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MAC Instigator & Punk Couture Lipsticks Reviews, Photos, Swatches

MAC Instigator Lipstick
MAC Instigator Lipstick

MAC Instigator Lipstick ($15.00 for 0.10 oz.) is described as a “deep blackened plum [with a Retro Matte finish].” It’s a deep, berry-wine with a satin finish. Officially, it’s labeled as a matte (not a Retro Matte), but it has a noticeable sheen for the first hour of wear. It had mostly opaque color coverage. This shade wore well for six hours and left behind a noticeable berry stain. It was neither drying nor hydrating. NARS Train Bleu (P, $25.00) is very similar–just more matte. MAC Potent Fig (LE, $16.00) is purpler. MAC Yung Rapunxel (LE, $16.00) is lighter, less matte. MAC Smoked Purple (LE, $16.00) is slightly purpler, less berry but comparable. See comparison swatches.

Punk Couture Lipstick ($15.00 for 0.10 oz.) is described as a “deep blackened grape [with a Retro Matte finish].” It’s a cool-toned, medium-dark purple with a satin finish. I had trouble getting the color to apply evenly, as it had a tendency to gather/clump in places. It had mostly full color coverage, but I would apply this with a lip brush to improve the evenness.  The color lasted for five and a half hours, but it did seem to settle into lip lines as it wore on. Illamasqua ESP (P, $24.00) is brighter, less cool-toned. MAC Potent Fig (LE, $16.00) is a bit darker, less pink/red. Illamasqua Kontrol (P, $24.00) is a more muted, grayer purple. See comparison swatches.

Both shades are sold out online, and the only real way to get them would be to track them down at a store/counter, or possibly, if MAC restocks it online (but you can’t count on a restock, and you never know when it might occur!). Also, just as an FYI, my Punk Couture lipstick arrived smashed against the top of the inside of the cap, and it had fallen entirely out of the base (so it was loose).

MAC Instigator Lipstick
MAC Instigator Lipstick

MAC Instigator Lipstick
MAC Instigator Lipstick

MAC Instigator Lipstick
MAC Instigator Lipstick

MAC Instigator Lipstick
MAC Instigator Lipstick

MAC Instigator Lipstick
MAC Instigator Lipstick

MAC Instigator Lipstick
MAC Instigator Lipstick

MAC Punk Couture Lipstick
MAC Punk Couture Lipstick

MAC Punk Couture Lipstick
MAC Punk Couture Lipstick

MAC Punk Couture Lipstick
MAC Punk Couture Lipstick

MAC Punk Couture Lipstick
MAC Punk Couture Lipstick

MAC Punk Couture Lipstick
MAC Punk Couture Lipstick

MAC Punk Couture Lipstick
MAC Punk Couture Lipstick


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Martyisblue Avatar

Well, is not lose at all! you could try to melt the lipstick at the base with a lighter, then try to fix it to the tube and put everything in the fridge just to secure your lipstick! 🙂 it should work!

Jennifer Avatar

Yikes. I know mac is trying to preserve its reputation as a edgy make-up artist company, but I really can’t see these taking off. Gothic shades have their place and apeal, but they have never been mainstream. I love alternative and punk music and themes, but I haven’t seen anyone wear these colors since I was a teen in the 90’s. Not even at concerts

Christine Avatar

There are plenty of people who do wear shades like these (as evidenced by the fact that Punk Couture sold out in about two hours!) – I don’t often see people wearing noticeable makeup (whether bolder lips, bolder eyes, etc.) around me, personally, but I know plenty exist 🙂

xamyx Avatar

Also, keep in mind that on deeper complexions, these won’t be as “shocking” as if one with a fair complexion wore them. The nearest MAC counter to me is in a very “urban” area, so I see these selling out, fast. Style Black did very well there, and that was only a few years ago. I *wish* that wasn’t the case, because I was hoping to pick these up…

Clarey Avatar

I wear colours like this all the time, there’s still plenty of us gothy/metal girls that do and I love it when companies like MAC bring the darker colours out as it gives me a excuse to have a splurge!

Quinn Avatar

I wear colors like these constantly. Speak for yourself, tbqh. You can stick to pinks and beiges or whatever you want to brand as normal, but who gives a crap if something is “mainstream” or not? Do you understand how difficult it is to find colors like these in quality lipsticks? Even more so, do you understand how difficult it is to deal with people asking me if it’s halloween?

