Mar 132010

MAC’s Liberty of London Beauty Powder is Shell Pearl ($25) is absolutely beautiful.  This is a pressed powder highlighter in gorgeous white packaging, with a beautiful bird and flower design, which in combination with the Liberty of London name certainly drew me in.  Shell Pearl was previously released with at least one other collection (Sundressing in 2006), but somehow I missed it then.  This time, I was unable to resist the British connection and ordered this online.

My instinct to order it sight unseen was because I feel that this  collection will sell out quickly, not quite a quickly as Barbie but not too much longer either.  Indeed, Shell Pearl is now gone from MAC’s online site, although still on and in some stores.  Several of the lip products and Blue India nail polish is gone as well.  I suspect there’s another week or so left for the persistent purchaser, but not terribly much longer than that for the popular items.

Can I just rave about this beautiful packaging for a moment?  Shell Pearl arrived boxed in this patterned organic-pen-drawing covered box with bright flashes of color highlighting the bird and flower theme.  Inside the compacts are a pretty shiny white (who doesn’t love a shiny white compact!) that seems to resist showing the fingerprints that shiny black boxes do.  Typical of MAC, the plastic is sturdy, the included mirror is nice to have and I would feel completely comfortable packing this inside a nice purse without concern that it’s going to self-destruct.  As an aside, I am not a fan of cardboard or paper packaging for products that must withstand both travel and messy countertops.

Shell Pearl is a beautiful warn shimmery gold-peach with a touch of pink.  It makes my skin glow, without the addition of any glittery bits.  In the swatches below, you can see that building up the shade doesn’t seem to make it cakey or odd.   It is unquestionably a highlighter.  The color cannot be built up enough to use as a blush on my pale skin.  Used with a peach or pink blush, the effect is really beautiful.

Here are some comparisons-here, Bobbi Brown’s Nectar Shimmerbrick and her Antigua Illuminating Bronzer, which are in the same color family.  As you can see, Shell Pearl is slightly lighter in color and tone than Bobbi’s offerings.

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Feb 152010

MAC’s Spring Forecast Collection included a bewildering array of products–probably the largest MAC release ever.  The collection is split into four color categories (1. Pink, 2. Coral, 3. Plum and 4. Amber).

There are two pigment “stacks” sold as part of the collection.   These products include four mini-sized pigments each. I purchased one set, MAC Crush Metal Pigment Stack 2! ($32.50) from the Coral collection.

The texture of these is very metallic and somewhat chunky, although the chunks break apart very easily when the pressure of a brush is applied.  Nonetheless, I found that they were difficult to work with when applied dry.  You can see in the following picture that there is some patchiness and unevenness.  In a word, messy.

MAC Crush Metal Pigment Stack 2! Applied Dry with a MAC 219 Brush

Application was much smoother and even when the pigments were wet with MAC’s water-based Mixing Medium:

Here are more details about each colors.  All of the following swatches are applied wet, mixed with MAC’s Mixing Medium.

Because, well let’s face it, I won’t ever use these dry.

1. The Crush Metal Stacked 2! yellow-green-gold is very warm and quite unusual.  Here are some comparisons, here with Bare Escentuals True Gold and MAC’s Gold Dusk:

2.  There is a more neutral gold. In the pot, it looks quite similar to MAC’s Gold Mode.  Applied, Gold Mode has a warmer, almost rose cast compared to Stacked 2!:

3. The third color is peachy, in the same color family as MAC’s Melon Pigment:

4.  The fourth color is a fresh gold-green.

The pigment stacks come with two lids, and so can be broken down into two stacks, or stacked into a single tower.  These are not lip safe.

MAC’s Crush Metal deliver a highly pigmented, metallic sheen.  I’d give them an B+.  They get creatively points, they are sort of unusual.   When used dry, they are more metallic (chrome sheen) than other MAC pigments.  However, these are somewhat difficult to control dry.  This cuts into their versatility.

When used wet, the texture is quite similar to the shimmery shades already in MAC’s line. Because these are best used wet, it would have been wonderful for MAC to pack a little vial of Mixing Medium in the package.  It’s available at Pro stores, but not everyone lives near one.  You can always use Visine or water, but I think that Mixing Medium brings the color out best.  I’m glad that I have them in my stash, but don’t believe that they are a “must have” for everyone.

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Feb 082010

When I was out shopping this weekend, I noticed that MAC’s All Races, All Ages, All Sexes collection is still out on counters.  Because I love neutrals, this collection held a lot of interest for me.  After playing with the products at a few counters, I decided that the texture and quality of the collection was not something that suited me.  I settled on the two products reviewed here.

MAC Personal Style Beauty Powder Blush ($18.50) is a very subtle nude.  It’s described as a “light mauve taupe” on MAC’s website.

