Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Pat McGrath Labs LuxeTrance Lipstick in Madame Greige

(Settle in. This will be a long post.)

First, some personal news: I defended my doctoral dissertation earlier this month and now have a Ph.D. in English! At my university, the dissertation defense (our official term, hilariously, is "Final Public Oral") is a pretty lowkey affair. It consists of a 30-minute presentation and another 30 minutes of questions from your dissertation committee and others at the FPO (professors outside your committee, friends, et al). Having attended several defenses before my own, I knew that most of the "questions" would be rambling suggestions from my four advisors on how to revise my dissertation into a book manuscript, and that I wouldn't be required to "defend" my work in any meaningful sense. Still, I was pretty nervous in the two weeks leading up to my defense. So I promised myself that if I got through it alive, I could order myself a truly extravagant present: Pat McGrath Labs' $38 LuxeTrance lipstick in Madame Greige, which I'd tried on at Sephora a month before. Of course, there was no question that I wouldn't get through the defense alive, but it was a surprisingly effective trick to play on my brain. Instead of thinking "ugh, 48 hours until my defense," I could think "48 hours until my defense AND FANCY LIPSTICK," and that was much more pleasant.

Fittingly, I took this photo at the coffee shop where I wrote at least 75% of my dissertation.

For the record, my Final Public Oral makeup (no jokes about blowjob-proof lipstick, please) was pretty boring: the taupe shade from the Wet n Wild Plaid to the Bone trio on the lid and lower lashline; ABH Cyprus Umber in the outer V; NYX pencil liner in Brown Perfection on the upper lashline; and Urban Decay blush and Revolution lipstick in Rapture. Interview makeup, basically. My commitment to Gothademia extends only so far.

My pin is from KWT Designs.

I passed my defense! Did a good job, even! And then I went out for lunch with my boyfriend and a friend from my cohort, had one cocktail, came home, developed a horrible headache, took a three-hour nap, and woke up and ordered Madame Greige. My life is truly a wild ride.


But let's backtrack a bit and talk about my (very brief) history with Pat McGrath Labs. When the brand debuted in late 2015, I didn't take much interest. Pat McGrath is a fantastically talented makeup artist who has been in the industry forever, but her first products were gimmicky and flimsy-looking and well out of my price range and surrounded by limited-edition hype and packaged in enough sequins to drown an entire Texan beauty pageant, Elagabalus-style. I started paying attention, though, when McGrath launched a small collection of matte lipsticks this past summer. I wasn't particularly taken with any of the colors in the MatteTrance lineup, but I swatched them at Sephora and came away impressed with the formula. And when the brand released a permanent lineup of 31 satin-finish lipsticks this fall, many of them in shades for which I didn't already own dupes, I really took notice.

Unfortunately, the LuxeTrance lipsticks didn't get many reviews online (though one of my new favorite blogs, The Beauty Blackout, reviewed almost two dozen shades here, here, and here). So when I was in New York for my birthday, I visited the Union Square Sephora to see the LuxeTrances for myself. The standout shade for me was Madame Greige, a lavender-gray-beige-nude in the same family as Urban Decay Oblivion, Bite Thistle and Cava, MAC Driftwood, and Maybelline Gone Greige, to name just a few. I also swatched some other LuxeTrance shades. Here they are in crappy Sephora lighting (left) and closer to the big front window (right):

Top to bottom: She's Heaven!, Madame Greige, Major Red, Tropicalia (see Jupiter Gimlet's review of that shade here), Beauty Junkie, Wrecked.

A few things put me off Madame Greige initially. First, the $38 price tag: I'd never spent that much on a lipstick. Second, the fact that Pat McGrath Labs sells in China, which means that it isn't cruelty-free (though my feelings on the "cruelty-free" category are complicated). Third, my misgivings about whether I'd actually wear Madame Greige often. So I did what I almost never do: I searched for a dupe. Over the Black Friday weekend, Melt Cosmetics reduced the price of its bullet lipsticks from $19 to $7, and I ordered the matte lipstick in Stepford, from last year's Prime Rose collection. Despite my excitement to try such a buzzed-about indie brand, I was disappointed. The packaging looked and felt cheap, the formula was a little patchy and feathery (and not particularly matte), and there was an overpowering cotton-candy fragrance that reviewers of the Prime Rose lipsticks hadn't seen fit to mention because they'd all received the collection for free.



