Wednesday, October 05, 2016

My Favorite MAC Products

Long-time readers know that with a few notable exceptions I rarely write about MAC products here. I used to have an issue with the onslaught of limited edition and brand new collections MAC would launch seemingly every other week. But then many popular brands have started doing exactly the same thing; and truth be told, very often with products that are inferior to MAC's. I also had an issue with the way MAC seemed more concerned about creating a hype than in training their staff how to greet a customer, or even just give decent service. This is why when I started this blog in April 2006 I was for the most part over MAC. I was tired of the unpleasant experience at MAC counters almost everywhere*, and was bored with seeing the same products again and again on every blog. However, I've always had several much-loved staples from MAC, and when I've recently repurchased, replaced several, or went back to using others after an hiatus, I've decided it'd be good to list my top favorites.

I tried for the most part to stick with what MAC does best: the permanent line that has been there seemingly forever. I will mention a few limited items simply because I do love them and count them among my all-time favorites. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Eye shadows. Not all MAC eye shadows were created equal, and even in the custom palette that I've assembled over time there are differences in texture and pigmentation. That said, Satin Taupe, Copperplate (discontinued for an inexplicable reason), Club, Vex, Patina, and Plumage are among my favorite eye shadows of all times and all brands. 
  • Blushes. The same goes for blushes. Two of my beloveds were part of limited collections: Seduced at Sea Extra Dimension Blush from the Alluring Aquatics collection, and Animal Instincts Blush from A Novel Romance collection (both were released in 2014). Still, the ones I reach for most often are Desert Rose and Fleur Power. Both are semi-natural colors (Desert rose is the cooler tone of the two) that go with almost everything. They have good and reliable pigmentation and longevity, and are no-brainer choices when I'm short of time.
  • Lipsticks.  My Inner Femme is a sentimental pick (and no longer available), while Finally Free (online only) was something I bought for the cause and for the color. Twig and Whirl are classic neutrals, less rosy than the spectacular Finally Free. I have a love-hate with the formula of many MAC lipsticks, and these are not excluded. Yet I find it worthwhile to put in the effort and the balms to make them work.
  • Lip Pencils in Whirl, Soar, and Spice. While I wish MAC lip pencils were creamier or at least had a better glide-on formula, these three colors are classics for a reason, covering the full range of natural rose tones. Longevity is excellent, which is another point in their favor.
  • Brushes. Some of the oldest items in my collection are MAC eye brushes. The quality has gone up and down several times, yet, even at its scratchiest 217 is one of the best blending brushes one can have (and I own plenty of Japanese and other high-end brushes). There's something about the particular combination of shape, size, density, and firmness that make the 217 and 234 that makes them indispensable to me.
  • Mineralize Skinfinish (Natural). The one in the photo is Medium, but I also have Light Plus and usually mix them together for an easy daytime finish with a hint of extra coverage. I finished a couple and have gone without for years, only to repurchase recently. Going back to using Mineral Skinfinish, I have no idea how I've let it go for so long. 
  • Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Groundwork and Tailor Grey. These are beyond staples. I consider these two colors of the ubiquitous cream eye shadow to be must-haves. I use them as a base, in the crease, or as an allover one and done wash all over the lid. These shades are perfection and the formula is made of awesome. Do take note, though, that not all Paint Pots are the same. No matter what I've done (or how many different jars of it I've tried) , I find the ultra-popular Soft Ochre to be too dry and completely unstable on my lids.
  • Eye Kohl Pencil in Teddy. It's the simplest of kohl pencils in an unfussy bronze-brown . I've gone through several over the years and still find it hard to explain better than to say that it's just right. 
  • Blue Brown Pigment. I only keep around a handful of loose pigments. For the most part I can't be bothered with the mess or with trying to wipe off cat faces that got covered in pigment (Lizzy and her white whiskers are my companions when I'm doing my makeup). Still, this incredible duochrome color creates such an impact I do not want to be without. Ever.
  • MAC Studio Face & Body Foundation in White. I actually really like Face & Body in general, as the light formula is very skin-friendly. My true match should be somewhere between N3 and C3, closer to the N range. White (I think it's a Pro color that's only available online and at Pro stores, and come in this huge 4 oz bottle) is essential to me for adjusting the shades of other foundations (and making C3 wearable on its own). Common wisdom claims that you can only mix it with other F&B colors  or at least other water-based formulas. I find Common wisdom to be utterly wrong about this. In the most extreme cases I mix White with my primer under whatever foundation I'm wearing. Usually, though, as long as said other foundation is liquid, F&B plays well with it.
  • Zoom Lash mascara. I don't like other MAC mascaras, but for some odd reason this one works. I always have a tube going, even if just sample size.
  • MAC Studio Conceal & Correct Palette/Medium. Matching a concealer to any particular area on one's face can be incredibly hard, so having a small palette that allows for mixing and blending is important. The super emollient formula and the colors (NW25, NW35, NC30, NC35, Mid-yellow, Mid-Peach) are the best I've found, even if it requires a good and careful setting (see again: emollient).

