SftPF // MAC vs Sephora ColorIQ

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.


id 1 3Y01
id 1.5 2Y05
id 2 3Y07
id 3 1Y08
id 4 1Y09
id 5 3Y09
id 6 2Y10
id 7 4Y09
id 7.5 2R13
id 8.5 2R14
id 9 3R14
id 9.5 2R15
id 10 1R15

Pro Longwear Foundation

NW10  N/A NC15 2Y03
NW13  N/A NC20 2Y05
NW18  N/A NC25 3Y04
NW20 4R06 NC30 3Y08
NW30 1R08 NC35 3Y05
NW33  N/A NC37  N/A
NW35 1Y09 NC40 4Y08
NW40 2R10 NC42 3Y09
NW43 N/A NC45  N/A
NW44 N/A NC50 3R12
NW46 N/A NC55 N/A
NW47 N/A
NW48 N/A
NW50 1Y14 N18 2Y04
NW55 N/A N/A

Studio Fix Fluid

NW10 2R03 NC15 4Y02
NW13 1Y02 NC20 5Y04
NW18 1R06 NC25 3Y05
NW20 2R06 NC30 3Y07
NW30 1R09 NC35 3Y07
NW33 3R10 NC37 3Y08
NW35 1R10 NC40 4Y08
NW40 1Y10 NC42 4Y08
NW43 2R11 NC45 4Y08
NW44 1Y14 NC50 1Y13
NW46 1R13 NC55 1Y14
NW47 2R14
NW48 1R13 C3.5 2Y06
NW50 1R15 C4.5 1Y09
NW55 4R15 C5 1R09
NW58 3R15

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