When I first started getting into makeup, I realized that many people (perhaps even most) talk about their skin tone with a MAC match- NW/C 10-58 (I think that’s the highest). Then, Sephora came out with their ColorIQ system, and suddenly we had a new way to characterize our skin tone. I’m going to talk briefly about both systems, and then I’ll get into how they compare.
MAC’s system is typically two tones, yellow (NC) or pinky (NW), although they really have about five tones total, as there are foundations that are neutral (N), more yellow (C), or more pink (W)- but typically they stick with two. Depth-wise, foundations usually start at 10 being the lightest and going up by steps of 5 (NW10, NW15, NW20, etc). However, for some foundations they have “half steps” ending in 2, 3, 7, or 8 (NW13, NW58, NC22, etc). This produces about 10 standard depths, upward to roughly 15. This range is different for the different foundations that MAC sells.
Sephora’s Color IQ is a bit different. It has two different undertones (warm or cool), but it has 10 different “levels” of undertones, ranging from very strongly warm (5Y) to very strongly cool (5R). They also have 15 different depths (01 to 15). However, they do not have every undertone at every depth- for instance, there is no cool undertone in their lightest depth. Their second lightest depth ranges from 1R02 to 5Y02… so this is not a perfect scale either, as they end up characterizing very pink, very light foundations as 1Y01 or 1R02, which can get confusing. No, if you wear KvD Lock It in L42 perfectly, you do not have yellow undertones…
Since Sephora created ColorIQ to match foundations of various brands (to help customers make better informed decisions), they had to find a way to test it… and here’s where this gets weird. In my science-mind, I tend to think they would test foundations in a consistent way, perhaps through a spectrophotometer. Instead, what they did was swatch every foundation on somebody’s skin and then use their scan tool to determine the ColorIQ… which means there is a LOT of error. I will talk about this when I talk about my experience getting color matched via ColorIQ.
Anyway- the point of bringing this all up is to let you all know that, despite obviously not carrying MAC products in store, Sephora has characterized some MAC foundations with ColorIQ! I went through their site and made a handy chart for what THEY claim the ColorIQ match to several MAC foundations would be.
Pro Longwear Foundation
Studio Fix Fluid