What are your MAC must-haves? Am I missing anything?

*Two notable exceptions: MAC pro store in NYC (7 W 22nd street) and the now-defunct counter at Henri Bendel.


  1. Satin Taupe, Copperplate, Club, and Patina are among my fave eyeshadows, too! My fave MAC LE lippies are: My Inner Femme (thanks for the tip!), Diva Antics, Fashion Revival, Victoriana, Tenor Voice, and Opera, and from the permanent collection: So Chaud, Chili, Lady Danger, Ruby Woo, All Fired Up, and Relentlessly Red.

  2. Recently went through my shadows and tossed all but four MAC shadows. Rice Paper, Brule and of course Satin Taupe and Patina were the four I saved. How would you describe Finally Free? Have you ever posted swatches of it? Not sure if what I see on the MAC website and my monitor are color true. Teddy and Prunella are my favorite eye pencils from MAC. I also use the Mineralize Skinfinish Natural powder in Light.

  3. I actually don't currently have any MAC in my collection at the moment, except for my brushes: 217, 239, and 219. Of these, the only one I still use is the 217 -- the others are too stiff and/or scratchy. I recently threw out my only MAC eyeshadow palette, which was a limited edition quad. The shadows were patchy but I wonder if that was due to it being limited edition. I have been meaning to try some singles, including Patina, Saddle, and some other neutrals. And I want to try the Teddy eyeliner and the Twig lipstick.

    My old MAC favorites are Fix+ spray, Blot Powder, and Full Coverage cream foundation (do they still make that?) Unfortunately, the foundation clogs my pores. It's a shame, because I love the look of it and the color NC30 is a perfect match for my skin tone. But I will probably repurchase the Fix+ and the Blot powder, at some point.

    What I like most about MAC is the ability to create your own palettes and the wide range of colors and textures. The brand has been on my mind a lot lately; as I am getting better at recognizing which colors will work for me, I am wanting more and more to customize my collection.

  4. Viva glam 1. It still rocks my lips almost three decades later.

  5. Very interesting list! The only MAC products I own are Blue-Brown pigment, which I adore and a couple of LE eyeshadow brushes which are good, but not overwhelming. No 217, sadly.(I did once try to order Ruby Woo but the store fudged my order) I have no shops selling MAC near me, otherwise I fear it would be a very different story.

  6. I agree with you re: face and body foundation (still my favourite for my dry skin), paintpot in groundwork, and the 217 & 234 brushes.

    I had to think twice about the brushes, but I think what makes them work so well for me is that I can do my entire eye using only the 217 or only the 234 - I have a bunch of japanese blending brushes as well, and I find myself using two or three of them in one go. Something about the shape of the mac brushes makes them so easy to just slap on some eyeshadow quickly with just one of the brushes and have it look great.


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