MAC foundation shades explained: find the right MAC shade

MAC foundation shades explained: tips to find the right MAC foundation shade

Are you looking for your MAC foundation shade? In this MAC foundation shade finder, we’ll show you which MAC foundation and shade is right for you depending on your skin type and skin tone, as well as reviews of the top MAC foundations.

Alternatively, you can jump directly to our Foundation Matcher page to find your foundation/concealer matches.

Table of contents

Which MAC foundation is right for you?

MAC Cosmetics currently sells 8 different types of foundations that come in liquid, cream or powder forms. In this post, we’ll review their top 3 most popular foundations and show you how to pick the right MAC foundation shade.

MAC Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 review

Studio Fix Fluid is undoubtedly MAC’s most popular foundation and comes in a mind-boggling 63-shade range. Here’s what you need to know about this bestselling foundation:

  • has light to full coverage, depending on how you apply it — for light coverage, use your fingertips; for fuller coverage, use a brush or damp makeup sponge
  • oil-free, lightweight coverage that lasts all day
  • natural-looking finish that looks like real skin
  • works for all skin types, including oily skin and dry, mature skin
  • has SPF 15
  • comes in 63 shades

MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus foundation review

Studio Fix Powder Plus foundation is one of MAC’s oldest products and here’s what you need to know about this classic foundation:

  • it’s a medium to full coverage powder foundation that’s extremely easy to apply
  • has a very matte finish that controls shine really well, especially in hot and humid conditions
  • has a non-cakey finish that makes pores disappear
  • feels lightweight on the skin and is comfortable to wear all day
  • best for oily and combination skin types
  • no SPF
  • comes in 50 different shades

MAC Studio Face and Body foundation review

MAC Studio Face and Body foundation is MAC’s answer to tinted moisturizers. Here’s what to know about this cult-favorite foundation:

  • provides sheer to light coverage that is undetectable on the skin
  • longwearing formula that lasts all day
  • has a glowy, second-skin finish
  • feels extremely lightweight on the skin and is suitable for body use as well
  • won’t settle in pores or wrinkles
  • best for dry, mature, normal and combination skin types
  • pair this foundation with concealer for more coverage
  • comes in 30 different shades

MAC foundation shade system explained

Once you’ve decided on the foundation, it’s time to pick the shade.

The MAC foundation shade system is classified by undertones and skin tone depth.

Figuring out undertones

This part is crucial because the worst foundation mismatches tend to be shades that make one appear unusually orange or pink or grey.

Broadly speaking, skin undertones fall into 4 categories:

Warm skin tones look more yellow.

Cool skin tones look more pink.

Neutral skin tones are somewhere between yellow and pink.

Olive skin tones have green and grey hues.

MAC undertone abbreviations

MAC uses the following abbreviations to classify undertones:

NC: has yellow, neutral and olive undertones

NW: has pink and neutral undertones

C: has yellow and olive undertones

MAC skin tone depth

The smaller the number, the lighter the shade. This means that NC5 is lighter than NC10, and NC40 is lighter than NC42.

Undertone + skin tone depth = MAC shade

This means that someone who is NC15 has light skin with yellow, neutral or olive undertones.

NC15
MAC NC15

And someone who is NW45 has deep skin with pink undertones.

NW45
MAC NW45

LIGHT MAC SHADES

Light skin tones range from very light to light skin color. It’s usually described as “porcelain”, “fair” and “ivory” and “cream”.

MAC NC5 and NC10
MAC NC13, NC10, NC15 and NC20.

Examples of light MAC shades are:

MAC NC5 is a is a very fair beige shade with golden undertone for very fair skin.

MAC NC10 is a very fair beige shade with neutral undertone for very fair skin.

MAC NC15 is a light beige shade with golden undertone for light skin.

MAC NC20 is a light beige shade with neutral golden undertone for light skin.

MAC NW13 is a fair beige with neutral undertone for light skin.

MAC NW15 is a light beige with neutral undertone for light skin.

