Rant & Rave: Makeup Geek

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Makeup Geek

They always feel late to the party (to a trend or a release) and too often been a disappointment, aka not worth the wait at all. I love their highlighters but little else gets regular use from me these days.

— Christine


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Erica Avatar

I’ve always wanted to try MUG but they don’t excite me enough to take the plunge. It’s cool they’re now at Target but it seems the selection is rather dull. I just feel why bother when it comes to MUG!

Pearl Avatar

Rave: MAC eyeshadow dupes and most of the eyeshadows were of decent quality. Their big matte eyehsadow release a few years back has some decent shadows. Marlena’s grass roots appeal and her use of social media to stay connected to her fans since MUG’s inception is admirable. I liked that she used her brand to collaborate with other youtubers (Kathleen Lights, Manny MUA) – I know it was only a few years ago, but I don’t remember youtubers being as collaborative back then? Maybe that’s when the collaborations just started, but I thought it was a proactive – albeit strategic and you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours situation – gesture on her/MUG’s part. The highlighters look really pretty. She was/is very helpful to people just starting out in makeup – especially younger teens – and her reviews and tutorials seemed more honest and real than most over-the-top youtubers at the time. The brand’s longevity, and now it’s being sold at Target, is impressive.

Rant: I had a crap customer service experience a few years ago and gave up after that. I think it was right around the time of that Sparklers disaster and how it was handled and it just amplified my feelings. Maybe now that MUG is in a national chain (Target), MUG’s customer service is different. I think the MUG packaging is cheap looking (to be fair, I’m a packaging snob). When I used to watch her youtube channel, the constant preening and re-positioning and watching herself in the monitor was cringey and a turn off.

Mariella Avatar

My rant is that they don’t have an in-store presence in Canada. I know Marlena is working on (or perhaps already has) some MUG stores or counters in other stores, perhaps, but I’m willing to bet a loonie and a jug of maple syrup that retail locations in Canada won’t be happening.

Nancy T Avatar

The brand’s beginnings as a duper of higher end eyeshadow and blushes. Loved Marlena’s original brand image. It felt fresh! Also, I do still love those lux looking highlighter’s.

That something began to go very wrong, probably beginning with the whole Sparkler debacle. Downhill since then, it seems as though either she got a big head or just quit caring. Idk.

Deborah S. Avatar

Rave: I have quite a few of the early mattes and love them. I like that I can make up my own palette and the shades are pigmented, easy to blend and are really useful to pull into other palettes that don’t have a decent transition shade for me or an inner highlight, brow bone highlight. I think they are wonderful for beauty lovers just starting out as overall the quality is good and the price point doesn’t break the bank.

Rant: I haven’t purchased anything from MUG since the Sparklers disaster and they have just fallen off my radar. A lot of brands have rushed to market with products and that is what happened with the whole Sparkler debacle. She should have waited until the packaging was functional as the quality of the Sparklers was never really appreciated as everyone was complaining about the packaging. There was also a price jump which I totally understand as components become more expensive but consumers don’t like it much when you raise prices, especially in the face of a brand like ColourPop.

Rachel R. Avatar

RAVE: I love their blushes and their highlighter in Celestial. Bitten eyeshadow is awesome. I got excellent customer service the one time I needed to use it.

RANT: I think their eyeshadows are over-rated. I’ve bought several in the past, and Bitten was the only great one. Most of them were awful, especially the mattes. I wasn’t impressed with the recent Power PIgments release.

I also think their products in general are all over the place in terms of quality and pricing.

thirteenthirteen Avatar

I have several of their eyeshadow singles and enjoy most of them – my favorites are probably Mango Tango, Anarchy, Preppy, and Homecoming. But I haven’t bought anything from them since 2016 because they haven’t done anything interesting lately. I keep hearing that they’re coming to Target but I haven’t seen them at my local Target yet.

It just occurred to me to google for a list of Targets they’re at, and mine isn’t on the list. (here’s the list btw: https://www.makeupgeek.com/pages/target-store-list.) They’re at a Target about 15 miles away but I’m not going to drive to another town to go to Target, that feels silly.

Karen Avatar

Rave. I bought some of the first released eyeshadows and liked them but…
Rant. At the same time I was watching her YouTube channel and was very disappointed with the way some commenters (not trolls) were attacked. Anyone not toeing the MUG/Marlena line were eviscerated by her acolytes, with no attempts to moderate from Marlena. Quit the channel and never purchased another MUG product.

AJ Avatar

Rave: I love the Glitzy highlighter so much that it’s almost all I ever reach for and I haven’t purchased another highlighter since realizing how much I love it. I also like a few of the duochrome and foil shadows.

Rant: I haven’t really been excited about anything they’ve released since those highlighters. I think there are a lot of indie brands who are just doing it better. I also started to find Marlena’s social media presence really off-putting. I mean I guess it’s part of influencer culture to show how successful you are, but I got super bored of photos of her in designer clothes and shoes. I was there for makeup, not her lifestyle, so I unfollowed.

