MAC Unsung Heroes: Matchmaster Shade Intelligence Compact

Published in: MAC Makeup, Unsung Heroes

mac matchmaster shade intelligence compact closeup

The $38 MAC Matchmaster Shade Intelligence Compact is an unsung makeup hero

I keep seeing these memes popping up about people who eat dinner early and go to bed at 9, and I can so relate. That would have been my nightmare scenario as a kid, but when it happens now as an adult, it’s a dream come true. I wish I could do it every night, LOL!

It’s sort of like how I think of “natural” (air quotes) makeup these days. Like, when I started wearing makeup on the ‘low back in middle school, natural-looking makeup was the last thing I was going for. There was nothing natural about that purple liner I was rocking.


I would have said, “No way! I don’t want this to look natural! I want it to look like I’m wearing as much makeup as possible.” Fourteen-year-old Karen would have laughed at 41-year-old Karen’s quest for natural-looking makeup, which brings me to the MAC Matchmaster Shade Intelligence Compact.

What’s an unsung makeup hero? For me, it’s an oftentimes underrated makeup morsel, a permanent collection product that scoots under the radar screen of many makeup lovers but regularly rocks my world. The long-running Unsung Heroes series features some of my favorites.

It’s basically MAC’s version of a sheer liquid formula cushion compact, and it’s available in 12 refillable shades. The main compact is $38, and the refills are $28.

They were released last year around this time, and I’m a little nervous now because I can’t seem to find them anymore on the MAC website. I do see them at Macy’s, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, though.

Bloomingdale’s, by the way, is the only one that has all 12 shades and the refills in stock.

Cushion compacts?

You see them all over the place now, but they started out in Korea. They have a liquid-ish foundation formula and vary in terms of coverage from sheer to medium. They also usually have a second lid inside the compact that keeps a small, pre-soaked sponge or cushion from drying out.

When you press the sponge, a little bit of the liquid comes out, which is basically what sets them apart from other kinds of foundation.

mac matchmaster shade intelligence compact closeup

Wearing shade 4.0 (please ignore the crazy eye makeup!)

Like MAC’s regular Matchmaster Foundation, the formula is a self-adjusting liquid foundation that adjusts to your skin tone. I wear it in shade 4.0, which seems a little too golden-orange for me at first, but the gold mellows out somewhat to match my natural skin tone over about five minutes.

I don’t know what kind of voodoo magic they infused this with, but it works!

Coverage when it comes to cushion compacts really depends on the brand, as some brands are much sheer than others. I’d call this one sheer to medium.

I’ve tried other cushion compacts before but didn’t find one that I liked enough to stick with it until I found the MAC Matchmaster Shade Intelligence Compact. I ended up returning a fancy-schmancy one by Amore Pacific because it was a little too shiny and waaay too peachy for me.

But I really love this one. The coverage is incredibly flexible. It’s easy to go from sheer to medium to full, just like that, and I think it looks great in every kind of light from natural to flash to fluorescent. It even looks good in video.

A trick for full coverage

There’s a very fine line between practical, and fairly useless, when it comes to sheer-ish liquid foundations, because some are just so sheer that you can barely see anything when you’re wearing them, which, I guess, is pretty cool if your skin is darned near perfect already, but if you have a big pore situation like I do or freckles or areas you want to even out, this one is great for that.

It covers almost everything (but doesn’t look mannequin fake) and de-emphasizes my pores a tad.

And if you want to bump up the coverage to full, it’s really easy to do. Just grab your favorite liquid concealer (I’ve been loving Sephora Bright Future Gel Serum Concealer and Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Concealer), and place a few dots directly where you want that extra coverage. For me, that’s my cheeks, around my nostrils and on my upper lip.

Then, load a foundation brush or beautybender with your MAC Matchmaster Shade Intelligence foundation, and blend the concealer dots into your skin for an easy, fabulously flawless finish. 🙂 I use this technique all the time when I want full coverage but don’t want to spend hella days layering and buffing. It’s been my go-to technique lately for pics and video.

I also love the satiny finish (it isn’t too shiny or flat) and the super lightweight formula. It never feels like it’s suffocate my skin. Plus, it lasts long enough to get me through a long day.


I love this stuff! I just hope it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon…

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. Happy Caturday! I hope you’re doing something fun. Rogue One yesterday was pretty great. I thought it was better than I expected. It’s kind of a serious war movie…but I think you’ll like it if you like sci-fi. Plus, popcorn. 🙂

The MAC Unsung Heroes series (a subset of my regular Unsung Makeup Heroes series) features some of my all-time favorite products from MAC’s permanent collection

If you’re looking for permanent collection ideas or inspiration, there are literally hundreds of unsung makeup heroes posts in the MBB archives. These 20 are just the tip of the iceberg.


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So far, 8 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Chris25 says:

    The concept of dispensing product through a sponge is very intriguing to me. It seems like less product would get wasted that way.
    Chris25 recently posted … Boots Botanics Skincare Haul

  2. Becky says:

    I didn’t even know this existed! I’m really olive toned, so loads of foundations are just too peachy for me- this shade-adjusting alchemy sounds great!
    Becky recently posted … bareMinerals Complexion Rescue – you, on a really good day

  3. Oh I had no idea they had this! :-O
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Review | La Roche Posay Serozinc Spray

  4. FROSTY says:

    Your skin is stunning in these photos – I will have to break out my Matchmaster again. I have it in the bottle, though, not the cushion compact.

  5. Amy says:

    This does look beautiful. Funny they haven’t marketed it more?! I love the cushion idea. No shades look like me, but if they truly do adjust, this could be a great standby. I’d really like to try it.

    Your pore sitch comment reminds me, Karen, I found a great dermal filler by andalou naturals (made in Novato!!). It’s called something like “deep wrinkle dermal filler,” which is a bit dispiriting, haha! But I mix it with primer to deal with pores and it is totally fab at that. You might like it!

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