Amy's Beauty Blog

Stop and smell the lipstick

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

MAC Retro Matte Lipstick – Review, Photos, Swatches

Ah Ruby Woo, what a polarizing muse you are. Much like a spicy jalapeno pepper, MAC’s ubiquitous red lipstick is loved by many and loathed just as passionately by others. There’s one thing, though, that gets pretty universal agreement–once on, Ruby Woo lasts forever.

That’s why, along with MAC Cosmetics’s recent emphasis on long-wearing products, they chose to release a small collection of retro matte lipsticks–the same formula as Ruby Woo (supposedly, but more on that later). Before now, Ruby Woo has been the only permanent retro matte, and it was only recently joined by limited edition shades inspired by Rihanna. Information is somewhat conflicted at the moment, but supposedly this new collection is all permanent. (Even if this is true, my counter, at least so far, only has the amount of each shade that usually releases with LE collections, so hurry.)

Bottom line (if you’re in a rush): I really like this collection, and I believe it will more than satisfy all the matte finish lovers out there.

On to the goods:


L to R Fixed on Drama, Steady Going, Flat Out Fabulous, Runway Hit, Relentlessly Red, All Fired Up, Dangerous, Ruby Woo


I’m going to talk about the shades as they seemed to me. In my opinion, MAC’s website has some of the worst color distortion I’ve ever seen, and their shade descriptions are also a bit off sometimes.

Fixed on Drama is a deep, vampy shade with a lot of purple in it. I think this kind of color works particularly well as a matte, because the flat finish gives the feel of classic drama, but the wearer also has the option of more modern glam if she wants to top it with a lipgloss.

Steady Going is a light, blue pink, very vibrant and a bit like a mattified version of Viva Glam Gaga. This is a type of shade that I usually avoid because it makes me look dead, but if bubble gum pinks are your thing, it’s a nice shade with good pigmentation.

Flat Out Fabulous is a bright purple pink. It’s cool-toned, but with enough pink to keep it from being overly formal. To my eyes, it reads a lot like Catfight from the new Urban Decay lipstick collection.

Runway Hit is a peachy pink nude/neutral. I strongly considered a purchase, since it looked much better on my pale skin than a beige nude. I decided against, however, because of the matte finish. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE a matte finish, but there’s just something about a totally dimension-less nude that I found a little bit strange. It was like I’d painted tile grout onto my mouth. Granted, it could have been worse, but I realized that I prefer more sheen and dimension to anything that close to a nude lip. However, if you like matte nudes, it’s a very flattering one.

Relentlessly Red is…not red. In fact, on me it was a matte dupe for the limited (but frequently repromoted) Amplified shade Watch Me Simmer. I didn’t swatch them together, but this one looked very close when I tried it on at the counter. It’s a BRIGHT neon coral pink. I adore bright colors, but as with Runway Hit, I felt like the matte texture didn’t do this one any favors on me. It’s rare that I ever think a lipstick is too bright for me, but something about the combo of neon and matte just didn’t work on my face. I looked like my entire head was a mouth. If you have darker skin (or different toned skin) than mine, I’m sure your mileage will vary, and it’s worth giving it a shot.

Dangerous is an orange red, somewhere between Lady Danger and So Chaud, and similar to Nars’s Heatwave and Jungle Red. It has a beautiful burnt mutedness to it that makes it very wearable. This is one where I think the matte shade really took it to the next level of awesomeness. The only reason I didn’t purchase is because I have too many similar shades in matte and semi-matte textures.

Ruby Woo is a classic red that skews both cool and warm, depending on lighting and wearer. It’s been reviewed approximately 3 million times. It’s the shade that inspired this collection, and if you’re reading this, you most likely know all about it.

All Fired Up is a true raspberry pink that is bright but muted enough to be day-wearable (at least for me) and has a rosy red undertone (definitely warm). I saved this one for last because it’s the shade I purchased.