Here is a comparison of MAC’s Personal Style with two other nice nudes, Lancome’s Miel Glace and MAC’s Taupe Pro blush.

As you can see, Lancome’s Miel Glace gives a pleasant shimmer compared to MAC’s Personal Style.  Both have a touch of pink, although MAC’s Personal Style does lean mauve.  MAC’s Taupe is much more of a true matte nude.  After attempting to use Personal Style several times over the past few weeks, I decline to recommend this blush.  It takes a number of layers to get the blush to show on my somewhat fair skin at all.  If you’d like a subtle look, I’d use Lancome’s Miel Glace instead–the application is much nicer.  If you want more impact, get MAC Taupe.

The other item is MAC’s Universal Mix pigment ($19.50), previously discussed here.

Overall, I found Universal Mix quite difficult to work with.  As Karlasugar warned about here, Universal Mix is not a pigmented as other MAC pigment offerings.  Serves me right for buying it before reading her review.   Also, there is a lot of fallout. It’s messy!
In the swatch below, I’ve used 3-4 layers of Universal Mix compared to the other products swatched there.  Despite the layering, Universal Mix is still applied thinly in places.  MAC’s Vanilla did a nice job with a single coat.  Surprisingly, even Shu Uemura’s P White 900, a pressed powder eyeshadow, did better than Universal Mix.

Perhaps Universal  Mix works better when used wet or blended into a moisturizer, when the texture won’t be an issue.  To be entirely honest, I wish that I had not purchased either of these items.  Of course, everything in makeup is “your mileage may vary,” so if you do enjoy them I’m very happy for you.

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Jan 292010

What can I add to the pigment jar debate of ’10?  As background, MAC took it’s large, squat 2.6 ounce jars and replaced them with tall, lean and somewhat smaller jars.  The price for the jars remains the same at $19.50.

The Internet has been discussing MAC’s decision to repackage its pigment line for a few weeks.  Opinions vary widely.  And MAC has never issued any explanation for the change.  It’s a noticeable omission. What was wrong with the older, bigger glass jars?  No pro-consumer messaging here.  No “new or improved” packaging.  It’s slimmer, plastic and smaller but not better in any discernible way.

Old weight on the left, new weight on right

Let’s take a few things as a given.  First, the old larger size was huge. Few use them up.  Second, with the newer packaging you still get a huge amount of product.  More than enough for the average user.

MAC’s decision probably Looked Good on Paper.  Maybe if the jars are smaller, people will buy more pigments, maybe backups or something. Okay, fine.

Makeup bloggers have performed every conceivable analysis.  Temptalia has done some nicely-done numerical weight comparisons here and here.  After a thorough comparison of the actual weights provided by MAC, she concludes that “[a]t the end of the day, I think you’re still getting much more than you think (and you’re not getting as little as you think).”  For a contrasting view, Anastasia at Lipsticks and Lightsabers concludes that this is nothing more than a masked 40% price increase and, as such, “it’s downright shitty.” The Pink Sith take a rational free market approach, noting that there is little basis for outrage, “Maybe it’s because I’m a good honest Capitalist and understand that companies are there to make money.”

I get that. MAC is a corporation.  It’s rational to do their corporate thing, and change their products and increase pricing.  Expenses, deadweight loss, charts and percentages.  Externalities.  Synergy.  Fine.

But here’s the other thing.  Buying makeup is not about rationality.  It’s not about numbers.  It’s a lot more about Hope in a Jar than the London School of Economics.

I remember the first time I saw a MAC Pigment.  It was Pink Opal and it was magical.  It sparkled in the light, and it was pink and white and had endless possibilities.  I asked the MAC sales associate how to use it.

She answered in words I remember today, almost ten years later, “You can do anything you want with them.”

Wow. Powerful words.

I bought it immediately, and then I had a magical jar with which I could do anything.  And that jar would never run out.

At many levels, I know that’s not rational.  Or literally true.  But when has makeup ever been about reality?

Here’s the thing that nags me.

In January 2010, MAC shrunk my jar of hope.

And that’s the thing that I hope MAC understands.  Beyond all the rational spreadsheets, all the calculations and all the free market, makeup buyers have a little less hope in their jars than they did a month ago.

MAC benefits economically because consumers believe in their magic.  MAC’s place in the free market is all about consumers buying an illusion that they’ve created.  Shrinking the jars without any explanation feels like MAC is allowed to play in the free market and I have to settle for less.

In the grand scheme, minor stuff I realize.  But it speaks to larger issues and that’s why I don’t like the change.

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Jan 152010

As an overview, MAC Pro blushes are not as easy to work with as their standard line but they offer a very unusual combination of shades.  I imagine that a pro who needs to do numerous faces over the course of a morning can apply these highly-pigmented blushes without concern of ever running out and, because of their expertise and wide selection of different blush brushes, can control their highly pigmented nature.

