How to Find The Perfect Tan Colour Base

(Green, Violet, Ash, Caramel & Brown Bases… what’s the difference?)

There are many many many many tanning products on the market. Between self-tanners and spray tan solutions – we almost have too many options!

In the sunless industry, there are two common colour bases for solutions: Green and Violet. Less common, although trending in recent years, are brown, ash or caramel based tans. (But more about those later!)

You wouldn’t use a foundation that doesn’t compliment your skin tone. The same methodology needs to be applied when choosing a tan base that is best suited to your skin tone. Your natural skin tone will affect the way the spray tan appears. Think of it this way; if we paint a black wall white, we are going to see bleed-through and the wall will appear grey. In painting we can apply multiple coats, but because we like our spray tans natural in appearance, the same logic cannot be applied to a tan. Instead, we need to cancel out any unwanted undertones.

Skin undertones can be classified as:

  • Cool (pink, red undertones)
  • Warm (yellow, peachy, golden undertones)
  • Neutral (a mix of warm and cool undertones)

If your skin veers pink or red you have cool undertones. If your skin has a yellow, peachy, or golden tinge, you have warm undertones. If you have a mix of both, your undertone is neutral.

To find your undertone, follow our chart below:

Warm UndertoneCool Undertone
Green veins
Brown / hazel eyes
Suits gold jewellery
Dark brown / black hair
Naturally tans in the sun

Blue veins
Blue / green eyes
Suits silver jewellery
Blonde / fair hair
Burns easily in the sun

Are you green or violet base?

Green Base counteracts pink & red undertones for a rich brown tan. Violet Base, on the other hand, counteracts yellow & golden undertones for a rich brown tan. If your skin has a neutral undertone, you are likely to fall into both columns. And that’s fine too! This means you will suit both a green and violet based solution. (Although you may find one looks slightly better than the other)

If you’re still confused, take our handy quiz here.

What about all those other tan colour bases?

How do I know if a brown base, caramel base or ash base will suit me?

Let me tell you a little secret: green or violet base solutions suit virtually everyone. Ash, brown or caramel tan colour bases are mostly marketing! Tan companies want to make more money so they need to constantly come up with new products to sell. Let’s explain…

It all comes down to the colour wheel.

See how violet is opposite yellow? Violet will counteract yellow undertones. Using a violet base will banish those yellow tones and make you look brown. Not brown with a hint of yellow (notice how close yellow is to orange?) This process is similar to how your hairdresser uses purple toner to remove yellow tones from a fresh bleach job.

Moving along, red also happens to be the opposite of green, so a green base tan is able to oppose red/pink undertones.

Brown, Ash or Caramel tan bases are different. These are a mixture of the 3 primary colours. The idea here is to create a “one size fits all” tan solution by combining yellow, blue and red colourants. Brown, Ash or Caramel bases are a mashup attempting to do it all. In theory this is fantastic. In reality, ‘one size fits all’ works for many, but not all.

The skincare world has yet to create a “one size fits all” serum for a reason – theory doesn’t always transcend to reality. Brown bases can sometimes leave the skin looking “dirty”. Brown bases also rely on the assumption that the skin has both red-y and yellow-y undertones. On many neutral skin tones, this works fantastically, producing a gorgeous glow with zero guesswork. However, on very warm or very cool skin-tones, a brown based tan can sometimes look unnatural. This is because the colour base is simply wrong for these stronger skin tones. Mixed bases suit most, but not all.

The temptation of a brown base is to use it on everyone. This is partly why so many “bad” tans are still out there in 2023!

Brown is a mixture of all 3 primary colours.

The Bottom Line:

  • Neutral/olive skin tone or not 100% sure? Brown/Mixed base is best.
  • Strongly yellow/golden? Violet is your BFF.
  • Strongly pink/red? Green is your go-to!

Where possible, we always recommend a green or violet based tan as your first port of call. Save your brown base for true neutrals or when “on the fence”. (Avoiding the temptation to use a brown base alllll the time). Most humans swing to a yellow-y or red-y undertones (eg: the upper-righthand side of the colour wheel). No humans have strong green, blue or purple skin tones. Until aliens land on earth, a green or violet base tan is all you need for a gorgeous golden glow.

Whether spray tanning or self-tanning, it’s time to ace your base!