New Image


I’ve worn this for two days, so here are some thoughts on product usage:

* These lipsticks supposedly have the same retro matte formula as Ruby Woo, but I’m pretty convinced MAC has actually improved it. I have a tube of Ruby Woo from a past purchase, and it’s much drier and more difficult to apply than any of these colors were when I swatched them, including the Ruby Woo from this collection. All this to say, if you haven’t enjoyed the formula in the past, you might consider giving it another try.

*These lipsticks wear a long time. I have a medical issue that means I have to drink water constantly, and these last through that and even through meals. I get several hours of wear time, and even when I touch up, I usually still have pretty good color. For me, this makes them great for work.

*I definitely recommend trying these in store before buying if at all possible. As I mentioned above, the matte finish does different things to different shades.

*Are these drying? MAC retro mattes contain Kaolin Clay. Much like the Tarte Amazonian Clay lipsticks (at least, they’re similar on me), they tend to form a clay-like layer over the lips that dries quickly and lasts a long time. For me, they’re neither moisturizing nor drying. When the beauty world has things like Revlon Lip Butters and Chanel Rouge Coco Shines available, it’s easy to label anything “drying” that isn’t incredibly emollient. My own standard is that drying means visible and feel-able unpleasant dryness and/or peeling on my lips, not just the absence of moisture. These do not feel moisturizing, but even after several hours, I do not find the sensation on my lips unpleasant. (I do recommend conditioning lips beforehand, a good idea with any matte formula.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review. Have you or do you plan to pick up any shades?



Vintage Makeup Finds

I love vintage makeup because it makes me feel connected to women of the past and their fascinating history. Today, my sister and I came across some fabulous vintage powder compacts at a local antique shop. We wanted to buy about ten of them, but we kept ourselves to three.



This is a Prince Matchabelli compact from 1931. I love the gold crown detail.




The interior of the compact shows the patented technology that allowed the owner to put loose powder into the middle compartment and then release it into the compact to use, making things simple and mess free.



This lovely compact is Rex 5th Avenue. My research indicates it’s from the 40s, but it could also be 50s.





The interior shows the powder puff and the mesh cloth that kept the powder from escaping when the compact was opened.



This is another Rex 5th Avenue compact, definitely from the 1940s. The rhinestones make it an extremely rare find.

We also came across several compacts with built in lipstick and rouge compartments. I’d like to pick up a few, but they tend to be more expensive and will have to wait for a future shopping trip. In particular, I have my eye on a Bourjois compact from 1936.

Do you like vintage cosmetics, or are you more of a modern beauty addict?

Marc Jacobs Beauty: First Impression and Review

The Mod 3-bmp[1]

When I was a child, I was all about Cheaper by the Dozen (the book), and one of the most memorable parts for me was the description of the family’s acquisition of a white typewriter. The children’s father, an efficiency expert, purchased it because he wanted to teach his family to type, and scientific studies had shown that a white typewriter made people want to type on it. It worked.

So what does this have to do with Marc Jacobs and his eponymous beauty line? Well, the thing is, long after I first read Cheaper by the Dozen, I got a degree in professional communication, and I learned about the kind of science that tells manufacturers how to package a product so that the quality of the thing inside is just half of the battle. The bottom line: Marc Jacobs gets it.

Before I went to Sephora, I had seen a few reviews here and there online and visited the Marc Jacobs Beauty Website, but nothing prepared me for the decadent sensory assault of seeing the line assembled in person. It’s simply breathtaking–beautiful, sensual, sophisticated, and a little bit edgy. I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the whole display, but I’ll plead insanity on account of how overwhelmed I was.

From the picture at the top of the post, you can see the main style of the products, sleek black compacts made of high-shine plastic with metal closures. Similar to brands like Chanel, the products have their own little bags, but superior to Chanel (in my opinion), these bags avoid the grime-attracting nuisance factor of the Chanel versions by being matte and not velvet.

