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Understanding NC, NW, C and N in MAC foundations

Choosing a foundation can be really daunting, but it’s a key part to our makeup and can make or break a flawless face so it’s important to get it right. Many clients ask me about the labelling of MAC foundations as they don’t understand what NC and NW means and how to colour match themselves.

In colour theory, we’re taught that cool undertones are reds, pinks and blues and that warm undertones are yellow, peaches and golds. However, in MAC labelling, the undertones are the opposite.

NC: Neutral Cool – golden beige undertones.

NW: Neutral Warm – red, pink or blue undertones.

N: Neutral – beige undertones.

C: Cool – Yellow, golden or olive undertones

So a person with yellow, peach or golden undertones would be suited well to an NC foundation whereas a person with red, pink or blue undertones would be better suited to an NW foundation. A person with a beige undertone would be perfectly suited to an N foundation.

Annie before and after

You might have heard that some ladies use an NC foundation but have been given an NW concealer, this is because the pink undertone of an NW concealer helps to cancel out dark green under eye circles. For blue tinged under eye circles, you could cancel them out with an NC concealer.


My client Nina has warm undertones (reds in MAC terms) with cool under eye circles (yellow). I used MAC Studio Fix in NC20 over her face to even out and correct the redness and NW10 concealer to correct the dark circles

The number that follows each NC, NW, N or C is simply the colour of each foundation. Sharon, from Sharonthemakeupartist.com explains this perfectly:

“…there are some odd numbers peppered along the way in some of the foundations. For example there is an NC27 or an NW18 in Studio Fix Fluid . These colours don’t have quite as strong an undertone as those that end in 5 or 0. These odd numbers have more of a  neutral undertone. So an NC27 is not as yellow as an NC25 but it is a little bit darker.

Conversely there are also plain C’s and plain N’s. These have a stronger yellow or pink undertone than their NC/NW counterparts. Very few of the foundations in the range now have these strong undertones, it’s mostly the old school formulas like Face and Body, or Studio Fix Powder.”

The shade I wear myself is NC15 – this is much more flattering to my skin tone and helps to cancel out any unwanted redness over my cheek area. This is my personal preference too and I find that the NC blends seamlessly into my skin. I find that with the majority of my clients, an NC foundation always looks better and evens the skin tone beautifully.

NC15 is great for my skin tone

The most important thing is to make sure that your foundation matches with your chest and looks natural. If you are still struggling, don’t be afraid to ask a counter makeup artist for advice and a colour match. Makeup is all about having fun so there is no wrong or right way to wear your foundation, as long as you have a good match and avoid the dreaded ‘tideline’ around the neck, you’re good to go!

Would you like to learn how to match and apply your foundation flawlessly? Click here to learn more about my makeup lessons. 

© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2015.

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How to get a perfect foundation match every time


Fair Skin

Sometimes it’s hard picking out the right foundation shade for your skin. What appeared to look great in store can sometimes look a little too dark or even orange outside in the natural lighting. It’s really important to remember a few simple tips and tricks when shopping for foundation to make sure that you nail your perfect match the first time, every time.

1. Know your undertone

Everybody has an undertone to their skin which can either be cool (pink, red or bluish), warm (yellow, peachy or golden) or neutral (a mix of warm and cool undertones). The undertone can help you to work out which foundation colour will best complement your skin. A good way to help you find out your undertone is to take a look at the veins on your wrist, if they have a blue tinge, it’s likely you are a cool undertone, a green cast means a warm undertone. For something in-between the two, you may have a neutral undertone.

Another good way to help you work out your undertone is your hair and eye colour. Usually, cool people have blue, grey or green eyes with brown or black hair. Warm people usually have brown or hazel eyes with red, brown or blonde hair. Also, think about what happens to your skin in the sun – cool people (pink, red or blue undertones) will usually burn whereas warm people (yellow, peachy or golden undertones) will tan.

