Sunday, March 26, 2017

What I'm Not Buying: MAC Basic Bitch Palette

MAC will soon release a palette entitled "Basic Bitch" with eight eyeshadows and one blush. 

And I won't be buying. 

So, I think MAC is struggling. And that makes me kind of sad in a way. And I know it's dumb that it makes me sad because it's a company. But as I've mentioned before, a MAC artist taught me how to apply makeup, and my first ever experience with makeup was through MAC. I have a lot of nostalgia tied to this brand, and I also really appreciate and celebrate their MAC AIDS Fund campaign. 

What hurt MAC, I think, was an inability to move forward with their products and a (likely) cocky attitude that they would always reign supreme. When I first started watching YouTube videos, people only ever talked about MAC. And for years, they were the only brand I ever used. But then Urban Decay came out with the Naked palette, several other brands copied them, and then it didn't make sense to spend $12 per shadow at MAC when you could buy a palette for so much cheaper. Brands became aware of the blog and YT space, and many capitalized on that, but not MAC. 

Adding to this mess, MAC continued to come out with limited edition collections that were rushed, uninspired, and significantly lacking in quality. That was when I personally stopped paying attention to MAC. I didn't want to be caught up in the special collections because they were releasing so frequently and all the products were bad. And then I found better products and slowly replaced almost everything from MAC in my collection. In terms of makeup, I have three MAC singe eyeshadows—Amber Lights, Coppering, and Cranberry—and the C'est Chic palette in addition to two lipsticks: Velvet Teddy and Bare Again. 

I actually went into a MAC store recently because I was interested in buying a pigment. (I live in NYC, so this may be a problem specific to NYC for what it's worth.) I walked in and told the sales associate that I wanted this specific pigment and nothing else. She held the pigment hostage to tell me about the new collection of products they had. There were no other customers in the store, and all the other sales associates were watching us. I told the woman repeatedly that I did not want anything else, that I had a shit ton of makeup already, and just wanted that one pigment. She ignored me and kept trying to get me to try all this other stuff. I finally told her that I had to leave and didn't have time for this. That was when I was informed that they were actually out of stock of the one item that I actually wanted. I was floored. I immediately left and because of this experience, I have not tried to get that pigment since. MAC stores have really terrible customer service across the board in NYC (I can't speak to elsewhere), and I think it adds to this really negative perception a lot of people have about the brand. 

Recently, it was announced that MAC will now be selling their products inside Ulta. This came about a year or so after MAC announced that they were cutting the prices of their eyeshadows in half. All of this tells me that MAC is likely taking a hit from all these years of not stepping up their game and adding anything innovative to the beauty community. They lost their high ranking years ago (at least in the US), but operated as though they had not. 

Even more recently, MAC had a 25% off sale, which was unheard of. I took advantage of it to buy duplicates of some of my all-time favorite brushes, and I was incredibly disappointed to see that the brushes have significantly changed from years ago. I have a 239 brush from about seven years ago that is still going strong as my all-time favorite, and I was dismayed to see that the 239 brush is now quite a bit bigger (including the bristles) from my older one. 

MAC also changed their cruelty-free status a few years ago to no longer being cruelty-free, and that is a major step in the wrong direction. 

With all of that in mind, there just isn't a ton for me to love about MAC right now. And while I think it's great that MAC is finally trying to step up their game and bring something new to the table, I'm just not excited by what they're doing and it feels misguided and almost a little too late. 

Let's look at Basic Bitch:

For me personally, I am not a huge pan of palettes that come with face and eye products together. I know that may be petty, but that is just a personal preference for me. So immediately, I'm not thrilled that this palette comes with a blush, especially a blush that looks like it would not flatter all skin tones. 

In that same petty vein, I really dislike it when shadows are not the same size in palettes. The only time I have ever really not cared about this is in the Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye palette. The reason I don't like this is because a) I don't like how the palette doesn't look uniform and b) I don't like that the brand is making the decision for me on what colors I will use the most. 

