5 Ways To Use MAC Loose Powder Pigments

This is the one beauty product you NEED to embrace right now.
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This is the one beauty product you NEED to embrace right now.

The list of makeup that I’m scared to try is a short one. Bright mascaras? Colored liner? Rainbow brows? Sign me up, I’m there.

But for some reason, I’ve always been intimidated by colored pigments. They’re loose! They’re intense! What the heck do I do with them?

MAC pigments


So I visited Chicago's new MAC store on Michigan Avenue to conquer my fears. MAC Counter Artist (and GENIUS) Keri Germain sat me down to demystify these intimidating products.

Guys. I learned SO MUCH. Get ready for a pigment masterclass.

What are pigments?

MAC pigment vanilla naked rose

L-R: MAC Pigments in Vanilla, Naked, and Rose.

“MAC Pigments are loose, totally concentrated color,” Keri told me. “What you see in the container is exactly what you get on your skin.”

Pigments are available at many price points, but MAC (of course) makes the very best. Applied with a fluffy brush, you get a sheer wash of color. Worn damp, they’re more intense. And they come in every color and finish imaginable!

Where can I use them?

EVERYWHERE. They're like the One Ring of beauty, except not evil. Pigments can be used as highlighter, as eye shadow, as lip color, as blush, as eyeliner, and on nails.

Important note: some colors (like the neons) and finishes (like the glitters) are NOT guaranteed eye safe. Not everyone will have a problem with them, but use your good judgement when it comes to your eyes.

With what do I apply pigments?

With brushes, dear Liza. You can also use your fingers, but because they’re loose, I prefer brushes for mixing and application.

How much should I use?

“Less is more,” said Keri. “One tap of the jar with your pointer finger will give you enough to start with.”

mac pigment silver

You can always add more, but it's harder to take it away.

How do I use them?

Pigments can be used straight from the jar or mixed together to create custom colors. They can be used dry, wet, or moist, depending on the finish you’re looking for.

I know, it sounds like a lot. Allow me to break it down.

Pigments as highlighter

To make a dewy highlighter for my skin, Keri mixed equal parts light moisturizer, Vanilla, and Naked MAC Pigments.

mac pigment highlighter

The brush is the #188, perfect for highlighter and blush.

She brushed the highlight mixture down my nose and up across my forehead, then along my cheekbones and finished up with a dab on my chin.

mac custom highlighter

The result: A subtle Champagne glow.

“Pigments let you customize the highlight for the person’s skin tone,” Keri said. Vanilla alone would be way too light on me and Naked would be way too dark. But combined, they’re perfect.

Pigments as blush

Mixing a teeny bit of Rose Pigment with some light moisturizer, Keri used the #188 brush to tint my cheeks an OUTRAGEOUS pink.

mac pigment rose blush


The color melted into my skin, but also maintained incredible wear. This lasted a solid eight hours through rain AND snow.

Pigments as lip color

Customizing lips colors with pigments is an awesome way to use them. They can add shine and change the texture, all while creating amazing new shades.

Keri used a firm-bristled brush to dab dry Magenta Madness Pigment straight over top of the pink lip gloss I was already wearing.

mac magenta madness pigment

Brush = #252.

This was HEART stopping: A '60s powdery matte look in the greatest color EVER. It felt slightly dry, but not uncomfortable (equal to a standard matte lipstick) and stayed on even through my lunch.

mac pigment lips

This was so bright it defied photography.

As a final touch, Keri tapped a little Prep + Prime onto my neon pink lips, then gently pressed Pink glitter overtop.

mac glitter lips


Totally Sparkle Motion. I was in love.

Pigments for eyes

Keri used Naked, Vanilla, and Silver Pigments (and one eye shadow) to create this soft but interesting eye look.

best neutral eye

Naked all over the lid; MAC Eyeshadow in Quarry along the crease; Vanilla under the brow; Silver around the tear duct.

I love that all these different finishes have the same outstanding wear and blendability, no matter where they are on my face.

mac pigment tutorial

Makeup by pigments!

Pigments as eyeliner

You can mix pigments with contact lens solution or MAC Eyeliner Mixing Medium to make liquid liner, but certain colors have special properties.

“Look at this,” Keri said, holding up a vial of brown pigment with delicate blue shimmer. “When you put Blue Brown over black eyeliner, something amazing happens.” And it did. Layered overtop a creamy black pencil eyeliner, Blue Brown--which I'd normally not look twice at--became the most beautiful metallic green.

mac blue brown pigment

Who knew that Blue-Brown over black liner would give green?

The moral of the story: don’t be afraid to experiment!

Final advice

Here are Keri’s very best pigment practice tips:

best mac pigments

Lay tissues down on your workspace so that you can clearly see what you’re doing.

  • Work in a confined space.
  • Use small amounts.
  • Keep your brushes clean.
  • Mix them on the back of your hand, in the cap or on a dedicated palette.
  • HAVE FUN! Loose pigments are like paint, and you’re an artist who can create anything you want with them!

I’d like to thank Keri Germain at the Michigan Avenue MAC store for being so generous with her time and expertise. Thanks to her, I'm no longer afraid of these tiny tubs of pure color. If you need amazing makeup help, she is the woman to see!

mac keri germain

Keri and I. There was a bit of a height difference.

  • Are you a pigment person? 
  • What do you think of my finished look? 
  • How much do you love these neon pink sparkle lips? 
  • How do YOU use pigments? Share all your fun tips with the class!