Foundation Matrix & Comparisons

Let’s Work Together:  Foundation Matrix

Throughout the years I’ve both toyed with and gotten requests to work on a matrix of what foundation is the equivalent of what foundation.  Today’s foundation post only reinforced our need, as a beauty lovin’ community, for such thing.  Of course, I am only but an expert on my own shade and the foundations I’ve tried–you can help by contributing your own shade finds (or lack thereof!).

Spreadsheet’s back up for editing! 🙂

If we work together, I think we can really get something incredibly resourceful going — and hopefully helpful to all of us in the end.  I hope you’ll contribute however you can — there’s a cool and warm sheet as part of the document, so make sure you’re on the right one!  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  Thank you in advance 🙂

What to do if…

  • The brand/formula isn’t on the list? Add it!  Go ahead, add it 🙂  Don’t worry about formatting or the like – I’ll fix up formatting as I see it needs to be and do a major clean-up at the end.
  • If you didn’t find a match in the brand? Type in “no match” or “none.”
  • You can do high end or drugstore or whatever. Just add it if it isn’t there.
  • If someone put something in, but you’re different! Just add yours, too — put a comma or something to signal that there are two options.

Head on over to our Google Spreadsheet and fill-in your foundation shades.

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Thanks for sharing, Sabrina! I don’t feel comfortable pulling information from someone else’s sheet, so hopefully you all can also contribute to this one (as I have no idea if the one you linked is still being updated!) 🙂

This was an incredible idea. 🙂 I added a few things that I could remember off the top of my head, and I hope everyone else will contribute too. It will be incredibly helpful.

Great Idea Christine!!!! I’m loving it! Hopefully it can grow and be a very useful tool!!

I just wanted to suggest something. Is there a way ti alphabetize any new additions. For example if I add Maybelline…can it automatically go in the M section. Dont know if it is possible but if it is great!! :))

I am soooo excited about this! It’s going to be SO helpful!

Random complaint: I find it annoying that Chanel’s foundation shades seem to be different in Canada/Europe compared to the US. For instance, I know my Pro Lumiere shade is #10 in Canada, but if I look online at Saks or Nordstrom, the foundations are given names or they are numbered like 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0. Why make things more complicated, Chanel?! Shame on you. Haha.

It makes shopping online pretty much impossible! Since Canada is in the dark ages, and we’re forced to buy department store cosmetics from American retailers! LOL.

If you call any counter in Holt Renfrew for all High End cosmetics and they will deliver it to you anywhere in canada. Certain larger Bay locations like Eaton Centre in Toronto will do the same thing.

Btw, Holt’s Chanel counter on Bloor in Toronto is excellent in international Chanel language. US chanel have a different system because their line is in english, where as in canada we use the euro french model, b/c of our bilingual issue.

GREAT idea! I must apologise though – I didn’t realise there were 2 sheets – one for cool and one for warm – as I have never used google document applications before, and I think I added an NC15 column somewhere. Whoopsie!

Hi Christine,

The sheet with the ‘NC’s’ is on the tab ‘warm’ and the ‘NW’s’ are on the sheet ‘cool’. Unless I’m missing something.

NC is NOT for warm toned people.I am definitely NOT warm toned. I look best in pinks, mauves, purples,etc. I’ve been matched with NW before and it was WRONG WRONG WRONG. TOO Red. I can always tell when a foundation is a warmer tone, especially the ones made for black women because these makeup companies LOVE to put way too much red in them. I have asked extensively about this and NC has more yellow tones and NW has more red tones. Also, there are some products like Black Opal that are not listed on your “warm” tones sheet. I am NC 50 and the cross to Black Opal stick foundation is Truly Topaz. Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation is 7.0, Makeup Forever HD is 175.

Shade: C NC N NW W
Stands for: “Cool” “Neutral Cool” “Neutral” “Neutral
Warm” “Warm”


Hi Stephanie,

From my experience (as I am NC and warm toned), not only with my own skin tone, but with so many readers, those who fall into the NC category are generally warm (yellow undertones), whereas those that fall into the NW category are generally cool (pink undertones). There are always exceptions.

