MAC eyeshadows, worth the hype?

20 Oct 2014

A picture of MAC eyeshadows
Building a MAC palette was something I wanted to do for a very long time, but I was seriously put off by the price. Whereas ready-made eyeshadow palettes don't always include the shades you'd personally chose, they're created to suit a multiple of looks and needs, usually at a fairly realistic price. Eyeshadow palettes can be the most budget-friendly way to build your shadow collection, but there's always at least one shade in a ready-made palette that you're not too keen on or won't get much use out of. I love the idea of building your own palette from scratch, using only the shades you want to include, and so after 2 years of putting it off, I decided to start building my very own MAC palette.

The first few MAC shadows I picked up, I wasn't all that impressed with. In fact, it made me regret my decision to start a MAC palette and I was beginning to wonder how anyone could rave about MAC shadows. They felt dry and very firm to the touch, difficult to apply, even more difficult to build up intensity or blend. But whenever I told fellow MAC fans about my first impressions, everyone said the same thing; stick at it, MAC shadows are my favourite!

I decided to change tactics, maybe the brushes I was using weren't great? So I tried different brushes, and after a bit more use the shadows were a dream to use. I thought changing my brushes was the key to why I hadn't been getting on with them from the get-go, but when I bought more to add to my collection I encountered the exact same problems. Simply put, MAC shadows are incredibly firm when they are new and they take some 'breaking in' for you to use them with ease. Once you get past the first few uses, the shadows are beautiful in formula, and it's just those first initial uses which can be harder to work with. I don't know if everyone who has MAC shadows has experienced this - but I'd say I've experienced it with 9/10 MAC shadows now.

That said, I am a big fan of MAC shadows. I've built up quite the collection now including different finishes and quite a variety of shades. When you're past those initial first uses, the formula is great - velvety soft with intense pigmentation and beautiful to both apply and blend. The longevity is perfect for eyeshadows, I can apply in the morning and by the time I take my makeup off before bed, my eye makeup still looks freshly applied. There's no budging or smudging when on, and no risk of fall-out when applying either. Shade range wise, MAC easily has one of the most expansive shade ranges for their products and their eyeshadows are no different, with dozens and dozens of different colours to suit any tastes, and a nice selection of finishes to choose between. 

Building a MAC palette is expensive, so if you have just a couple of MAC shadows you have your eye on, there's no harm buying them individually rather than working towards filling a palette. At £10 a shadow (refill, without the pan), and the 15-pan MAC palette itself costing £16.50, my bigger MAC palette is worth £166.50. Little bit sickening when you think of it like that! There are much, much more budget-friendly ways to build your eyeshadow stash, like ready made palettes or more purse-friendly brands who offer build-your-own-palettes, such as Inglot. Would I build another MAC palette? Maybe, but only if the shade range hugely expanded, as I'm very happy with the shades I have already and I don't find myself drawn to any others within the range. 

What are your thoughts on MAC shadows? Did you get on with them from the get-go or have you had the same difficulties I had at first? Are there any must-have shades you think I should have? Let me know! 


  1. I have two MAC palettes both of which I have shared over on my blog and I love them both! I must admit I’m definitely a MAC eyeshadow lover!

  2. I am a huge MAC eyeshadow fan, I tend to ask for them as gifts as they aren't cheap. I have 7 so far and whenever I want an easy eyeshadow look I reach for them 9/10 times. I have also noticed that the eyeshadows need "breaking in" but they are absolutely lovely after a few uses.

    Gaby //

  3. I have mostly succeeded in resisting MAC shadows because the price makes me unhappy. I have some MAC products beyond shadows, but in general I think the prices are just too high. Though, ironically, I buy individual Urban Decay shadows, which of course are also spendy. I think the difference for me is that they sell much smaller palettes (I just have a 4-pan palette, and own maybe 8 shadows) so I'm not collecting tons of them and I like the way that they pop out of their compact, into the palette, and back into the compact. I also get Sephora points for them ... but it's hard to justify all the same. I'm currently working on a Makeup Geek shadow wish list - much more budget friendly. I loved reading your thoughts on MAC.