Helena Avatar

It’s hard for me to think of the brand without also thinking of its founder (I see other commenters doing the same!) and my opinions of the two are entangled.
I have always rooted for Marlena and Makeup Geek; she seems very passionate about her company, which is a large part of the brand’s appeal. At the same time, I find it hard to reconcile her labor of love with the inconsistency of the actual products. When the face of the brand talks about/promotes a shadow or lipstick in a way that doesn’t match customers’ experiences, is her enthusiasm simply unwarranted, or is it disingenuous? The owner’s mixed persona as fellow consumer/influencer/promoter/capitalist makes for mixed feelings about the company.
Thankfully there are resources available, other than from the brand itself, to help figure out what’s worth trying and what’s not. I’m still happy to pick and choose the hits, which I enjoy. But I understand those who have had their opinions soured by misrepresented, underperforming products—it’s not just a faceless company pumping them out, it’s a fellow human apparently *making* them, which can feel like you’re being deliberately lied to. It’s more disappointing to buy crap from someone who’s personally invested in crap’s quality.

Astrild Avatar

Rave. I bought several eyeshadows a couple of years ago and some of their neutral mattes are staples for me. I really love them,

Rant. As every brand I have to order on-line and get shipped overseas, I feel lazy to order something unless it really catches my attention. And there’s so many amazing options easily available nowadays that I don’t feel the need to make a purchase.

Jessica Avatar

Rave: Marlena is a skilled and visionary entrepreneur. She did a lot of novel things in the makeup world and successfully negotiated a lot of potential hang-ups and missteps. I like the concept of the brand: cut out the “middle man” to offer quality products with nice packaging at a reasonable price.

Rant: they discontinued some of my favorite products while transitioning to higher-end makeup (most notably their gel pot eyeliners, which were the best available at that price point). Their foiled shadows in particular are inconsistent; some of them like Center Stage, Plot Twist, and Masquerade really underperform. An online-only company must offer consistency: foiled shadows must all perform the same way; otherwise launch them as plain shimmer shadows. If I have to buy sight-unseen and no returns are accepted, I must be confident in the performance. It’s really that simple. I no longer purchase MUG at full price because I’m not confident in the performance of the products and I know I can’t return them. The price point is no fairly close to other mid-range brands that are available in stores or that have a return policy (e.g. Anastasia). Colourpop Is dirt-cheap; I’m willing to take a gamble. This is a fine line for an online company and MUG has passed into the “not worth the risk of disappointment” category for me.

Overall, I think Marlena is tired of MUG because there is too much competition for it to be a big moneymaker, or maybe even for it to be sustainable for her. She paved the way for other brands, and that improved the makeup world for all of us. I admire her, and I don’t judge her decision to step away from MUG and move on to more novel entrepreneurial adventures. She’s got the brain for it, for sure.

Heather Avatar

RANT: Marlena has chosen to put her efforts into a clothing line. Meanwhile, lots of MUG makeup is on sale. Maybe she is going to just stop coming out with new product or end her makeup line, everything new she has released has been a big yawn for me. Her personal life has affected her professional life.
RAVE: I still use and enjoy her matte single shadows.

Fes Avatar

I think they were very innovative when they first launched. Huge variety of eyeshadow for half the price of the most loved brand at that time which was Mac.

Hoever, I’ve always found their eyeshadows very inconsistent. And nowadays 6$ for a pop is not cheap anymore, especially if you don’t really know what you get because of the inconsistency. I buy from Indie brands which handmake their eyeshadows and manage to sell them for 3-5$ and the quility is there 90% of the time! They have really stepped up their game! Colourpop’s are also 4$ and even cheaper with their consistent sales going on.

While we’re speaking about sales: MUG never had any interesting sales or promotions going on. I think in the last couple of months they’ve started to do them more and make them more interesting but even that doesn’t catch me anymore. It’s just too little and too late. For years the most you could get is a premade set of eyeshadows for like 5$ cheaper. Mhhh…yeah.

And as far as their other products go I like their highlighters a lot – I own 2. But I wouldn’t purchase more of them because I pay 20$+shipping+taxes on them, so they end up being rather expensive. Even if you only consider the 20$ for the product itself, it’s a rather high mid-range price and not what MUG used to stand for which was innovative products, wide shade range and inexpensive prices.
Now they’re not innovative (the smaller indie brands take that cake), they’re shade range is still wide but other brands have stepped up and their prices have gone up drastically.

Now they’re too expensive to just order products and see what you like (like I do with Colourpop) and not innovative enough to be willing to take the chance of buying an expensive dud.
So yeah, while they’re have been years where I’ve ordered from them 5-6x a year I haven’t bought anything from them for a very long time now. And I’m not planning to.

Jen Avatar

RAVE: I enjoy MUG eyeshadows; especially the shimmer and foiled ones. I also find that MUG tools are really well made. The Mega Vault is so much better than a Z-Palette, the Travel Vault construction is like a tank for your shadows and their brushes perform well.

RANT: I like MUG as a brand. Moreso than Colourpop who seems to have cut into the MUG market. Every brand has products that miss the mark so I don’t believe that has contributed to the steep decline MUG is experiencing. I think marketing and brand cohesion is the greatest opportunity for the company. The price point for products is all over the place and the free shipping purchase threshold is too high.

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