MAC was really my gateway to learning about makeup, and, (as always happens) I felt that what I learned first must be the “right” way of doing things.
MAC has a lot of foundation colors, so if you know your “MAC number,” you can go pretty far. However, there’s also a lot of confusion about what the MAC letters and numbers actually mean. Â According to MAC, NW stands for “neutral-warm.” These shades are more pink. NC is neutral-cool; these shades are more yellow.
So I was always arguing with people who said NW = “not warm” or “neutralize warm.” Naturally, I had to get to the bottom of this.
The source of the confusion is surprisingly simple. MAC considers pink undertones to be warm, and yellow undertones to be cool. Every other brand says the opposite.
How did this happen? MAC says it’s looking at the color spectrum (in which red/pink is warmer than yellow). I didn’t find that explanation to be very enlightening.
I think MAC is referring to peachy-pink undertones — which are warm — and other brands are considering blue-pink undertones.
The source of the confusion is that warmness or coolness in skintone is not about pink and yellow. It’s really about peach and blue (or red/yellow and blue/purple as skintone gets darker).Â If you’re thinking of the stereotypically English/Irish face (pale, ruddy, with a cool blue-pink), that’s where people get the impression that pink undertones = cool. This diagram totally cleared it up for me (from Three Custom Color’s website):
So I think I’m Neutral Warm — in some lighting I think I look pinker; in some lighting I look yellow; but I prefer green, brown, and neutral eyeshadow; red-orange lipsticks; and look better in gold jewelry.