Go Behind the Scenes at the MAC Cosmetics Production Facility and Estée Lauder Companies Canadian Innovation Centre

Published in: MAC Makeup

Last week my adventures in Toronto led me and a group of fellow bloggers to the MAC production facility and Estée Lauder Companies Canadian Innovation Centre, where MAC and some of the other members of the ELC family create makeup magic. Both buildings are located right next to each other in the nearby city of Markham in Ontario, about an hour from Toronto.



The tour was only one of the reasons for my trip. I’ll share the others soon, but for now, help yourself to some steel-toe boot covers, safety glasses and a white lab coat — oh, and you’ll need to stow your jewelry in your purse — because where we’re heading, it’s safety first!

The inside of the production facility looks like a cross between a hospital and Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (sans the Oompa-Loompas). The scent of vanilla fills the air, and you find yourself looking for MAC Lipsticks around every corner. As luck would have it, they are around every corner here. :)


Joining me on the tour: Aileen, Amber, Patrice, Lesley, Lianne, Christine, Wendy and Lily

With high ceilings, the huge rooms appear even bigger once you’re inside. Machines, some the size of trucks, crank out every conceivable kind of makeup, hissing from time to time like giant cats in a symphony of pumps and gears.

We stop by one machine as it brings a big batch of MAC Shy Girl Lipsticks to life. Steps away, other machines create Bobbi Brown Gel Liners and lipsticks for Origins, as the facility makes products for a number of Estée Lauder brands. Each gets its own TLC at the facility, and products are uniquely formulated for each brand.

At the Innovation Centre across the street from the production facility, a group of MAC chemists, including the gal who dreamt up MAC Acrylic Paints, discuss the science behind MAC’s Lipglasses and Eyeshadows. Apparently, it takes hydrogenated polyisobutene, pigments (some called flat; others called traveling) and carnauba wax, among other things, to make a Lipglass go.

They say that blenders make the world go ’round (isn’t that what they say?), and they certainly do here. In fact, they’re the same kind you make margaritas with, and they’re essential for properly mixing eyeshadow pigments.


Face o’ the day. And yes, that’s MAC Nymphette on my lips and Blushbaby on my cheeks.

And that brings us to the end of our little tour today. I hope you enjoyed yourself and learned something new. Please deposit your safety glasses in the receptacle on your way out, and have a wonderful day. :) Gotta love science, right? Goooo science!

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,

Karen

P.S. Since you’re here, it’s probably safe to assume that you like MAC Cosmetics as much as I do. :) Have you seen my MAC Gallery? It’s a visual way to search for MAC reviews and looks on Makeup and Beauty Blog.

147 Comments

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  1. Wow! That truly is like the WIlly Wonka factory for us makeup lovers :D You are one lucky lady!
    Ricquetta Francis recently posted … Meek-n-Mild Giveaway -

  2. Barb says:

    I have to say that I am new to the Mac line and only have 2 lipsticks so far. I can easily see it turning into an addiction.

    Did you get any type of feebies? That would be awesome :)

    Oh, you look adorable too!

  3. Brooke says:

    That is SO cool you went there! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Gina says:

    What a fun post! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your trip :D

  5. Christy says:

    awesome! I bet you and the other beauty bloggers had a BLAST! Can’t wait to hear more about the trip :D
    Christy recently posted … Chanel Mimosa- Morning Rose &amp Beige Petale from Sumer 2011 Collection- Swatches

  6. Bing says:

    Awesome yellow clogs!!!

  7. Tiffany says:

    this was so cool to see! I am so jealous of your life, lol.

    your pics are amazing, as always :)

    • Karen says:

      Speaking of pics, have you had the chance to play with your camera lately? I bet you and the hubs are taking a ton of pics of the little one. :)

      • Tiffany says:

        You know it! I’m taking lots of pics! There’s another lens I really want but it’s so expensive :(

        I’m also interested in learning more about editing (e.g., photoshop). Just need more hours in the day!

  8. Leah says:

    Karen,

    This blog is in my favourite bar, I check it every single day (or maybe twice!)
    And…I just love it.
    Tabs is soo sweet and your articles (and the guests ones..especially Sam) always have to make me laugh so hard :)

    Keep goin’, it always puts a little bit more sunshine in my little house in Switzerland!

    xoxo

    • Karen says:

      Hi Leah,

      So glad to hear you enjoy the site. Tabs is especially thrilled to know he has a fan (he’s sitting on my lap right now).

      Sending you good vibes from California!

  9. You even look adorable in a labcoat & boot covers ;) sounds very intersting, can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  10. Erin M. says:

    Why isn’t the tech wearing gloves? That really disturbes me. That’s completely unsanitary. That shadow wasn’t going to be sold, was it?

  11. sarahc says:

    Whoa! That looks like it was so much fun. I want to go!

