Changing Colour: What shade of foundation are you? Really?

So I was in MAC again at the weekend and this time I was matched to a NC30 foundation (Mineralized – I really like). The thing is…last time I was matched to a NC40! A good 3 shades darker.


Does anyone else have this problem with foundation matching?

SA’s generally either choose something too light, or match me with something too dark. It’s also pretty difficult to return make up to a counter in the UK.

The fact is – I guess no one is just one shade of foundation, but in normal day to day life, I don’t have time to mess about with a bit of this and a bit of that…

So, don’t leave me alone in my woes! Do you ever get matched to the wrong foundation colour and how did you fix it?

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  1. says

    This whole MAC matching thing is completely new to me, it sounded like utter gobbledygook until I had my makeup done by a professional who told me I was an NW15 – my response ‘Isn’t that a postcode?’ ensured much hilarity.

    The next day I toddled off to my nearest MAC counter (where I mistook the male assistant for a female *cringe*) where they told me the same, this mythical NW15. In short I don’t have a clue what it means but it makes me feel less of a makeup fraud being able to tell people what I am, I’ll wear it like a badge of honour!

    Long Tall Ally, a confused NW15

  2. says

    MAC never ever get me right. Last time, I specifically said to them “I’m not bothered about looking darker or more tanned, I just want a foundation the same colour as my face.”. The SA said “If I give you a foundation *that* colour (gesturing to my mush), you’re going to look dead”. Charming!

    Eventually she gave me a sample each of two shades – the one she recommended and the one I actually was.

    • Row says

      Oh dear!!!! They always try to darken me up too. I once got “How much darker would you like to be?” Errr – none? Just the colour I am please?!

  3. baby in a corner says

    i really can’t under the MAC code, dunno if you are trying to match or counteract your natural skintone. i’d like to know so that i’m just not blindly match by a sales assistant.

    i’m pale so i usually pick the palest colour available which is pretty handy!

  4. says

    I NEVER buy foundation off of a one time match. I’ll have the SA apply it to my face and let them know that I want to see what my face looks in natural light and at home in my mirror that I apply makeup in. If it doesn’t match me, I go back the next day and try a different shade. I do this until I find my match and buy it. SA’s ALWAYS agree to this.

    • Row says

      That’s cool! They look at my funny when I say I want to check the shade outside like I will never return!

  5. Shari Reilly says

    I have a really hard time finding foundation that matches me, for some reason. And everyone always wants to set me up with shades that are darker than I actually am. I guess my natural paleness is unacceptable. For the now, I mix my own foundation from the couple of bottles that I have in different shades. I’m planning on going on another quest to get the right color foundation so that I don’t have to be bothered with mixing.

    • Row says

      Why has this become the trend!? I find people push me towards darker shades too – I guess everyone wants to be orange these days but I hate it – it makes someones face look dirty when they are wearing a foundation far too dark for their skintone.

      I wouldn’t mind mixing some foundations together actually! Although I have to say this NC30 looks quite natural on me!

  6. Lisa says

    All the time. So many companies have decided that everyone has gold undertones in their skin, and I do not. I am decidedly pink – Scottish and Irish, no gold undertones, so I have a really hard time. Gold undertones make me look sick. Bare Escentuals recently came out with a shade called Fairly Medium – it is a perfect match; I hope other companies follow suit. Bobbie Brown – I blame you for this….

    • Row says

      Oh I know what you mean Lisa! I bought BB’s first book and she was saying how nearly every woman is YELLOW underneath – but I don’t think that’s the case at all! Mr C is decidedly PINK under there…

  7. says

    Nothing really matches me at MAC…im close to NW10 but its still to yellow toned for me.
    With Illamasqua they gave me samples of many different liquid foundations to see how A i got on with them and B see which matched my skin the best. Even then after buying a full sized bottle of their light liquid, it didnt work on me and i took it back. They offered full refund or exchange no probs. Though they admit its because they are a new company and formulas are being perfected. As it is they have reformulated that particular foundation now..and sadly it doesnt match my skin tone anymore, but feels alot nicer!

    • Row says

      I have bought the Illamasqua cream foundation before, (in the compact) and the first one was so so so so light!!!!! It was when the brand first launched, and there were very few shades in stock. I wonder if they have reformulated the cream foundation? Its funny I had a lot of packaging problems with Illamasqua (palettes not closing or cracked) but they are a new company and no doubt these were teething problems!