Long story short, I ended up returning Stepford. The initial (and nonrefundable) shipping fee was $7, and it cost about $3 more to send the lipstick back to Melt, so I paid over $10 for the privilege of trying it on. I realized that I had a choice: I could continue to waste time and money hunting for dupes, or I could cut my losses, buy the lipstick I really wanted, and move on with my life. And since my defense was coming up, I decided that Madame Greige would make the perfect reward. Spoiler: IT TOTALLY DID.

(Here's where the review proper begins, if you've been scrolling impatiently through my ramblings.)

If this whole academia thing doesn't work out, I'd like to get a job writing copy for Pat McGrath Labs. It seems like it would be an enormous amount of fun. "Lavishly laminate lips with sensuously saturated colour," gushes the website. "Hypnotize and exude luxury with lips transformed into objects of ravishing desire." (So much for the idea that we wear makeup for our own pleasure, not to seduce others.) The academic job market may be hopeless, but if there's one thing my fancy degree has equipped me to do, it's compose alliterative phrases like "lavishly laminate lips." And I wouldn't even have to sacrifice my integrity to do so, because that blurb isn't much of an exaggeration. I can't say I've attracted the "ravishing desire" of passersby while wearing Madame Greige (and thank God for that), but "sensuously saturated colour" that "exude[s] luxury" is pretty accurate!


Each LuxeTrance shade comes in a cardboard box illustrated by a different artist. Not many lipstick boxes deserve to be photographed from every angle, but these certainly do.




That exact fastening mechanism can also be found on the "inter-department service envelopes" used at my university, which makes the Pat McGrath box seem a tad less luxurious.


You've all seen the signature Pat McGrath lipstick tube by now: heavy black metal with gold accents and a Surrealist-inspired pair of gold lips where the two halves of the tube meet. I confess, I'm not in love with the design: on the tacky-to-sublime spectrum, the lips are just this side of tacky, and they take up a fair bit of room in the box where I store my lipsticks. For $38, I also would have liked a magnetic closure (though the tube does snap shut securely). But I appreciate a bold gesture in makeup packaging, even if it doesn't succeed completely. And Pat McGrath came of age in the '80s, so it's appropriate that the tube should recall that era of overblown luxury. I can imagine a femme-realness queen in Paris Is Burning wielding a lipstick like this (indeed, one of the nude lipsticks is called LaBeija).


Like the NARS Audacious and Bite Amuse Bouche lipsticks, the LuxeTrance lipsticks contain a generous 4g of product. (By contrast, MAC and Urban Decay Vice lipsticks are about 3g, and Glossier Generation G and Tom Ford Lips and Boys/Girls are about 2g.)


The bullet tapers to a conventional point, but the bit that's usually flat is slightly convex:


How to describe the color? Not only does it look different from person to person (see Emily's post for proof), but it also looks different from minute to minute on the same person. To my eye, Madame Greige is about 40% lavender, 30% beige, and 30% gray, but I'm struggling to come up with a good word for that color. For some reason, beauty brands like to call purplish beige lipsticks "greige," but the word technically signifies a light brownish grayno purple in evidence. (Actually, Pat McGrath's own Lust Angeles shade is more greige than Madame Greige. Go figure.) I think Madame Greige is closer to mauvean equally ill-defined term in the beauty industrythan it is to greige, but true mauve is brighter. In cool-toned light, as above, MG leans dusty purple; in warm-toned or indoor light, it's more brown. Perhaps I should describe the color in terms of how it makes me feel: elegant but offbeat, like Isabella Blow or Daphne Guinness (whom I envy less for her wardrobe than for her having banged my #1 celebrity crush, Tom Hollander). You know: one of those eccentric British ladies who act as patrons to artists and designers, wear bizarre feathered hats, and have so much money that their occupation is being themselves.

Isabella Blow with milliner Philip Treacy in 2003 (source). She died ten years ago last May.

