In the past few years, Western beauty brands have begun catering to the burgeoning Chinese market with Chinese New Year makeup collections. I'm not of Chinese descent, but Lunar New Year festivities always make me nostalgic: I grew up in San Francisco and have many fond memories of watching lion dancers and eating creamy strawberry candies with red-and-gold wrappers. I'd never paid much attention to Chinese New Year makeup releases, though, until MAC began advertising its Lucky Red collection late last year. One glance at the promotional images and I was in love:
|Source: Temptalia. Who is this model? I swear I know her face.|
I was especially excited about the lipsticks, which had metallic red tubes with kaleidoscopic images of peonies, the character for "good fortune" (福), and...lipsticks! Some Temptalia commenters took umbrage at the idea of a lipstick decorated with lipsticks, but I loved how cheekily recursive it was. I even knew which lipstick shade I wanted: Lotus Light, a shiny cherry red in the Amplified formula. (Three of the five shades were permanent—Ruby Woo, Lady Danger, and Russian Red—and the other new shade was Lucky in Love, a warm coral pink.)
There was just one problem: I'd resolved on a no-buy for the first three months of 2019. But as February wore on and the stock of Lucky Red lipsticks dwindled online, I decided to break my no-buy and order Lotus Light. I'd been thinking about it for almost two months at this point, and I knew I'd regret passing it up: it was so exquisite, such an objet. I try to avoid the collector mentality with makeup, but once in a while something really special comes along and I can't take a strictly utilitarian view. Plus, I didn't own a blue-based red in a non-matte formula, so I could justify the purchase on semi-practical grounds. (Very semi-.)
I'm happy to say that I haven't regretted the purchase for a second. MAC is still one of the best brands in the lipstick game, and though many of their LE releases in recent years have been half-assed at best (Trolls, Star Trek, that weird bowling collection), Lotus Light is even more beautiful in person than it looked online. From the box to the tube to the color and texture of the lipstick itself, Lotus Light is clearly the result of careful thought and execution. Honestly, this post is just going to be a bunch of product porn with the barest smattering of text. I even bought special paper at PaperSource for the backgrounds!
First, the box! I ordered Lotus Light from Macy's and picked it up in-store. It had been shipped in an unpadded cardboard mailer and one end of the box was crushed (hmm, there might be a reason why Macy's is struggling financially). That was irritating, but I'm still going to keep the box until the end of my days and pass it down through the generations.
It occurs to me as I post these pictures that I've bought only two lipsticks from MAC special collections, and both of those (the other was Eugenie, from the Giambattista Valli collection) have had a monochromatic color scheme. Of the five Lucky Red lipstick shades, Lotus Light is the closest match for the red packaging, which pleases me greatly.
The tube is a shiny, foiled-looking red plastic with matte printed images of lipsticks, compacts, peonies, and vines. I worried that the tube would get scuffed or scraped if I carried it around for a day in my makeup bag, but I've done so three times now and it still looks pristine. I don't plan to put it too stringently to the test, though!
Now for the lipstick itself. Historically, I haven't had great luck with bright pinky reds, especially in non-matte formulas. They're not unflattering on me, exactly, but they always feel a bit gaudy and attention-seeking compared to my favorite dark reds. So I knew I was taking a risk by ordering Lotus Light sight unseen, but I was fine with the possibility that it might not be my ideal red, because that tube and that packaging.
Having owned two Amplified lipsticks in the past, I knew what to expect from the formula: intense pigmentation, a shiny finish, and a slightly greasy but not unpleasant lipfeel. I do have to wear a lipliner with Lotus Light to prevent feathering; in the photos below, I've lined my lips with Milani True Red, a perfect color match. Unlike most Amplified shades, Lotus Light has tiny flecks of pearl, which you can see in the tube under bright artificial light. On the lips, though, the pearl translates into nothing more than a little extra shine.
This is one swipe:
Left to right: MAC D for Danger, Lotus Light, NARS Mysterious Red, and Wet n Wild Missy and Fierce. Lotus Light is closest in color to Missy and Fierce, but lighter, brighter, and pinker (and, obviously, not a liquid matte lipstick).
And a lip swatch--you can see how the pearl makes my lips look a bit fuller than normal:
Unsurprisingly, Lotus Light is prone to transferring onto cups and sandwiches; that's just the price of wearing a lipstick with this finish. People have criticized the Amplified formula for its old-school heaviness, but I find that lighter-weight lipsticks can be drying; when I wear Lotus Light, my lips feel comfortable and cushioned, though the formula isn't exactly hydrating. The shine wears off eventually, but the color lasts several hours without needing touch-ups.
I belong to the "play up eyes or lips unless you're on a red carpet" school, so these FOTDs feature subdued makeup on eyes and cheeks; I believe my eyeshadow in both looks is Glossier Lidstar in Slip. I do not, however, belong to the "pair your gaudy '80s rhinestone sweater with a neutral lip" school, and thank goodness for that.
In direct sunlight, you can see how shiny Lotus Light is when first applied:
Even without the beautiful packaging, I'd be very satisfied with Lotus Light: it's a gorgeous, high-quality red lipstick. Is it unique? Of course not—almost every brand makes a similar red lipstick. But it's unique to my collection, and it's been a nice pick-me-up during these last excruciating weeks of winter.
In my next review, I'll take a look at some items from Glossier Play, Glossier's new "brand of dialed-up beauty extras." My order should be arriving tomorrow, and my spring break is next week, so I'll have plenty of time to test the products and write up my thoughts. See you then!