Mac Foundations: NC vs. NW

13 February 2016

If you have ever stepped foot in a MAC store, you'll know what there are literally hundreds of shades of foundation, and its hard to find the right one! Yes, there are people who work there who can help, but in a busy shop when you're in a rush and a little bit flustered because theres so much going on, it helps if you can kind of pick your own!

I have worked out what the codes mean and what shades are best suited to me, so I have put together this little guide, to help you choose your right shade too!

NW13 and NC15
Mac has a system which is the opposite to most other foundation/makeup brands. This can be kind of confusing, but once you know it, its obviously a lot easier! 

NC = Neutrally Cool - yellower shades
NW = Neutrally Warm - pinker tones

So yellow/olive tones in a Mac foundation is apparently a cool shade, which is the opposite to other foundation brands. And pinker tones are apparently warmer, which again is the opposite.

So now that you have an idea on which tone you need, theres the numbers that you need to work out. These are a lot easier! The numbers will usually start off at 15 and go up to 55 (but can start at 10 and go up higher, depending on which foundation formula you choose and how big the store is) in increments of 5. So 15, 20, 25, 30 etc etc. 

However, there are numbers which aren't in this pattern, for example a 13 or 18. These are similar to the nearest number, but a bit more of a neutral tone. So NW13 is a very similar shade to NC15 (a yellow toned foundation), but with a bit more pink added to make it more neutral. 

I'll show you an example here with my 2 Mac foundations. I am using the Studio Fix Fluid, but this is relatively the same with most of the other Mac foundation formulas. I have a neutral/yellow tone to my skin. Meaning when I am not tanned, I'm neutral, neither yellow or pink, just in between. But when I am slightly or more tanned, I have a more yellow tone to my skin. Therefore I use these 2 foundations depending on if I have been in the sun or not! 

I was first matched to NC15 in the summer, therefore I was a bit tanned, meaning I was more yellow toned. This shade was perfect for me, but when I started becoming a bit paler, I started realising that the foundation wasn't necessarily too dark for me, but it was too yellow. Making me look orange. I went back to get another one and was matched to NW13, which is roughly the same colour, but more neutral so I wouldn't look too orange. 

I was temped to get the NW10, as I thought the difference between 13 and 15 wouldn't be a lot, however NW10, with ending in a 0 or 5 (as mentioned before) would have been far too pink for me. Therefore the more neutral 13 suited my skin a lot better. 

Understand? Hopefully this post has been helpful to you first time Mac users. Any more questions about shades and tones? Just ask below! I'll get back to you as soon as I can to help with your foundation queries! 

Good luck buying yourself some foundation! You'll love it! If you struggle in store, just ask someone to help, and if you decide when you're home that you've come away with the wrong colour, just remember that Mac has a policy in which you can return any of their products, providing you have a receipt and either get a refund or a different product! 


  1. LOL I had no idea MAC foundation was so complicated!! This has been really enlightening, thank you!
    xo CKellyBlush

  2. I hate choosing Mac foundations! I always come out with the wrong shade but o don't know you could take them back. I'll be there first thing at the weekend to try to get the right colour, now that I know I'm a NC!

    1. Great! I'm glad you found my post useful! Let me know if you get the right one!!


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