MAC Strength – review, photos & swatches

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MAC’s limited edition latest is pretty and powerful

MAC’s Strength Limited Edition Collectionphotos: we heart this

On New Year’s Eve, when I resolved to dedicate my year to fitness of every kind, I never dreamed that MAC’s Strength collection would arrive on my doorstep to help me pump up my resolution with maximum muscle. “Flex your femininity,” says MAC, “and do it with strength too irresistible to ignore.”

The photos in the Strength campaign literally made my jaw drop; featuring an amply-muscled lovely (Serbian figure competitor Jelena Abbou) in black latex haute couture – the image takes for granted that strength and beauty can work together in perfect harmony. The model’s face is soft, her arms are pumped and defined, and she exudes the kind of superhuman power (and confidence) that most of us can only dream of.

A woman flexing muscles wearing a black dress with MAC strength text in the background

I love the way MAC presents beauty beyond the traditional definitions, but this unconventional beauty is a whole new world of impact. Here, strength is as much a state of mind as a physical state, and the colors in this collection can make you feel that way, too.

We tested a range of these colors with muscle:

All Woman: Eye Shadow X4 Palette

All Woman: Eye Shadow X4 ($40)

Flawless Figure – icy white (veluxe pearl)
Brains & Brawn – dark taupe (matte)
All Woman – light charcoal shimmer with slight green cast (satin)
Black Magique – warm, deep black (veluxe pearl)

All Woman: Eye Shadow X4 SwatchesFlawless Figure, Brains & Brawn, All Woman, Black Magique

All Woman is a versatile, neutral palette that would work with warm or cool skintones. The four brand new colors create a neutral smoky eye that can be subtle for day, or seriously dramatic with more liberal use of Black Magique, the black veluxe pearl.

All Woman: Eye Shadow X4 Palette SwatchesFlawless Figure, Brains & Brawn

All Woman: Eye Shadow X4 Palette SwatchesAll Woman, Black Magique

Only Flawless Figure, the bright white, has any serious shimmer; the other three colors are basically matte, blend beautifully, and wear for up to eight hours when used with a primer.

A hand holding two different shades of Nail Lacquer

Nail Lacquer ($16)

Triumphant – cool taupe creme
Muscle Tone – milky light nude

A hand with a cool taupe creme nail polish holding a nail lacquerTriumphant

I found Triumphant to be a strong, no-nonsense greige creme lacquer that looks great on short nails. The formula was thin and fast-drying, and – most surprising – had great coverage. One coat was almost opaque; two coats was perfection. With a base and top coat, I got a full week of wear before seeing any significant chipping.

a hand with a milky light nude polish holding a nail lacquerMuscle Tone

Meanwhile, according to swatcher Stef, Muscle Tone is streaky and requires a lot of patience (that she doesn’t have!)

A bright magenta, sheer charcoal black with gold shimmer, and bright hot pink lipstick on a light background

Lipstick ($15)

Strong Woman – bright magenta (matte)
Firm Form – sheer charcoal black with gold shimmer (matte)
Pink Pigeon – bright hot pink (matte)

MAC lipstick swatchesEmbrace Me Lip Pencil, Pink Pigeon, Strong Woman, Firm Form Lipsticks

Originally released in the Iris Apfel collection, Pink Pigeon is my dream pink. Described as matte, it went on so smooth and creamy, it almost had a gleam when I first applied it, then settled into its natural matte state. The color is opaque and so bright, it’s almost neon. If you’re looking for a super-vivid, blue-based pink, Pink Pigeon is extraordinary and surprisingly easy to wear.

I knew Firm Form was going to be my challenge from this collection. Could black lipstick possibly be wearable? First, I tried it straight from the tube, and ended up with clumpy, uneven brownish black lips. Using a brush didn’t help to even the coverage. But even though Firm Form didn’t really work on me full strength, with a little clear lipglass, the color sheered down into a truly pretty purplish bronze. Worn with gloss, the gold glimmer is more obvious, too.

Neon pinkish magenta lipstick and lip pencil on a light background

Lip Pencil ($15)

Embrace Me – Neon pinkish magenta

The perfect companion for Pink Pigeon, we’ve seen Embrace Me before as a limited edition in several other releases (Iris Apfel, Tour de Fabulous and Beth Ditto). I hope MAC gives in and makes this liner part of the permanent collection, because it’s the ideal bright pink: soft, opaque, just this side of neon. I even love it worn alone with a touch of gloss.

As far as recent MAC releases go, Strength is one of my favorites, giving me power to face the new year. I resolve to be fearless, elegant and strong – at least until these mostly limited-edition products run out.

we heartsters – what MAC products give you the strength to face a new year?