2. Understand the labelling

Some companies, such as MAC, label their foundations to help you to choose the perfect match. From NC (Neutral Cool) to NW (Neutral Warm). However, their Cool and Warm differ to how we know cool and warm. For example:

NC (Neutral Cool) yellow, peachy or golden undertones

NW (Neutral Warm) pink, red or blue undertones

If you are buying from a counter, the makeup artists will be able to advise you on your undertone and the best colour to suit your complexion. Each company will be different so say for example, if you are ‘Ivory’ at one company, you might need a completely different shade at another.

3. Test foundation on your lower neck or chest

Most people make the mistake of trying out a new foundation on the back of their hand which is a completely different colour and texture to the skin on our faces and necks. By testing the foundation on your lower neck or chest, you’ll get a much better reading of the colour and will immediately see if the colour will blend in nicely to ensure a flawless application. As you’ll see if you look through a mirror, our faces naturally shield the top of our necks which means the colour differs slightly from the rest of our neck and chest as it isn’t exposed to the sun as much.

4. Step outside into the natural light

Each store has different lighting that might throw a different cast over the colour of the foundation on your face. By stepping outside into the natural light, you’ll get a true vision of how the foundation looks on your skin. Natural lighting is always the best option for checking colour.

Foundation should blend seamlessly from the face to the jawline and complement the skin tone

Foundation should blend seamlessly from the face to the jawline and complement the skin tone. My bridal client Catherine wears MAC Studio Sculpt in NC15 and NC20

5. Ask for a small sample pot

If you can’t get to a store until the evening and have been colour matched at a counter, ask if you could have a small sample to take away with you so that you can try the foundation out the next day and check it against the natural lighting. Most counters will be happy to do this for you and usually have small tester pots available. If you’re buying from a drugstore, ask the staff if they’d mind if you pumped a small sample from the tester tube into your own sample pot.

6. Choose the right foundation for your skin type

As well as getting a great colour match, you also want to make sure to get a foundation that will work beautifully with your skin type. If you have oily skin, you’ll want to look for a more matte foundation with extra staying power. For dry skin, look at richer, creamier formulas that will nourish your skin as you wear it throughout the day and keep any dry patches at bay.

© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2015.

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Why doesn’t my foundation last all day? Four steps to foundation satisfaction.

Hayley and Kelly makeover

This is a question I’m asked a lot when out and about on makeovers and something I’ve briefly written about in the past. However, I’ve found that a lot of people don’t realise that skin preparation is absolutely crucial to providing a perfect base for your foundation to ensure it lasts throughout the day. Below, I’ve added my top four steps to helping your foundation last the day (and sometimes even beyond!)

Step 1: Skincare matters

No matter whether you have oily, dry or perfectly clear skin, skincare is so important and will dictate how your skin will look in years to come. It’s a really good idea to see a dermatologist or skincare adviser who can help you work out your skin type and advise you on the best products to use to work in harmony with your skin and keep it looking its best. A good skincare routine to follow twice daily (on a morning and in the evening) is to cleanse, tone and moisturise. The exact products will depend upon your skin type and skincare really is a minefield, so it’s best to seek the opinion of a professional who can guide you and introduce you to other products like serums and deep cleaning systems.


Step 2: Prepare your base

So, you’ve already cleansed, toned and moisturised, so your prep is done, right? Nope! The next step that I like to take on my clients is to prepare their skin for foundation with a primer. A priming product is usually used to create a silky soft base for the foundation to sit on and helps to diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles by gently cushioning them and filling in the space so that the foundation can sit neatly on top. Primers also help foundation to last much longer as they give the foundation a smooth, clear base to sit upon. I like the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer.


Step 3: Foundation

If you have oily skin like me, it’s not a great idea to grab a foundation with a dewy finish as it won’t last the day and will make the skin look even shinier throughout the day. Instead, choose a foundation with a more matte finish that will set on the skin creating a strong base. Estee Lauder’s Double Wear is fabulous for this along with MAC’s Studio Fix Fluid. If you have very dry skin, it makes sense to use a creamier foundation that will help to hydrate your skin while you wear it such as Laura Mercier’s Creme Smooth Foundation.