You’re being rude and inconsiderate of other peoples tastes.

Eva Avatar

So disappointing about Punk Couture! I would love to have lipstick in that shade, but it seems lately that the very few times MAC has tried to step out of their zone, the quality is terrible. They can’t make anything beyond typical lip colors and even some of those suck quality-wise! It can be done (look at Illamasqua) but MAC just doesn’t seem to care about doing it right anymore. They used to be a brand I loved and saw as experimental and stylish, but they keep churning out the same old colors in their boring, half-assed collections with the occasional fun color like Punk Couture which is hyped about for months before release and ends up being crap. Sorry for the rant but c’mon, MAC! 🙁

Kiss & Make-up Avatar

Very gothic. Who buys this? I mean, sure, I can see true MAC fans or edgy gals get these, but how can they get sold out in a matter of hours? Or maybe I’m just a wuss when it comes to lip colors, I don’t know 🙂

Chanel Avatar

A lot of resellers buy them in bulk, so not only does the collection sell out more quickly leaving nothing for the rest of us, they go on Ebay and sell them for $65 a pop. Gotta love it.

Kristi Avatar

I’m very fair skinned with red hair and I picked up both of these. I love wearing super dark and also super bright colors. My job requires me to wear a uniform and very minimal makeup so when I’m not working I tend to overcompensate!

meganlisa Avatar

I will speak up for those (of us) who do wear shades like these or shocking colors. I’m mostly a conservative working mom and often rush getting ready so can only wear minimal makeup. Other times…I like to have fun with my makeup colors! The past few days I’ve been wearing the darker blues from the UD Vice 2 and Ocho Loco 2 mixed with the silver and green Mac extra dimension shadows from last year (shimmery!!!). Sure, I blend a lot..but there is still a lot of color! I wear it anywhere and everywhere.
I save my bright lipsticks for post yoga; my yoga class is super sweaty and rare makeup survives. I slap on a bright color when I need to run errands before showering (probably to detract from the other lack of makeup but bright lipsticks do brighten your face). Mac’s Heroine has been banned by both my kids who threaten to destroy the tube on site. And I used to stop at Sephora pre-yoga for a while and was testing reds…so joked about looking for the perfect yoga red…at yoga….
I wore a neon yellow eye shadow once that a friend joked only I could pull off.
Bright, unusual or vibrant colors can work in daily life if the rest of your look is super toned down and you keep a sense of humor about it. Makeup is a safe way to be creative, express our moods and cheer ourselves up. Sometimes a bright color can pick up your mood. Dark ones are powerful. It’s also an easy way, honestly, to stand out in a business context (pick one bright or dark color and tone EVERYTHING else down). Memorable.
I ordered both of these…when Christine posted that they were available. I’m pretty light (coloring wise) so can’t always pull off such dark lipsticks because they just aren’t so flattering. On those with darker complexions they are more likely to be stunning. I always prefer to see photos and reviews of stuff like this before ordering…but can’t always. Thankfully, MAC has a great return policy and these honestly might go back.
I wrote this to point out that color, and most varieties of colors, are wearable if done right. Many might not feel bold enough to pull them off …but that’s a choice. Creativity comes in lots of shades and at least with makeup you can wipe the risk right off.
And beauty bloggers (like Christine!) teach us how to do it and have fun in the process!

Christine Avatar

Lol, I couldn’t have said this any better. This post also shows how completely confident you are about yourself 🙂 I love Heroine and have gotten quite a few compliments on the color as well as some of the other colors that some don’t classify as “conventional.” While I love Candy Yum Yum, I will admit that it just doesn’t look good on me though I wish I had taken a picture of my kid as she stared at me wide eyed when I tried the color on 😉

Jenna Avatar

I’m so glad i bought Punk Couture now!
I was unsure of whether or not to grab it being that it was nearly impossible to find any reliable swatches of it online prior to it’s release, but I decided to just risk the $15 and order it. Loving how truly grape-y it looks.

