When I ask Pat McGrath what she thought when she first heard the word "strobing" went viral, she laughed.
"Strobing," she echoed. "We've been doing this for 22 years, but it's great to coin a new phrase!"
It's a term the celebrity makeup artist, entrepreneur, and P&G creative director will continue to hear. This Spring, she is adding two new products to her makeup line, Pat McGrath Labs. And if you've been following her on Instagram, you probably already guessed it: the next iteration is highlighter!
But this is not just one tool to give you a luminous glow: it's actually a set of three. And they're game changers. The line — dubbed Skin Fetish 003 — will be available in Nude 003 (silver) and Golden 003 (gold). Each set ($73) contains a buffer brush, double-ended balm stick (sheer and shimmering), and pressed pigment. And unlike her previous launches, which debuted on patmcgrath.com (April 26), these will also be available at Sephora (online and select stores, May 10). Even though they will be distributed at a mass outlet, they're still a limited-edition release — so if you want one, plan now.
"This is my top-secret skin secret weapon for every single editorial shoot and show in my entire career," Pat told me when we met in NYC. "It's strobing but in a different way. Strobing is just using the cream. It's definitely not this, where you're mixing the balm, the cream, and the pigment. That is real highlighting. We never gave that away. We never told people the real secret, which that yes, there was a cream, but that's just stage A."
To create this under-the-radar luminous effect, she relied on layering textures. "I've always mixed different things up, making creams in bowls and using very rare pigments," she explained. Pat is now offering up the tools, so that you can be the makeup artist and create a bespoke highlighter look on your own.
When asked how to mix these formulas, she replied: "Anything you want. Some people might do the balm only. Some people might do the cream only. You could do the balm, the cream, and the powder. It's up to you on whatever level you want to be. It could be sporty or aliengelic." Yes, she is coining a new phrase — aliengelic — a mix of aliens and angels, and I encourage you start this hashtag with me on Instagram.
To help showcase how they work, she tested them on a model before my eyes. She started with the lightest balm. "On the skin, the balm gives you that wonderful, gorgeous, sheer, kind of transparent glow," she explained while running it across the top of the model's cheekbones and eyelids. "Glossy eyelids and thick eyelashes are the ultimate, the new, raw glamour. This is about looking young, fresh, and lifted."
She topped it with the shimmery cream end of the stick. "It's not a highlight that's hard; it's a glow," she noted. "It doesn't sit on top, in the fine lines and wrinkles. It really just melts into the skin. It's like a second skin in a way."
Finally, the pressed gel pigment was added for the final pop. "This is how real metal looks," she enthused. "It gives you a fresh look in a natural way. Just this and mascara — how divine is that?"
You can see a final image of the model's stunning aliengelic makeup here:
The brush is not to be overlooked. "Thirty hands touched this," Pat informed me of the tool that is handmade in Japan. "It's beautiful because it kind of diffuses. And what I love, as well, is that it's a multipurpose brush. You can use it as a foundation brush." She added that when you use it on your eyelids, it gets in all of the "nooks and crannies."
Pat had thought about launching her own line for a while (though heading up Covergirl has been keeping her busy!), but she said this felt like the right time. Pat also credits social media for helping the products take off — and allowing her to get feedback straight from her fans. "That's the great thing about the lab — it's organic in a way, very punk rock," she said. What she is referring to is that her other two lines, 001 (a gold pigment set) and 002 (four jewel-tone pigment kits), were offered in limited-edition 1,000 product skews that sold out immediately online. Pat McGrath devotees were willing to shell out up to $250 for makeup they never even tested. They trusted her that much.
"It was insane!" she said. "Obviously as we started and saw the frenzy, I was horrified. I thought it would just be 1,000 people that would love it, and 1,000 people that would buy it. I mean it was gone in six minutes. It was an absolute frenzy. I was shocked. Especially as I had done it for fun. Then the next morning, I [saw the] press on my phone from all over the world. I just put the duvet over my head."
Pat is starting a revolution, in a way. She is teaching a masterclass in NYC featuring Skin Fetish 003, and the only way to get a slot is to post a photo of your original creation of "divinely luminescent skin" using the hashtag #TurnYourSkinOn. The makeup pro helps to show budding artists how break rules and stray away from "bookish tricks."
When asked how the beauty industry has changed in her time in the spotlight, she was optimistic about where we are now. "Everyone is much more brave, aren't they?" she said. "For years people would ask me, 'How do you think women are going to be able to wear this?' And I'm like, 'They need to show me how to wear it! And more!' I've always thought that — even before Instagram. My girlfriends who have nothing to do with beauty were always the first ones to tell me about the newest products and what works. People are not ignorant. This is not the '80s or '90s, where everyone wanted to wear brown or no makeup. You can do whatever you want to do."
She went on with this empowering message: "Makeup is about freedom, and that has been my motto for 100 years. Because that's the truth! No one can tell you you're vile. If you want to wear a heavy base, wear a heavy base! If you want to wear a light base, wear a light base! It's up to you. It's about how you feel good."
I assumed this wasn't the last launch from Labs. "No, of course not," Pat said, smiling. "But of course, it'll all be a surprise."