Step 4: Powder

Adding a little loose powder to set the skin along the T-Zone works a treat for helping foundation to last longer. I prefer to add a little powder over my whole face concentrating on the forehead, down the bridge of my nose, and my chin and cheeks. This helps to lock the foundation in place and absorb any excess oil that might be threatening your flawless base. My favourite powder to use on my clients and on set is MAC’s Prep + Prime Translucent Finishing Powder.


© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2015.

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DIY Beauty: Home remedies for gorgeous, glowing skin all winter

As the winter settles in, sometimes our skin can suffer from a whole host of problems making it look dull, lifeless and a little sallow. With the festive season on its way, add a little sparkle back into your skin with these four homemade recipes to a perfect complexion.


Manuka Honey

The Honey & Aspirin mask

Great for: Acne or blemish prone skin


What you’ll need:

2 uncoated dissolvable Aspirin tablets

1 teaspoon of natural honey


How to make:

– Dissolve two uncoated aspirin tablets in a few small drops of hot water in a small bowl (egg cups are great for this!)

– Add a teaspoon of natural honey to the dissolved aspirin and stir gently until the ingredients form a smooth paste

– Apply to cleansed, dry skin and leave for 10–15 minutes

– Rinse thoroughly with warm water and moisturise as usual


Why it works:

Honey has long been regarded as a miracle nectar due to its amazing healing properties. Natural honey such as Manuka has antibacterial properties that can help to fight bacteria and infections and soothe dry, irritated skin. Aspirin contains Salicylic acid – the same ingredient found in spot-fighting treatments. It helps to correct the abnormal desquamation (the skins natural process of sloughing away and replacing dead cells) and exfoliates the skin helping to effectively clear the follicle and keep pores clear of debris that can cause nasty breakouts and acne.



The Egg White, Cucumber and Lemon mask

Great for: Oily skin


What you’ll need:

1 egg white

1 teaspoon of cucumber juice

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice


How to make:

– Take the egg and separate the yolk from the white and pour the white into a small bowl

– Juice a fresh lemon and take one teaspoonful and add it to the egg whit

– Juice the cucumber and add one teaspoonful to the egg white and lemon, and mix together

– Apply to a cleansed, dry face and leave for 10-15 minutes

– Rinse thoroughly with warm water and moisturise as usual


Why it works:

Cucumber is fabulous for tightening larger pores – a characteristic of oily skin. It also helps to soothe and cool irritated skin. The lemon and egg white are great for reducing the size of pores and brightening your complexion to give you a healthy glow. Remember to use a mattifying oil-control lotion afterwards to keep oil at bay and skin looking fresh throughout the day.



The Avocado and Honey Mask

Great for: Dry and mature skin


How to make:

Half of a ripe avocado

2 teaspoons of natural honey


What to do:

– Mash half of the avocado in a small bowl until you have a soft pulp

– Take two teaspoons of natural honey and mix into the avocado

– Apply to a cleansed, dry face and leave for 10-15 minutes

– Rinse thoroughly with warm water and moisturise as usual


Why it works:

Avocados are absolutely amazing for deeply nourishing skin without irritation. Combined with the effective moisturisation and healing properties of natural honey, the face mask provides a soothing, deep treatment that will leave winter-worn skin feeling softer, smoother and more comfortable.


Natural yogurt

The Oats, Yogurt and Honey mask

Great for: Normal/combination skin


What you’ll need:

1 tablespoon of finely milled oats

1 tablespoon of natural yogurt

1 teaspoon of natural honey


How to make:

– Add one tablespoon of finely milled oats to one tablespoon of natural yogurt.

– Add a teaspoon of natural honey and mix all of the ingredients together.

– Apply to a cleansed, dry face and leave for 10-15 minutes

– Rinse thoroughly with warm water and moisturise as usual


Why it works:

Vitamins found in natural yogurt are great skin boosters, especially zinc that helps to control oil production. The oats sooth dry skin (and even treat acne) while the honey is antibacterial and soothes and softens the skin.


© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2014.

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