Monday, May 30th, 2011

Toronto, Canada is the birthplace of MAC Cosmetics!

Tour of MAC Cosmetics’ Production Facilities

In April, I traveled to Toronto, Canada for a whirlwind press trip (seriously, about 24 hours in Toronto!) with MAC Cosmetics. Several beauty bloggers, including myself, were given an opportunity to tour The Esteé Lauder Companies Canadian Innovation Centre and production facility, both located in Markham, Canada.

In order to tour the facilities, we had to get decked out in oh-so-sexy safety gear, including steel-toed shoe covers, hair nets, safety googles, and lab coats—and dangling hair or jewelry is not allowed! As we traveled through the different areas in the production facility, which smelled a whole lot like vanilla, we saw lipsticks in liquid form get poured into molds, cooled, and then popped out and inserted into their tubes.

The facility still has manual lines in addition to more high-tech automated runs (which actually employ more people than I’d expect, just to watch over the machine and its output). We saw an automated line making—what seemed like—an endless supply of MAC Shy Girl Lipstick, along with a manual run of Origins’ lipsticks. In the manual line, there were employees who had to “flame” lipsticks, which is a process of fixing any minor imperfections and smoothing out the bullet as well as giving it that brand-new-lipstick-shine.

It was a very out-of-body experience to see so many machines cranking out hundreds (thousands?) of products of all types, but my favorite part was meeting the employees who ran the lines and walked us through what they do each day. It was amazing to spend a few hours getting to know the people behind the makeup, because they take as much pride producing the product as the people who create the color stories and shades.

After touring the production facilities, we headed over the Innovation Centre, which is where products are initially created. We had lunch with many of the facilities chemists (there had to been at least twenty at the table!)—the ones behind the science of makeup, really getting down to the nitty-gritty in terms of proportions, ingredients, and how each formula comes together.

For instance, to make a small test batch of eyeshadow, all of the ingredients get added to a mason jar, then blended using a regular ol’ blender (no, seriously—you’d think it would be some fancy schmancy machine, but it’s not!), poured into a small metal pan, and then they have a press to lock it in. It’s like a one-stop-shop for eyeshadow! And to think, I was using denim jeans, a quarter, and brute force to press my own eyeshadow.  Once shades are approved, they go on to bigger and better machines (the real deal).

There is also the quality assurance lab, which is focused on ensuring each new batch of a shade is consistent with the original shade. They swatch in quadrants such that the original color will be in the top left and bottom right, and the new batch will be in the top right and bottom left to compare. Those wishing to work there have to take a hue test (looked like the Farnsworth-Munsell Hue Test, which you can challenge yourself with this online version) as one way to evaluate a person’s ability to see color.

It’s amazing how many people are involved from start to finish of each product and shade. I now have more much appreciation for all of the work brands and their employees must put into their products!

See photos! 

Safety first!

Sexy goggles, right?

And even more attractive steel-toe covers.

The Esteé Lauder Companies Canadian Innovation Centre

Chemistry lab

Chemistry lab

Chemistry lab

Chemistry lab

Ingredients for lipglass!

Ingredients for lipglass!

Ingredients for eyeshadow!

Ingredients for eyeshadow!

Ingredients for eyeshadow!

Ingredients for eyeshadow!

Production facilities!

Manual line for lipsticks

Lipstick flaming!

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90 thoughts on “Tour of MAC Cosmetics’ Production Facilities

  1. That is SO cool! I would love to have those ingredients for eyeshadows XD

  2. Gina

    This is awesome! Dream come true, I would love to do this for a living!

  3. Thanks for sharing!! I was wondering when I’d see these :)

  4. Soo

    stuff like this is soooo cool! I really enjoy reading and seeing photos of what it’s like to be ‘behind the scenes’ at major makeup companies. thanks for sharing, Christine!

  5. Dandoona

    I know some ppl that are chemists at MAC in Markham, so proud that MAC started in my home town and know is a force to be reckoned with in the makeup industry. The MAC warehouse sale is happening next weekend in Markham, just an FYI

  6. Natasha

    You are so lucky to have been able to experience that.

  7. xiao

    i got 23 :( I suppose that means i can’t work there haha

  8. Missy


    Question – Did you take that hue test?

    I got a 4, without my glasses and with an astigmatism (not easy – the colours kept changing every time I moved my eyes, ugh). Did anyone else take the test? What did you all get?

    • I took it recently, and I got a 4, though the first time I took it, I got 0 (my boyfriend and I were competing against each other – I think he got a 4 or 6, it was low but not low enough)!

    • kp

      I just took it and got a 57.

    • I got a zero, with my contact lenses in, because without them my computer monitor would just be a blurry square. It was pretty interesting.