Also glad I didn’t go for Instigator. It’s so similar to NARS Train Bleu, which I just got for Christmas. 🙂

Haylee Avatar

This collection was a little disappointing- I was SO excited for some super dark colors, and the colors ARE lovely… but the textures and application is so difficult. Hautecore wasn’t opaque enough, and Punk Couture was so hard for me to work with, and no matter what it always ended up patchy and streaky and tugs when applying. It settles into my lines badly too…:(

The weartime is excellent, though!

Mariella Avatar

To be honest, I’m not wild about either one of them though if it came down to it and someone held a gun to my head and said I had to wear one of them, it would be Instigator. So I’m not heartbroken that these are sold out though, once again, I hate this basically disrespectful attitude MAC has towards its fans and customers – this feeling that it’s actually “cool” to leave people wanting something they can’t get their hands on, rather than making a little more than necessary to meet the demand. It really bothers me more and more.

Sylirael Avatar

Both of these colours are right up my alley, unfortunately, I’m not super impressed with the smoothness of coverage. Especially disappointing for the punk couture one, as I feel like blue based purples are really hard to find! 🙁 certainly in this country, anyway. I might swatch it, but MAC lipsticks are $45 a pop here, so you kind of expect a bit more!

KT Avatar

Wow, I thought it was bad at $36 in Australia! Christine, for comparison we pay around $40 for NARS and $50 for Chanel lipsticks here! MAC is getting more and more outrageous though – Lavish Living was $52 here when it was release – for comparison, NARS blushes are $45 and I believe I paid around $65 for Horizon de Chanel blush.

Lisa Piercy Avatar

I love these kinds of vampy colours and love wearing purple lips, i wear them all the time. Im waiting for mine to be delivered, in the UK Selfridges still have them in stock, but postage to U,S is pretty high, the MAC site sold out way too fast and it launched Christmas day which is not a day i sit glued to the internet. Great review as always, ive seen videos and they dont seem to be that dupeable, will have to see when they arrive. Would love more collections like these though, im more edgy than girly so this collection is right up my street xx

Kesha Avatar

I didn’t have nearly as much trouble applying Punk Couture…it didn’t apply patchy at all on me although the first time I tested it my lips were a little dry and it showed the flakiness. But every time I’ve worn it since then no issues. And luckily, the backup I received from MAC arrived in perfect condition. I ended up with 3 of each color only because MAC took forever to finally go live and I had given up and went to Dillard’s to get them. While I was paying for my stuff at Dillard’s of course MAC decides to FINALLY put the collection up! So of course I ordered from them so I could use my pro discount lol. I figured I could help someone out that might miss out if these colors sold out fast with the ones I picked up at Dillard’s. Glad that I did because I’ve already helped one person out with Instigator and kept her from having to pay eBay’s inflated prices. For those that think these colors aren’t something that people would wear…the fact that some sold out in about 2 hours clearly prove you wrong. They aren’t for everyone but there are plenty of people that love them. That’s why makeup is so fun. There is something out there for all of us to experiment with and enjoy.

Christine Avatar

It’s so weird! I always prep by exfoliating prior to doing a set of lip swatches, and I wipe away anything that might be on my lips immediately before putting any color on for photographing, so I was surprised to find it so difficult to apply – the matte formula is usually quite consistent. Glad you had better luck!

Kesha Avatar

It is weird! I’ve heard a few other people say they’ve had issues. Some compared it to Talk That Talk…which I absolutely can’t imagine it being anything like as far as dryness and difficultly applying. I had more trouble with Hautecore initially but after the first test it’s applied opaque and smoothly. I’ll just be happy that I’ve been lucky. I wish everyone had been because honestly I thought this was one of the best matte releases across the board as far as formula…comparable to the feel of RiRi Nude. Creamy and very easy to apply. At least that was the case with the ones I got from Nordstrom. I haven’t actually used the ones from MAC as those are for my kit. I just checked to make sure they arrived intact.

Kesha Avatar

No, sorry I don’t! Someone already asked for that one (I am keeping my original one from Nordies which was for personal use and the one from MAC was for my kit). I just have the extra Punk Couture and Studded Kiss left right now. Sorry I just got a chance to see this!

Megan Avatar

Ugh I regret not getting Instigator. I was so close to buying it but opted just to get Studded Kiss. Shame. Maybe it will be launched again in the future with a different collection. I really could slap myself for not getting it. Ugh!

