I am not a beauty guru (although I sometimes like to pretend I’m one on this blog). My contouring skills are pretty much nonexistent. I have yet to perfect my cat eye. But the one area where I do claim some smidge of expertise is lips. Berry or burgundy, crimson or magenta, I love a bold lip. It spices up any outfit, adds a bunch of panache to any look, and instantly makes me feel more awake, put-together, and downright sultry no matter what else I have going on. My fellow lipstick-wearing pals often ask me for recommendations in the stick, gloss, and stain department, and so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you, dear readers.
From drug store finds to Sephora specials, liquid mattes to sheer balms, these are the staples I consistently find myself going back to when I want to put a little smooch in my step. Whether you’re in search of a new spring look, gearing up for a special occasion (*cough Derby Party cough*), or continuing your quest for the perfect red lip (me, always), here are some Zelda-approved products to get you started. And if many of them happen to be in Run for the Roses shades, perfect for pairing with a certain May Saturday and its atmosphere of Bluegrass glam, even better.
Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor (I own this in at least six different shades — I wish I were exaggerating — but my favorites are Passion, Addiction, and Obsession): If you’re looking for bang for your buck, this is your winner. A huge punch of color, creamy texture, and nigh-indestructible coverage, all for under $6. This is also where we first encounter the trend of weirdly oversexualized lipstick color names. Sex sells, I guess?
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick (in Cherries in the Snow): I stumbled across this color on some “Best Of” list that I can’t seem to relocate, and it has quickly become one of my new favorites. Teetering between magenta and red, with good lasting power to boot. And only $10!
Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Matte-Lip (in Chocoberry): As you’ll notice from this list, I generally stick to the bold berries and reds when it comes to my pucker, but this is one noticeable exception. I bought this on a recommendation from my favorite London-dwelling Canadian beauty blogger Estée Lalonde, and her endorsement rang true. Another drugstore steal, from the cheeky Brits at Soap and Glory, this goes on like a balm, with the color of a lipstick, in an earth rose that hits the millenial pink sweet spot.
Nyx Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick (in Kitten Heels): My Girl Scout troupe determined I was a Winter at a formative age, so I have since tended to shy away from orange-y reds in favorite or blue and berry tones (why this was a Girl Scout activity, I do not know, but I hope girls today have done more of the camping and less of the “holding up paint swatches to one’s cheek” of my youth). So I was apprehensive when I received this as a sample in my Birchbox, as it definitely fell more on the Summer side. To my very pleasant surprise, I actually liked it — a bold hit of color with a definite warm-weather vibe — and the incredible staying power tipped me over the edge. It took 26 years, but I had finally found an orange-red I liked.
Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick (in Bawse): When I first heard about this limited edition color, I wrote it off as a gimmick — a collaboration in which Smashbox hoped to capitalize on the brand and audience of YouTube superstar Lilly Singh a.k.a. iiSuperwomanii. But then I started to see the promo photos, featuring members of Lilly’s and the Smashbox teams. Ladies with a whole rainbow of skin tones, eye colors, and hair colors, with lips ranging from razor thin to full-on Jolie, all tried on the lipstick…and they all looked amazing. So I caved, and it did not disappoint. It can be a little bit drying, which keeps it from achieving the status of Perfect Red, but the shade is ultra-flattering (and, I might add, perfect for a Run for the Roses).
Too Faced Melted Matte Liquified Long Wear Matte Lipstick (in Lady Balls): I am a huge fan of liquid lipsticks. However, nothing irks me more than a liquid lip that sucks all the moisture out of my kisser, leaving my mouth shriveled and dehydrated. This can be a particular problem with liquid matte colors, and this guy is one of the best I’ve found at avoiding what I call “Sahara mouth.” For my first try, I went with the classic red, but I’ve got my eye on It’s Happening and Bend and Snap as well.
Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick (in Jam On It): I owe this discovery to Z&S favorite Ingrid Nilsen. Watching one of her videos last fall, I found I couldn’t stop staring at her lips. The reason was to be found in the video description — the internet’s version of asking your friend (or, you know, a random stranger on the street): “Oh my god, I love your lipstick! Where did you get it?” A deep berry that layers well, letting you take it from raspberry to plum in a matter of coats.
Benefit Full-Finish Lipstick (in Espionage): This is a long-time favorite of mine, the first shade beyond the classic reds that I truly loved. It breaks my heart that Benefit no longer makes it, and makes me incredibly sparing with how I use it and cautious about how it gets tossed in my bag, since one tube is all I’ve got. The color looks intimidatingly dark as a solid but goes on with just the right amount of sheer, while still packing a deep enough punch to make any wearer feel like a goddamn vixen.
Tarte Tarteist Creamy Matte Lip Paint (in Frenemy): Speaking of dark, this is one of the newest additions to my lip arsenal, purchased for a Halloween trip to Sleepy Hollow with friend-of-the-blog, and my sister witch, Katie. Applying this guy can be a bit tricky, since the color is dark and tends to set very fast, but even so it goes on smooth and doesn’t dry your lips out, plus it has a surprisingly minty scent to give it that extra oomph.
Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment (in Berry): There are lipsticks, and lip stains, and liquid mattes that toe the line. But sometimes, you just want a hint of color, and for those moments, there is Fresh. I have loved these sugar treatments for years, starting with the Original formula. They are incredibly moisturizing, they smell great, and they have just enough color to give your natural lip shade a boost without making you feel overdressed.
Smith’s Rosebud Salve: Last but not least, if you just want to let your natural lip shine, allow me to suggest this timeless classic. It smells like a Derby winner’s garland and seeps into your lips like rain on a racetrack, leaving them soothed and refreshed. Or, for a twist, you can layer it over a lipstick or lip stain to soften the color and give it a bit of shine.
IMAGES VIA: ULTA, WALGREENS, YSIS LORENA, NYX, ULTA, MAKEUPANDBEAUTY, GLAMBOT, BLOOM, SEPHORA, MUSINGS OF A MUSE, SEPHORA