Find Your Foundation Match by Skin Tone Visual Guide

Updated 4/14/2022

Confused about which foundation shade is right for you? What exactly is medium skin tone? How about beige skin tone? And what in the world is warm ivory skin tone?

We get lots of questions about skin tones and foundation shades, so we’ve put together a comprehensive shade guide to break down what it all means.

Read on to learn more about skin tones and how to find your foundation shade.

Why is it important to know your skin tone?

Knowing your skin tone is crucial if you want your foundation/concealer to look undetectable on your skin.

It’s also the first step to finding your foundation matches/equivalents.

Not knowing your skin tone could result in foundations looking too pink or orange on your face, or clashing badly with your neck.

Knowing your skin tone would also make shopping for makeup online easier, especially when you cannot test the product in person (thanks Covid!).

Skin tone depth

When we describe someone as “light-skinned” or “dark-skinned”, we are really describing their skin tone depth.

Therefore, someone with “medium skin tone” would fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

Undertone

Once you’ve figured out your skin tone depth, it’s time to determine your undertone.

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 Foundation Shade System Explained

Here at Redmond Mom, we use the MAC foundation shade system to classify brands and shade matches/equivalents because it’s more precise.

NC: has yellow, neutral and olive undertones

NW: has pink and neutral undertones

C: has yellow and olive undertones

NC40
MAC NC40 is a medium shade with warm undertones.

For example, someone who is NC40 has medium skin with yellow, neutral or olive undertones.

NW20
MAC NW20 is a light to medium shade with cool undertones.

While someone who is NW20 will have light to medium skin with pink and/or neutral undertones.

Now that we’ve gone over skin tone depth and undertones, it’s time to view these skin tones visually.

We’ll begin with some of the most common skin tone questions.

Question 1: What does “warm ivory skin tone” look like?

Someone with “warm ivory skin tone” has light skin with warm (yellow or olive) undertones, ranging between MAC NC15 to NC20.

NC15
MAC NC15
NC20
MAC NC20

Question 2: What does “warm beige skin tone” look like?

Someone with “warm beige skin tone” has light to medium skin, and warm undertones, ranging from NC25 to NC35.

NC25
MAC NC25
NC35
MAC NC35

Question 3: What does “warm medium skin tone” look like?

Someone with “warm medium skin tone” has medium skin with warm undertones, ranging from MAC NC37 to NC42.

MAC NC37
NC42
MAC NC42

Skin Tone Type 1: Light Skin Tones

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

Examples of light skin shades are MAC NC5, NW13, NC20 and NW20.

MAC NC5
NW13
MAC NW13
NC20
MAC NC20
NW20
MAC NW20
Light Warm
shades
Light Cool
shades
NC5 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW10 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
NC10 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW13 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
NC15 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW15 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
NC20 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW20 Foundation Matches/Equivalents

Skin Tone Type 2: Light to Medium Skin Tones

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”.

Examples of light to medium skin shades are MAC NC25, NW25, NC30, NC35.

NC25
MAC NC25
NW25
MAC NW25
NC30
MAC NC30
NC35
MAC NC35
Light to Medium Warm
shades
Light to Medium Cool
shades
NC25 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW25 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
NC30 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW25 to NW30 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
NC35 Foundation Matches/Equivalents 

Skin Tone Type 3: Medium Skin Tones

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

Some examples of medium shades are MAC NW30, NC37, NC40 and NC42.

NW30
MAC NW30
MAC NC37
NC40
MAC NC40
NC42
MAC NC42
Medium Warm
shades
Medium Cool
shades
NC37 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW25 to NW30 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
NC40 Foundation Matches/Equivalents 
NC42 Foundation Matches/Equivalents 

Skin Tone Type 4: Medium Dark Skin Tones

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

Some examples of medium dark shades are MAC NC44, NC45 and NW45.

NC44
MAC NC44
NC45
MAC NC45
NW45
MAC NW45
Medium Dark
Warm shades
Medium Dark
Cool shades
NC44 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW45 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
NC45 Foundation Matches/Equivalents 

Skin Tone Type 5: Dark Skin Tones

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

Some examples of dark shades are MAC NW47, NC50, NW50 and NW60.

