light skin tone. If your skin appears to be olive or tan in the natural light, then you probably have a medium or neutral skin tone. Darker complexions usually appear to have a deep tone. 

Additionally, observe the surface of your skin or try the three undertone tests above to know if your undertone is pinkish, yellowish, or greenish in hue. These will indicate cool, warm, or neutral undertones, respectively. 

Once you know your primary tone and the undertones associated with it, finding makeup that complements your complexion should become much less confusing!

What Is the Rarest Skin Color in the World?

The rarest skin color in the world is believed to be the white from albinism, a genetic mutation that causes a lack of melanin production in the human body. Albinism affects 1 in every 3,000 to 20,000 people.

People with albinism usually have very pale or colorless skin, hair, and eyes.

They are at greater risk for developing vision and hearing problems due to the lack of pigment in their eyes, as well as various skin diseases due to their low levels of protective melanin. 

Albinos worldwide often face discrimination and prejudice based on their unique appearance as well. 

Despite these serious risks however, albinism is still a rare but beautiful variation in human pigmentation that has existed since ancient times.

Why Do We Have Different Skin Tones?

People have different skin tones due to the amount of melanin in their skin.  

Different levels of melanin give us different shades of skin color, ranging from light beige to deep ebony. 

Additionally, people who live in sunny climates (such as those near the equator) tend to produce more melanin than people who live in cooler climates (further away from the equator) because it helps protect them from the sun’s rays. 

Ultimately, our various skin color shades result from this natural evolutionary process designed to keep us safe from potentially harmful UV rays.

All Skin Colors Are Beautiful

Whatever your skin color is, surely there is a name for it. Just refer to the previous sections for the names of different skin colors.

Knowing your skin color helps you pick the correct shade of makeup products, as well as the most flattering colors for clothes. 

Cosmetic companies are stepping up their game by creating more shades from fair to deep brown. Many makeup enthusiasts today are keen on supporting these brands that champion inclusivity. Such a commendable move!

Regardless of cultural background or color, we all should embrace our individuality whether that means being fairer or darker than the rest. 

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Authors

  • Janille Gultiano

    Jan, a distinguished freelance makeup artist, also boasts a BA in Mass Communication, laying the foundation for her diverse talents. For over four years, she's carved a niche as a captivating content writer, with her articles resonating in various spheres. Beyond writing, her expertise extends to crafting robust Public Relations and Corporate Communications strategies. Each endeavor reflects Jan's unique blend of creativity and precision

  • Amanda Meehan

    Amanda Meehan, a licensed esthetician and massage therapist, brings holistic beauty to the forefront. Trained at the Aveda Institute Denver and the Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy, her accolades include the High Honors and Beauty Is As Beauty Does awards. Beyond skincare, she's a certified Reiki Master and yoga instructor.

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