You are welcome to add foundations, so you can include your input. Just because it’s not listed doesn’t mean you can’t add it!

i always thought that the nw meant warm and the nc meant cool. i always thought i was warm toned, but then again i have no idea about that, just in my experience that is what i have been told

Thanks, Christine.

I have another question regarding concealers for undereye circles. Since my dark circles are blue/purple, it would make more sense to use an NC color rather than NW, even though my foundation color is NC, right? And for red blemishes, use NW which is a cool-tone to offset the red..?

Thank you! If NC is for ‘neutralizes cool’ that would mean that NC is FOR cool toned skin, not warm tones. I am cool toned and have had each MAC MA assign me NC 15-20 depending on the time of year.

Thanks! I’ve looked at the swatches online and in the store and the NCs do have more yellow and the NWs more pink in the foundations. So, while I do ‘match’ to NWs better I like to counteract the pink in my skin and have a more neutral look before adding color with make up, so I think that is why NCs are what the MA’s always grab for me! Their system takes a little getting used to! 🙂

i was just wondering to. I always thought NC means Cool.
this is confusing. W should stand for warm, while c should stand for cool.
but it doesn’t seem so. But for what does these letters stand?

Okay so you totally confused me with this last post. I was also going to comment on the same thing, that the NW’s was listed as cool and the NC’s are listed as warm, which I thought was wrong. I know I’m a cool, by all the examples you gave (blue veins, silver jewelry), and the woman at the MAC counter said I was an NC20. Does that mean she gave me the wrong color?

“NWs are cool-tones and NCs are warm-tones!”

She might have. I remember when I first got into foundation, I was matched as NC20 to NC45 (I was NC30). You could be more on the neutral side, so you’re only slightly cool-toned. If it works for you, it doesn’t matter, you know? But generally speaking, you would be NW if you are cool-toned!

Thanks so much Christine. I honestly do not think the color matches my skin. It seems very yellow on my skin. I honestly feel that way about most of the foundations I’ve tried, hence the frustration. I’ve only tried three (Korres, Mac Select, Laura Mercer Tinted) so I’ve been trying to do more research before I tried another one. This database was a great idea!

Christine, I think this is a really good idea; thank you so much! I’m excited to do my part to help. I think this could totally evolve to include ALL makeup, which would really be extremely convenient.

This is helpful, although I’m still confused over my foundation situation. I got matched with MUFE first as 110 in their HD foundation and it really matches me. Not too long ago I went to MAC to get matched and was told I am NC20, which with the spreadsheet and various other sources say I shouldn’t be 110 in MUFE. Hence the frustration.

It’s very helpful! And I’m considering getting a second opinion about the MAC shade because I remember being told the next up MUFE shade was too dark on me.

This will be VERY useful when I will want to try new foundation and can’t find a store to do swatches in. Nowhere but Nordstrom and drugstores in Alaska. Haha.

The spreadsheet is in lockdown now, but I noticed that on the Warm sheet, there’s no MAC Studio Moisture Tint. I’m NC30 so that would be a medium dark (I was considering purchasing Moisture Tint yesterday so it’s a fresh match). Also, maybe you could consider adding the now-discontinued-in-the-US Select Tint. I think they are discontinuing it everywhere, but very very slowly, so it might be helpful to readers who still have access to the product. 🙂

Ah, the spreadsheet cannot be edited currently, so I guess I’ll just leave a comment 🙂
I’m NC25
Diorskin Nude (Liquid): 020 Light Beige
Estee Lauder Double Wear Light: 1.0
Everyday Minerals Matte: Light Olive
Guerlain Parure Extreme: 002 Beige Claire
MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural: Light Medium
MAC Studio Fix Fluid: NC20
Revlon Beyond Natural: Light
Rimmel Stay Matte: Porcelain
Stila Illuminating Liquid: 20 watts

What a brilliant idea!!
OK seeing as I haven’t a clue how to use the thing, can I just tell you mine here in the comments and you can add them for me?

