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MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby, ChromatographyPhotography by Marc Beaussart

Examining the Scientific Makeup of MAC Cosmetics

Photographer Marc Beaussart presents a microscopic investigation into the formulation of cosmetic products

TextOlivia SingerPhotographyMarc BeaussartPhotographic EditorHolly Hay
Lead ImageMAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby, ChromatographyPhotography by Marc Beaussart

"As a still life photographer mostly working with cosmetics I often take very close up pictures of products," explains Marc Beaussart, "but here, I wanted to go even closer, even deeper: why not inside the product itself?" So that is precisely what he has done: by using microscopes alongside UV and IR filters to capture the most minute makeup of MAC Cosmetics, he transformed a cream colour base into crystalline abstraction, a retro matte lipstick into layers resembling glossy red roof tiles. Then, he took a chromatography tank and used it to compress and adjust the colour of products –that same ruby lipstick becomes a Botticellian shell, the famous strobe cream becomes a gloopy, veined butterfly. Beaussart's background is perfectly suited to this atypical investigation of cosmetics – he is the son of two medical researchers, and attended medical school in Paris before graduating from LCC, and hoards books of that nature alongside constantly talking to technicians about applying the tools of scientific investigation to makeup. "I love to transform my studio into a lab," he says, "and to try to bring unseen images of things. Cosmetics are a brilliant subject."

Besides employing the microscope and chromatography tank, Beaussart used a Scanning Electron Microscope here for the first time: "It is a wonderful tool that created amazing images which make you feel like you are travelling inside the product," he says. This SEM was thus engaged to interrogate the very composition of powder blushes and pigment colour powders, abstracting them from their conventional confines and transporting them into a realm familiar to those of us who spent our school years poring over petri dishes. When we're so accustomed to seeing science restricted to a laboratory and cosmetics exclusively showcased through their campaign imagery (or, in MAC's case, presented in sleek, monochrome cases), it presents a wonderfully new perspective – after all, years of scientific research go into each of these lipsticks and eyeshadows, blushers and creams. As Beaussart concludes, "Playing around with experimental tools bring you unexpected results. There is something magic about it somehow."

Photographic Assistant Joanna Wierzbicka; Scientific Images Laboratoire Pluridisciplinaire De Criminalistique