The Pat McGrath website promises "seamless, one-stroke coverage," and Madame Greige certainly doesn't disappoint. Here's an arm swatch in indirect natural light:


This is a tricky shade to dupe. Below, I've swatched it alongside all my grayish beiges and purples; the closest color match is Kiko 319, though Madame Greige's formula is infinitely superior. MAC Whirl (far left) is nearest to a true greige, and you can see that it's less purple than MG (and, on my face, less flattering).

L-R: MAC Whirl, Kiko 319, Bourjois Beige Trench, Madame Greige, Milani Matte Naked, NYX Brooklyn Thorn.

Because the LuxeTrance bullet is wide and rounded, I can imagine that if I'd bought a bold shade like Major Red or Wrecked, I'd have a harder time applying it without liner or a lip brush. As it is, Madame Greige is easy to put on. It doesn't have as much slip as, say, the NARS Audacious lipsticks, but it doesn't drag or pull on my lips, either. The texture reminds me of moist clay: heavy and unctuous but not unpleasant. It's not a lightweight lipstick by any means, but it's very comfortable to wear, and it disguises my ever-present dry patches and gives the illusion of extra plumpness. The formula is mercifully scent- and taste-free, and I'd even call it lightly hydrating. Though the LuxeTrance lipsticks are described as "satin," Madame Greige's slight shine lasts only about ten minutes, after which the formula sets to an all-but-matte finish. Honestly, there's not much difference (at least in appearance) between the MatteTrance and LuxeTrance formulas, so you might want to look elsewhere if you prefer a true satin finish. Here's Madame Greige just after application this morning:


After three hours, a large coffee, and a Larabar (carrot cake is the best flavor, don't @ me):


As you can see, Madame Greige has extraordinary lasting power and surprisingly little transfer onto cups. I've worn it for an entire morning of teaching and sipping coffee and water, kept it on through lunch (lentil salad and a tangerine), and glanced in the mirror after five hours to find it looking pretty much flawless. Of course, a lighter color will fade more gracefully than a vampy one, so I can't vouch for any other shade, but I'm very impressed with Madame Greige. Frankly, it's spoiled me for most other lipsticks. I don't want to commit to superlatives so early, but this might be the best lipstick formula I've ever tried. Yeah, I said it, and I put it in bold. Pat, you fucking genius.

Due to what I fondly call my "zombie undertones" (cool olive, i.e. gray), I tend to have good luck with grayish lipsticks. I suspect warmer-toned people might have trouble with Madame Greige, but I find it quite flattering, especially with purple, pink, and/or gray tones elsewhere on my face.


In these photos, I'm also wearing ABH Warm Taupe eyeshadow in the crease, Seventeen Statuesque eyeshadow (I think) on the lid, probably a brown pencil liner idk, Urban Decay Rapture blush, Becca Shimmer Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal, and my friend's dog's hair, shoutout to Luna.


At a different time of day (same room, same natural light), Madame Greige looks very purple:


After so many words, I'm not sure how to conclude, except to say that in my opinion (and you know I'm a frugal bitch), this lipstick is well worth $38. I never thought I'd write those six words in that exact order, but here we are. Now that we're in the holiday season, I think these lipsticks would make beautiful gifts for friends or loved onesor, you know, for yourself. Because you should be your own best friend and best-loved one, right?

35 comments:

  1. Oh, Goddammit, there IS one named after the House of Labeija.

    It's probably too dark and brown for me, BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT.

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    1. I was so excited when I saw that name! But yeah, I swatched it and it's much too yellow-toned for me. It reminds me of the Bite "Edgy Neutrals" shades.

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  2. My cat's name is Luna! Nothing like some animal hair to spice up your outfit! :P

    That lipstick tube is calling my name. I'm a tacky bitch and love OTT packaging.

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    1. Actually, one of my other friends had a cat named Luna! Why is it such a popular animal name?

      I don't mind tacky packaging so long as it doesn't look or feel cheap (which this doesn't, of course). Better OTT than boring and uninspired!

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  3. Is it bad that my big takeaway from this is the Tom Hollander thing? I get it, man. Pretty into him, too.

    (Great post though, and congrats!!)

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    1. Hahaha, glad I'm not the only Hollander fan around! From everything I've read about him, he seems like an emotional hot mess, but I LIKE SHORT MEN OKAY.

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  4. A huge congrats again!