In Basic Bitch, for example, I am much more likely to use the gold and copper shades more than I would the red, purple, and gray colors. If the white is a matte (as opposed to a shimmer) that is also a color I would use more often than all the larger pans. And so it would frustrate me to have less product of the colors I know I would use and more of the colors I would use less. And maybe this was intentional on MAC's part. Maybe (if this is a permanent item) the idea is that they hope people run out of the neutral lid shades first and then buy another palette to replace those colors. If this isn't the thought behind it, then I really don't understand why they chose to size the shadows in this way. 

The thing about this palette is that it is a self-proclaimed "basic" palette. So there are basic colors in here that primarily lean cool-toned and can allow someone to do a natural eye, smoky eye, and plum/berry eye. In that sense, I think this color scheme is smart, but unfortunately, this is nothing new or all that special for the majority of makeup users. 

The swatches don't look all that great to me. They don't look terrible, but they look they they have been applied in multiple layers to build up the color. Also, when looking at these swatches, the color scheme doesn't look all that appealing to me personally. And I know that within my collection, I certainly have all these colors. 

In terms of palettes similar to this, I would say pretty much any taupe or smoky palette. 

Like Urban Decay Naked Smoky:

Tarte Tartelette in Bloom:

Photo: Temptalia 

Urban Decay Naked 2:

Too Faced Boudoir Eyes:

And most specifically, Tarte Energy Noir:

Photo: Temptalia 

I just don't understand what MAC's thinking is on this palette. They are acknowledging that it is basic in what I assume is an attempt to draw the attention of the average makeup consumer instead of the obsessive makeup consumer (like myself). But then you have to ask why that person would buy the MAC palette instead of any of the palettes above. Frankly, the Tarte Energy Noir palette seems to be a much better option. There are more shadows, shadows that can be used as liner, and a blush that looks far more universal than the MAC offering. And I strongly suspect the Tarte palette is cheaper than Basic Bitch. 

As far as I can tell, there aren't any details about when the palette will be available, if it is limited edition, and how much it will cost. Which, of course, is incredibly unhelpful. 

Finally, I just have something to say about the name of this palette. 

"Basic Bitch" is not a term that I enjoy and is not a term I think should be used on items primarily targeted at women. There are several different definitions of this term, including "airhead," but I would say the most accepted and generally used definition is a woman who enjoys "basic" and stereotypical things. So, if you enjoy wearing leggings with Ugg boots and enjoy drinking Pumpkin Spiced Lattes from Starbucks, you are a "basic bitch." My opinion is that this is a derogatory and misogynistic term.

I have owned a blush called "Deep Throat" and an eyeshadow called "Super Mom." I have no problem that Kat Von D named the shadows in the Shade and Light Eye palette after demons, no do I care that she had a lipstick very controversially called "Underage Red." Kat Von D explained that the name came from when she would wear red lipsticks in an attempt to make herself look older to get into clubs, but pulled the lipstick nonetheless because of how upset it made people. 

I think it's quite gross and cringe worthy that Kylie Cosmetics has shade names like "X Rated," "Barely Legal," and "Virginity."

And I have a massive problem with Jeffree Star Cosmetics having a lipstick the shade of a bruise called "Abused," even those he claims the name is after the lyric in "Sweet Dreams." I think Jeffree Star is a "cover his own ass" liar, and I don't believe him. He has not pulled this shade or renamed it despite a mountain of criticism. 

It's really interesting when you pay attention to how makeup items are named and marketed. It's especially interesting to consider that the main audience for this marketing are women and the majority of makeup brand owners and marketers are men. At the end of the day, yes, it is just a name, but it is also important to consider what is behind that name. When you look at Kat Von D's action in pulling the lipstick because it offended so many people, and then you look at these other names that are either objectifying women or derogatory toward women, it is pretty shocking. 

