Friday, August 28, 2015

Brown Is Back, Bitches: Milani Amore Matte Lip Creme in Crush

If you distilled all of 2015's lip-color trends into a single product, you'd come up with Milani Amore Matte Lip Creme in Crush.


Crush ticks all the boxes: it's a dark brown (check) liquid lipstick (check) that dries to a flat matte finish (check). Interestingly, it's also a marriage of high-end and low-end trends. Matte liquid lipsticks have been everywhere in the last couple of years, but the brands popularizing them have been largely indie or drugstore brands: NYX, Lime Crime, ColourPop, Kat Von D, Jeffree Star, LA Splash, and now Milani. Kat Von D is the obvious outlier in that listher Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks go for $19 at Sephorabut as befits a former tattoo artist, she pays more attention to street style and Instagram than to runways. The trend is trickling upward, though: MAC is releasing its own line of Retro Matte Liquid Lipsticks this fall, and who knows what other brands will launch their boats on the liquid matte river?

I'm not sure how I feel about the super-matte look. I love matte lipstick, as any reader of this blog is well aware. But there's a difference between the look of conventional matte lipstick, which usually has a hint of shine to give it depth, and the powdery look of liquid mattes. The flatter the finish of a lipstick, the more saturated the color appears. This is fine if your base makeup is also super-matte, but I never wear foundation and prefer a dewy look for my skin, so I don't necessarily want a lip color that reflects no light at all. I wonder if this is yet another trend designed to look better in Instagram selfies than in real life.

Brown, on the other hand, has gained a following outside Instagram. Brown lip color has been creeping back into fashion for a few years, softened by sheer formulas or artfully disguised in brick reds and plums. This year, though, it feels no need to hide. Since late 2014, almost every new lipstick range, high- or low-end, has included at least one true brown. NARS Audacious has Deborah; the recent MAC matte collection has Antique Velvet; Chanel's fall collection has Mélancolie [and the Infinite Sadness]; Urban Decay Matte Revolution has 1993, which I swatched out of curiosity at the San Francisco Ulta a few weeks ago:

Top to bottom: Bittersweet, 1993, Rapture.

1993 is a true '90s brown, midtone and warm, but my own tastes run to deeper, vampier browns. Beyoncé's presence at the 2014 Met Gala was overshadowed by her sister's elevator attack on Jay-Z, but her gorgeous makeup deserves to be remembered:


Looking back over press reports from the 2014 gala, I notice an odd reluctance to describe Beyoncé's lipstick as "brown" instead of "aubergine" or "burgundy." Yes, the color has hints of red and plum, but it's brown, people. Nor is it "goth," to quote one source; it's meant to evoke the '20s or '30s, in line with the 2014 Met Gala's Charles James theme. This is the kind of brown lipstick I favor. I don't mind lighter browns if they're a bit sheer, like Revlon Coy; but if I'm going to wear an opaque brown, I want it to be more Beyoncé than Cindy Crawford.

This is not to say that no one wore dark brown lipstick in the '90s: I know that MAC's Film Noir was a popular color back then. My sense is that lighter browns were everyday shades and dark browns like Film Noir were suitable for evening. The very name of the lipstick suggests that the '90s saw the color as slightly other: a retro, not modern, brown. Even after picking up Crush in New York, I toyed with buying Film Noir or Antique Velvet, going so far as to swatch them at the MAC store next to the cable-car turnaround in downtown San Francisco:

L-R: Instigator, Antique Velvet, Film Noir, Heroine, Matte Royal.

But thrift and common sense prevailed: I felt sure I wouldn't wear a dark brown lipstick more than a handful of times, so I contented myself with Crush.

So, a bit about Milani's Amore Matte Lip Cremes. There are eight shades in the limited-edition line: three nude/mauve pinks, one bright red, and three vamps. They're available on Milani's website and at Walgreens and Duane Reade stores; my understanding is that they're not sold anywhere else, though I could be wrong about this. (Update, 10/5: I just saw a display of them at my local CVS, so yes, I was wrong.) Milani charges $8.99 for them, but I paid less than that at Duane Reade: not more than $7, as I recall. Also, on a pedantic note: I heard about these lipsticks back in July, when very few bloggers had reviewed them. The scarcity of written reviews led me into a territory I usually avoid: the dark realm of YouTube vloggers. The first thing I noticed about the video reviews was that almost no one pronounced "Amore Matte" correctly. Milani claims to be "inspired by Milan," and the Italian amore has three syllables. But almost without exception, the YouTube reviewers pronounced the word "a-moor," like the French amour. Come on, people! If a brand has sent you an entire range of lipsticks for free, the least you can do is pronounce the name correctly! But I digress.