  12. Crystal says:

    That was so cool, your pictures are excellent. I felt like I was there:)
    Crystal recently posted … Urban Decay Apocalyptic Nail Kit

  13. Appu says:

    Great Post! Was so much fun reading it, Karen :) Thanks for the tour ;)
    Appu recently posted … Stila Convertible Color in Lillium

  14. Jill says:

    Oh my gosh, look how cute you are!!! I used to do factory tours all the time with my former sales job, but never looked so cute :)

    It’s so neat to get a behind-the-scenes glance at their facilities…. what a dream!
    Jill recently posted … Support for a fellow MilSpouse

  15. Tass says:

    Great post Karen! I love seeing how things are made x

  16. Rae says:

    !!! That sounds so, so cool, Karen! And of course, you looked absolutely adorable ^^

    Thanks for sharing the adventure with us! I can’t wait to hear what else you were up to during your trip ;)

  17. Jessi says:

    This is so neat! One of my favorite shows is “How It’s Made” because I love seeing behind the scenes things and production lines. Thats nice that they let you take pics too!
    Jessi recently posted … I Heart This Blush- Stila Make Me Blush Cheek Color and swatches

  18. Jay says:

    Wow! Is that what makeup heaven look like?! Did they let you mix your own eyeshadow color?

  19. How cool is this?! You are living the DREAM!! This is so awesome thanks for sharing your experience!!
    Trina J Makeup recently posted … NARS SUMMER COLLECTION 2011

  20. saby says:

    wow karen your body is tight ! nice work baby :-) i just went to a makeup factory in poland, willy wonka moment :-) good luch !

  21. shelby says:

    so jealous right now

  22. Nina says:

    Karen!!!! you are so gorgeous! and you would make a cute lab tech!

    this is such a fun post! <3

  23. jana says:

    very cool! and you make a lab coat look sexy!

  24. LOVE <3!

    i bet this would be a dream come true for many of us beauty bloggers!

    p.s.
    your makeup looks lovely :)
    dani@callitbeauty recently posted … Collection Spotlight- Giambattista Valli – Spring 2011

  25. Michelle says:

    How fun to learn the science behind the beauty! You look great in all the pics :)

  26. Kayvid says:

    My guess is there is some sort of Blogger Collection that MAC is planning on with items specific to each blogger…but I guess I will find out soon enough :-)

  27. Phyrra says:

    How neat! Thank you for sharing pictures of your trip!
    Phyrra recently posted … MAD Minerals Review

  28. Rebecca says:

    i am packing this weekend for my move from Michigan to Hawaii

  29. mkdallas says:

    So interesting! Thanks for sharing your tour, Karen.

  30. Christina says:

    Wooooooow!! That’s so amazing!! <3 I'm taking an undergrad lab class right now but it would be so much more awesome if we were making MAC makeup! X3

    For the record, you and your blog totally turned me into a MAC addict :P

    • Karen says:

      So true! I think chemistry would’ve been infinitely more interesting if we made eyeshadows. I just remember doing a LOT of titrations… booooring!

  31. I love your dress! Where is it from? As for the lab coat, that takes me back to my biotech lab days….those labs would have been way more fun if we were making lipstick instead of bacteria.
    Kajal Couture recently posted … Makeup Tip Monday- A Natural Way to Bronze

  32. Vera says:

    I wish there was more. That just combined my love for science with my love for makeup. lol Would you happen to know if they would allow non-bloggers to tour the facility?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vera,

      Hmm, I don’t know, but I doubt it. This was a tour set up for the bloggers by the company, and from what I heard it didn’t sound like it was something they do everyday.

  33. Oh my goodness this is the kind of tour we all dream of taking… thank you for sharing!!!
    Gotham Polish recently posted … Rickys NYC has a Wall of Nail Polish

  34. alyssa says:

    i would love to go on a tour there. haa

  35. marisol says:

    That is so freaking cool Karen! I can’t wait to hear more about your adventure.

    Did ya get the keep those steel-toe boot covers? That would be hawt. :)
    marisol recently posted … Today is a new day

  36. Adria says:

    Karen, you look FIERCE in that purple top! WERK!!!

    Awesome lab tour…..

  37. Heidi says:

    What a fun experience that must have been. Thanks for sharing!

  38. Mandy says:

    Hey, Karen! I don’t normally comment on blogs but thank you so much for this post. I’m starting University this year to read Chemistry, and working in the Cosmetics Industry is my dream! Seeing pictures like these make me happy :)

  39. LOLBeauty says:

    Omg! Thanks so much for posting this! This is what I am going to school for ! Formulation chemistry !

  40. Tracy says:

    Pretty Cool! You look great in that lab coat!
    Tracy recently posted … LashControl Mascara Is Genius In a Tube!

  41. Chris25 says:

    Wow, that is so cool! It is fun to see how makeup is made.

  42. tzu says:

    Love the color blocking outfit!

  43. Julie says:

    LOVE this post!!!

  44. Jen says:

    I work as a scientist in real life, so seeing science + makeup in the same photos is pretty awesome! Thanks for sharing. Very cool stuff.

