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The best Mac lipsticks of all time: From bestselling shades to underrated gems

Few make-up brands have dominated the lip game for so long – here are the formulas worth buying

Louise Whitbread
Wednesday 01 September 2021 16:25
<p>The brand has an army of lip products to add to your make-up bag, with over 200 to choose from in seven different categories</p>

The brand has an army of lip products to add to your make-up bag, with over 200 to choose from in seven different categories

Make-up Art Cosmetics, better known as Mac, is one of the most well-known make-up brands in the world.  Since it was founded in 1984, the brand has expanded into a cosmetics empire that is now sold in over 105 countries.

Its most popular products are by far its lipsticks. Mac is behind some of the most famous shades in the history of make-up – such as its matte red “ruby woo” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk) or balmy nude, “creme cup” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk).

With over 200 lip products to choose from, in seven different categories, ranging from matte to creamy, satin to liquid, you’re sure to find something for every look. But which shade reigns supreme?

How we tested

In a bid to find the best of the best, we’ve spent almost two months putting as many Mac lipsticks to the test, and have narrowed it down to the top nine. We looked at shade range – trying everything from nudes to reds and vibrant pinks – as well as making note of their staying power, finish, texture and pigment. We also paid close attention to how they handled hours of wear while eating, drinking and face mask wearing.

Our round-up has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a vibrant pop of colour, a sheer tinted balm or the perfect nude.

Read more:

The best mac lipsticks for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Glow play lip balm in “rouge awakening”: £17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk
  • Best nude lipstick – Matte lipstick in “velvet teddy”: £17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk
  • Best red lipstick – Retro matte lipstick in “ruby woo”: £17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk
  • Best pink lipstick – Powder kiss lipstick in “sexy, but sweet”: £19.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk
  • Best nude lipstick for fair skin – Viva glam (satin) in “viva glam II”: £17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk 
  • Best cremesheen lipstick – Cremesheen in “creme cup”: £17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk 
  • Best for pink undertones – Satin lipstick in “faux”: £17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk
  • Best liquid lipstick – Love me liquid lip colour in “hey frenchie”: £19.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk
  • Best for pigment – Powder kiss liquid lip colour in “make it fashun”: £19, Maccosmetics.co.uk

Glow play lip balm in “rouge awakening”

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

If you like a sheer wash of colour, the glow play lip balm range is well worth exploring. We tried “rouge awakening” which looks like a vibrant coral, but once applied, gives a glossy tint of pink. It’s a very hydrating formula, blended with shea butter, jojoba seed and mango oils, and is so sheer you can easily apply it without a mirror. It’s not sticky or gloopy and is the perfect compromise between wearing lipstick and keeping dry, chapped skin at bay. We loved how it looked both with a full face of make-up as well as when we opted to go barefaced and has become our handbag essential.

Matte lipstick in “velvet teddy”

Best: Nude lipstick

Rating: 9/10

“Velvet teddy” is one of Mac’s all-time greats, the perfect nude for fair and medium skin tones that’s flattering, long-lasting and comfortable, despite being matte. It glides onto skin with a rich pigment, we find two coats is enough. It’s a deep-tone beige shade that faded ever so slightly when we tucked into a burger over dinner, but didn’t smudge, nor leave our lips looking patchy. It’s the perfect companion for lowkey and bold make-up looks, complimenting eyeshadows and graphic liner work well. No wonder it’s consistently a bestseller.

Retro matte lipstick in “ruby woo”

Best: Shade of red

Rating: 9/10

Few lipsticks have had the impact that “ruby woo” has. The blue-based red shade has an instant brightening effect, and the matte formula is exceptionally reliable for staying in place throughout multiple rounds of cocktails. This is a full-coverage, one-swipe’s-enough, to finish off your make-up.

Our reviewer has worn this shade for years and it’s a real confidence boost that makes you feel immediately more polished. It’s universal appeal lies in its skin-flattering shade that suits all skin tones. It’s the ultimate red lipstick in our opinion. As with most matte formulas, they can be drying, to avoid this, we’d recommend applying a lip balm first to keep skin supple and hydrated.

Powder kiss lipstick in “sexy, but sweet”

Best: For pink lip

Rating: 8/10

The powder kiss range is a newer entry to Mac’s lipstick wardrobe, with a soft-focus, hazy, matte finish. Think of it as a modern matte that isn’t drying, with no shine, but a balmy texture. It’s the perfect compromise if you want the staying power of a matte lipstick, without the chalky texture. It’s smooth, super soft and easy to apply in seconds, without requiring the patience of “ruby woo” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk) to get those precise lines.

We tried “sexy, but sweet”, a bright pink that’s perfect for summer, but we’ve long been a fan of “fall in love” too (£19, Maccosmetics.co.uk), a berry fuschia shade that really stands out. You can apply a light layer for a pop of colour, or build it up for a statement lip.

Viva glam (satin) in “viva glam II”

Best: For fair skin

Rating: 9/10

In 1994, Mac created viva clam, a charitable campaign to raise money and awareness for those living with HIV and Aids, as well as supporting LGBTQ communities and equal rights for women, girls, and the LGBTQ+ communities. To date, it’s raised over $500 million (£370m approx) and 100 per cent of the purchase price of any viva clam products goes towards the Mac Aids Fund.