The Amore Matte packaging is sturdy, almost bulky, with Milani's signature gold accents and a stiff doe-foot applicator.


Crush has a thin formula, not watery but not exactly creamy, either. There's a strong, sweet scent that reminds me of a root-beer float, of all things. The brown color may have contributed to this impression, but I can't un-smell it now, even if I close my eyes and think of fuchsia. The scent fades quickly after application, and I don't dislike it, but it certainly makes itself known when I open the tube.

Milani describes Crush as a "warm brick brown," which is about right: it's a very dark brown with a bit of red and plum. It's a very close dupe for Antique Velvet, actually, though I think AV is a touch cooler. For comparison's sake, I've swatched my entire collection of brown lipsticks, first in shade, then in direct sunlight. Left to right: Maybelline Crazy for Coffee, Milani Crush, NYX Enamored, Revlon Coy.



Crazy for Coffee and Coy fall into the subtle "rosewood" category. Crush is just about as dark as Enamored, but it's much redder. One coat gives me near-total opacity with just a bit of streakiness; I find that I need two coats to make the color look even. This arm swatch is a single pass:


One layer of Crush on my lips—my front-facing camera didn't manage to pick up the slight patchiness, but I promise it's there:


Two layers:


Two layers, different lighting:


As I'm sure you can tell from these photos, I have some difficulty applying Crush (hence my oft-broken rule: no liquid lipsticks, damn it). The color is very dark, the formula dries down to matte in just a minute or two, and the applicator doesn't produce the most precise of lines. I always find myself doing a bit of hasty finger-smoothing to ensure that the color doesn't creep outside my lips and the shape doesn't look wonky as hell; my upper lip is especially challenging because it's so small. For me, the best technique is applying one coat, letting it dry, then brushing on another. If you're used to liquid lipsticks, applying Crush might not be a problem for you, but it certainly is for me.

I'd heard a lot about the longevity of liquid matte lipsticks, so I was eager to put Crush to the test. I wore it to my mom's birthday dinner at the Slanted Doorcan you believe she's lived in San Francisco since 1995 and had never been there until this month? Since I was wearing a vaguely '70s-esque dress on our outing (high neck, flowing sleeves, big floral pattern), I went a bit '70s with my eye makeup, using Maybelline Bad to the Bronze and one of the deep browns (Silly, I believe) in theBalm's Nude 'tude palette. In retrospect, I think I could have done a more colorful eye to complement Crush: plum and green would both look nice with the deep brown.


Like Enamored, this color is challenging for me to wear because it makes me look incredibly pale. I mean, I am pale, and I don't mind being pale, but the pure dark brown can give an ashen cast to my skin if I'm not careful. That said, I put it on today with no other makeup (I'm in the process of moving into a new apartment, so Looks have fallen by the wayside), and I was surprised that it didn't look horrible. Maybe the light was good or something.


At the Slanted Door, Crush stood up to my water and cocktail: there wasn't the slightest trace of lipstick on either glass. After a few bites of food, though, I could tell that the color was coming off. I glanced in the mirror after the appetizer and noticed that quite a lot of the lipstick had disappeared from the center of my mouth. It wasn't pretty, and I was forced to wipe off the rest, which was a task in itself; I feel sorry for the person who had to wash my napkin after that dinner. Crush is also not terribly comfortable to wear. It's not as drying as Enamored, but it's not a lightweight product, either. When I retested it today, I had to take it off after a couple of hours because my lips felt so dry. Dabbing my mouth with a tissue did nothing, and I discovered that Crush really needs to be removed with an oil or balm (I ended up using Palmer's cocoa-butter lip balm).

My verdict: meh. I'm certainly not tempted to buy another liquid-matte lipstick, and I'd return this one if I still had the receipt. My biggest issue with Crush is that it doesn't fade naturally. It seems to come off in chunks, so it needs to be removed before eating—fine, except that the removal process takes as much time as the application process. Another problem with the formula is the lack of versatility. A traditional lipstick can be sheered out, used as a blush, blended with other colors, or worked into the lips as a stain. Even a liquid lipstick with a satin finish leaves some room for experimentation. But there's only one way to wear Crush: on its own, on the lips, at full opacity. I usually wear my lipsticks at full opacity anyway, but it's nice to feel like I have some control over the color saturation, and Crush seems to have a mind of its own. Maybe it's just too scientifically advanced for me. Will the AI takeover begin with liquid lipstick? I shudder to think.

