Above is a picture of a MAC counter. That's a lot of makeup, isn't it? And it's not even as fully overwhelming in pictures as it is in person - and that's coming from someone who used to work at one of these counters! As a former MAC artist (and one who makes certain to stay on top of new releases), I think I have some insight into the brand and I'm going to start sharing some bits here and there.
So here are 10 things I think everyone should have or at least try, and 5 things you needn't bother getting. This list only comprised of permanent items - nothing Limited Edition.
When you ask any MAC fan what their "must-haves" and "skip its" are, the list will vary, but having worked with hundreds of women these are the ones I think should be basics for those of you just starting to build a makeup stash. And for those of you with ginormous collections: if you're missing any of these you may want to check them out!
10 MAC Must-Haves
- Tempting eyeshadow - MAC describes this eyeshadow as "sinfully rich cocoa". The Lustre formula shadows have intense frost and pearl and give a metallic finish, but don't let the reflective qualities scare you! This color starts off my list because it is my number one favorite MAC product; this is the one I would be devastated to find discontinued if it ever were! It's a completely neutral brown that might be lumped into the "bronze" category, though not everyone can wear bronzes. Not only does this shade go perfectly on any skintone, it also works with ANY other eyeshadow color. ANY color. I have worn this with grey, black, white, purple, blue - even acid green and stark yellow. It's what I call "the great shadow stabilizer" and perfectly balances any "out there" color you may want to try --- but aren't sure how to wear! It's also fairly buildable: you can put on a light sweep for a delicate glow or build up layers to get a fairly deep shimmery brown radiance. PERFECTION.
- You need a Paint Pot in a shade approximating your skintone. No, you're more than likely not going to get a perfect match - but here's the thing: you're going to cover it anyway. That's why you just need one that's in the general range of your skintone. Do I wish they'd make a few more matte, skin-like shades? Yes. But is that necessary? NO.
The Paint Pot is a creamy dries-to-powderish goodness eyeshadow that many people use as an eye primer. It can help you neutralize your lid color (hides veins or discolorations), and since it's long-wearing and creaseproof it's PERFECT as a base to other eye colors. Lay this down first, then press powder shadows on top - color is closer-to-true and holds on like there's no tomorrow.
- Fair-to-medium-skinned girls with cool undertones need Painterly, an odd putty-colored pinky-brown-nude oddity.
- Fair-to-medium-skinned girls with warm undertones need Soft Ochre, described by MAC as "yellow beige".
- Darker complexions should grab Groundwork ("midtone neutral taupe") or Quite Natural ("dirty chocolate brown"). You'll have to see which you prefer, and again: neither will match your skin exactly, but choose whichever one gets closest to your depth of color rather than matching your skin exactly.
- Prep + Prime Lip is a staple in my makeup kit and my personal stash. I wear it every time I use lipstick, and I put it on every client I work with (especially brides!). It's a solid, twist-up product that is meant to condition your lips and help the lipstick you put on top of it look good and look beautiful. It minimizes feathering and contains Vitamin E and antioxidants. But most of all, it works! There's a trick to getting nice long wear: put it on and let it set (do something else for awhile) before slicking on the lipstick. AMAZING WEAR WILL ENSUE!
- Blot Powder (Pressed or Loose) is an absolute must for anyone who gets even the slightest bit oily. NOTE: The Loose version of this powder used to be sold at counters, but now is available only at Pro locations or by calling the Pro toll-free number: 1-800-866-6464- you need not be a Po to buy either way.) Use it to control shine or to set your foundation or to absorb the oil on your lids/cheeks/chin/t-zone before putting on other makeup.
Here's the story about Blot Powder: it was created for backstage -fashion shows and photoshoots- and meant to absorb oil without adding any color or texture. That's it. That is its whole purpose: absorbing oil.
It's jet-milled (tiny, tiny particles) silica and mica with only 3% pigment, so it's not going to change the color of your skin or the makeup you layer it over.
Let me reiterate the main point here: it will not build up, look cakey, or change colors.
As for the "which color should I get" dilemma, really don't stress over it in this case. There's only 3% color pigment, folks, so just pick something in the general area of your skintone and go with it. No one will notice if you don't pick the exactly correct color, I SWEAR! If it helps, I am the fairest of the fair-skinned and I can wear the Deep Dark Blot without it being noticeable. Really.
Seriously. Try it. Then send me an email to tell me how right I am - I never tire of hearing it!
- Every girl needs a good cheek color, and Springsheen fits the bill. I'm a bit of a blush junkie, but if I have to pick just one this is it! It's a semi-sheer sexy pinky-peach with a shimmery - but not chunky-glittery- sheen. Since it has a bit of pink (cool) and a bit of peach (warm) it works on cool or warm skins and with whatever look you pick for eyes and cheeks. I like this better than that other pinky-peach, NARS Orgasm, which just isn't as versatile as Springsheen, despite its cult following. By the way, darker complected lassies can surely wear Springsheen - it works great!
