Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Guide to MAC Cosmetics Part 1- Revisited

Most of my emails and tweets in regards to questions tend to be MAC based which is cool
with me as I am one of the biggest MAC fan girls around...sorry I'm not sorry!
I posted an original guide over a year ago but felt it needed updated a little.
I am no expert but due to the hours I have spent in numerous Mac Stores I have picked up
some information along the way which may be helpful to some.
Like I said i'm no expert so feel free to add your own tips/info in the comment section,
the same applies if you have any  burning questions - hopefully someone will be able to help.

MAC Foundation Shades Explained 

This is the one area that seems to confuse people and I was no different in the beginning, 
with so many conflicting views on what NC and NW actually mean 
and who should use what it all becomes very much a grey area.

I went to the source (I emailed an MAC Artist) in order to provide the best information possible 
and I can confirm the following:

NC - Is the cool toned foundation shades and have a yellow undertone
NW- Is the warm toned foundation shades and lean slightly pink.
N - Is the neutral toned foundations, some of us will be slap bang in the middle
with no warm or cool undertones.

In theory you should use a cool foundation if you have warm skin and warm foundation
 if you have cool skin but I find the best way to determine what shade would best suit you is to go in-store
and swatch a good few shades, then ask for samples of the three that YOU find best suits you.
I say YOU as sometimes the assistants in store can be a tad bullying
and steer you towards a shade that is a little too dark etc.
Test out the three shades and then decide which best suits your tone, remember the perfect shade will completely disappear into the skin - the jaw bone is the best area to swatch foundation.

Face and Body foundation is a little different it comes in three catagories:

N- Neutral
C- Cool (Equivalent of NC)
W- Warm (Equivalent of NW)
Neutral is for those who have neither warm nor cool skin, it is sometimes deemed a suit all shade.

It can be a difficult task to determine if you have warm or cool undertones 
but you can try the following methods:

Vein Test - Look at the veins on your wrist see what colour is most prominent:
Blue Veins = Cool Toned
Green Veins = Warm Toned

Silver or Gold - Some say that if you suit gold jewellery best then you are warm toned and if silver suits you best you are cool toned.(I'm not a fan of this method)

Back to MAC

You may be aware that if you return six empty mac products to a Mac store they will exchange it for a lipstick of your choice (in the US/Canada i'm sure you have the choice of either a lipstick or eyeshadow). Mac are rather specific on what you can return but if you check the box the product comes in, it will have the back to mac logo which means you can return it for the back to mac programme.
In-case you have lost the cardboard packaging as a general rule you can back to MAC most full size products this includes limited edition products, skin care products and believe it or not the full size face wipes as long as the empty pack has the plastic enclosure.

You can not return any mini products such as the small pigments you get in the holiday kits nor can you return any Viva Glam products or the sized to go products. If in doubt call up Mac and ask.
Most MAC's will not accept depotted blushes and eyeshadows, MAC now check that you return the packaging in full, meaning they must have an empty silver pan as well as the black casing.

MAC and eBay

To be blunt - best avoided! 
The sheer quantity of fake/replica Mac products on eBay is beyond ridiculous. 
I'm not saying every product on there is fake but the vast majority is, since the product is counterfeit do you really think the retailer cares if the product is dangerous and could potentially harm you? NOPE!

There is ways of identifying the real from the counterfeit but the fakes are getting better with each batch they produce. There are plenty of guides on eBay about how to identify fakes such as this one which provides comparison photos and is a must read for anyone still contemplating purchasing anything Mac related from eBay. If you really must purchase a Mac item from eBay I highly suggest Google searching for the item and comparing the shades, packaging etc.

MAC Dates/Batches

If you look at the back of any mac item you will see a letter and two numbers, the letter stands for the batch number, A= batch one, B= batch two and so on.
The numbers determine the month and year, the first number determines the month (1 being January, 2 being February and so on) and the latter the year so the lipstick above has the code A31 so it would be Batch one, Month March and Year 2011.

MAC launch dates are fairly easy to predict...well roughly anyway.
They tend to be the first week of every month and normally a Tuesday but that can change as it isn't
official nor set in stone.
The January collections of each year have went live either on boxing day or the day after in the UK.

This has turned into a rather lengthy tome but I will have the second installment up tomorrow
explaining various formulas and finishes but if you have anything else you wish to see included
do let me know and I will try my best!

Products and items that are featured on The Sunday Girl may have been sent for consideration of feature, or may be items that I have purchased myself. Regardless all opinions expressed on this site are of my own and honest. Any sponsored content will be clearly marked, you can read my full disclaimer here at any time.


  1. Great post, even though I have a few mac items I found this informative! Looking forward to part 2.

  2. This guide is very helpful, i cant wait to back to mac for a lipstick!:)

  3. Great guide. I loved your one last year. xx

  4. Awesome guide! Thanks for the tips!

  5. this was so helpful.. i love Mac.. the only thing i never buy from there is foundation but i really want to try Studio Sculpt! x

  6. Great post! I'm a huge mac fanatic myself!

  7. Great post, im a newbie to the whole MAC thing so this helped ta :)

    Sophierosehearts x

  8. Very, very helpful! MAC counters always terrify me, so a little more knowledge of my own is always a plus :)

  9. This is such a great post Adrienne! X

  10. And this post is why I love your Blog.... Happy New Year!

  11. Great post! Waiting for Part 2...

  12. Great post!! Its good to have all the info in one spot!Waiting for the 2nd one!

  13. I never knew you could give back six empty products for a lipstick! To the Mac shop!

  14. Great post! I think a lot of people find MAC staff unhelpful and intimidating, this will be a great help to them x

  15. This is fantastic! And so coincidental as I am literally sorting through old make up for bits to Back to Mac!

    I have a question - if you had £50 to spend at MAC, what would you buy?

    Liv x

    1. Ohh I would probably pick up MAC's Trace Gold blush, a few pro-long wear lipsticks haha :)

  16. I think the Back 2 Mac thing is dependant on the store. I spoke to my nearest MAC store, which is a consession in a department store, and they explained that you needed only the two plastic parts of an eye shadow single.


    1. Ah that is good to hear, my local MAC's need the full set - pan and all which is super annoying!

  17. thanks for this. this is probably a really stupid question but can you be warm toned with really pale skin? i've read some places you can and some that you can't

    1. I very definitely am - I have Middle Eastern and WASP origins, am dayglo-white, but look like hell in cool colours and am basically washed-out olive.

    2. Hi :) you most certainly can be as Myraid as kindly pointed out :)
      MAC are actually bringing out a few new foundation shades that cater to those with pale skin and warm tones.
      Off the top of my head I would say Emma Stone is pale with warm undertones if that helps?

    3. great, thank you very much for your help

  18. This is so good, as someone who has a blog about fashion and completely unrelated to this, I must say this kept my attention and really kept me going. AMAZING POST!

  19. I went to MAC today (i'm getting obsessed with it now, my collection is growing and growing!) and I thought i'd be NW in foundation as i'm most definitely cool toned. However I matched up to an NC15 in foundation and an NW20 in concealer. It's so damn confusing. I'm just accepting it now :p it's doesn't make any sense to me haha.


  20. I usually prefer Neutral foundations because of my skin type :)
    ~Pauline @ MAC Philippines

  21. i just love the back2mac program. thanks for sharing.

    I am a huge mac collector / fan ^.^


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