    • Caryn

      I got a 3, I had a problem with the blue/green/teal portion but the rest were kind of easy for me

      • Becca

        I got a 3 (without my glases) and yes, 0 is the best, but the worst for my age was 1520… so I think I got pretty well :) I had trouble with the tealy colours.
        For reference, my age range is from 10-15

        • AS

          I got an 8 and only had problems with the green/blue thing. I’m 33. Interestingly, I know I see bluer out of one eye than the other, if I close one eye and compare a green object, it looks very different out of each eye. I asked my uncle who is a neuroscientist who studies visual processing and he told me that the cones, which sense color, can develop differently in each eye. Also, blue/green is the color range that becomes problematic with age and cataracts. I have always heard from older people who have the surgery that all of a sudden they can tell the difference between green and blue again!

        • Sabrina

          Same age range (10-15) and I got a 8. Not bad considering I started seeing grayish lines across the computer after the 1st set. I had trouble mostly with the teal/blue and red/pink/salmon range.

    • nayeli

      i think i did horrible, i got 154 and i think it said the lower the better

    • Pamela

      I got a 4! Makes me feel good!

    • Roxanne

      12, but I’m at the end of a very long day and my eyes are blurring pretty badly. Apparently I have terrible colour discrimination in my blues/greens/teals. Interesting!

      I’m going to take this again tomorrow when I’m more awake.

      • shuz4ever

        I got a 12 as well…kinda sucks coz i always prided myself on having a great eye for hues.

        • shuz4ever

          Just repeated the test and scored a 7. Now i’m going to be all obsessive about this test till i get a ‘0’…uuugh.

    • Michelle

      I got a 0 with glasses and astigmatism. I had a semester in color theory at art school though, and we did a whole lot of this kind of stuff.

    • Sarah

      88… Which is bad because I thought I was doing quite well :(

  9. Deb

    So jealous! What a fun-looking tour! I work in a much less interesting lab, but we have to wear all that safety gear every day. The worst is when I forget that I have a hair appointment right after work and I have to go to the salon in my steel-toed shoes and prescription safety glasses!

  10. Love pEace and Mac

    I wanna go!!

  11. Ember

    Thanks for the pics and tour info Christine. And thanks for the colour hue test. I scored a 0!

  12. Pam

    oh truly awesome i’m so jealous. Best place in Markham – literally in my backyard! :)

  13. Kaytee

    What a great and interesting experience! I got a 4 on the online hue test. No perfect color acuity for me – those darn blues! :(

  14. Thank you for sharing! I could never be a MAC QA checker. The hue test actually started making me dizzy. Did not like, lol. It’s fun to see behind the scenes, though.

  15. kp

    So cool! Thanks for sharing this!

  16. Dori

    WOOHOO!!! Toronto is awesome! too bad you only spent 24 hrs here :( I live in Markham!!! loves it!

  17. nan

    wow i got a zero. yay!

  18. Katherine

    awesome thanks for sharing!

  19. This is so amazing! 😀 I don’t know if I’d say I wish I could do this for a living – I’m not sure how great at it I’d be – but it gives you such a deeper appreciation for the process!

    P.S. Did anyone else take the hue test? I got a 7, but I don’t know what’s normal. :[

  20. Crystal S.

    I took that test for a lark and I did pretty well…0 is perfect and I got a 3….time for my MAC labcoat!

  21. Soaleha

    OMG Christine….you were in Toronto! That’s awesome. Looks like you had a good time. I always felt a little bit of pride knowing that MAC was a Canadian company born out of Toronto. This made me happy. GO Canucks Go!

  22. That is so cool! What an awesome opportunity! I wish they would show makeup on How It’s Made or some other show on Science or Discovery or some other channel!

    • Oooh my God, yes! For an Industrial Engineering student who loves makeup (me), that would be just perfection.

  23. Dini

    You are sooooo lucky! Thanks for sharing pictures and all the cool things you got to see. I’ve been itching to find a way into cosmetic chemistry, so it is great to hear about your tour. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

  24. Sam

    First, thank you so much for posting these photos and your experience, Christine!! I love that you shared this with us!! Second, swear to goodness, I got a 0 on the hue test!! First shot. I can’t freakin’ believe it, haha!!

  25. Rebecca

    I got an 8, I don’t know if that’s good ‘enough’ or not. But I also know my computer monitor has a low brightness.
    I saw a spotlight on this in the new Nylon mag, you all looked like you were having such fun! So cool that you got to do this!

  26. emily

    chrsitine is it true that you guys created your own e/s and lipgloss’ for a bloggers collection.
    please tell me it is :)

  27. annie

    Thank u for shring!!this looks AWESOME!!!!!

  28. Roberta

    I live near Markham, too bad they don’t let general public in. I’m curious how it’s like.

  29. Caitlin

    This is amazing, I’m so proud to be Canadian. Funny thing, too, is my initials backwards spell MAC, haha!

    I took the hue test – I scored a perfect 0. Maybe MAC should hire me. Haha!

