Makeup Artists Explain a Muted vs. Bright Complexion

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 08: Models pose backstage for TRESemme at the Cushnie show during NY Fashion Week on February 8, 2019 in New York City.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for TRESemme)

  • A viral video on TikTok explains that complexions are either “muted” or “bright.”
  • Determining what category your complexion falls in comes down to your skin’s undertones.
  • Here, two makeup artists share tips for finding the most flattering foundation shade for your skin.

Understanding your skin tone and undertone is important with makeup. Skin tone is the surface color of your skin, while your undertone, which typically skews warm, cool, or neutral, refers to the deeper subtle hue that affects how your complexion reads. Determining your skin’s undertones can help you find your perfect match when it comes to base products like foundations and concealers. Another way to help is determining whether you have a “muted” or “bright” complexion, but what exactly does that mean?

Makeup artist Megan Lavallie shared a video on TikTok explaining that most people have either a muted or bright complexion, using herself and fellow makeup artist Mikayla Nogueira as examples. “Knowing this can help you so much when you’re picking out makeup,” Lavallie says in the video.

She explains that “someone with a bright complexion has a very pure form of either cool or warm — either they’re yellow or blue undertones show quite bright,” which makes their complexion read very bright and clear, while people with more muted complexions typically look softer and more diffused. But for someone who already has a hard enough time looking for the “right” makeup, this information can feel a bit overwhelming.

@meganlavallie

@Mikayla Nogueira 🤍

♬ original sound – Megan Lavallie

“People have many complexion types,” Carly Loudenburg, national makeup artist for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, tells POPSUGAR. “Skin color is complex — it’s made up of many different colors in varying hues and values.” Thinking about skin tone as muted versus bright is just another way of categorizing it. “This is a more simplistic way of looking at tone and undertone,” Kirin Bhatty, celebrity makeup artist and ambassador for Catrice Cosmetics, says. “Both are beautiful, as well as common across skin tones.”

Bhatty explains that “a muted complexion may just feel more neutral” and a bright complexion simply “veers stronger to the true cool or warm tones in makeup.” This means you can have a light or dark skin tone with “muted,” neutral undertones or a light or dark skin tone with “bright,” warm/cool undertones. “It refers to the saturation of the color,” says Loudenburg.

If you want to find the most flattering makeup for your skin, Bhatty recommends always going back to your undertones and the rest will follow. “Choosing the right foundation to correspond with it will accentuate your skin every time,” she says. But if you’re still having trouble figuring out where to start, Loudenburg adds: “Finding the best makeup to match your complexion is easier when the range is extensive and nuanced.”

Another tip for making your skin look its absolute best? Use a primer that’s meant for your skin type or makeup goals. For dry skin, reach for a hydrating option like the Catrice Prime and Fine Aqua Fresh Hydro Primer ($8); for oily skin, try a pore-blurring formula like the Smashbox Photo Finish Control Mattifying Face Primer ($39). “This really lets the foundation perform at its highest potential and brings the tone of the foundation to its ultimate potential,” says Bhatty.

For foundations with a wide range of options for different skin tones and undertones, try the Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation SPF 15 ($50), the Kosas Revealer Skin-Improving Foundation ($42), or the LYS Beauty Triple Fix Serum Foundation ($22). You’re guaranteed to find a great match.

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