It's worth noting that many makeup brands are trying to use YT and internet lingo, which is also inherently problematic because it appropriates AAEV. So calling this palette "Basic Bitch" might be (and very likely is) MAC's attempt to relate to the "youth." But just because something is a popular saying doesn't mean that people (and especially companies) should be ignorant toward its meaning. As I type this, I am wearing a pair of Ugg slippers that I freaking love and am drinking Keurig coffee from a Starbucks "You Are Here" mug that I purchased in DC when I was there for the Women's March on Washington. I'm also dressed in pajama shorts and a "Nasty Woman" t-shirt. So there you go. 

I'm not a "basic bitch," I don't think any woman or man is, and there is absolutely nothing that I like about this palette. So, I won't be buying. 


  1. I love this blog post. Thank you for this.

  2. I love this blog post. Thank you for this!

  3. Nice post. I'm from the UK and I think Mac is still managing to reign supreme there (for now). Colourpop is tricky to get a hold of and I've personally heard significantly less people rave about Makeup Geek there.

    I too have nostalgia towards Mac, I've shopped with them since 2010 and was my first step into really loving makeup and my first non drug store makeup.

    This palette seems to be trying to get into the territory I hate the most - trendy YouTube.

    1. I used to live in the UK (Wales), and that was actually were I first found YT and really fell for makeup in a hard way. And MAC reigned supreme, but then it was also supreme in the US as well. Thing is, MAC was really overpriced in the UK compared to the US, and I never really felt it was worth that cost.

      And I definitely agree that the palette is slipping into trendy YT territory, and I hate that as well. That demographic is just not for me—I've outgrown it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. what's the thing with the super mom eyeshadow? i have seen people complain about that name before and just can't understand the reason (sorry if this question sounds silly, i'm not an english native speaker).

    1. It's not a silly question! But I have to admit it's kind of difficult to explain. It comes from the original Tarte Tartelette palette. And all the shade names are generic things that can explain women, like "Free Spirit," "Dreamer," "Caregiver," "Best Friend," ... and "Super Mom."

      I think there is an idea (at least in the US), that when a woman becomes a mother, that is her new identity. She is a mother now instead of a woman who has interests and passions who also has children.

      And the definition of a "super mom" is a woman who is a mother and takes care of a household while also holding a full-time job. She's a "super mom" like a superhero. But there really isn't anything called a "super dad" because men aren't expected to have their identity wrapped up in being a father. They ARE expected to work a full-time job and aren't expected to "take care of the household" in the same way a woman is.

      Personally, I am not yet a mother, so I can't at all speak to that experience, but several of my friends who are mothers are either caught up in their new identity of being a mother and trying to do what they think that means or are offended by the expectation that they are no longer a woman/person first, if that makes sense.

  5. Even if you're not a mother yet, your comment and explanation was spot on. I hear people give dads so much praise for doing basic parent stuff that moms are just expected to do by society.

    I am a mom. My daughter is my world - but being her mother does not define me. I have interests (such as makeup, of course) and hobbies and a career. The term 'Super Mom' doesn't really bother me (although I've never been referred to as a supermom) I just think it's lame and sounds cheesy.

    Awesome blog post, by the way! MAC was my pathway into the mid-high end makeup world. I used to think that NOTHING was better than MAC. Now that I've discovered other brands I'be discovered MAC's quality is pretty inferior.

    Also I like how you touched on the names of J*'s lipstick Abused, and Kylie's ridiculous highlighter names. Those are definitely two brands I will never purchase anything from.

  6. Loved your review, but Kat Von D hasn't pulled Underage Red; it's still available in both her Everlasting liquid and Studded Kiss. I'm glad she didn't cave to be honest!

  7. While I do like to colors in this palette, like you take issue with the name and do not want to buy it for that reason. I have young daughters who like to "play make-up" with me and I don't need to be explaining what "basic bitch" means to elementary school children. Thanks for the suggestions for some similar colored palettes without the distasteful name.