For the average user, these offer some variety and the chance to work with something unusual.  I have not reviewed all of MAC’s pro blushes, but only those that work for me.  A full list of MAC’s current Pro blushes is here on their website.  I highly doubt that all will work with every skin tone, so if you get a chance to try them at a MAC Pro store I would recommend it.

MAC Blush Palette Empty 1

You can obtain the address of MAC Pro stores by checking on their website.  If you cannot, but wish to order a Pro product, every MAC Pro store can ship you their products by obtaining your payment information over the phone. In addition, you can buy MAC Pro products by calling the company at 1 800 588 0070 (U.S. only).

MAC Blush Palette Empty

If you’re into makeup, you’ll see references to “MAC Pro Member” and “MAC Pro Discount” around.  Only MAC Pro members can order directly from the MAC Pro website.  I’m neither, but you can find out more information about their program here.

Mac Blush Palette

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MAC Pro Blush: Taupe

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Jan 142010

MAC’s Pro blush in Taupe is a neutral-to-cool finely milled matte powder.  As you can see, it doesn’t resemble most blushes or bronzers at all.  I’ve read that it’s frequently recommended as a contour powder.  I’ve been working with it over the past few days and this is my advice:

1.  This will work best on fair/medium cool-toned skin tones.  If you find that most contour powders are too warm/golden for you, this is the one to look at next.  I’m fair and slightly warm.  Although I can usually handle a cool-toned pink, this leans a bit toward grey on me.

2.  This may not show up at all on darker skin tones, and could turn a bit ashy.

3. Although I’m fair and can handle some deep golden bronzers, I have to use a light hand with Taupe.  Because of the grey tones in the blush, it can start to look a bit too dirty on the skin if applied too heavily.  You can start to see this in the center of the swatch, below, which was applied with a compact eyeshadow brush.

Mac Taupe Pan

Mac Taupe Swatch

Although I find this difficult to work with, I’m glad that I picked it up before it disappeared.  It’s unusual enough–I’ve honestly never seen another product quite like it.

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MAC Pro Blush: Cantaloupe

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Jan 132010

We’ve finally arrived at one of the quieter of MAC’s Pro blush colors, Cantaloupe.  This is a peachy-nude that has a touch of sheen.  It is one of the very few lighter colors in MAC Pro line.  Being fair-skinned, I can’t afford to be liberal applying this blush but I don’t have to be quite as careful either.  I believe that this would work for a variety of warm skin tones, although if your skin tone is very cool you might avoid this one entirely.

Mac Cantalope Pan

 Mac Cantaloupe Blush Swatch

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MAC Pro Blush: Salsa Rose

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Jan 122010

MAC’s Salsa Rose is a complex mix of coral, pink and red with a touch of shimmer.  This is my favorite so far–it’s incredible.  I won’t repeat all of the cautions that I stated with the earlier MAC Pro blush shades, but suffice it to say that a light hand is warranted when applying Salsa Rose.  Can you imagine how gorgeous this is with a bronzer? And a coral lipgloss…

Mac Salsa Rose Swatch

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MAC Pro Blush: Rhubarb

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Jan 112010

MAC Pro blush in Rhubarb is an amalgamation of red and mauve in a shimmery pan of highly pigmented color.  Because I’m warm with mauve undertones, I find that I can carry this color off quite well.  If you are cool toned, I suspect that you might too.  However, this shade is very unusual and strong.  Definitely not for everyone.

As with the other highly-pigmented blush colors, care must be taken to place this in a small cheek area lightly. Again, a skunk (du0-fiber) brush can be key.  These brushes are sold by many companies, including MAC.  If you are using a standard blush brush, wipe the brush several times on a paper towel or tissue to knock off some of the pigment especially the first time.  The pigmentation of Rhuarb is nuclear, and so one pan of this is probably enough to last forever.

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MAC Pro Blush: Full Fuchsia

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Jan 092010

If MAC’s Azalea swatch posted yesterday wasn’t bright enough, meet Full Fuchsia.  Another of MAC’s Pro blush colors, Full Fuchsia applies slightly more pink, a shade less blue a bit lighter in tone than Azalea.  Despite its name, by comparison Full Fuchsia is less violet and a bit less cool.

This is swatched heavily so you can see the color in my picture.  I used a very compact eyeshadow brush to apply this color to my arm.  I would never suggest wearing this color on your cheek like that.  Like Azalea, to avoid a full-on MAC force field effect, apply very lightly with a skunk (duo-fiber) brush, or wipe a standard blush brush on a tissue several times before applying to the cheek.  Again, keep this blush in a small area of the cheek will be key to allowing it to enhance your skin color rather than taking over your face.  The reason why this blush is sold in the Pro line is, I suspect, that it’s a “handle with caution” sort of color that can be pretty but can become overwhelming in the wrong hands.

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