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How MAC makeup artists shop

Walk through the beauty floor of any major department store in the world and you could be forgiven for feeling slightly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choice. Beauty brands typically stock anywhere from 100 to 500 items including limited edition items along with iconic bestsellers. The seasonal makeup collections are usually displayed front and center in showcases and on counter shelves. What’s more, the latest beauty counter designs display rows and rows of lipsticks, eyeshadows and glosses backlight for dramatic effect. It’s very artistic but can make choosing the best shade for you a challenge.

“MAC launches anywhere from 44 to 52 different makeup collections a year,” explains Jess Way, MAC Cosmetics PR Director. “Some of these are online and MAC store exclusives. But the majority arrive on MAC counters everywhere.”

Some coveted collaborations are so hot, they sell out in a matter of minutes. Rihanna’s first makeup collection with the brand sold out literally in seconds. Last year’s Kelly and Sharon Osborne line also sold remarkably well with many of the palettes disappearing the first day. “MAC customers love seeing so much newness. They’ve learned that if they want certain items, they have to be quick.”

The need for speed with such capsule collections is undeniable, but how do you choose what to buy? With anywhere from one to three dozen different products in a collection, how do you buy the best possible items for you? I know more than a few beauty enthusiast friends who returned home after a frenzied shopping spree to wonder in hindsight why they bought what they did.

MAC senior artist Melissa Gibson

So how do the professionals shop limited edition collections? Enter Melissa Gibson, MAC Senior Artist who works backstage during Fashion Weeks in Paris, Milan, London and New York. “I think it is important to understand that each MAC collection is designed to be universal. The colours are chosen to flatter all ages, skin tones and cultures. The majority of women will look good in these shades.”

Gibson has fine-tuned her approach to shopping these collections. “Look at the collection as a whole and start with the one item that really catches your eye. Don’t overthink it. See where your eye is instantly drawn and begin there. Then work out from that item like a family tree. See what colours complement your star item and branch out.”

MAC is beauty collection

MAC is Beauty Collection

“Take the MAC is Beauty collection for example,” she says. “It’s a mix of beautiful pastels such as corals, peaches and lavenders.

MAC lipstick in Notice Me

MAC Lipstick in “Notice Me”

I look at this collection and I’m immediately drawn to the lavender lipstick (named Notice Me)” She says finding the right shade of lavender can be a challenge as many formulas can look a little chalky on skin. But this particular hue is universally flattering. “The shade looks equally fabulous on dark skin tones as it does on fairer complexions. I’d add a plum lip liner to take it totally over the top.”

mac eyeshadow in Wow Factor

MAC eyeshadow in “Wow Factor”

“Now, I could go with the matching eyeshadow (called Wow Factor) for a very coordinated look.

mac eyeshadow in bouffant

MAC eyeshadow in Bouffant

Or I could mix it up and go with a peachy eyeshadow (Bouffant) The reason these shades work together so well is they are similar tones with a touch of frost.”

mac lipglass on the scene

MAC Cremesheen Glass in “On the Scene”

One of her favourite combinations is salmon and lavender. “These two colours look so beautiful together. I particularly like the lip glass in “On The Scene.”

mac blush in alpha girl

MAC Beauty Powder in “Alfa Girl”

Since Gibson started with the lavender lipstick, she opts for a peachy blush or highlight powder in “Alfa Girl”. It works because the payoff is super sheer.

mac nail lacquer in All Dolled Up

MAC Nail Lacquer in “Doll Me Up”

She takes the same approach with nail colour picking up a pastel green in “Doll Me Up”. “If I was going to an elegant party, I might do a French-tipped nail with a hint of pink.”

mac fluidline in brassy

MAC Fluidline in “Brassy”

“You want to add one unexpected shade when you are buying a collection. For this pastel-based line, I would pick up a gold Fluidline eyeliner in “Brassy.” Pairing these pastels with an accent of gold is incredible.”

mac fluidline in silver

MAC Fluidline in “Silver Stroke”

Her second choice would be to go with a grey liner in a cool tone.

