Like many wannabe alterna-chick type people, I am absolutely obsessed with finding, hoarding, and sometimes even wearing lip colors that aren’t the usual, natural-lip-color-mimicking pink/red/coral.
Don’t get me wrong: There is something eternally classy and classic about a red lip. When I want to look just plain hot, I apply a matte red lip and try to make my eternal smirk better resemble a coy smile. However, I don’t always want to look just plain hot. I often want to look interesting, or mysterious, or weird, and I wish more cosmetic companies gave me the option to do so. Here are a few that do, including some that are on sale this weekend.
I have ranked the following brands, which I have tried, by a score that combines quality and shade ranges, from worst to best.
Wet n Wild
This bottom-of-the-drugstore budget brand does pretty well when it comes to unusual colors, especially around Halloween. There isn’t a whole lot of pigmentation or staying power to go around with W&W’s lipsticks, but they’re fun to play with and ridiculously cheap to acquire. I won’t complain about how a $1 black lipstick doesn’t completely cover my lips and slides around if it still manages to make random people from a church tut-tut me on the street (true story).
This brand is the new kid on the block, started by a former NYX employee, and makes a product called Wonder Lip Paint that is toted as a dupe for OCC’s Lip Tars. I don’t find that they quite measure up, especially on my highly-pigmented and rosy lips. However, others have had good results with the J-Cat Lip Paints, and at the sub-$5 price point, there’s generally no harm in trying them out.
For a budget brand, they really know how to go out on a limb with both lip colors and products that help to make unusual lip colors pop and last. In the former category, we have their Macaron and Wicked lines which sold out quite quickly in store. The Macaron line mostly didn’t work on my lips (again with the rosiness and the pigmentation), but I did get a great green, blue, and black from it. I’ve not tried the Wicked line yet. In the latter group, we have their lip primers as well as their eye pencil in Milk (which also makes an excellent eyeshadow base, incidentally).
Thanks to xoVain’s comment threads, I became aware of this affordable and local-to-me indie brand. I’ve tried out their black, bright red, and green lipliners so far (the green, alas, became a casualty of Skepticon). They last fairly long with even fading and wear. The black isn’t as opaque as I’d like, but honestly, my standards for that are so high that I’ll likely stick to the black eyeliner trick.
The name is meh-inducing (ableist much?) but I’ve yet to find anything like their lip tars. A teeny-tiny drop of the stuff covers my lips with opaque, unusual colors. Trying them out at Sephora was a revelation. This weekend, their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale means 20% off everything, including their pencils and pigments that also are unusually-hued and can be used on lips. Especially of interest to me is their Black Friday special box. Goth princess look, here I come.
Brands I’ve Not Yet Tried
- MAC: I’m a devotee of their more-mainstream lipsticks, but haven’t tried their more unusual lip colors. That’s because when they do carry such lippies, they sell out right away. Seeing a pattern yet?
- Portland Black Lipstick Co.: This brand is a cult favorite that’s all about the unnatural look. My supervisor paints their lips and brows blue quite often using Indigo Bridge, and it looks awesome on them.
- My Beauty Addiction: They have a 30% discount off lipsticks for Black Friday/Cyber Monday as well as other holiday sales. Their samples look especially affordable.
- Impulse Cosmetics: Like Portland Black Lipstick Co., they started out on Etsy and now have their own thing going. While expensive and pigmented to the point where they can be difficult to work with, I’ve heard their products are the best for color payoff and matte, opaque colors. They have a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, as well.
- Pretty Zombie Cosmetics: Their matte liquid lipsticks have gotten rave reviews all over the interwebz.
- Melt Cosmetics: This company was started by a former MAC employee and is responsible for some of Rihanna’s more unusual lip looks.
- Make Up For Ever: Though they make the only foundation I’ve ever truly loved, I haven’t picked up any of their unusual lippies yet. I’ve tested their black and it was fairly, if not totally, opaque on my lips.
- Ben Nye: I’ve used Ben Nye for zombie make-up before, but unsurprisingly, the brand has lots of long-wearing and unusual lip colors.
- Illamasqua: A UK favorite that stocks unusual colors.
Brands I Don’t Recommend
- Kat Von D: I tried on the black and the navy blue lippies her line makes with such optimism, only to have it dashed quite cruelly. There isn’t enough moisture in them to explain the lack of pigmentation nor is there enough pigmentation to explain how dry they are.
- KA’OIR: According to many reviews, the products are overpriced for the quality and the customer service is subpar.
- Lime Crime: A quick Google search will reveal why.
Animal Testing & By-Products
All brands mentioned are cruelty-free except for MAC, Make Up For Ever, and Revlon, who use animal testing for their products intended for the Chinese market. OCC, Melt, and Pretty Zombie are 100% vegan; Impulse is mostly vegan with a few clearly-marked exceptions. Brands that have some confirmed vegan options include Wet n Wild, NYX, MAC, My Beauty Addiction, Illamasqua, and Colourpop.
A Special Note on Purple Lippies
Far and away, the most common “unnatural” lip color is purple. My theory is that shades of plum, violet, and lavender are close enough to wines and pinks to pass mainstream muster. Purple is to many a brown person as pink is to many a paler person: a bright, attention-grabbing color that still stays a little on the “natural” side. MAC’s Heroine (for when I want something matte and long-lasting that’s a little fussy in the initial application and can be drying) and Revlon’s Colorburst Matte Balm in Shameless (for when I want something that’s easy to apply and is moisturizing that needs to be reapplied) are my default lip colors. Heroine is based on Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year and is the lip color I wanted to be depicted on my blog banner; I think Alex captured how it looks on me quite well.