    Man, that is a pretty lipstick. Though I do not want a box that reminds me of interdepartmental mail (my interdepartmental mail is usually print journal donations that I don't want or returns of Audio Digest discs, or worst of all, invoices), Pat McGrath.

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    1. The box is so funny to me. Like, I doubt that fastening would have any significance to anyone who isn't a nerd by trade, but I just can't unsee it. At least it's not red...

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  5. Congratulations! Definitely a well-earned treat. I have been eyeing a few colours from this line myself, though I don't think I can justify the expense at this point. Maybe I'll have to get one as a reward as well... I finish my degree in September, so possibly then. Madame Greige looks really good on you! I'm jealous that you can pull off these tones - anything even slightly grey looks like death on me.

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    1. I doubt very much I would have dropped $38 on one lipstick if not for the whole Ph.D. thing (though now I'm tempted to replace all my lipsticks in meh formulas with LuxeTrance ones...). I think finishing any degree is well worth a fancy lipstick!

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  6. Congrats on defending! Do you have much in the way of revisions? I remember well the bizarre feeling of being done, it was a big mindfuck, honestly.

    This lipstick is absolutely gorgeous. I'm gonna have to check it out. I love mauve lipsticks and seem especially drawn to grayish ones lately (with my warm olive undertones grayish isn't exactly flattering on me but...I don't care because I like the color, so tough.)

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    1. For some reason, we don't do post-defense revisions at my university (at least not in the English department). The idea is that if you're allowed to have your defense, your dissertation is in good enough shape to earn you a Ph.D., so the FPO is basically a formality. Which, THANK GOD, because I'm not sure I'd have it in me to undertake more revisions at this point. And yes, the feeling of being done is very bizarre! A doctorate takes so long that you start to half-believe you'll be a grad student forever, and then suddenly you're not, so what even ARE you?

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  7. Congratulations on passing your defense and being DONE with your PhD! I'm a longtime reader/Instagram follower but first time commenter - I figured your dissertation completion warranted a comment! I'm also a PhD student in my final year (I hope) of dissertating, and I am sooo ready to be done. I'm even half-contemplating dangling one of these lipsticks as a reward for finishing a full draft and moving onwards to revisions (I'm in anthropology, and the editing of the diss is where "the magic happens," whatever TF that's supposed to mean). I have always appreciated your blog for its amazing writing, honest reviews, and interesting snippets of life in academia. It makes me feel like I'm a little less alone, stuck over here at my desk in a sea of Word documents that I keep closing and then opening again in a panic. Thanks for all of your hard work!

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    1. Thanks so much! (What's your instagram handle, btw?) I do think it's true that you don't get a real sense of your overarching argument until you finish a full draft (that was the case for me, at least), but I had very little time to make the "magic" happen with edits! I finished my introduction around the second week of September (right before the semester began), scheduled my defense for December, went back to my first chapter and realized about 50% of it needed to be rewritten, and freaked the FUCK out. This probably could have been avoided if my committee had been more attentive throughout the process *cough*, but hey, I finished somehow and so will you! One thing that helped me psychologically was reminding myself that even the finished dissertation is a rough draft, since you'll eventually (theoretically, if you get a job, HAHAHA kill me) turn it into a book. Best of luck! <3

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    2. Thank you!! I really appreciate your comment and your support from the other side. I'm sarahkelman (I don't post much beauty, just a lot of pics of my kid).

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  8. A well deserved makeup treat for all your hard work! The colour is beautiful and complements your green eyes perfectly. And good to know the staying power seems nothing short of extraordinary :)

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    1. Thank you! I do love purplish shades with my eyes. :)

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  9. Hello Doctor! That looks absolutely perfect on you, and I really enjoyed reading this post.

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    1. Thanks! I enjoyed writing it. So nice to get back to blogging after the semester from hell.

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  10. Haha you know I had the same trepidation about Madame Greige! But I couldn't get it out of my head so I had to get it, and it somehow works. It looks great on you, I agree sometimes you end up wasting time and money searching for a dupe.

    Congrats on getting your doctorate, thats huge, and thanks for the shout-out, you're one of our favorites too :)

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    1. It totally works on you! I like that it's understated enough for professional wear, yet still a little idiosyncratic.

