Monday, January 14, 2019

The Hype Machine: Pat McGrath Lip Products

The Hype Machine is a series that takes a critical look at well-loved, cult classic, appears-in-every-other-Instagram-photo products and asks: are they worth the hype?

Pat McGrath herself needs little introduction. She's known for using a range of inventive materials to create unique looks, and she's done everything from editorial shoots to runway shows. When I watch her applying makeup, I am absolutely flabbergasted by her talent; it's like she puts a brush to a model's skin and magic pours out. It's no surprise that her makeup line has been wildly popular, especially when her products were first released in limited quantities on Sephora and sold out almost immediately.

But I'm not exactly rolling in disposable income, so as pretty as her products looked and as intense as the reviews and praise were, I just couldn't spend my money on the Pat McGrath range. $38 for a lipstick? $125 for an eyeshadow palette? And there's no way for me to swatch the products and experience the textures before I purchase? That's just beyond me and my means.

So how did I get these products? Well, my friends...I did some damage during Black Friday 2018. With the LuxeTrance lipsticks on sale for $26, I decided they were close enough to my $25 price ceiling to give them a try. I went for the shade Strangé, partially because it's a red and partially because I think that's a Grace Jones reference.

 She is perfection and this scene is iconic.

I also purchased an on-sale PermaGel lip pencil in Manhattan, thinking it would match Strangé. In reality, Manhattan is a bit darker and more brown, but that little bit of depth helps.

What do we think of the lighting in this photo: yay or nay?

The packaging for these products is definitely worthy of the price point. Every product comes in a beautiful box fastened with string. The writing on both the products and their boxes is gold foil. And while some people have complained that the giant gold lips on the lipsticks are tacky, I think they're just the right amount of over-the-top for a Pat McGrath range. The woman is famous for the number of bags and trunks she travels with; she's not exactly known for subtly.

Are the formulas inside those pretty packages worth a day's pay? Well, that depends. The lipstick is certainly beautiful: it feels incredibly thin and smooth during application, almost like a liquid, and it gives full color payoff with one stroke. I did blot and reapply on this day, like I do with all lipsticks, and after eating a bowl of homemade sesame chicken, I noticed that the lipstick was mostly intact, with some wear near the very inside of my lips and all of that slightly glossy finish gone. It goes without saying that I love this color,

The lip pencil, however, leaves something to be desired. The name "Perma-Gel" suggests that the pencil will be creamy and long-wearing. It certainly has a fluid, soft gel texture, but it doesn't prevent feathering in the slightest. This macro shot shows how my lipstick looked after just an hour of wear: you can see that the edges, especially on my top lip, are smeared. I love the color of the lip pencil and how it pairs with this lipstick, so I'll keep using it, but I'll likely use a slightly waxier pencil first to get my lip lines smooth and crisp.

Perhaps the best way to sum up my feelings about Pat McGrath's lip products and the hype around them is this: I haven't looked at any other lip pencil shades, but I have picked out one more LuxeTrance lipstick I'd like to own, 1995. (Take a moment to appreciate my restraint here, please, because there's a shade named Labeija and I haven't bought it just for the name.) It's just one shade, and I won't even think about buying it until it's on sale again. I'll get my use out of these products and may own a few more, but I won't break the bank for them.

BOTTOM LINE: Like the NARS Audacious lipsticks before them, these Pat McGrath lip products are beautiful, but not necessarily better than any of the $20 lipsticks I've tried. Skip the lip pencils and settle on one or two special lipstick shades unless your budget is endless.

The Hype Machine is a series that represents my experiences and opinions. It is not meant to be a personal attack on a specific company, product, or consumer. I always recommend that you try products for yourself and see how they work for you. Everybody is unique, after all!


  1. You probably know this, but 1995 is in the trio of minis that's $25. I got it during the 20% off too so I thought that was super reasonable for Pat McGrath. I especially love that Flesh 3 is included. It's so gorgeous and it seems like an un-dupable color.

    1. I considered getting the trio, but I generally prefer full-sized lipsticks to minis, especially once I've tested a formula. And part of my no-buy is learning to stay focused on the one or two specific shades I want instead of being like, "Oh, bonus colors!"