MAC NW20 is a warm neutral beige with rosy undertone for light to medium skin.

Click to see the full list of MAC foundation shades and foundation matches to other brands.

Light warm shadesLight cool shadesLight neutral shades
NC5 foundation matcherNW10 foundation matcherN1 to N2 foundation matcher
NC10 foundation matcherNW13 foundation matcherN4 to N5 foundation matcher
NC15 foundation matcherNW15 foundation matcherN5 foundation matcher
NC20 foundation matcherNW20 foundation matcher

LIGHT TO MEDIUM MAC SHADES

Light to medium skin tones fall somewhere between light and medium shades. Light-skinned people may also find themselves in this shade range as they get more sun in summer. It’s usually described as “beige skin color”, “light beige”, “rose beige”, “buff” and “nude”.

NC25
MAC NC25
MAC NC35, NC30 and NW25 (from clockwise).

Examples of light to medium MAC shades are:

MAC NC25 is a is a light beige shade with golden peach undertone for light skin.

MAC NC30 is a light to medium beige with golden undertone for light to medium skin.

MAC NC35 is a light to medium beige with peachy golden undertone for medium skin.

MAC NW25 is a rosy beige with rosy undertone for light to medium skin.

Click to see the full list of MAC foundation shades and foundation matches to other brands.

Light to medium warm shadesLight to medium cool shades
NC25 Foundation MatcherNW25 Foundation Matcher
NC30 Foundation MatcherNW25 to NW30 Foundation Matcher
NC35 Foundation Matcher

MEDIUM MAC SHADES

Medium skin tones are some of the most common skin tones and are usually described as “tanned” or “caramel”.

NW30
MAC NW30
MAC NC37, NC40 and NC42 (from left to right).

Some examples of medium MAC shades are:

MAC NC37 is a medium beige with neutral undertone for medium skin.

MAC NC40 is a medium beige with golden peach undertone for medium skin.

MAC NC42 is a true medium beige with golden undertone for medium skin.

MAC NW30 is a medium beige with rosy undertone for medium skin (neutral-warm).

Click to see the full list of MAC foundation shades and foundation matches to other brands.

Medium warm shadesMedium cool shades
NC37 Foundation MatcherNW25 to NW30 Foundation Matcher
NC40 Foundation Matcher
NC42 Foundation Matcher

MEDIUM DARK MAC SHADES

Medium dark skin tones fall somewhere between medium and dark shades. It’s usually described as “toffee” and “bronze”.

NW45
MAC NW45
MAC NC44 and NC45 (from left to right).

Some examples of medium dark MAC shades are:

MAC NC44 is a tanned caramel shade with golden undertone for medium to dark skin.

MAC NC45 is a bronze shade with golden undertone for dark skin.

MAC NW45 is a medium mahogany shade with rosy undertones for medium to dark skin.

Click to see the full list of MAC foundation shades and foundation matches to other brands.

Medium dark warm shadesMedium dark cool shades
NC44 Foundation MatcherNW45 Foundation Matcher
NC45 Foundation Matcher

DARK SHADES

Dark skin tones are the deepest shades and are usually described as “coffee”, “cocoa” and “deep bronze”.

MAC NC50, NW50, NW47, NW45 (from clockwise).

Some examples of dark MAC shades are:

MAC NC50 is a rich brown shade with golden undertone for deep dark skin.

MAC NW45 is a medium mahogany shade with rosy undertones for medium to dark skin.

MAC NW47 is a deep auburn shade with neutral undertones for dark skin.

MAC NW50 is a rich coffee shade with neutral undertone for dark skin.

Click to see the full list of MAC foundation shades and foundation matches to other brands.

Dark warm shadesDark cool shades
NC50 Foundation MatcherNW45 Foundation Matcher
NW47 Foundation Matcher
NW50 Foundation Matcher

Thanks for reading our post on MAC foundation shades. Don’t forget to check out our shade finders for our foundation and concealer brands.

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Shade finders for other brands

Top rated foundation and concealer reviews

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