I’m reliably informed that lipgloss sales have gone belly-up thanks to the soaring popularity of liquid lipsticks. This alone should be enough to win my support, but I’ve had misgivings. I can see the appeal: matte, vivid and exceptionally durable, liquid lipsticks are colour-saturated stains that apply quickly and uniformly on the go, direct from a pointy-tipped wand. But they’ve also been, from my perspective, a bit hard-looking (think the painted, sculpted mouth of a shop mannequin) and not entirely comfy (with more pigment than anything else, they offer little in the way of moisture).
I prefer the sophistication of a traditional lipstick bullet, its versatility of finish, the waxy, almost thoughtless swish across the mouth. The occasional touch-up seems no more effortful than boiling the kettle. But I’m no beauty luddite, so I’ve given liquids another go. This time, I’m blown away by Nars Powermatte Lip Pigment (£23, 5.5ml). What it lacks in bulk (the consistency is so watery, one can barely feel it), it delivers in dense, vibrant colour (I love Light My Fire, a 1970s-style orangey-red, but there are plenty of nudes, too). The applicator is sharp, easy to navigate and so precise that I can even skip lipliner.
Packaging was a decisive factor across the board – a pointed, mobile nib is essential for a clean, even glide, especially since the necks of the tubes aren’t wide enough for one’s own lip brush (besides, I can never be bothered to use one). I tried crayon versions (including an excellent formula by Marc Jacobs), but without precision there seemed, quite literally, to be no point. The best application came from YSL’s Tatouage Couture Matte Stain. At £29 (for 5ml) it costs a fortune, but it paints on impeccably with a unique calligraphic spreader. The colours are glorious, too (Rose Illicite is beautiful) and, like the Nars number, YSL’s watery formula stays put for four to five hours.
The longest-lasting of all was also among the cheapest. The texture of Maybelline’s Superstay Matte Ink Liquid (£9.99, 4.8g) wasn’t as comfortable as the luxury offerings, and didn’t glide on as smoothly, but it was extraordinarily durable, surviving two meals, nine hours and umpteen mugs of tea.