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the lexicon of lipstick :: mac


i'll start off this post with a bit of an apology. when i ordered all the men from the room in my last post, i was being unfair to my own sweetie, who's very patient going shopping with me and, in fact, has an uncanny eye for spotting colours that work on me (better than my own sometimes). i guess there are some guys who figure that, if they're going to be looking at your lips a lot, there are certain things they'd like to see when they're looking. so if there are gentlemen who are interested in the subject, you are welcome here. but this is another lipstick post, so consider yourself warned.

in my post about some of my favourite (when i can afford them) lip treats, i did say that i'd left out the one brand that i have sworn by for years. everyone who knows me well knows that for me, mac is to makeup what fluevog is to shoes. i've been a loyal customer for years and, in that time, i've amassed a fair amount of knowledge about their admittedly complicated product range. in fact, i think it's because i've been a customer so long that i've been able to keep track of a lot of their developments. one of the benefits of being around when new products come out.

every company has different sorts of lipsticks- ones that are frosty or creamy or sheer- and those types are generally fairly easy to understand. but mac takes this to a sort of extreme that requires a lot of studying. it may seem like this is just a marketing device, but the fact is that each type has its own characteristics and those will determine whether you like what you get or not. the differentiating factors are colour intensity, moisture, finish and opacity.

so here is dr. kate's descriptions of everything that mac has to offer your lips. (well, there are a bunch of glosses too, that are probably even more complicated, but i really don't have that kind of energy.) all mac lipsticks are $17.50 regularly, although some in special packaging or limited collections can be more expensive. the finish names are given on the label on the bottom of the tube, along with the shade name.

matte :: i usually think of these as sort of old-fashioned, like the kind of lipsticks women would wear in films from the 40s, when the object was just to get colour as intense as you possibly could. these are about the best colour payoff you'll get and they stay put for hours, which is nice. the finish, as the name suggests, is completely flat, no shine at all, which i also think of as the way "original" lipstick probably looked.

the downside of these is that they're dry. dry like a desert. dry like dying of thirst. if your lips are a little dry, the colour will tend to pill like an old sweater. it will come peeling off your lips, which will then start to look patchy. you can try reapplying, but it'll still look uneven and for the rest of the day you will look less 1940s glam queen and more 2010s homeless crazy person.

if you're lips are very dry, wearing one of these is going to be like someone torturing you. these will get into every crack and cut, they will suck out any remaining moisture and, because they are so strongly pigmented and long-wearing, at the end of the day, you'll basically have to sandpaper your lips to get the colour off.

some are better than others. they range from almost creamy to ones so dry it's difficult even to get a proper swatch on your hand. basic rule: if it feels really dry, it is.

recommendation? great colour, especially if you want to look like you walked off the screen of a film noir. but since films noir usually take place in foggy, rain-soaked locals anyway, do yourself a favour and wait for the rainy season to incorporate these in a regular rotation.

favourite shades? russian red, a bright "statement" red that suits almost everyone (it's consistently one of mac's best-selling colours); charred red, a deep slightly warm red that makes perfect vampy lips

satin :: to me, this finish is defined by not being anything else. they're a little bit creamier than mattes and can have a little bit of a sheen (which is more than nothing but less than a shine). there aren't tons of these left and there don't seem to be a lot more coming out. maybe they feel they're not unique enough within the product offering. a bunch are being discontinued, but a couple of limited ones were released in the last few months. maybe they're just kind of nuts, i don't know.

i do know that, back when i started buying from mac, i liked these a lot more. now, they're sort of like less problematic matte lipsticks. they have the same drawbacks, but to a lesser degree. (of course, they also don't last as long, so it really depends what you're willing to sacrifice it.) i don't know whether the formula has changed or my lips got older, but i find i notice their flaws a lot more than i once did.

recommendation? most of the colours left are duplicated in other finishes, but they're probably going the way of the dinosaur, so why not buy a couple and in a couple of years you can show everyone your collection of antique lipsticks?

favourite shades? mystic, a slightly shimmery plum red colour that's being discontinued; toxic tale, a super-bright electric coral colour for when you feel shocking

amplified creme :: yes, that's how they spell it. it's sort of a hybrid of english and french, where they use the french spelling but the english characters (i.e., no accents). these are really gorgeous and they compete with brands that are twice the price. the formula is rich and creamy and deposits loads of colour. the effect is not subtle, but it's great if you want your lips to stand out. (and why wouldn't you?) the colours are solid rather than dimensional, although some have a bit of a coloured pearl for added depth.

being creamy, they don't last quite as long as drier formulas, but the good news is that reapplication is easy enough. also, despite being moist, they don't have a tendency to start feathering around the edges. plus they have that nice shine that tends to make lips look a little fuller and healthier. (how something completely unnatural like shiny lips looks healthy, i don't know, but trust me on this one.)

the one drawback, other than the lack of subtlety (if you consider that a drawback), is that i always feel just a little like i'm wearing one of those old pairs of wax lips. they're heavy enough that i'm constantly aware that i have lipstick on, which is not what i want. i guess that once i'm not aware of it any more, i know it's time to reapply, but the sense of there being a film on the lips is a little discomfiting. (i should add that i've noticed this with some shades more than others, without being able to establish a pattern.)

recommendation? gorgeous. loads of colour, loads of impact and a great (and always expanding) range of colours.

favourite shades? where do i start? tribalist, a limited edition blackish berry colour that looks like the skin of a dark plum; blankety, a rich neutral; fusion pink, a warm hot pink with a gorgeous pearly sheen to it; up the amp, a rich lavender purple... the list goes on...