Eye Shadow x4
All Woman
Flawless Figure – Pale warm shimmering white (veluxe pearl)
Brains & Brawn – Mid-tone taupe (matte)
All Woman – Greenish dark grey (satin)
Black Magique – Deep, dark black with warm tones (veluxe pearl)
$40 US/$47.50 CDN

Inner Strength
Lithe Spirit – Palest white pink (satin)
Inner Strength – Light cool mauve taupe (matte)
Fabulous Fit – Mid-tone cool grey (matte)
Heatherbelles – Deep charcoal (satin)
$40 US/$47.50 CDN

Opulash Mascara
Bad, Bad, Black – Black
$16 US/$19 CDN

Penultimate Eye Liner
Rapidblack – True black
$18.50 US/$22 CDN

Kohl Power
Feline – Rich Black
$15 US/$18 CDN

Technakohl Eye Liner
Graphblack – Rich graphic black
$15 US/$18 CDN

Powder Blush
Taupe Shape – Satiny taupe (satin)
Poised – Muted pinkish brown (satin)
$20 US/$24 CDN

Nail Lacquer
Muscle Tone – Pale neutral nude
Triumphant – Mid-tone cool brown
$16 US/$19 CDN

Party Parrot – Bright red pink (matte)
Pink Pigeon – Bright cleanest pink (matte)
Strong Woman – Bright violet (matte)
Absolute Power – Rich red (matte)
Firm Form – Gilded black with gold pearl (matte)
$15 US/$18 CDN

Lip Pencil
Embrace Me – Vivid pinkish fuchsia
Lasting Sensation – Bright coral
$15 US/$18 CDN

168 Large Angled Contour
$35 US/$42 CDN
275 Medium Angled Shading
$25 US/$30 CDN

Melissa loves road trips, bargain shopping, drive-in movies, lip gloss and rock ‘n’ roll. She lives in Baltimore with her precious pup Zeus.

Disclosure: This review includes products that were provided by the manufacturer/PR firm for our consideration. For more info, or any questions, please see our disclosure policy.


  • turboterp

    Melissa loves road trips, bargain shopping, drive-in movies, lip gloss and rock 'n' roll. She lives in Baltimore with her precious pup Bellarina. skin tone: NC20 skin type: dry to normal favorite beauty product: skincare

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  1. Strong Woman is so pretty – I wish MAC would have more stock available for LE collections; if I’d seen swatches when it was available, I might have bought it!

    1. @Emi – I so sympathize with your quest of limited edition makeup. There is nothing worse than wanting something very badly and not being able to find it anywhere.

  2. Lovi’ the whole strength concept. The model they used is fierce. The black lipstick was intriguing, but wouldn’t be right me, either.

  3. Hurray, another chance to snap up Pink Pigeon!
    I’ve got to say, I LOVE this ad campaign! It’s a seriously beautiful photo, and Jelena Abbou looks amazing. I’m so glad they highlighted her muscularity as well as her striking features. It’s a great alternative to the more typical waif-like models.

  4. I love the photo for the campaign as well!

    From this collection I manage to get my hands on a Party Parrot lipstick (something I’ve been lemming since failing to get it during the Iris Apfel release) AND a back up thank goodness. The only store near me that has it is the MAC Pro store AND I was able to Back2MAC for one of them…score! :) I tried it on once I got the first one and knew it was going to be a favorite. It’s bright but I like to wear it in its sheerest form as a wash of color with gloss. It’s amazing! I’d pick up Pink Pigeon too but I think it might not work as well on my warm skintone.

  5. I really like Strong Woman as well. So pretty! But I am a sucker for anything purple. Nice collection overall…as usual.

  6. Embrace Me looks like my kind of pink! The All Woman eye palette looks pretty much like the definitive smoky eye palette. Nice!

  7. I do like the promo photo for this campaign a lot. The strength and beauty of Jelena are fantastic.

    The swatches of the eyeshadows look a bit chalky to me? And the colors look nice and neutral, but it’s a bit reminiscent of all of the other neutral palettes that have come out recently. I’m curious about Pink Pigeon… it’s REALLY bright, so I’m not sure if I can pull it off.

    1. I agree that the swatches look a bit chalky, but in person, only Flawless Figure (the frosty white) is troublesome for me. The other three colors blend well, and I’ve been wearing them nonstop.

  8. I am oddly drawn to Firm Form. But I also wore black lipstick on occasion back when I was in college (and I wasn’t a goth). I rocked that sh*t. :D

  9. This ad campaign is amazing!!
    I got to try Muscle Tone and I agree with Stef’s assessment that it’s streaky. The color is a perfect milky nude but it took 3 coats to get a nice uniform look. It wore pretty well though once I had it on.

  10. Strong Woman is a beautiful, vampy purple but I found that I liked it best with a little gloss over top. The matte finish seemed to emphasize every lip line and with it being winter my lips aren’t in the best shape. But with a touch of gloss to smooth it out it looks gorgeous with a neutral eye.

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