Your quick and easy explanation of MAC foundation shades

MAC is possibly the most popular makeup brand in Ireland. But MAC foundation shades still cause some amount of confusion

You may have noticed, in your everlasting quest to find the perfect foundation that MAC foundation shades are unlike any other brand. Instead of Cool, Warm or Neutral (like how Estée Lauder labels their foundations) MAC mark theirs as NW or NC. So what does that actually mean and why are they labelled like that?

  • NW: Neutral Warm
  • NC: Neutral Cool

But why, you may ask? See, it was in the early 1980s when makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and beauty salon owner Frank Angelo founded MAC, and they had possibly been partying all night when they labelled all their bottles. Ok, no, not really but that might be a good explanation.


The real reason they do this is because MAC was designed to be a professional makeup brand; it wasn't created with the high street originally in mind.

MAC (Makeup Art Cosmetics) was designed originally for the makeup artists to use backstage at fashion weeks and on photo shoots. And all good makeup artists are trained in colour theory (we discussed that before, check it out here), so they can interpret what the label means.

For example, if someone had a warm skin tone (yellow) in MAC, they would be given NC. It takes three colours to make up a skin tone. So, if you have a warm tone in your skin already, you need to add cool and neutral to balance it.

With all other makeup brands, you're choosing the same tone as your skin tone. But with Mac, you are choosing the one the opposite.

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