One of the tricks you can use when shopping is to look at what products are featured on the models in the advertising campaign. You can ask a beauty associate to write out exactly what shades and products were used in the campaign. Those are guaranteed to look amazing together.

You can also do a little pre-planning work on social media. Tweet any pro artist and ask their opinion in advance. You can do the same thing instore at a counter. These professionals have been trained on the collections and have had a chance to see how they work together. You’ll get the inside scoop from them.

“It’s important to remember that these collections are fun. Play around with different combinations. It’s good to go to a counter where you can test the shades on your skin to see what really works for you. But by starting with the item that you really love and then adding to it, you’ll be shopping like the pro artists do.”

How to shop a beauty collection like a pro makeup artist

  1. Look at all the items in the collection as a whole. See the theme and see how you respond to the shades and combinations.
  2. Find the item in the collection that draws your eye.
  3. Then work out from that key item and add colours that really work together.
  4. Choose products that have a similar tone for foolproof pairings.
  5. Add one unexpected shade as an accent.


MAC Cosmetics is now available at thebay.com in Canada.


  • Reply
    April 27, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I love MAC’s black matte lipstick Midnight Media.At almost 15 dollars a tube, this is the only MAC product I have purchased.Howi bought it is, I took the bus to NYC to attend a concert.As soon as I got on the bus I realized I FORGOT my makeup bag.I never go out without bringing a little bag of all the cosmetics I used,so I can touch up.

    I was wearing black lipstick along with my elaborate eye shadows etc etc.So I went to the MAC counter @ MACY’s and I treated myself to the lipstick, and since I was there,i let a makeup artist go over my foundation and blush job to make sure I did an adequate job concealing recent cat scratches on my cheek.(The artist was great and I got his biz card for a shoot I may do).

    Bottom line I love the high quality, but I can not normally justify MAC’s extremely high cost.If they would have sales or other ways to get some of their products I’d be on it in a New York minute.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Beautiful collection very spring/summer. I can definitely see myself wearing these over the beautiful sunny days

  • Reply
    Krystal Gehrke
    April 20, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    That’s great advice! I always see people scramble to get all of the newest MAC limited edition products. But it’s smart to find that one product you really want and find colors that go well with and make your best features pop!

  • Reply
    Meenal Rathore
    April 20, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Great .. Thank you Dave .. lovely shades is what Mac has … @Meenal_Rathore

  • Reply
    Katerina Giavridoy
    April 19, 2015 at 5:12 am

    ψωνιζω με τον ιδιο τροπο οτι πιανει το ματι !

  • Reply
    Sarika Lal
    April 17, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks !!!!!Dave I love MAC.

  • Reply
    Debbie Paiement
    April 16, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Thanks for the great post Dave I love MAC.

  • Reply
    Paulina Jose
    April 16, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Great Post Dave!!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Great post! I gravitated towards the purple shades from MAC is Beauty and grabbed Blue Peep as an accent.

  • Reply
    Jamie Kaus
    April 15, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    Excellent advice. I never thought of taking an advertisement to the counter and ask what she’s wearing. Thanks!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I love Mac
    It lasts and holds it’s colour

  • Reply
    connie hulling
    April 15, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    My daughters love Mac, however I haven’t tried Mac! So if I win I will definitely try all the products and share with my lovely daughters! Good luck to everyone!

  • Reply
    Pamela Haddad
    April 15, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    I shop the same way-whatever catches my eye first. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 8:51 am

    I usually just grab the first thing that catches my eye! I have a wicked weakness for Mac!!!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Awesome advice for picking the best of MAC collection. Thanks, Dave!

  • Reply
    Anastasia S.
    April 15, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Thanks for the nice tips.I have to remember them next time I go shopping!!!!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 7:57 am

    This is brilliant Dave! I love MAC makeup so now I’ll be shopping like a pro with your expert tips.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 7:43 am

    I love mac collections. ..

  • Reply
    April 15, 2015 at 7:35 am

    I have to say Dave that Mac is one I have not tried. I don’t know why. It could be that it is overwhelming when I see all that they showcase louisas59

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