      • says

        Yeah i think theyve reformulated alot of their foundations. i know theyve relaunched them recently on their website with better swatch guides.

  8. Alexandra says

    Ive only been matched once at Mac and was told im a NW20. Which i use and it seems fine on me. Ive been matched twice at Estee Lauder and have been told im different shades. Which is confusing to me as i dont tan at all so my face is always the same colour. Mac confuses me as they matched me to a darker concealor. They tried it in a NW20 and it was too pale for my dark circles :/

    • Row says

      I find the MAC shades confusing too – I was matched to a NC35 concealer once, which was way too dark, and it was weird because I made it clear it was for under my eyes. At the same time I do like using the MAC shades for reference – it’s the system people seem to know the best!

  9. says

    What nakrs me about MAC…(a few things do) is the colour codes. W actually stands for cool toned skins and C for warm toned..the opposite of what they really should! I made this mistake the first time, it was only a friend who was an MA for them explained it to me that i then knew what it was all about.

  10. julia says

    I don’t know whay MAC shade I’d be as I’ve never been near anything MAC…but I’m pale and I’m always matched to something wayyy too dark.

    I like YSL and always buy the one that I know works (ivory) although this is harder than it sounds as the SA’s (I like YSL products but not their SA’s) nearly always tell me I’m buying the wrong one and if I go with the one I’ve picked I’ll have to “bronze it up a lot” as I”m ‘really’ a “sand”. I’m totally not!! I don’t understand why they think foundation should always be 3 shades too dark.

    In drugstore brands I buy the lightest whatever first off and if it”s too light I buy the next one up and mix. I’ve had some perfect matches doing it that way – something I can’t say about any single shade, however expensive or carefully chosen!

  11. says

    i think almost all MA at MAC goes straight for NC30 for almost ALL asian girls . for me its always been like that no matter how tanned i am during summer and how pale i am during winter . this wasnt for foundation, but once MA told me that i would be medium dark in msf natural is my color . =| and this was during the winter months when im more like a NC25 ! that is NOT my color !! im prettyyyy damn sure that would be more for NC37-40 … eek !

  12. layla says

    Am I the only one who is always matched too light? I’m Indian – Light brown skin with yellow undertones. For some reason, the assistants always seem to reach for the lighter shades making me look ashy/white-washed!

  13. liloo says

    Maybe because most people tan in the summer and their colour changes? Not for me though cos it would take me for evah to acquire a hint of colour, bah. and even when I wear fake tan, I could, in extremis, use the same foundation.
    I have been matched to a nc20. It’s a bit pale for me, but NC25 makes me look ridiculous. The only other time when I tried to be matched, I was ‘albatre’ in some lancome foundation, it looks lovely but that’s too posh for the common muck that i am. maybe i will think one day that I am worth it? xx

  14. Ally_D says

    I have a problem that my face is quite pink but my neck is quite yellow! If I match my foundation to my face I always look like I’m wearing the wrong colour but honestly I’m not – that’s just how my colouring works. It really confuses MAs in MAC though so I sometimes do it for a laugh to see what I get matched to. I’ve been told NC15, NW15, NC20 and NW20…

  15. says

    I’ve never been matched at MAC, but generally I don’t trust the ladies at the drugstore, they don’t have a clue and they usually match me to something darker than my skin :/

