What's not to love about a new lipstick? It perks us up for not much cash. But really, even if it's not a huge expenditure, we still want value for our money.
Is there that much difference between a $34 Chanel and a cheapie from the drugstore?
And then there's the existential question: What does a woman want in her lipstick? Is it moisture, great packaging, longevity, good smell, smooth application? All that and more?
To find the answers to these and many other questions raised by a simple lipstick, I bought a half-dozen highly rated ones and put them through some rigorous testing by a half-dozen picky women.
Five co-workers and I tested six brands at vastly different prices. The ones I chose for the lip-off got high marks from Internet sites including Total Beauty, Oprah, Consumer Search, Beautypedia and Good Housekeeping. (I bought neutral colors for the test so color was not considered in the rankings.)
And the winner is? If only it were that easy. It turned out that each of us (and all womankind for that matter) has very specific, but often different, must-haves in a lipstick.
For instance, two of us picked Rimmel's Kate Moss as our favorite lipstick and two of us (me included) rated it dead last. I loved the Chanel and the Cover Girl because they stayed on all day. (Incidentally, no way was the $34 boutique Chanel worth $27 more than the drugstore $7 Cover Girl.) Other testers didn't care that much if they had to reapply often because they were more concerned about feel and comfort so they preferred the Estee Lauder or MAC.
In fact, the only thing the six of us agreed on is that the Maybelline and MAC we tested were neither best nor worst of the six but somewhere in between. See what I mean? It's complicated.
Despite two spread sheets (Help!!!) and ratings on 11 characteristics (even kissability) there was no clear winner. But here's something important to remember: Many stores will let you return makeup -- including lipstick -- if you don't like it. But be sure to ask before you buy.
Kristin Samuelson, Regina Robinson, Brandi Larsen, Courtney Crowder, Barbara Brotman and Ellen Warren
MAC Lustre, Syrup, $15, Nordstrom
Overall: 4 of 6 testers rated it 3rd out of 6.
Kristin: "Pretty average."
Regina: "Before I finished my orange, it was gone."
Estee Lauder Signature Hydra Lustre, Dune Rose, $22.50, Nordstrom
Overall: Rated 1st by 2 of 6 testers; one ranked it last.
Regina: "A little 'old church lady' fragrancy."
Barbara: "A pleasant surprise: a somewhat longer lasting lipstick that was still moist and shiny. Didn't emphasize lines."
Chanel Rouge Double Intensité, Rose Topaz, $34, Nordstrom
Overall: 2 of 6 testers ranked it 1st; but 3 of 6 said it was last, or next to last.
Courtney: "Love this one! Color stayed on all day, and it felt wonderful."
Ellen: "Gloss at one end, color at the other means only one thing to carry around, not two. Don't want to lose this pricey one!"
Maybelline Colorsensational, Totally Toffee, $6.09, Target
Overall: Highest score was 3rd place.
Brandi: "My girlfriend says it's not a going-out lipstick but a nice everyday lipstick. My husband says it smells like Play-Doh."
Courtney: "Just plain awful staying power."
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
Rimmel, Kate Moss, .14, $5.79, Walgreens
Overall: 2 votes for 1st and 2 for last.
Brandi: "Love the smell and the feel of it. I'd buy this."
Barbara: "Went on dry and then sank into lip lines. NOT a good look."
Cover Girl, Outlast All-Day Lipcolor, Blushed Mauve, $12.49 on sale for $6.99, Walgreens
Overall: 4 of 6 testers said it was 1st runner-up, but 2 rated it last.
Ellen: "Wears about as long as Chanel at vastly less cost; the included 'moisturizing topcoat' is too much trouble."
Kristin: "Too dry to even feel comfortable."