    Thanks so much for this Christine, it’s amazing to get to see the behind-the-scenes for such an amazing company. :)

  30. Jennifer

    See in photo #12, I think I see enough teal pigment to make Surf USA permanent :)ty for all you do Christine you really are such a gem!

  31. Troian

    Tx Christine!! That is so awesome that you and the other bloggers were able to tour the MAC headquarters and create your own shadows & glosses.
    I took that color test and flunked! I’m shocked since I always thought I could see color so well. Guess I was wrong. lol.

  32. I saw an article in Nylon about this, and I was so excited to see your face! What an awesome experience!

  33. Looking at those machines, mixtures and fun stuff makes me seriously salivate.
    I scored 0 on the hue test, yay! =D

  34. Carrie Ann

    Very cool!

  35. that is so amazing! I feel the greatness from just looking at the photos!

  36. Alyssa

    I got a 4… it was really hard. The colors kept blurring and messing up… need my glasses.

  37. Cristina

    Wow!! I did this exact same thing at the Avon factory in Medellin, Colombia last year! I loved seeing how everything was made from scratch. I got to see the manufacturing process for eye shadows, lipsticks, perfumes, nail polishes, foundations and various hair products. This internship was what made me realize I wanted to study chemistry. I love seeing your pictures.

    Thank you, Christine for sharing your experience with us! :)

  38. Awesome! Looks like you had a great time there, even though it was such a quick trip. Did you even have time to see some sights around Toronto?

    P.S. I’ve read a couple of speculations about a certain collection coming out later this year.. Do you happen to know when you’ll have more info or hints? I’m hoping to see lots of great things in this collection.

    If I’m out of bounds for asking about this, definitely reject the comment! I won’t be at all offended, and I don’t want to cause a stir on here. I’m just excited about what I read, but I do realize that it may still be hush hush, despite a couple of rumours out there.

    • Now I can say… yes and yes and yes :) It has been a bit awkward with Nylon’s article coming out a few days earlier than expected and not being able to say anything, lol!

  39. mnm

    Wow, I did awful on the hue test!
    Thanks so much for sharing your MAC experience, it looks soo interesting!

  40. Maddie

    I just saw you in nylon! I cannot wait for your color to debut!!

  41. rashmi

    super awesome Christine … you are SO LUCKY is what all I can say 😀 😀

  42. Lipstick flaming sounds so intriguing! Must’ve been such a fun experience for someone who loves make up!

  43. Steph

    That looks like such an awesome tour! 😀

  44. wow this was cool. :)

  45. Yeeeeea, T.O!! Love Mac! Love Home!

  46. Great to watch…

  47. Puffnstuff


  48. Annalisa ♥

    It must be so interesting and absolutely amazing!!!! *___* Thanks for sharing!!!

  49. JessicaM

    Cool!! I’m intrigued on how they come up with the shade names, though. Anyway, Christine, what were you wearing on your lips in this photo? 😀

  50. This is really awesome, Christine! Lucky you!

    It’s good to know the story behind the makeup I so love! :)

  51. You’re so lucky! I would love to work there, and maybe I could since I got a perfect score on that hue test link! (Is it lame that I’m proud of that?!)

  52. Ana G.

    Thank you so much for sharing this experience Christine!It’s really nice to see how things are actually done :-)

  53. Oh wow! That looks amazing, you are very lucky! I tried the test, I got 0 😀 which is a good job seeing as I work in graphic design!

  54. Wow, what an exciting tour!!

  55. ashlee

    i am so proud to be Canadian lol

  56. Rosie

    WOW how amazing! I’m burning with jealousy lol!!! It looks like you had a great time, as any makeup junkie would 😉 Congratulations you do deserve to have experience something so awesome with all the hard work we all know you put into your blog. I always refer to your page before purchasing, because you’re so on point! I can’t wait to purchase that emerald green! All the swatches look BEAUTIFUL, and you’re so right there’s not a good emerald green out there! Congratulations again!!!!

  57. Rosie

    On the hue test, I scored a 15 my 1st time, not joke :) !!!!!!

  58. Elizabeth

    That sounds like so much fun! It would be great to see how they make their products.

    I got a zero on the hue test. I guess I’m good at seeing color. XD

  59. Sarah

    I would LOVE to be a cosmetics chemist! The job seems like a challenge but still tons of fun!

  60. Sarah

    Oh, and Christine–what did you score on the Hue Test?! :)

  61. Ginnia

    Happy for you that you got to have that experience!

  62. Amy

    Woooo Bentley! I work there. It is so cool that you visited, I was sad because I was at the Alden plant when you came to visit :(

  63. Glitterati

    Thanks for sharing and documenting your experience. This is awesome!

  64. Kat

    This was fascinating to read! Thanks for sharing – wish I could have been part of the tour!

  65. Stephanie

    What type of training do the chemists typically get before working for Estee Lauder?

  66. MJ

    I did the test and got a 0 😀 wearing contact lenses that correct for nearsightedness and astigmatism.