I knew I wasn’t after face products, so I spent the least amount of time with the foundations and powders. They looked nice to the eye, but I didn’t swatch them. The MUA who cashed us out at Sephora said that those are her favorite parts of the line, so I definitely plan to check them out in the future.

What I did spend time ogling was the color products–the Lip Gels, Lip Vinyls, Style Eye-Con palettes, and nail varnishes. Everything I swatched was lovely. A few things to note:

* The shadows are mostly satin finish.

*At present, the line only has eyeshadow palettes, no singles.

*The palettes come in groups of three shades and seven shades, and each is themed to a certain style or “look.”

*Each palette contains a mirror and a plastic shield to keep the mirror free of product.

* The lipsticks start sheer and are buildable, so what you see in the tube may be darker than what you initially get on the lips.

*The lip glosses come in a sheer formula (more like a traditional lipgloss), and a full-coverage formula (more like an Hourglass liquid lipstick or OCC lip tar).

*The glossiness of the packaging will attract fingerprints.

On to my specific purchase, Style Eye-Con No.3 in The Mod.

The Mod 4-bmp[1]

The Style Eye-Con trios come packaged in slim compacts with a highlight shade, lid shade, and deeper shade for contouring/lining. The highlight shade is the largest, then the lid shade, and finally the accent shade. In The Mod, the lid shade is a shimmery light silver, the highlight is a slightly satiny white, and the contour shade is a black with some sparkle.

Here’s an arm swatch. As you can see, the pigmentation of the black is stronger than the other two shades, though the other two hold their own. The overall effect is very high contrast, just as a mod look dictates.

The Mod 5-bmp[1]

Here’s where we get into opinion territory. Not everyone digs this trio as much as I do. For those with skin much darker than mine, the white and silver will come off quite light, and this certainly isn’t a color combo no one’s seen before.

But that’s the whole point. This trio is called The Mod for a reason. It’s the perfect set of shades to create a retro 60s mod eye or to carry the wearer to a new age version of mod. Either way, it contains the requisite shimmering lid shade, light highlight, and highly contrasting black for a cut crease and awesome cat liner. And lest you think the silver or white are lightweights, I actually used the silver to cover the black in areas of my lid where my clumsy application put it in the wrong place, and the silver delivered successfully.

Here’s a photo of my eye look and full face using the trio. (Excuse the hideous lighting in my office that somehow manages to make me look dead and ruddy at the same time.)



Bottom line: These shadows are the kind of quality I would expect for a very high-end line, and the thoughtful shade combination makes this a must-have for mods of any age.

Finally, a word about the lipsticks. I’m pretty obsessed with lipcolors, so the Lip Gels were one of the first things I grabbed to swatch. As I expected, the colors were pigmented, creamy, and luxurious. The packaging is to die for as well, with an insanely satisfying magnetic closure (seriously). The one odd thing, to me, is the shade selection. The number of colors is pretty big, but to my eye, at least four or five of them are varying shades of red. Now, as a dedicated red lip wearer, I’m all over this, but it made me wonder if the rest of the world would feel that way. We seem to be in a red lip moment in time, so perhaps the line will expand in the future to include more shades of other types. My sister purchased one of the darkest shades in the line, a lovely vamp purple that goes on sheer but builds to creamy opacity.

I can’t really speak to the wear time of either the shadows or lipstick since the purchases were just made yesterday, but the shadows have been going strong for six hours as I type this. (I always wear eyeshadow with a primer.)

I kind of wish I had more of a complaint about this line, because really, I just want to go purchase more. I have my eye on one of the Style Eye-Con No.7 palettes and at least a lipstick or two, not to mention a possible foundation attempt.

These days, it seems like some kind of fad for every designer to have his or her own beauty line. Thankfully, Marc Jacobs didn’t just nail the packaging; he nailed product quality as well. Hopefully the attention to detail will lead to brand longevity and more irresistible offerings.

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