  45. Kathleen says:

    You totally won the “Gold Ticket” to the MAC factory. So awesome. Wow! I am so glad that they let you take pictures. I love to see the behind-the-scenes operation of how anything I really love is made. Did they send you off with any sort of samples?
    Kathleen recently posted … Sanrios Hello Japan- support our friends

  46. singrsling says:

    Thanks for sharing this insider look at how MAC makes makeup!

    Very interesting and informative, Karen. And kiss Tabs for me!

  47. Elle says:

    The lab worker in me is dying for a job there…thanks for sharing K!!

  48. Kristine says:

    I just love your purple dress! :D

  49. Mary says:

    ZOMG you’re so close!!!

    Have funsies :-D

  50. Kim says:

    That is so cool! It’s like being in one of those episodes of How It’s Made. :) I love the purple dress; that Nordstrom guy was right on the money. Btw, you look super cute in the “Visitor” lab coat and accoutrements. You would have made a very stylish doctor. Oh, I hope your parents don’t see the pic! hee hee!

    • Karen says:

      LOL! You’re right… my mom might get all misty eyed!

      I am SO asking that Nordstrom guy for help next time I need a dress. Homeboy saved me from myself!

  51. Leah says:

    Thanks for sharing! I love a good field trip!
    Leah recently posted … Battle with the Sun

  52. Iren says:

    Eek! They mix the pigments WITHOUT gloves?!

  53. lulu says:

    i was wondering if you had any sugestions for MAC lipsticks for me. im only 13 so something school appropriate would be good. I look like an average chinese girl ahaha (but american) and my skin is lmedium light olive. By the way..loved this post1
    Lulu

  54. Liz G. says:

    Totally cool!

  55. Sarah says:

    I’m so jealous! How great you were able to check out the behind the scenes for MAC.
    Your outfit is SO cute too! You look great
    Sarah recently posted … MAC Pro Longwear Concealer – Where Have You Been All My Life

  56. Kerri says:

    What an amazing opportunity! Thank you for sharing the adventure with us!

  57. lexi says:

    That’s so awesome!

    This is much more fun and exciting than the fruit/vegetable and pet food plant tours I do!
    lexi recently posted … The Day That I Gained a Major Holiday Date For Life!

  58. maxi says:

    i never liked labcoats as i wear it on duty in hospital but these pictures and mac and labcoat ..wow its like giving value to labcoat :D
    and MAC ohhh i love it and i m glad u got chance to visit ,u truly deserve it :)

  59. Vonvon says:

    This is amazing! Lucky you, Karen! :)
    Vonvon recently posted … MAVALA The Little Pink Box

  60. Helena says:

    Um, can I PLEASE work there?

  61. marcy says:

    that’s pretty fascinating! it’s so cool to see the science that goes on behind a cosmetics line. thanks for sharing!

  62. Instant Karma (formerly L) says:

    OMG, SO JEALOUS. On top of the whole “makeup overload” thing, there’s science everywhere! In college, I minored in chemistry (majored in physics and politics but not particularly related to this, lol). I love cosmetic chemistry; hell, the whole reason I even started reading beauty blogs years ago was because I started to read the Beauty Brains. Ahhh, touring that facility sounds so fun!

    Sorry, I had to nerd out there for a second :D. It looks like you had a lot of fun! Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Karen.

  63. Rhapsode says:

    Love your outfit, that dress is fabulous and I’m just happy to see that someone else does bold colored tights with bold colored dresses! :-) One of my favorite ways to pep up the day.

    I would’ve been very worried if there were Oompa Loompa’s at the facility. They give me nightmares, and I would never be able to wear MAC or Estee Lauder or anything again. Although it would’ve certainly been…. interesting.

    Anyways, so glad to know what your top secret mission was about! I was dying of suspense there. :-) That is one happy mission.

  64. Diane K. says:

    Hi Karen, I’d like to thank you for making me a complete MAC addict. I have over 200 lipsticks and over $100 Limited Edition palettes not to mention all the other things they sell. I was just wondering, can anyone take a tour of the MAC factory? Thanks. Love your Blog. Diane

  65. Theresa says:

    OMG this was so interesting! I just love that you are such a big makeup fanatic! Besides going to Med School, while in college I was thinking of being a makeup chemist for MAC (I just never outwardly told anyone that, hahaha)! How cool would that be? Thank you so much for sharing your visit with us! You ROCK!
    Theresa recently posted … Review- ELF Cosmetics

  66. lorraine says:

    oh my gosh, i’ve been off the internet for a couple of weeks, coz been too sick with strep throat to get out of my bed…but i can’t believe you were here in markham, where i live! funny enough, i didn’t know estee lauder had labs here…..just know that i live very close to the estee lauder warehouse sales they have quarterly, all held in markham!!

    too bad, could have met up and treated you to some bubble tea and condensed milk toast -yum!

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