cremesheen :: again with the creme... these are a newer finish and i was unsure about it for a long time. in theory, they're a combination of medium to high pigmentation with a softer feel. these ones aren't as colour-intense as the amplified cremes, or as shiny (remember the difference between "sheen" and "shine"?), although that can vary a bit between colours. they do have a really nice, soft feel and they don't tend to move around a lot, which other moist lipsticks do, so that's a definite plus.

lots of people seem to like these, because they're a nice hybrid between heavier and lighter. the one complaint i've heard is that some, ironically enough, find the formula drying. i haven't experienced that personally, but what does bug me a little is that these have a tendency to bleed and feather, so you start to look smudgy rather than sexy.

the colour is rich on almost all of them and solid, so you get a nice amount of impact for something that doesn't feel heavy or thick.

recommendation? mac made a big deal of these when they launched and i imagine they're going to continue as a staple of the line. the colour range is still a bit limited, but it's likely going to expand fairly quickly. if your tastes are similar to mine, there are a couple of awesome reds/ berry colours at the moment.

favourite shades? hang up, another one of my beloved dark purple-red shades; creme d'nude, which really looks like rich creme on the lips (looks awesome with dark eye makeup); kittenish, a warm red wine colour; go for it, a bluish purple... more coming all the time.

frost :: this is a finish that's been around forever. it's super-pearly, almost sparkly and for years i associated it with girls working in tim horton's or dairy queen next to truck stops in the middle of nowhere. that frosty pale pink that symbolised the abandonment of all hope of escape.

of course, a lot of things have changed. for instance, frost finishes now come in a lot of colours and they aren't nearly as drying as they once were (nor are they made using fish scales, as they once were). they do still have a tendency to settle into any lines on the lips and make them look like canyons, which is why more people seem to have a hate on for this finish than for any other. i'm lucky enough for that not to be too much of a problem at the moment (it'll happen), but i do find that, because any lines become more visible, there is a tendency for lips to look more compressed- thinner and smaller. if you have thin and lined lips, a frost lipstick is going to make your mouth look like a zipper.

the colour payoff tends to be pretty good and the nice thing about frosts is that, no matter how drunk you are when you apply them (so i'm told), they always look even. plus, since there are generally at least two colours- the base colour and the colour of the "frosting"- the end shade has a lot of dimension. so, after years of being put off by the truck-stop associations, even i've taken the plunge.

recommendation? this finish is going to be around as long as people insist on painting their faces. with all the options that there are available and more coming all the time, it's certain that you'll be able to find something to tickle your fancy.

favourite shades? o, the colour that won me over to frosts and one of the most amazing lip colours you'll ever see, is a red-purple base with a lot of gold shimmer and turns a different colour virtually every time you see it (if you've seen stills or the trailer for conversion, it's the lipstick i'm wearing for most of the film); victorian, a bright pink base with a gold shimmer that looks like no other colour i've seen (i'm wearing it in the avatar picture on this page)

lustre :: isn't it nice to see a canadian company so successful that they're able to foist canadian spelling on the world?

ahem, back to topic. this is probably the most popular of mac's lipstick finishes and with good reason. the texture is soft and moisturising- it competes with even very high end items- and the colour range is fantastic (and the more successful it becomes, the more colours are available). the real plus here is that the colour can be built up for more of an effect, so they're an easy solution for a variety of settings. they're shiny and make lips look like ripe, delicious fruit, plump with juice. many of the darker shades also fade to a very nice stained effect, which, even if it's different than how it looks in the tube, can be nice.

for all their positives, there are a few negatives. some of the lighter colours are so delicate they become invisible, or require a lot of application to become visible. some also have a tendency to apply unevenly, which is really obvious when a colour is a bit sheer. some shades also have a tendency to bleed badly, which can leave you looking like you ate too many popsicles. and of course, as with most moist formulas, they don't last that long. even within the range, there can be a lot of differences from one colour to another in terms of slipperiness, pigmentation and durability.

come to think of it, that's quite a few negatives. it's just really hard to resist the appeal of something that can look and feel so nice.

recommendation? if you find one that works for you, and with the number of shades available, it would be almost impossible not to, you'll probably want to wear it every day for the rest of your life. there's one that i've been purchasing for years, because i feel incomplete without it.

favourite shades? new ones all the time, but my current favourites are viva glam v, a light beige pink (and part of mac's extraordinary aids campaign); desire, a dark purple- berry shade again that can be sheered out nicely; naked paris, a really rich, sparkly brown-pink colour that makes neutral lips just so much more interesting to look at.

glaze :: this is mac's lightest finish and it pretty much lives up to its name. it leaves a sheer layer of colour on the lips with a little bit of a sugary sheen, much like the glaze on a doughnut. there are very few permanent shades in this finish, because i think most people dismiss it as lustre's feeble cousin. personally, though, i disagree.

in fact, while many of the colours are light and you'll never have the kind of pigmentation that looks totally vampy, these can have quite a bit of impact. the rest weightlessly on the lips like a sort of stain and can actually add quite a bit of colour. more than with other finishes, they work in combination with the natural colour of the lips, so they tend to look a lot different from one person to the next. every cosmetics fan in the entire world seems to disagree with me, but i think these are vastly underrated. i was happy to see that mac had a handful of new ones as part of their 2010 collections.

recommendation? the trick here is going to be finding a colour that works for you. with so few available, the options are very limited. but i highly encourage everyone to keep trying, because i think these babies deserve more credit than they get.

favourite shades? bubbles, a limited warm white colour, the kind of thing that would likely never work if it were more opaque; riveting, a distinctive plum- taupe shade that was unfortunately limited

rumour has it that mac may be simplifying the line that it offers to the public, because for some reason, people find its product offering confusing. they'll still have the full range available at their "pro" locations (anyone can shop there). until such time as the list becomes simpler, though, now maybe what's on the label will make more sense. the bottom line is just keep swatching things on your hand until you find something you like. that's part of the fun.

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