By the way, I still want Antique Velvet.

15 comments:

  1. Damn, I wrote a comment and then my internet crapped out while it was posting. Let's see if I can remember what I wrote.

    Crush looks fabulous on you, so clearly you need to get Antique Velvet so you can create a similar look without the hassle. I won't be buying any new liquid mattes, because I know from experience that I will never wear them, since the finicky application and dryness bother me too much. I especially hate the ugly flaking and chunks when they wear off. I really think they are good for taking photos, and that's it. It's surely no coincidence that they have become so popular in the Instagram era.

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    1. Is the unwearability of liquid mattes something that everyone just knows about and takes for granted? I feel like I missed some important information before buying Crush. I just assume that if lipsticks are uncomfortable and they fade badly, *someone* will mention it in a review, but...

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    2. I think I reviewed one from NYX ages ago and gave it away, and then made the mistake of buying some from MUA and gave them away too after trying them once. But I have much lower tolerance for dryness etc. than many people seem to, and I tend to rub my lips together and bite them as a nervous habit, which these formulas really can't handle. I now assume if a review says "not too drying" or "slightly drying" that I will hate it.

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  2. That no make up look is cool! Very stark but the contrast is great.

    I'm totally with you on everything. I dislike this uber matte trend, and I own a couple but I think I mostly caved into hype. I did find that the formulas I got (lasplash and life's entropy, indie brand) were easy to apply precisely with the applicator, and wore a lot better than this. Maybe Milani's formula is just not as good. I suppose they do have some perks: mine are seriously apocalypse and bullet proof. If I really didn't want to bother checking or reapplying for 24 hours, they would come in handy.

    Personally I prefer Cindy brown over super stark brown, it just seems much more wearable to me. But even 1993, which I thought was relatively nudesque, is incredibly dark on you. Any word on trying an 'everyday' brown?

    I may be a make up philistine, but beyonce's lipstick does look burgundy to me. D:

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    1. Temptalia rated the Amore Mattes pretty highly in comparison with other liquid mattes (Crush got a B+, and several others were in the A/A- range), but she did mention that a lip brush might be necessary for precise application. That seems kind of silly to me: I don't mind using a lip brush for conventional lipsticks, but if a liquid lipstick's applicator doesn't work, the lipstick itself doesn't work. I do think Crush would be apocalypse-proof so long as I didn't eat a meal, but I'm not going to starve myself to keep my lipstick pristine.

      I was surprised at how dark 1993 was, too! For some reason, I'm convinced that it would look bad on me, but maybe I'm wrong. I just wish there were some way to try it on without using a nasty lipstick tester.

      Haha, maybe I shouldn't have been so adamant about the color of Beyonce's lipstick! I'm willing to grant that it might be a brownish burgundy. :P

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  3. When liquid lipsticks first became The New Big Thing (around 2012-ish?) I was desperate to try them. I was in my super vintage phase and nothing seemed more vintage to me than super matte lips (which is bizarre because most lipsticks I've seen from the 30s and 40s have some gloss to them, but no matter). I tried one which was raved about by beauty bloggers as being Even Better Than Lime Crime (a brand I would never buy from in a million years) and was thankfully super cheap, maybe £3-4 and a great shade of super neon warm pink/coral which was great on my skin. But the formula. EGADS, the formula. I know what you mean about the way matte liquid lipsticks don't fade but sort of ball up and come off in blotchy patches. And even when on, it felt tight, like my mouth was trying to shrink away from it. Sweet mother of all that is holy, these babies are not supposed to be actually WORN, are they?

    But that colour on you. I'm in love with it, especially when worn with no other make-up.

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    1. That was exactly the feeling: my mouth was trying to shrink away from the lipstick, as if my body were rejecting it. I took a nap with it on and when I woke up, my lips felt like they had turned to paper. In my half-conscious state, I couldn't remember why; it was very surreal.

      I love the color too! Maybe I'll give Crush one more try over balm. I usually don't like wearing bold lips with no other makeup, but for some reason it works with dark brown.