NW47
MAC NW47
NC50
MAC NC50
NW50
MAC NW50
MAC NW60
Dark Warm
shades
Dark Cool
shades
NC50 Foundation Matches/EquivalentsNW47 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
 NW50 Foundation Matches/Equivalents

How to find your foundation shade that matches your skin tone

Find Your Foundation Shade

Once you’ve figured out your skin tone depth and undertone, check out our extensive Find Your Foundation Match page or view below to find foundation brands and shades that match your skin tone.

For warm, neutral and olive skin tones (MAC NC Shades)

NC5 to NC10 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
If NC5 is too light for you and NC10 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NC10 Foundation Matches/Equivalents

very fair beige with neutral undertone for very fair skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC10.

NC15 Foundation Matches
light beige with golden undertone for light skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC15.

NC15 to NC20 Foundation Matches
If NC15 is too light for you and NC20 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NC20 Foundation Matches
light beige with neutral golden undertone for light skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC20.

NC20 to NC25 Foundation Matches
If NC20 is too light for you and NC25 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NC25 Foundation Matches
light beige with golden peach undertone for light skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC25.

NC30 Foundation Matches
light to medium beige with golden undertone for light to medium skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC30.

NC30 to NC35 Foundation Matches
If NC30 is too light for you and NC35 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NC35 Foundation Matches
light to medium beige with peachy golden undertone for medium skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC35.

NC35 to NC40 Foundation Matches
If NC35 is too light for you and NC40 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NC40 Foundation Matches
medium beige with golden peach undertone for medium skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC40.

NC40 to NC42 Foundation Matches
If NC40 is too light for you and NC42 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NC42 Foundation Matches
true medium beige with golden undertone for medium skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC42.

NC44 Foundation Matches
tanned caramel with golden undertone for medium to dark skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC44.

NC44 to NC45 Foundation Matches
If NC44 is too light for you and NC45 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NC45 Foundation Matches
bronze with golden undertone for dark skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC45.

NC45 to NC50 Foundation Matches
If NC45 is too light for you and NC50 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NC50 Foundation Matches
rich brown with golden undertone for deep dark skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NC50.

For cool/neutral skin tones (MAC NW Shades)

Lighter than NW10 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to Lighter than NW10.

NW10 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
very fair beige with rosy undertone for fair skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NW10.

NW10 to NW20 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
If NW10 is too light for you and NW20 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NW10 to NW13 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
If NW10 is too light for you and NW13 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NW13 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
fair beige with neutral undertone for light skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NW13.

NW15 Foundation Matches
light beige with neutral undertone for light skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NW15.

NW15 to NW20 Foundation Matches
If NW15 is too light for you and NW20 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NW15 to NC20 Foundation Matches
Neutral when pale but golden/yellow when tanned
If NW15 is too light for you and NC20 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NW20 Foundation Matches
warm neutral beige with rosy undertone for light to medium skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NW20.

NW25 Foundation Matches
rosy beige with rosy undertone for light to medium skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NW25.

NW25 to NW30 Foundation Matches
If NW25 is too light for you and NW30 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

NW45 Foundation Matches
medium mahogany with rosy undertones for medium to dark skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NW45.

NW47 Foundation Matches
deep auburn with neutral undertones for dark skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NW47.

NW50 Foundation Matches
rich coffee with neutral undertone for dark skin
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to NW50.

For light, neutral skin tones (MAC N Shades)

MAC N1 to N2 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
If MAC N1 is too light for you and N2 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

MAC N4 to N5 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
If MAC N4 is too light for you and N5 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

MAC N1 to N5 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
If MAC N1 is too light for you and N5 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

Lighter than MAC N5 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
Try these foundation shades if you are matched to Lighter than MAC N5.

MAC N5 Foundation Matches/Equivalents
If MAC N5 is too light for you and N10 is too dark for you, these foundation shades might suit you.

Want to learn more? Check out our Shade Guide Resources

MAC Foundation Shades for Indian Skin

Maybelline Foundation Finder: What the Numbers Mean and Finding Your Perfect Shade

What’s the difference between Maybelline’s Classic Ivory, Natural Ivory, Ivory and Fair Ivory shades?

ILIA Skin Tint Shade Finder

Top Rated Foundation Reviews

Image credits: https://www.maccosmetics.com, www.amazon.com

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