- Lipstick is key, but it's nearly impossible to find one that all women will agree upon, even those some are foolish enough to deem "universally flattering." A shade may look acceptable on all women, but one thing I learned early on in my artistry career is this: women are VERY opinionated about their lipsticks! The must-have I'm going to suggest for lipsticks is this: you must have a peek at the Viva Glam line. The quick run-down for those who don't know: Viva Glam lipsticks are sold for charity (to support HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention - read more here). MAC isn't comprised of a bunch of dummies, so since they want to sell as many Viva Glam lipsticks as they can, most of the Viva Glam lipsticks (and glosses) are fairly neutral, so you're bound to find one that works for you and that you love! Here they are:
VGI - Intense brownish blue-red; matte
VGII - muted pink-beige with shimmer; satin
VGIII - muted brownish plum; matteVGIV - midtone rose with gold pearl; frost
VGV - neutral pink with pearl; lustre
VGVI - terracotta plum with plum; lustre
VGVI SE - soft blue-pink; lustre
VGI is a great red, wearable on most skintones, so if you're looking for a red, start there! VGVI is beloved by many (though I'm partial to the SE version, which is a sheerish pink). VGIII is a nice neutral for mid-to-dark skins, and a pretty deepish color on those with fairer skins.
- Everyone needs a good black eye pencil, and my pick for a basic black is Smolder. This Eye Kohl wears pretty well (though may not hold-up in the waterline) and can be dotted on between the lashes for a natural look, slicked on the lashline, and smudge if desired. Also good for faking a beauty mark!
- My next must-have is another Eye Kohl: Teddy. MAC describes it as "intense bronze" and it's an incredibly wearable liner. It's just the right amount of brown with a tiny smidge of shimmer - just enough to look lively but not enough to call too much attention. Perfect for any skintone and a major part of my kit!
- If MAC is famous for two things, it's their colorful eyeshadow and their Lipglass - a semi-sticky (so it stays put!), vanilla-flavored lipgloss formula. It may be more tacky (sticky, not tasteless!) than you like, but you've got to at least try it. I adore it! Try neutral shades first. My suggestions:C-Thru - peachy-beige with shimmer; creamNymphette - sunny golden pink; frost
Oh Baby - golden bronze with sparkling shimmerJ'adore! C-Thru is a lovely "nude lip" shade that really suits fair-to-medium complected folks with warm undertones, but even cool-toned girls can wear it sheerly. It's probably a bit too chalky for very dark-skinned lasses, but worth a try! Nymphette works on most people because it's a bit peachy, a bit pinky. LOVELY! Since it's both pink and peach, it goes with cool and warm colors on the cheeks and eyes, too. Oh Baby is is beloved by many a dark-skinned girl, but those of us with fairer skins shouldn't overlook it! It's one of my favorite fall shades, and I'm as pale as they come. The multi-colored shimmer (not chunks!) helps it work on all skintones. I love it. All three of these shades layer well over a ton of other colors - make sure to try things that don't even seem like they'd "go" - play around!
- OK, OK, so it's not makeup, but I consider the Pro Makeup Remover a must--- BIG TIME. This unique formula removes makeup gently and leaves behind NO RESIDUE. Big deal, right? Actually, it is. This was created for backstage environments, enabling artists to quickly and easily remove makeup from a model leaving a surface that is ready for immediate reapplication! Normal cleansers leave bits of product or oils behind, and that residue erodes any makeup put on top of it. How does this apply to your life? Well, most of us aren't perfect, and keeping a bottle of this lifesaver lets you take off that poorly applied red lipstick or that wobbly eye liner so you can try again right away. It's a huge time-saver. Also ab a bit on a Q-tip or makeup wedge and neaten up your winged liner for sharp perfection!
(Only have enough $$ to have one remover around? Pick this one and make a little bottle of olive oil to keep by your vanity - that will dissolve any tricky long-wear products or mascaras. Then sweep Pro Remover over the area to remove the oil. VOILA!)
5 MAC items you can SKIP!
- Any MAC mascara. Every company has things they do exceedingly well and things they just can't make well. MAC's Achilles Heel is their mascaras. Yes, some are passable (Plushlash, Mascara X) and every one has its fans, but the cold hard fact is that the MAC mascaras are simply not good.
- Most MAC foundations. OK - I know, you're a fan of __________, but the honest-to-goodness truth is this: MAC foundations break out a lot of people and clog the pores on almost all of us. Sorry. If it works for you, great! The shame of it is, MAC's color range for foudations can't be beat anywhere, so if you're hard-to-match you've gotta try them anyway. Just make sure you have GREAT skincare.
- Which brings us to this: you can pretty much skip MAC skincare. Yes, some of it is good, but most of it is not very good. You can get much better skincare from other lines. I say this not to insult MAC, because I love MAC. But this is a makeup line, not a skincare line. 'Nuff said.
- A skincare product deserving its very own bullet point is STROBE CREAM. I can hear the screaming already from some of you. Here's the thing about Strobe Cream: it's meant to be a special effect. It was never desigined to be your everyday moisturizer. It was never created to be used mixed in your foundation every single day. It's meant to create a highlight or shimmer effect, and can be used as a moisturizer or mixed in your foundation (or a zillion other ways), but don't do it every day! The product has ingredients that are probably too emollient for your combo or oily or sensitive skin, and even parched skin gets blocked-up pores from the shimmer ingredients in it. It's a fab product used sparingly, every now and again, for effect.
IF YOU USE STROBE CREAM DAILY AND YOU HAVE BAD SKIN, ACNE OR CLOGGED PORES STOP USING IT EVERY DAY!!!
- Prep + Prime Eye is terrible. It's supposed to be a primer for under your eyeshadow. It's supposed to neutralize eyelids. It barely does either. On many of us it creases. The colors are not really skintone. Use a cream eye shadow as a base (see Must-Have #2 above). This stuff is worthless to most of us.