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  4. Let's tell them to gently flip the R for "amore" while we are at it! LOL
    You look especially gorgeous in the first FOTD. Love the flower prints and the color combination of the top (or the dress) you're wearing. ;)

    I don't think I can wear this kind of brown no matter how much the color is trending. At my age, I think wearing makeup is mostly about the game about how much light and vitality should be added to the complexion just because they have been lost, which makes me avoid dark brown (not to mention matte) at all costs. I still want to figure out exactly what to wear with my Rouge Bunny Rouge "Perfume of his gaze" lipstick, though. :)

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    1. Thank you! It's one of my favorite dresses. :) And it's no coincidence that most Instagram tastemakers seem to be teenagers or very young adults. Even if aging isn't a concern, a lot of us have lives in which super-matte dark brown lipsticks are not always acceptable.

      The RBR looks like it would go with a lot of different colors! Maybe some plum on the eyes?

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  5. I've mused a lot recently about my distaste for matte liquid lipsticks and I've come to this conclusion: they're paint. They look like dried paint, and they wear like dried paint. Instagram perusals have led me to the additional conclusion that some brands may not be as bad about this (LA Splash and Kat Von D seem to have less of the "so drying you can actually see how the lips have shriveled up" effect) but... it's paint!

    I have one singular liquid lipstick in my possession and it's from the classic MUFE Aqua Rouge line, which I recall XOVain put to a makeout wear test a couple of years ago. The Aqua Rouges have a clear gloss half that does the triple duty of keeping the color vibrant, keeping your lips from drying out, and keeping the color from drying out and flaking off. I've applied mine at 6pm, gone out to a show, had several drinks, got home at 3am and the only thing that looked good was the lipstick. Alas they are prohibitively expensive, but they're also so intensively long wearing I've never wanted another shade.

    I love how this color looks on you (embrace the vampiness! so good!) so I 100% back getting Antique Velvet.

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    1. They ARE paint! I have a vivid memory of painting a picture of my dad with tempera paint on my first day of kindergarten, and being devastated that afternoon when I discovered that the paint had cracked while drying. Crush really does have the texture of that elementary-school tempera paint.

      I remember that xoVain article! Those Aqua Rouges do seem truly impressive. And ugh, I may end up buying Antique Velvet after all. Not soon, though: I've bought four different lipsticks in the last five weeks. D:

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  6. I love the contrast of Crush against your skin tone. That's a shame about the formula though.

    I've purged all my liquid lipsticks but for one and think that it will stay that way from now on: just have one in rotation, or none at all.

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    1. No matter how many liquid lipsticks I buy, I can't seem to learn that I NEVER WEAR LIQUID LIPSTICK. In my defense, Crush is only my third or fourth liquid lipstick, but I also have a few opaque glosses that might as well be liquid lipsticks...and that I also never wear. Traditional bullets are traditional for a reason!

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  7. Haha, YouTubers' pronunciation kills me. I've lost count of the amount of "ger-layn" and "gih-ven-chee" I've heard from people whose entire job is to review products they've probably been sent for free.

    I really like Crush on you! Brown is one colour that I'm terrified of, but I think a vampier brown is a lot more wearable in 2015 than a lighter one. Light to mid-toned browns read SO 1995 to me.

    I'm a liquid lipstick fan, in theory, but in practice a lot of the formulas are pretty shitty. I like the Stila ones a lot - once I wore one for almost 24 hours straight (put it on one morning, got on an 8-hour overnight flight, didn't take it off until the next day) and it didn't budge. But they absolutely must only be applied to adequately-prepped lips; I too suffer from dry lips and there are just times that liquid lipsticks will not work.

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    1. I do pronounce some French brand names atrociously in my head, despite "knowing" how to read and pronounce French (that graduate reading course was...a long time ago). But if I were making a video about Gihvenchee, I would make sure my pronunciation was at least approximately correct, you know?

      I agree with you about vampier browns: they look more modern to me. I don't mind midtone browns in sheer formulas, but I never wear Crazy for Coffee because it really does look dated, despite this year's '90s trend.

      I've tried non-matte liquid lipsticks with more comfortable formulas, but I find even those to be hard to apply. I'm very obsessive about my lipstick being perfectly even, with no drifting outside lip lines, and liquid lipstick just doesn't enable that kind of perfectionism. Not for me, at least; lots of other people seem to be able to apply liquid lipstick with no problem.

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