Lip Service
Lip Service
Photo by Roger Talley
KJ at work

By Kevin James Bennett

Mother Nature had a hand in the origins of lipstick. (Crazy, right?)  With only three to five cellular layers, the skin on the lips is much thinner than typical skin on the face, which has between 16 and 20 layers. Blood vessels in the lips are closer to the surface of the skin due to this relative thinness, and therefore impart that pink (or red, or brown) hue we are all recognize as lip color.

Today, lipsticks get their colors from a variety of natural and man-made dyes and mineral pigments. The most common waxes used in lipstick production are beeswax, carnauba and candelilla wax. Olive, mineral or castor oils—along with emollients like cocoa and shea butters, lanolin and petrolatum—are added to give lipstick a smooth feeling and create a shiny appearance. 

In the last decade we’ve seen amazing innovations in formulas that offer a myriad of textures, finishes and levels of coverage. The development of micronized pigments has created unparalleled vibrancy and color depth. We are also experiencing an evolution of natural, organic or “good for you” lipsticks that are free of petrochemicals, man-made dyes and paraben preservatives. We actually end up eating our lipstick (we wear it on the mouth, after all), and so inventive marketers have started adding vitamins, energy elixirs and even appetite suppressants to lip products. We’re also seeing the addition of more skincare and anti-aging properties including peptides, collagen, anti-oxidants and UVA/UVB protection.

Types, Textures and Choices (Oh my!)

A woman’s lipstick color and finish is indicative of how she wants to be perceived. Sheer formulas convey a feeling of ease and approachability. Shimmering and iridescent finishes represent an effervescent or playful attitude. Matte or cream lipsticks in bright or vibrant colors demand attention. The same finishes in rich colors evoke a feeling of confidence and power—have you ever met a woman with rich, deep red lips who didn’t appear confident?  High shine/glossy lips exude a heightened level of sexuality because they simulate the look of lips that have just been licked.

When you mix any of these finishes together, you create a different, more complex personification. For example: A woman with richly colored, high-gloss lips is sending a powerful message—she’s strong, sexy and in control.

- Matte lipstick contains mostly pigment, waxes and sometimes a little clay (kaolin) with very little oil content.
- Long-Lasting lipstick usually contains volatile silicone oil, which evaporates, leaving behind a layer of color protected with sealing ingredients.
- Crème lipsticks contain a balance of slightly more waxes than oils, with varying levels of pigment/dye.
- Sheer lipsticks contain more oil and less pigment/dye to give a transparent, shiny finish.
- Lip stains contain mostly dye and very little pigment in a hybrid gel/oil fluid and are applied like a gloss.
- Lip gloss is made primarily of oils or liquefied waxes (mineral, silicone or plant) to achieve that glass-like sheen. Varying amounts of pigment/dye are added to achieve the desired color and opacity.
- Shimmery, frosted or iridescent lipstick and gloss can contain mica, silica, fish scales or synthetic pearl particles to give them their reflective finish.
My Favorite Formulas

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar: These highly concentrated, super-saturated opaque lip colors look glossy as they come out of the tube but set to a stunning velvety finish. The colors range from innovative (True Cyan Blue) to playful (Anime) to classic (Harlot). If you’re a make-up artist and don’t know about these, shame on you. Consumers, don’t be left out: They’re perfect for you, too! Oh, and I almost forgot—they’re VEGAN.

Lipstick Queen Sinner and Saint: Aussie Lipstick Queen Poppy King was so obsessed with having the perfect lipstick she started her own brand when she was just 18 years old! Fast forward two decades and we have 10 universally wearable shades offered in either a 10-percent pigmented sheer (Saint) or a whopping 90 percent pigmented matte (Sinner). No shimmer or frost, just gorgeous color.

Becca Cosmetics Beach Tint: I love a good multi-tasker and these amazing waterproof, streak-proof creams/gels can be used to create a delicate translucent stain on lips and cheeks. Fun bonus: They look and smell like their yummy names (Peach, Grapefruit, Watermelon, etc.)

Please send your questions for KJ to [email protected]