I’m very pale, not sure of my MAC shade maybe NC/NW10………but ones that have been a good match for me are:

Prescriptives traceless tint level one – discontinued BOOO!
Bobbi Brown tinted moisturiser in Alabaster
Smashbox sheer focus tinted moisturiser in luminous
Smashbox sheer focus tinted moisturiser in fair
Smashbox Halo in fair
Givenchy photo perfection in ivory shade 1

I’d love to add them into the database so it can help other people


Could you add a foundation? I’m a NC20, and I use ArtDeco double finish foundation #9. It’s a cream-to-powder formula. I also use Stila’s Illuminating Tinted Moisturiser in #1.

Hi Christine,
I would just like to add that Revlon Colorstay (Oily/Combination) in Toast corresponds to NC42 as well!

This is an AWESOME idea. Amazing!

This is a great idea IF you know what shade you are according to Mac. However, I can’t contribute as I don’t know, never used Mac foundation. :S

Hopefully, at some point, it won’t matter – because it will be so filled in that you can line up your shade in many foundations. MAC, whether good or bad, is the most common reference point for foundation (that I’ve seen, at least) 🙁

I have never, ever seen an initiative like this on any other beauty blog (but I don’t visit too many anymore – don’t have the time!) What a FANTASTIC idea, Christine!! I can’t think of a single thing you’ve done here that isn’t for US. This will inevitably be a great resource for everyone.

i’m so excited you finally decided to do this i have been wanting to try a new foundation because my studio fix foundation has sadly decided to break my chin out and i am horrible at picking out the right shade for me. so thank you thank you thank you 🙂

Christine, this is brilliant. But now I’m worried I’m wearing the wrong colour. I thought I was cool toned, but Revlon Colorstay Natural Beige is NC30. I guess I better get someone to help me pick a new colour! Thanks so much.

Fantastic idea! I’m finding it fascinating to see the range of shades I use that all seem great on me. Making me rethink a couple of my foundatons that, according to the chart, are outliers that should be too dark. Those may be summer shades without having realized it.

Was going to put in some lancome shades, im mac nc20, however in Europe lancome as a different shade naming system, do you want european shades in or will that be too confusing???

That’s because NW (in MAC) are for those with pinker undertones (who are, in general, cool-toned); NC (in MAC) are for those with yellower undertones (who are, in general, warm-toned).

You can also think of it as someone who matches NW needs more warmth in their skin tone to balance out the coolness. Someone who matches NC needs more coolness in their skin tone to balance out the warmth.

I know every woman has issues with foundation matching, but as a woman of colour this is even more important, because almost all beauty brands, blogs and magazines tend to forget about us.

I am very excited about this project, because every shade over NC/W 40 is in a foundation graveyard. Many brands just offer two or three shades for ALL women of colour and this will help guide us to where our match exists.

My search will no longer have to R.I.P.

You are a clever lady!

I really hope we can get some ever-so-helpful input from all of the women of color for the NC/NW40+ range. I would love for the quest to be just a little easier for us all, but even more so for some of those who struggle so much because brands don’t even make the shade!

I am yet to use MUFE foundation (it’s expensive and is only sold at one place in Australia), but there is one thing that confuses me about its tone values as they aren’t clearly defined.
According to the spreadsheet (and other sites with reference to this), NC15 AND NW15 match with MUFE HD Foundation #117. How can this be right for 2 different tones? Is this a warmer or cooler tone foundation?

Warmer tones make my skin look darker and more pink/red and just overall it isn’t a good match for me, so I’m really hesitant to try MUFE.

#117 has yellow undertones and #118 has beige undertones, so depending on the strength of someone’s undertones, they could wear either one and still be warm or cool visually speaking.