“Viva glam II’’ is a gorgeous pinky beige shade that compliments fairer skin tones beautifully, and has a creamy texture with a semi-matte finish. Perfect for an everyday lip colour, it leaves lips looking supple and feeling comfortable. If you want to contribute to a good cause, while wearing a lovely nude, this is the lipstick for you.

Cremesheen in “creme cup”

Best: For understated lips

Rating: 8/10

If you’re keen to try less matte textures, give cremesheen in “creme cup” a whirl. As the name suggests, it’s a creamy lipstick with a slight gloss finish, but it’s not sticky or overly thick. It offers medium coverage, so you can apply one coat for a wash of colour, or build it up to a more opaque shade. Once again, this is a blue-based pink shade that has quite a natural look, so if you want to let the rest of your make-up do the talking, it’s ideal. The formula feels smoothing and hydrating and the subtle glow it gives is a lovely finishing touch.

Satin lipstick in “faux”

Best: For pink undertones

Rating: 8/10

A blend between a matte and a cream finish, “faux” is a muted mauve-pink shade that’s a great go-to if you prefer pink undertones. It’s richer in pigment than the other nude shades we’ve tried, in a perfect your-lips-but-better colour. The subtle sheen it has gives a pretty plumping effect and is a great option if you lean towards more neutral tones. We love that it’s easily fixed if you make a mistake when applying it, and you can build it up or keep it sheer by applying it straight from the bullet or dabbing lightly onto lips with your finger or a lip brush.

Love me liquid lip colour in “hey frenchie”

Best: Liquid lipstick

Rating: 9/10

This liquid lipstick is a cream-based formula that’s richly pigmented and full coverage in colour, with a doe-foot applicator. It keeps lips smooth and soft, with none of that crumbly texture often associated with liquid lipsticks, and you can smack your lips together all day without ruining it. This is thanks to the argan oil and shea butter formula.

The applicator is ideal for getting into the corners of your mouth and your cupid’s bow too. It picks up the perfect amount of product, without drying too fast which can often mean mistakes can’t be fixed, but just a swipe of a cotton bud is all you need to tidy up corners. “Hey frenchie” is a warm pink shade that all skin tones can look good in.

Powder kiss liquid lip colour in “make it fashun”

Best: For bold lips

Rating: 9/10

Mac have also extended the powder kiss range into a collection of coordinating liquid lip colours too. What sets this apart is the interestingly-shaped hourglass sponge applicator with a rounded tip, that gives you complete control and is the easiest liquid lipstick we’ve ever applied. It’s a richly pigmented cream that with one coat provides an intense colour payoff with no shine.

While it is matte, it doesn’t have any of the downsides to matte textures, with zero dryness, crumbling or flakiness throughout wear. It’s the ultimate foolproof lipstick to apply, and once on, it won’t budge, without leaving your lips feeling frozen.

Mac lipsticks FAQs

What is Mac’s most popular lipstick?

According to Mac, the best selling lipstick between July 2020 and June 2021 is “velvet teddy” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk), a deep-tone beige matte lipstick.

The following list details the rest of the bestelling shades in order across the same time period:

2. Matte lipstick in “honey love” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk)

3. Retro matte lipstick in “ruby woo” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk)

4. Matte lipstick in “mehr” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk)

5. Matte lipstick in “whirl” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk)

6. Matte lipstick in “kinda sexy” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk)

7. Viva Glam (satin) in “viva glam II” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk)

8. Satin lipstick in “faux” (£17.50, Maccosmetic.co.uk)

9. Cremesheen in “creme cup” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk)

10. Cremesheen in “modesty” (£17.50, Maccosmetics.co.uk)

What to look for in a Mac lipstick

When it comes to a brand like Mac that offers a huge range of lipsticks, when finding the right one for you, it’s important to consider a few things...

  • Coverage – Take into account whether you want a sheer coverage that adds a wash of colour, a buildable formula that can be customised according to your preference or a full-coverage lipstick that delivers an opaque colour with one coat.
  • Finish – Mac lipsticks come in matte, semi-matte, satin, cream and gloss finishes. Typically matte formulas have zero shine but are very long-lasting, whereas gloss and cream tend to be more lightweight with less staying power.
  • Shade – With over 200 shades, Mac lipsticks have one of the best shade ranges in the beauty industry, offering classic reds, flattering nudes, bright pinks and more experimental colours such as black, blue and green. To help you find the right one for you, it offers a virtual try on feature on its website, where it will use a picture or live image of you to see how well a lipstick will match with your skin tone.
  • Budget – Mac lipsticks are not all priced the same, it’s classic lipsticks are £17.50, while its liquid lipsticks are around £19. If you’re keen to try a new product, take a look at the Mac mini range, which is a curated collection of the MAC bestsellers in mini, travel-size. These range from £12 to £12.50 and there are 20 shades to choose from.

The verdict: Mac lipsticks

The ​​glow play lip balm in “rouge awakening” is a great all-rounder, giving a wash of colour, a high-shine finish and a balmy, hydrating texture that everyone can enjoy. It’s easy to apply, long-lasting and skin softening.

If you want a bold, statement lip, you can’t go wrong with Powder kiss liquid lip colour in “make it fashun”, which has an ingenious applicator that makes applying even the darkest shades a breeze. It’s creamy without being drying and stays in place for over eight hours.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on make-up and other beauty offers, try the links below:

Looking for a new lip gloss? Read our roundup of the best lip glosses for the perfect pout, from plumping to pigmented formulas

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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