  16. JesstheMUA says

    After years of being a makeup artist. The rule stands true. There are no rules to makeup, only rules of thumb. Nothing called “too anything”.I disagree with telling anyone how to wear their foundation/blush/powder/eyeliner/eyeshadow. Makeup is subjective. Everyone has their own makeup style. Many light people tend to go light/lighter or mix it with a luminzer to make themselves brighter/radiant/porcelin like. A great example of this would be dita von teese, who even stays out the sun to maintain her light skintone and wears light foundation. Others prefer to be dark/darker and darken in the sun or use bronzer all over their skintone. Different people have different preferences. If I spelled “Horse” “Howrse” than there is no “ifs” “and” or “buts” because grammar isnt subjective. What is wrong is wrong!However. Makeup is subjective. I hate nude lips. Does that mean its right to say “dont wear nude lips” ? No.
    I might not like it but someone else might. There is no rule to makeup. Thats the beauty of being a makeup artist. There are soo many different styles.
    I hate bronzer. But maybe there is someone who loves that deep bronzed look. I cant go to them and say “dont go soo deep in the bronzer” and say its “constructive”. There are soo many different styles.who is anyone to tell someone theyre wearing a too light or too dark foundation, because there is no such thing. Nicole and Sam from pixiwoo(huge makeupartists in Britain) sometimes wear paler or darker foundation and it looks gorgeous! as long as people blend it to the neck its fine….some people prefer to look bright and radiant
    Some people are yellow toned which is light but with alot of splotches of pink. Ive seen many clients who are light/yellow but certain foundations made them look like “jaundice/yellow” they complained.The right combo of pink and yellow made them soo bright and radiant. Its all on personal preference,thats all.Our skin is very diverse. One of the world’s biggest makeupartist said everyone in the world can at least use 2 foundations, many people can wear 3 or more. It depends on what you are trying to bring out the most. On some days some people prefer to look more rosier so they use a pink undertone. Some people want that more rosier undertone because it looks fresher/young. We all know that NC is gold and NW is pink in MAC. NC is lighter than NW, NW is more reddish/pink. An NC40 and NW40. There are people who see both yellow and splotches of pink on them like I said. A yellow person will not look “ashy” when wearing pink undertones, they will look PINKY. Usually we humans are not one tone! we are not all yellow! there are fair skinned yellow people with pink undertones. Its actually preferred to use a combo of tellow/olive and red/pink undertones. You have to experiment. If you are yellow and use only yellow foundation than you will appear more flat( which is great if thats what you like) but addingpink makes you look rosier and many people love that. SO I and other people who worked in the makeup industry can and will disagree with that.
    So you cant clearly say yellow tone for yellow tones and pink is for pink undertones. There are MANY exceptions. People dont pick it out that way. There are even people who get into arguments at makeup counters because they are a cool and someone insisted they were a warm.
    Alot of times darker toned women like African American/carribean women have to mix more than one foundation ,everyone on earth is different. I worked as a makeup artist for years. I am in no way insulting darker skin women, please dont put words in my mouth. I have only said that darker skinned women alot of times like to tell others their foundation is “too light” out of jealousy. Low self esteem and the computer is a horrible combination.
    My overall stance on this is people should do what they see personally suits them.

    • Row says

      Jess – who is putting words in your mouth? That was one rather long tirade there and I don’t have time to deconstruct everything you said but a few points.

      – Clearly make up has ‘no rules’ because it isn’t permanent and people can do what they like. At the end of the day this is true. But that doesn’t mean people, including artists like you don’t learn the ‘rules’ or techniques of applying make up. Bobbi Brown says in her make up book that blue eyeshadow is a no no on a grown woman – so is she wrong? I disagree with her in that I love bright colours but clearly even the big MUAs can have “rules” or at least offer some kind of guide as to what they feel works and doesn’t. I love her book doesn’t mean I take everything she say to heart – like any intelligent woman.

      Additionally clearly when it comes to base colour many women struggle finding the colour right for them. In Asia many women go for brighter base colours because they like that. It works for them but there is still a difference between that wearing white Kabuki make up because ‘you like it’ to work. There is real make up, the make up I will wear and most women will wear to go to work every day, then the make up we can wear in our own leisure time. Whilst I say people can do whatever they like when it comes to choosing a base, most women just want something that looks flattering and hides imperfections. Pixiwoos – who I LOVE and I LOVE their tutorials when they use different base colours, it works. In the real world it would take me a helluva lot more time to blend out a white foundation then one that matches my skintone. There are lot of real women on here who don’t have the time to do that and in that sense THEY are the ones that usually want tips and advice on finding the best matching base to their natural skin colour rather than finding something ‘too out there’. Usually.

      Remember that blogs and comments are for comment. If a blog was just about ‘hey they are no rules do what you like’ there would be a lack of personality and opinion. That’s why I like hearing real women’s opinions on the way they choose foundation. If I just said, ‘anything goes’ – well, how exactly is that an article?

      Finally your ‘low self esteem and the computer’ comment – is that a dig at me? Sorry but I am a content and accomplished person and if you are, you would have better things to do than to leave vitrol on my blog. Merry Christmas to you and next time – paragraphs.