As with whether to use NC or NW, here is what I have been told.
If you have warm undertones, you can use NW, however if the warm undertones are such that using NW accentuates the warmth to the point where it makes your skin look bad, then you need to neutralise the warmth with a cooler tone.
You can use either NC or NW, but it depends on your personal match and how your undertones react to the foundation’s undertones.

This is what I’ve been told too! and judging by the different foundations listed I think other people have been confused about this as well. I find the warm/cool tones confusing because I am yellow toned and prefer a yellow toned foundation, while others prefer to counter-balance the yellow with a pink based. I think this foundation matrix would work 93287492387492387492384 times better if it was separated into yellow based, pink based and neutral instead of tones. That way people can match their tones or counteract their tones… Don’t get me wrong, I love that this is available but I think using the MAC shading is very confusing as their are two ways to work it out; matching, or counteracting.

I absolutely LOVE YOU FOREVER for doing this!!! This is the best idea ever and it’s so helpful. I have always wanted to order some Shu Uemura Face Architect but I have no idea what my shade is… Thanks to this I can feel confident about ordering some online since I can’t find it in person anywhere… yes!!!!!

This really is amazing! You are extremely talented, Christine, with makeup, writing, and everything you do on this site; it all looks so cute!

Now that I have this great help finding the right color I could really use a suggestion for formulas. I am relatively new to liquid foundation and I’m not that talented with makeup but I’ve been applying MUFE HD with a stippling brush and I like that a lot…what MAC foundation is similar in ease of use and application? I’d really appreciate anyone’s recommendations.

Hi Christine! This is a brilliant idea, I love it, thank you! I’ve already contributed, but I wanted to ask if we could add concealers to the chart?

I must complain… only because I don’t like how you’ve done the MAC shades at the top. I know it’s the most common denominator, however, I wish it’d just go Fair, Light, Medium, etc. because not all MAC foundations in NC15 are the same shade. For instance I’m NC15 in SFF but NC25 in MSF Liquid. 🙁 This spreadsheet will not tell me what shade of Studio Sculpt my NC15 SFF would best match to.

Hey Lindsay,

The problem with going with fair, light, etc. is it’s very, very subjective. I know ladies who are NC40 but consider themselves light! But all of the boxes are fair game to change – so if you are NC25 in MSF liquid, then please put that!

i tried viewing this but the cool chart there is no scroll bar on the side so i can’t go past the 4th or 5th row which didn’t really help me, but for the warm toned chart there wasn’t a problem. am i the only one having this problem?

I’d like to add Clarins Truly matte on the NC-list, but I’m afraid I might ruin something, I don’t know how to use it. I’m NC10-NC15 and the shade is 01 Linen

Has anyone seen Aaron on YouTube? His user name is “Awoz” but he’s done an amazing job at matching the NARS foundation with shades from MAC. He has the list on his sidebar under NARS foundation. He works for NARS and he was swatching the colors with MAC to see which shades matches with what. Truly an amazing and talented guy! Thanks to all those who are contributing…this is really helping me a lot as I’m sure it is with you all.

Why does it seem like there is alot of info missing for NW20. There is alot right at the beginning and then about 1/3 of the way down the column is totally empty.

Because someone (or some people) keep deleting information off of the sheet :/ I have a master copy that is full, but it’s not ready to be released yet.

Sorry, I’m relatively new to Temptalia so maybe this has been addressed before, but when I go to the matrix and go to the ‘cool tones’ matrix the top row comparisons are all NW and when I go to the ‘warm tones’ matrix the top row are all NC?!?! If I am cool toned which one should I be looking at? I’m assuming the NC one even though I’m getting there through the ‘warm tones’ drop down menu option?

MAC’s system is backwards – NC is for those with yellow undertones, while NW is for those with pink undertones.

I am an nc44 in mac studio fix. Would u happen to know what shade I am in revlon colorstay oily combination formula? Thanks for your help.

hello! i’m 140 Ivoire n in lancomes new Teint Idole Ultra 24H, what color would i be in makeup forever HD foundation? please help ! thankyou!

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