Foundations and “tones”

Most people think that finding the right shade of foundation is all that is needed, unfortunately that’s not the case.  Ever put on a foundation and think that just doesn’t match my skin at all.  Its more than likely the undertone is wrong.

There are 3 main types of undertones.  Pink, Neutral and Yellow.  These are also known as Cool(pink), neutral, and Warm (yellow).

Most of the main popular more expensive and larger brands will have their shades labelled.  This is where it gets very confusing for the average customer wanting to buy a foundation.  If Im honest it would nearly put you off as it can be hard to figure it out.

I’m going to try and help with this.

Pink/ Cool Undertones – This is probably anyone who doesn’t tan well, has freckles, or typical Irish skin.  Bare in mind, a lot of women choose to wear fake tan these days, so whilst you might in all your bareness have a pink undertone, once your tan is on you will most likely need a yellow undertone foundation!

Yellow/ Warm Undertones – These suit sallow, olive, tanned skin. ( Note I find yellow undertone foundations are great for anyone who gets red in the face, it neutralises it.

Neutral Undertones– These are usually somewhere in the middle, not too pink and not too yellow.  Be aware certain brands can be overly pink/ yellow than others.

On a little side note, just when you thought you got it, if your a fan of MAC then they go and throw a spanner in the works and do it the other way around.  So MAC label their foundations NC & NW.  Now after what I’ve told you above, you’d expect NC (neutral cool) to be pink tones, but not with MAC.  All their NC tones are yellowy in tone.  ThTheTheirNW have a distinct pinkish tone.  Check out the pic below —MAC NC25 & NW25 Left is MAC NC25 / Right is NW25.  Same shade number different tones

A really popular great value foundation brand, The Ordinary also label their foundations using the undertone system. Except they don’t confuse as much as MAC!

The swatches below show it really well :


N: Neutral,

P: Pink,

Y: Yellow,

R: Red

YG: Yellow Gold – this has lovely little gold highlight running through it

NS: Neutral Silver- this has silver highlight running through

So for arguments sake lets say usually your quite pale everyday, at work etc and you burn and get freckles easily…. Then in Mac Foundations you would probably be an NW 15 or The Ordinary – N or P from the first arm row at the top.

If you then like myself like to lather yourself in fake tan come the weekend then your foundation depending on the brand of tan ( some have horrible red/pink undertones!) then in MAC you would be an NC 20 upwards depending on how dark your tan is! Or in The Ordinary you would be the second row arm, Y shades.

Here are two shades I have from the Ordinary below. Even though both are in the 2’s , one is yellow toned and the other is a more orangey pink tone.


I also speak a lot about another favourite foundation of mine which is from NOTE cosmetics.  They have a very limited shade range, literally about 7 shades of foundation and I find they are all Yellow/ Warm toned, which I love but just beware some brands can favour a certain tone and tend to only bring out formulas with that undertone in it.

Right ladies I hope I haven’t confused you more than you already were.  Just remember Mac do it the other way around, so NC is yellow toned shades and NW is warm toned shades.

Thanks ❤

Stacey x

PS – Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample before you buy! It can be costly if you buy a bottle and realise it doesn’t suit your skin!! x


Author: thefacefairy

33 year old Makeup Artist Mother of 2 Fashion lover Bargain hunter

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