Five best-sellers from MAC Pro - the brand used by make-up artists is new to Ireland

Beauty: ‘A new generation of people are designing and customising their own makeup’

Set Powder in Invisible is a universal setting powder without any whitish residue, and works for everyone

I was clearly born in the wrong decade. While during the 1970s and 1980s, it was impossible to get a foundation that didn’t have the pale greyish pallor of a neglected bowl of porridge, around 2005 or six, when my teens were in full swing and I started experimenting with makeup, every foundation was the colour of slightly overdone toast.

It is worth clarifying that no human skin tone matches this colour, but I, with paler skin even than most people of Irish ancestry, certainly didn't. On a trip to London in my early twenties, I discovered MAC Pro – the range from MAC cosmetics designed specifically for makeup artists. I discovered MAC Face and Body foundation, a product present in the kit of every makeup artist I've ever met, in a shade of pure white, which I still use to customise foundations to fit my skin tone. I have been making that pilgrimage to MAC Pro stores in the UK for white face and body for twelve years, and became irrepressibly excited when I learned that MAC Pro products will are now available at Brown Thomas Dublin.

I managed to grab Terry Barber, director of Makeup Artistry for MAC who has been with the brand for seventeen years, for a quick phone call to talk about what the availability of professional products means for Irish makeup artists, but also for beauty enthusiasts with a taste for customisation.

I may have applied mascara in a frenzied rush before the call (despite it not being a video call). I'm not proud of it, but there you are. Barber is a makeup artist whose work plays with realism and surrealism, whose Instagram attests that he takes makeup inspiration from the most ordinary and seemingly random objects – toilet bowls, brussels sprouts, spanners, and ham sandwiches and elevates them into something that is always beautiful, but never straightforward.


Democratising makeup

It makes sense that he considers the availability of MAC Pro to non-artists as democratising makeup to an extent. “It won’t be for everyone, of course.”, he says “Those who like their products pre-made and more traditional in terms of shade and texture can still turn to ready-to-wear ranges”. But Barber, who used to steal his sister’s ‘pale biscuit’ foundation, and batter talc into it to get that fashionably too-light shade, understands the draw of the alchemy of customisation.

“What you see with the Pro range is not necessarily what you have to end up with. There is a new generation of people designing and customising their own makeup, and it’s really exciting to see. It isn’t just really going for it at festivals. The average woman’s knowledge about how to use makeup is just more advanced.”

Usually, with pre-made products, it is unusual textures which are lacking. Professional ranges provide the components for beauty lovers to construct the products they want but cannot find anywhere else. For something completely different, Barber suggests combining Mixing Medium with Metallic Powder Pigment for an eye product that looks like liquid mercury, or combining the hyper-pigmented Lip Mixes to make a lip shade you cannot find ready-made.

I was surprised and quite pleased to discover that the five bestselling products from the range are not intimidating or clownishly bright, but rather very practical basics. My beloved Face and Body Foundation in White (€39) is not a bestseller, alas, but is absolutely worth looking into if you are paler – it has saved me from throwing away countless 'not quite right' foundations.

The five MAC Pro bestsellers are:

Mixing Medium Eyeliner (€15.50) is a translucent gel that you can mix with powders, pigments or glitters to create an eyeliner, or a products with powerful adhesion.

Small Eye Shadow Pro Palette in Saddle (€7.00) is a warm matte shadow that looks great alone or particularly in the crease of a smoky or dark eye. It comes without any cumbersome packaging so that you can pop it straight into a customisable palette.

MACPro Small Eye Shadow Pro Palette in Saddle

Small Eye Shadow Pro Palette in Soft Brown (€7.00) is pretty straightforward – a soft peachy matte brown that contours the eye area and gives subtle but pretty definition.

MAC Pro Small Eye Shadow Pro Palette in Soft Brown

Set Powder in Invisible (€31.50) is a universal setting powder without any whitish residue, and works for everyone.

Set Powder in Invisible is a universal setting powder without any whitish residue, and works for everyone

Pro Palette Customise x24 Insert (€2.50) fits into the large compact of the same size, and houses twenty-four shadow or concealer shades. If you have a large makeup collection, sometimes storage options aimed at makeup artists make more sense than piling products up in drawers or makeup bags.

Intensely bright

Some products won’t be for the average customer, though most makeup artists will have a use for them. The intensely bright Paint Sticks might look a bit frightening, and if you’re not interested in playing with texture and repurposing products, Mixing Medium is not a useful purchase. If you just like a dabble, a twenty-four shadow palette or a vast choice of glitter shades and sizes  are not things you need in any sense of the word. But makeup need not be prescriptive either, and the Pro range allows ordinary people to walk instore with a photograph of non-standard makeup they love but don’t know how to do, and ask ‘How can I recreate this?’

However you wear your makeup and whatever you happen to wear, Barber eschews utterly the idea that there is one conception of beauty to which we must aspire. “A combination of the ugly and the beautiful, or of the beautiful featuring something intangibly imperfect, is somehow more beautiful. Beauty should blur lines. I much prefer something that veers toward the playful, that has  a sense of irony or humour than that one-face-fits-all look. It is impossible to maintain that level of perfection. It is restrictive and takes itself too seriously. Makeup should give us the freedom to be irreverent.”

The Instagram face is uncanny in real life, he argues, and suggests embracing yourself and a ‘lived in’ look a little more. “Actual women cannot meet that Instagram mandate for perfection. No one can. Perfect women don’t do school runs, real ones do. I think that women enjoy working reality into their beauty. They like a slightly untidy eyeliner, an imperfect red lip.  I’m interested in that. I’m interested in the woman I see on the bus working her hangover makeup into her work makeup. Many women go about their lives in their makeup. Makeup is no longer just eyeshadow and lipstick – it’s so much more nuanced and exciting than that.”

MAC Pro is available exclusively at Brown Thomas from today.