  4. Im a massive lover of mac eyeshadows, they are my favourite brand for eyeshadows by far, and i always find myself reaching for them over my naked palettes!
    xprincessjas | ♥

  5. I know what you mean about 'breaking them on'. They're very expensive but I guess in part you're paying for the ability to build your own palette and the vast colour selection available x

    Jasmine // Magpie Jasmine // Blog Sale

  6. I'd like to try some MAC products but the price puts me off a lot. I find my cheap eyeshadows work just fine, good pigment and staying power, so for the time being I wont be trying MAC stuff.

  7. This was really helpful. I've never tried MAC shadows but I'm looking into building a quad - I just have no idea how I'll only choose 4 shades!

    Kelsey |

  8. The permanent eyeshadows tend to be a lot better than the limited edition ones. If you buy Carbon as a color on its own the quality is quite good. When MAC release one of those limited edition quads, the Carbon in them is nothing like the one on its own. x


  9. I literally have the same problem! I am always so hesitant in buying MAC eyeshadow palettes because of the price! I like the ones you have bought, those shades are stunning and I could totally see you pulling those off! Love those :) xo

  10. I love all of the different shades you have in your collection. I've played it safe so far and stuck to neutrals, but I'm definitely going to have a look at some brighter shadows. On a side note, I agree about the price - I actually bought my empty palette in America and it worked out at around £6 including the tray inside, so a lot cheaper! x

  11. I think the palettes can be expensive, but I do quite like the range of shades!

    Annabel ♥
    Mascara & Maltesers

  12. I'm definitely a fan! I think they are a bit overpriced but overall they are great eyeshadows. My favourite ones are All That Glitters, Mulch & Satin Taupe. x

    Speaking Beauty UK | Nars, Urban Decay, YSL GIVEAWAY

  13. I was so glad to read this article - and to hear that I'm not the only one who isn't convinced that MAC is the be all and end all of cosmetics!

    In my opinion, when you're paying that much for an eyeshadow, there should be absolutely no need to have to 'break it in'. It's supposed to be a quality, professional product: end of story. It makes me wonder if they spray some kind of weird chemical coating on the top of the pans before packaging to prevent the shadows breaking during shipping or something!

    I'm not anti-MAC - I own and use a lot of their products, including a few of their eyeshadows. But I am an Inglot shadow girl through and through. You just can't beat the price and the pigmentation and quality is perfect.

    Thanks so much for such a thought provoking read! You're a gem <3 xx

  14. Love this post! Everyone seems to think they're amazing, but only some of them are. I had a full x15 palette and got rid of tons because I didn't touch them. I use shades like Naked Lunch and Woodwinked really often but some shades are completely overrated. I always think Urban Decay get the quality of eyeshadows right.

    Molly xx
    Lyon Notes

  15. I haven't tries MAC shadows yet, but I have wanted to build a MAC palette, I'm very glad to have read this, I think I will start with one shadow and go from there. I had a similar experience with Revlon Balm Stains. The first time I used them I was like, I don't get the hype at all, it didn't apply even, it felt dry, so many issues, but I tried it a few more times before writing it off and found that after I got through the top layer I was in love. Thank you for the post it was very informative!

  16. I have never actually thought about it, but after reading your post I've realised that happened to me too (the having to wear in the eye-shadows before getting their full potential)! So strange!

    But yeah I also love the shades & the formula now and would really recommend them. I have two quads - not sure if I would be willing to get a 15 palette though, just the thought of spending £166 on eyeshadow!!

    Chloe Andrews | Beauty posts & Nail tutorials

  17. I'm glad I found this because to be frank, I just tried mac and thought it was super shitty. But I'm going to give it a few more tries first!