A Guide to MAC Foundation (and concealer) Shades



To be able to match a foundation to your skin regardless of which brand, you should be able to know what your undertone is. Your undertone is different than your skin tone. Skin tones go from fair to medium to deep or dark and will change if you for example tan in the summer months.

Your undertone is the underlying colour of your skin that you won’t necessarily see directly and it will never change. Finding your undertone can also help you with pairing outfits and jewellery together that will make your skin visually light up.

Your undertone can either be cool (reds, pinks and blues), neutral, olive (neutral / green ) or warm (gold, yellow, peach).

-      The easy method to figuring out your undertone is to see whether gold or silver jewellery would suit you better (as in, make your skin brighter) but I personally don’t like that method.

-     You can also look at your veins on your arm. Are they more blue? Then you probably have a pink undertone (cool). If they look green, then you have either an olive, yellow or neutral undertone.

-     My personal favourite method is to wear a white towel around your body and preferably wrap another white towel around your hair. Then compare your chest and neck area to the white of your towel. Again, if you are more red or pinkish, you are a cool undertone. If your skin compares more yellow, then you have a warm undertone. If you still can't decide after trying a few methods, you're probably a neutral undertone or olive undertone. Olive undertones fall more green than anything else.  


MAC Foundation Code

So the MAC foundations made it easy for you to pick your shade because the letter refers to your undertone and the number refers essentially to the shade of your skin tone.


C – Cool 

NC – Neutral Cool

N – Neutral

NW – Neutral Warm

W – Warm


Does this mean if you are a cool undertone you have to pick the shade C or NC? No, it’s the opposite actually.

I’ll keep the explanation for it very short: An NC is for warm undertones because it cancels or neutralises the yellow in the skin, and vice versa. You can see this in the colour wheel. 

So, if you’re a warm undertone – gold, yellow, olive – you use the NC, C or N foundations. If you’re a cool undertone – reds, pinks, blues – you use the NW, N or W foundations. 

Olive undertones are tricky and typically requires some mixing of shades.



The same method works for your MAC concealers as well. However, if you’re suffering from discolouration underneath your eyes, again check the colour of that area. Many people use NW concealers to cancel out or essentially neutralise the green in the undertones of their eyes, while their face is an NC.