Get ready for a match-up between two iconic red lipsticks, MAC Ruby Woo and Chanel’s Pirate. Two reds, yet very different formulas, and very different textures. If you haven’t used either lipstick but they’ve been on your radar for a while, I’ve drilled down the details to help you decide if you need one or both in your life.
Also, this is the first in a makeup mini-series I’ll be doing on What To Wear With an LBD/LND (little black dress or little navy dress) as we head into the festive season.
MAC’s Ruby Woo hit the scene in 1999 featuring the brand’s retro matte formula. Widely described as a blue-based, cool-toned red, there are millions of Google hits describing it as a universally flattering shade and as one that every red lipstick lover should have in their personal collection.
I have a dear friend who has sworn by it for years and it always looks good on her. But whenever we talk about it, she mentions how drying it can be. And this is a sentiment that’s also been expressed widely, that the flip side of how beautiful it looks and how long it wears is stacked against how drying it is and the difficulty in applying it.
There was a sale, so I was able to get my hands on a mini-version of Ruby Woo in order to see if my experience matched the many glowing ones.
Origin Story: I spent some time seeking the true ‘origin story’ of Ruby Woo and found an article in the Financial Times which stated that it’s based on a discontinued lipstick from the 80’s. Here’s a quote from the Financial Times article: ‘‘Made from a formulation of warm versus cool tones of pigment-rich powders, waxes and kaolin powders, Ruby Woo has a matte texture and is somehow ageless”.
Ageless? Are you open to the idea of rocking a full-on red lip during the autumn of your years? I’d say maybe, as Iris Apfel is #makeupgoals.
Ruby Woo scent: Not much to report on the scent apart from a faint ‘lipstick’ note that reminds me of my mother’s and aunt’s lipsticks from the 80’s.
Texture: Matte, easy to swipe onto the back or side of my hand but prior to applying it on my lips, I put on a thick lip balm at least half-hour before. But for time constraints, a lip balm without much slip is advisable.
Applied on completely bare lips, it will emphasise flakes, dead skin and lines, so remove those first if you plan on braving it without a balm underneath. Oh, and old toothbrushes to remove flaky skin on lips is a tip you see often but I find that to be painful. Instead, I suggest applying more lip balm than usual, then using a warm muslin cloth or cotton square to remove flakes and other bits because the balm will make removal easier and painless.
Feel: Once on my lips it feels comfortable especially during the first three or four hours of wear. But much of that credit has to go to the balm I wear underneath. Whereas when I apply it on my lips without a balm first, the dragg-y, dried-out feeling happens much faster.
How She Wears: The pigment remains for hours on end but for me, some of it begins fading once I’ve eaten or had a beverage. Plus, that’s also the stage where the overall shade starts to look slightly more orange-y. Ultimately, Ruby Woo behaves similarly to a lip stain, in that it settles into every crevice on your lips.
My favourite way to wear Ruby Woo is with skin that’s been slightly perfected with a little bit of base makeup, some mascara and a hint of blush.
Packaging: Basic, matte-leaning black plastic with tiny flecks.
Ultimately though: I get it, I get the hype, the accolades, the allure. It’s a brilliant shade, it’s one of the best-selling lipsticks of all time and it can definitely work on a wide spectrum of skin tones. As a result, it’s spawned copy-cats, dupes and also-rans that get close in appearance but never quite hit the mark.
There’s also quite a bit of ‘lore surrounding Ruby Woo. In researching for this post, I came across a parenting blog where a Mum detailed how finding a tube of Ruby Woo tucked behind some items in her bathroom cabinet helped her to march forward through the trials of parenting very young children; see the post [here].
Plus, I unearthed an actual Ruby Woo pilgrimage, which sees a diverse group of women embarking on ”a sacred journey through the intersectional story of the struggle of women for equality in the U.S”. In some of the pilgrimage photographs, the women are pictured wearing Ruby Woo.
So, it’s safe to say that Ruby Woo has broken the constraints of being just another red lipstick. It’s a symbol of a lot of things for different people.
A few last bits about MAC that are good to know:
Ownership: MAC (Makeup Art Cosmetics) was started in 1984 by Frank Toskan. The company was then sold to Estee Lauder in 1998.
Ruby Wool Sales: Based on the intel I dug up, four tubes are sold every minute, globally.
Would I recommend it: If you’re unafraid of bold red lipstick and you’re willing to go along with the learning curve that comes with it, then yes. And if you can get your hands on a mini-size, that’s even better. Otherwise, I think of it as a fun lipstick to have but..and do forgive me, I don’t feel it’s a must despite the wide-ranging hype.
Chanel Rouge Allure Pirate
Pirate’s origin story: It emerged from Chanel’s 2012 lipstick crop as part of the newly formulated Rouge Allure Luminous Intense lipstick formula. One of six red lipsticks released that year with this formula, Pirate has gone on to become a global best-seller.
Gabrielle Chanel created her first lipstick around 1921 for her personal use and in 1924, her lipsticks became available commercially. Thereafter, the lipsticks and the packaging continued to evolve. Chanel No. 5 fragrance bottle provided some of the ‘inspiration’ for the lipstick tube the brand uses today.
Pirate’s Scent: Generally, Chanel’s cosmetics are heavily scented but Pirate has the faintest whiff of wax and nothing more.
Texture: Creamy and exceedingly easy to apply, there’s no tugging, no dragging and no grittiness. Pirate is also blue-based and formulated with sweet almond oil, green tea and sappan wood.
Feel: Similar to a balm, it makes for a comfortable wearing experience and I don’t need to prepare my lips as much ahead of wearing it.
How She Wears: Pirate’s staying power varies from Ruby Woo’s, in that, you’ll need to touch up a bit more after eating or drinking. Yet it never leaves that dreaded ring around the mouth and it provides more saturation with fewer swipes. And of course, any lipstick’s longevity can be helped by using lip liner, which I usually do when wearing Pirate. (In the photo I’m not wearing liner).
Plus the pigments remain truer, in that it doesn’t begin to change as it fades.
I love Pirate because it’s the type of lipstick that can be worn even if you’re just out doing errands. Of course, it’s also a no-brainer for when you need to make more of an effort whether at work or for an event.
Packaging: Luxe, glossy, featuring a sophisticated push-up mechanism that makes opening the bullet a little ‘event’ in itself.
Ultimately though: There’s a reason Chanel’s Pirate lipstick is mong one of the best-selling lipsticks ever. Before even seeing what’s in the bullet, the tube makes a statement and builds excitement.
Plus, the lipstick itself is a pleasure to apply and wear. Whether worn alone or with a full face of makeup, it hits the correct note every time.
Pirate also flatters a number of skin tones and can even be worn as a light stain if one is not inclined to wearing it full-on.
Would I recommend it: Do you have to ask??? Yes, and yes…every single time. Especially if you’ve never tried anything from the brand, Pirate is the ultimate first move.
Let me know how you’d vote, Ruby Woo or Pirate and if you need new skincare, I’ve reviewed Good Molecules purse-friendly skincare [here]. I hope this helps.