Understanding MAC foundation shades:

I know finding the correct shade of foundation, powder or concealer can be a difficult task.

The following chart was created by MAC to help you understand the wide array of foundation shades that MAC makeup products offer. Each shade’s name is a combination of letters followed by numbers (ie: NC 35 or NW 15). The shades range in depth from 15 (very pale) to 55 (very dark). The C, NC, N, NW or W distinguish between different skin tones.

To understand how MAC cosmetics names their foundation, powder and concealershades, here is a breakdown of MAC’s foundation codes:

Stands for:
“Neutral Cool”
Match for:
Yellow/Golden Olive Undertone
Slightly Golden Undertone
Neutral Undertone
Slightly Pink Undertone
Pinkish Undertone

The number that follows the letter(s) denotes the depth of the shade. The higher the number, the deeper the color. For instance NW55 is a match for very dark skin with a pinkish undertone, whereas NC20 would be a match for somewhat lighter skin with a slightly golden skin.

The first step in selecting your shade is to simply look at your skin, without makeup, in daylight. If your skin is warmer toned, or looks like it has a more yellow, gold or olive tint to it compared to others with your same skin depth, you match with Neutral Cool or “NC” shades. If your skin has a more neutral tone, you will match with the Neutral or “N” shades. If your skin looks more cool toned, you match with Neutral Warm or “NW” shades. This might seem backwards since usually we think of pinkish skin tones as cool and yellowish skin tones as warm. The reason for this is that MAC uses themakeup artists color wheel which is pretty much the opposite of what we usually think of as cool vs. warm. An easy way to look at it is like this: Think of each MAC foundation shade as being named with either the cool or warm shade that would neutralize and balance out your skin tone.

By looking at your skin in daylight, most skin tones will fall into either the NC or NW classifications. However, if you are still not certain which classification is right for you, looking at the veins on the underside of your forearm with help. If your veins look more blue, then you most likely have pinkish undertones. If your veins look more greenish, then you probably have more yellow or golden undertones. If at all possible, it is highly recommended to match your skin tone in person at a MAC counter or MAC store to ensure you purchase the correct shade.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Finding the “right” colour is something very subjective. It is a good idea to choose the shade in person by visiting a MAC counter if at all possible.
  • When choosing a foundation shade, you will want to make sure you use the skin near your jawline or neck area as your criteria for determining your match. This helps to ensure flawless blending and to avoid ending up with a face that’s too light or too dark that doesn’t match the rest of your skin! If you simply try to match the skin tone on your forehead or cheeks, you will often end up with a shade that looks to dark compared to the rest of you. It is much better to choose the shade that matches your jawline/neckline, and then to use a Bronzer or Skinfinish to highlight or add “sun” to your face, if desired. (Also, when it comes to actual makeup application, be sure to blend foundations and powders around the jawline and into the neckline.)
  • With concealers, it is possible you may want to try a concealer with a slight tint to it. This will help cover up dark undereye circles or reddish imperfections.
    • Slightly yellowish tones will help to cancel out and cover up dark purpleish/blueish undereye circles. (Or just selecting a concealer that is a few shades lighter than your regular foundation will also work well for diminishing undereye circles.)
    • Slightly greenish toned concealers will help to cancel out any reddish tones in your skin caused by acne, or other skin conditions.
  • If you have a significant undertone to your skin, you may choose to play it up or play it down by trying a shade that includes or excludes your undertones.
  • Often, people will wear a couple different shades throughout the year because skin shade and tone can change according to the season, physical well being and general lighting.

– VIA sokissandmakeup

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