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  11. Congrats on your PhD!!!!!! It's great to see that your hard work has paid off now. And the lipstick was well deserved. The brand is not available here anyway, and I don't order from abroad because of my makeup rehab related philosophy, but Mac Driftwood has caught my eye. I have no idea how the gray tones will look on me.

    I had to google Tom Hollander because I don't watch a lot of movies (or just the same ones for at least 20 times), turns out he's Mr Collins, in a movie which I've watched 20 times at least.

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    1. Tom Hollander is the best Mr Collins ever, but my favorite of his roles is George Etherege in The Libertine (starring Johnny Depp as the Earl of Rochester). I hesitate to recommend that movie because it's objectively not great and I'm not sure it would appeal to anyone who's not a Restoration-literature geek, but Hollander is FUCKING ADORABLE in it.

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  12. Regina Gao also swatched most of the Luxetrance lipsticks and said they were her favorite lipstick of all time. All her videos are in Chinese but she's a professional makeup artist.

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    1. I'll have to check that out, thanks! It's been hard to find swatch videos of the entire line.

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  13. Funny that you mention Tom Hollander (I love him!), I was watching Rev earlier. Mince pies, mince pies...sorry if you've never seen it and this is just weird.

    Such a good review (and the lipstick looks fab on you). Pat McGrath's lipsticks aren't available here but that hasn't stopped me looking at all the swatches online. I have a massive weakness for purple/grey/"greige" lipsticks so this shade is my favourite (I want Madame Greige to be my spy name).

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    1. Can you believe I've never seen Rev? I'm always ashamed to admit that...

      Madame Greige would be an AMAZING spy name! Better than Madame Taupe, that's for sure.

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  14. Hello! Wow, what a post! So much to respond to. For starters, after reading your positive reviews about Liquid Catsuit, I actually took the plunge to buy Missy & Fierce a few weeks ago, my first WnW product (if you recall, I had hesitated with that brand). And, yes, so great. Actually 10 times better than the red Armani Lip Maestro I had treated myself to over the summer, because it actually *works*. The Lip Maestro was stunningly gorgeous but smeared everywhere, so much so that the brand just sent me a refund when I inquired about how to keep it from bleeding. I mention this because it's funny I had the reverse situation -- the decision to wear *more* drugstore lipsticks! I say, rules just lead to fixation and hangups, so don't rule out drugstore makeup completely. Especially because diving into luxury makeup is such an expensive habit! Also - re: sophisticated pink. Yes, yes, and more yes. Once January rolls around, I just can't get enough of pink in my orbit. It's a lip color that I think is so boring in your 20s but kind of magical in your 30s (and I ordinarily hate to use the word "magical" to describe anything). Let's Go Crazy and every other bright fuschia I've seen you wear is on point. Coincidentally I just treated myself to Nars' 413 BLKR matte lip pencil (waiting for it to arrive) because it's brutal outside and I'm dreaming of roses. Anyway, thanks for suffering through my long response, and congrats again and happy new year to you! x

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    1. ummm this was supposed to be the response on your end of the year post, sorry! not sure how I spaced.

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    2. Don't worry, I'm not ruling out drugstore makeup completely! These rules are more like guidelines. I just want to cut down on my impulse purchases, which almost always happen in the drugstore and tend to be disappointing. And then I return them, which makes me feel guilty about generating waste, since used makeup just gets thrown out.

      The 423 BLKR lip pencil is beautiful! Enjoy. And no need to apologize for long comments: they're the best kind!

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  15. Many many congratulations on finishing your degree! In my MFA program we were likewise not allowed to go forward with the defense unless they were confident we'd pass it (so it was usually just called a conference) but it wiped me out for the day nevertheless. Even if no one is going for blood it's exhausting to account for your work like that (and mine was only a couple years of work, not a doctorate's worth).

    Tom Hollander is one of my favorite performers to unexpectedly spot in things; I rewatched Possession a while ago and went oh hey, he's in this too, and of course he was a brilliant George III. Rev is amazing and I don't think I've ever successfully convinced someone to watch it. "It's the saddest comedy I know" isn't much of a selling point, I guess.

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    1. Also, for acronym reasons, I'm disappointed for you that it's a Final Public Oral and not a Final Oral Presentation.

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    2. I KNOW. What a missed opportunity!

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