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Kiss and Fly

In pursuit of the ideal lip product for planes, parties, and tiny purses.

Kiss and Fly

In line at airport security, I never put my liquids in a plastic bag. It’s a small rebellion, but I am often proven right not to. They rarely check, and anyway, can lip gloss really be considered a liquid? I simply think that by now, they should improve travel technology. Some airports don’t even ask to take your laptop out anymore. I have packed a carry-on and only the necessary toiletries, along with several different lip products that I am to put to the test on this trip. I am off to Amsterdam and Berlin for a ten-day sojourn with the excuse that my novel Happy Hour is coming out in Germany. Remember, anything that takes the fuss out of the travel experience is, in fact, elevating it.

As a young girl, my earliest memory of lipstick was not trying it on in front of a mirror pretending to be an adult—like some films would have you believe—but instead, the moment my grandmother discovered I was using her Chanel lipstick to draw on a piece of cardboard. Yes, I did get in trouble. She still wears that same poppy red, though I have at least moved on to using canvas. Much like other girls of my generation, I became a fastidious collector of the Bonne Bell lip balms, otherwise known as Lip Smackers, in elementary school. I had the entire Jewel Lips line with flavors like Amethyst Sour Grape and Diamond Icing. In some ways, the packaging, themes, and scents gave the same joy and prompt for world-building as my collection of Polly Pockets. I could live within a world of my choosing simply by swiping on the flavor of the day with childish fervor. In my preteens, I had Lancôme Juicy Tubes that matched perfectly with my edition of Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Prep, and from there, I graduated to being an underage party girl wearing Mac Cosmetics’ infamous Ruby Woo matte lipstick, inspired by New York mainstay Jen Brill.

Today, there are almost too many options. I can’t get behind the various ways of describing lip products either: balms, oils, glosses, balmy glosses, stains, tints, gloss tints. Now, glosses aim to have the non-stick consistency of balms, oils want the same shine as glosses, and stains want the pigment of lipstick but not the transfer—around and around we go. I didn’t expect I would be the princess and the pea of lip products, but here we are. Taking products for a spin when I have to do events, go on planes, and drink cocktails is really the most ideal pressure cooker to review with. I have opinions.

I don’t know how other people travel, but for me, if my plans involve much more than spending the day on a beach chair, they often descend into chaos. Since the only thing I ever reapply is lip products, this is often the one addition to my phone and wallet (sometimes not even that) in whatever tiny handbag I’m carrying. When considering what lip products to bring on a trip, I think similarly to packing different kinds of shoes: one for decoration, one for utility, one for comfort, and one that is impossible to put on but looks very good.

On the plane, I wore the Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm, which kept my lips moisturized over the course of the seven-hour flight. The applicator is a curved ridge that reminds me of Stacy Greene’s photo series of used lipsticks—a haunting reminder of people’s individuality. I found the actual balm a little gritty when I rubbed my lips together, and along with the curved applicator, I just feel like the sensory experience isn’t pleasurable and is actually slightly discomfiting. (I do feel a slight tingle when I wear the balm, so there is a chance I might be slightly allergic to its vegan ingredients.)

My first morning in Amsterdam was already turning into a bit of a situation. After realizing my Dyson Airwrap would not work with a European adaptor, I had one hand using the brush attachment and the other clumsily holding a hairdryer. Upon starting my makeup routine, I decided to try out the Milk Makeup Jelly Tint. The tube was freshly delivered and unopened. In my haste, I pulled off the protective plastic cap with some force, and somehow, the excess product that had been safely stowed away inside burst onto my clean white button-up and all over my friend’s sink. Reader, don’t panic: the Jelly Tint washed out with just a little Vanish stain remover. No one would know it was ever there. And despite this minor catastrophe, the Jelly Tint ended up being one of my favorite products to bring around. I prefer to use it as a blush over a lip tint, but with either, it feels like you’re wearing no makeup at all. For me, this was a nice respite from the tacky consistency of my usual Charlotte Tilbury Matte Beauty Blush, which always felt present on my face. Jelly Tint was perfect for those early morning coffee runs when you are only half ready to face the world but still want to look alive. I would say the same for Danessa Myricks Beauty’s Blurring Balm Powder. For lips, I prefer using Milk’s Electric Lip Plumper, which, in fact, tingles on purpose.

I have to say, while careening around Amsterdam on a bicycle, the most disappointing packaging came in the form of Glossier’s Ultralip. There would be times when my purse would be knocking on my side while trying to navigate the absence of road rules, and once settled into a wine bar, I would reach into my bag to apply it, and the cap would be... gone! It’s a shame because the actual formula is beautiful, but what’s beauty when a bunch of purse crumbs have enmeshed themselves into your lipstick? This is actually something I would write to them to fix because, on further investigation, it seems it’s a problem for other people, too.

Anything glossy or balmy should be able to be applied without a mirror. Ilia’s Balmy Gloss fails this test because of its streakiness and the strange way it highlights the lip’s lines. Application should be an act of muscle memory, and the ideal lip gloss must be trustworthy enough that the wearer knows exactly what it looks like without the aid of a reflective surface. A pointed swipe is the sassiest thing you can do in the middle of a conversation, and the best time is usually after making a point. The best lip glosses I tried were the ones I applied while arguing with different men—Tower 28’s ShineOn Lip Jelly for the Danish man at karaoke and Fenty’s Gloss Bomb for the Dutch bar owner with a Rolex. It is the makeup equivalent of a period and a sign to the other person that there is no use arguing. Sometimes, putting on lip gloss is the best last word that translates in all languages.

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