Megan Avatar

Yeah, I may check stores tomorrow. I don’t see this being a big seller where I live so maybe they have one left. If not I’ll check out NARS. Thanks for the review as always!

Miss J Avatar

Instigator looks much better than Punk Couture, but the uneveness of both is disappointing. I would love to see Punk Couture on someone with dark skin because I can see it looking so super sexified, lol.

Corliss Avatar

I went to the most suburban Mac counter in town on the first day and they were sold out early on the first day so Christine you’re right plenty of people wear these colors. Everyone is not going to love every collection I certainly don’t. I’m ready for some satin and amplified finishes now I don’t need anymore matte shades. I also wish Mac would stock more le shades to go around when new collections launch.

Natacha Avatar

Honestly, you’ll probably find more purple shades among eyeliners. Lipliners are harder to find in pure purple shades or blue based – they frequently tend toward plum. Here’s my list that include both eyeliners (EL) & Lipliners (LL):
MAC Nightmoth (LL)
MAC Vino (LL)
MAC Current (LL)
MAC Chromographic Liner in ‘Designer Purple’ (EL)
Rimmel Scandaleyes ‘013 Purple’ (EL)
Rimmel Kajal Eye Soft Kohl ‘040 purple passion’ (EL)
Annebelle Kohl ‘110 Fiesta’
NYX Slim Lip Pencil ‘Purple Rain’
NARS Long-Wear Eyeliner ‘Bourbon Street’ and ‘St Marks Place’

Also to be fair, many matte shades are faulty and difficult to apply, and not only Mac’s. What we all need to remember is that besides proper exfoliation and moisturizing prior, its often a very good idea to get your hands on a lip PRIMER. Something that has retinol for even application, prevent feathering/flaking and to add some duration not to mention to simply keep your lips from feeling like the desert. This is usually something we gotta deal with if you enjoy wearing matte shades, otherwise, stay with amplifieds, creams, lusters, glosses etc…Hope that helps!

Cécile Avatar

I LOVE these. For those wondering, “Who actually wears this?”, well, I do 🙂

I love wearing lipstick colours that are kind of out there, especially dark ones. What I do is I make sure the rest of my make up looks as flawless as possible, and I usually go for a classic winged liner. This keeps the look from going too goth. My friends tell me that I’m the only one they know that can pull off a black lip, but honestly I think that’s because I’m the only one they ever see do it. It’s not something you’re used to seeing, so when first applying it you might think “WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MY FACE?!”. But once you wear it out, no one is going to say “That blue lip doesn’t really complement your skin tone” – because it’s not really supposed to.

People will always think you look exactly the way you meant to or wanted to look when you went out the door in the morning. So when you wear edgy make up, they might still not think it’s pretty or nice or whatever, but most people will probably think that that’s what you were going for, and that this is something you regularly do, something you “can pull off”.

If you want to wear it, DO!

Erica Avatar

So sorry about your damaged Punk Couture Christine. I bought Punk Couture and a few of the Magnetic Nudes. I have Nars Train Bleu so I didn’t buy Instigator. I love Punk, it’s a grape purple on my lips. I wore it yesterday and loved it. I don’t understand the snarky comments about ‘wearable” shades (sigh). Peace on earth (and makeup blogs) in 2014!

AudreyNZ Avatar

Excuse me for going off track here…Are you allowed to send smashed/disfigured makeup back for replacement? This is the exact reason my husband is totally against me buying makeup online. He’d rather pay more for me to buy from the store but the stores don’t always have what I want.

Sara Avatar

I adore Punk Couture’s color and it makes me happy to see it in a mainstream make-up brand but the texture/application doesn’t look too great… I guess I’ll pass, it’s a pretty common color among indie lipstick brands so I might find something better there.

Joanna Avatar

I didn’t really take the time to read all the comments so I’m not sure anyone has said that Instigator is everything I wanted Smoked Purple to be! I Back 2 Mac some items for Smoked Purple lipstick (did it online and sent my empties through the mail) a few weeks ago (takes a really long time to do it this way). Around the same time Punk Couture collection launched and I ended up ordering Instigator & Punk Couture. I figured I would return whichever one was too similar to Smoked purple. Well I received my orders at the same time. What do you know, I swatched the lipsticks on my lips and HATED smoked purple. Thank god I ordered Instigator!

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