Saturday, February 6, 2016

Revlon Matte Balm in Fierce

I kept reasonably good tabs on new makeup releases last fall (self-destructively good tabs, even), but there were a few that escaped my notice. One new development was the addition of four shades to Revlon's line of Colorburst Matte Balms. The new colors are Enchanting, a pinkish beige; Fierce, a warm cinnamon brown; Fiery, a reddish berry; and Passionate, a purplish berry. The new additions make sense to me, since the Matte Balm line has always been short on neutral shades, but Revlon also discontinued a few colors to make room for the new ones. Dark purple Shameless and bright orange Audacious are missing from the website, and I've heard that pastel orange Mischievous is gone too, along with a few of the Lacquer Balms (my beloved Coy is safe for now).

Though I much prefer brown and berry lipstick to orange, it's always bittersweet to see color trends change. Remember when orange and coral were the trendy lipstick colors? When I first started paying attention to makeup, in the spring of 2011, all the beauty sites were singing the praises of orange as a more playful alternative to red. One of the first lipsticks I ever bought was Revlon Orange Flip. The original Matte Balm lineup featured three shades of orange. And now all you hear about is taupe, greige, and mauve (and soon, no doubt, other muddy portmanteaus like "grauve" and "maupe"), and meanwhile 99% of the world goes on its way completely unaware of these revolutions in taste. "You told me that brown lipstick was back," said a friend recently, "but I have yet to see anyone actually wearing it." Frankly, I'm not sure I have, either. It's hard to argue that a color is "back" when your only evidence is in cyberspace. Well, here's yet more online evidence:


I was excited to hear about the new Matte Balms last month, because I'd had my eye out for a '90s reddish brown for some time. I couldn't find many swatches of Fierce, let alone full reviews, but I had reasonably high hopes for the formula: the best Matte Balms seemed to be the medium-saturation reddish shades like Sultry, Standout, and Unapologetic, and Fierce was another such color. So I searched in vain for my CVS coupon for $2 off a $10 Revlon purchase, cursed the forces of entropy that have always governed and will always govern my living space, and paid over $11 for a lipstick that goes for less than $7 at Target. Whatever.


Instagram types love to refer to their beloved greige lipstick as "'90s" or "grunge," but trendy grayish taupes like MAC Stone are very mid-2010s. Most brown lipsticks in the '90s had a healthy dose of red or rose. To quote Cindy Crawford's 1996 makeup book: "The most flattering lipsticks bear some resemblance to your natural lipsnudes, roses, berries, and soft browns." That's soft browns, not purplish-gray zombie browns or almost-black browns. But it's interesting that most of us have this impulse to situate our makeup within a historical tradition. We don't want to admit to making things up as we go; we describe our looks as "mod" or "vintage" or "grunge" even when we're being thoroughly 2016.

Writing this, I'm reminded of the historian D. R. Woolf's reflections on historical thought in 17th-century England. (Can you tell I just turned in a dissertation chapter and am trying to decompress by blogging about lipstick?) "To suggest that something was an improvement was, generally speaking, insufficient," Woolf writes; "it had to be shown as a manifest return to a socially sanctioned past whose authenticity was not in doubt." I think our culture still retains this impulse, whether in politics or in makeup. I know I do; there's something comforting about feeling connected to the past, if only by a lipstick color (see also Essie's "Retro Revival" collection in honor of its 35th anniversary). I was eight for most of 1996, so forgive me if I'm wrong, but I think Fierce is the most truly mid-'90s of all the brown lipsticks I've tried. And I've tried an embarrassing number in the past year.


It turns out that Fierce is not quite as opaque as Sultry. This is one swipe; I find that I need two for full lip coverage, but no big deal. And speaking of an embarrassing number of brown lipsticks...


...these are just my medium browns. L-R: Maybelline Crazy for Coffee, Fierce, Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy, Topshop Lip Bullet in Motel. Fierce and Crazy for Coffee look almost identical when swatched on my arm, but Fierce is much more of a statement lip for me (especially when built up with two coats), while Crazy for Coffee is a deep MLBB. I've never been crazy for Crazy for Coffee: it washes me out a bit, and I think I'll be destashing it now that Fierce has made it somewhat redundant.

Under artificial light, for differences in finish:


Fierce is the matte-est of the four, but like the other Matte Balms I've tried, it's not completely matte: it has a slight sheen when first applied, and it does transfer onto cups. If you're looking for a flat, transfer-proof matte brown, feel free to pick up one of the 938,574 brown liquid matte lipsticks released in the last year. Fierce isn't terribly long-wearing, either—maybe three hours before it needs to be touched up, which is about average for me.

Here's two coats applied over a bit of balm; as you can see, we're far outside MLBB territory. Fierce is one of those shades that just suit me; any lighter or warmer and it would look terrible, but through some trick of undertone, it escapes disaster.


And here it is in the context of my whole face. Three shades from theBalm Nude 'tude on my eyes: Stubborn (shimmery neutral pink) all over the lid, Sexy (matte burgundy) on the outer third and in the crease, and Sophisticated (shimmery cool brown) on the lower lashlines. I've been diligently wearing Nude 'tude several times a week but have yet to hit pan on any new shades, which feels unfair. My blush is Sleek Flushed; one day I'll wear enough blush that it will actually be visible in a photo, and then we'll all celebrate.


I rediscover cool pink makeup every February without fail, so I'm not sure how much more wear Fierce will get before spring sets in. In fact, I've already paid a visit to my local Bluemercury to swatch two NARS cool pinks: Gaiety blush (left) and Roman Holiday sheer lipstick.


Then again, I've been enjoying this brown-lipstick phase, so you might see Fierce in a few more FOTDs before the weather warms up. Brown lipstick is back, right? Or has the entire Internet pulled a massive prank on me?

12 comments:

  1. Brown lipstick does seem to be back in cyberspace, though I will agree with your friend that I haven't seen much of it in real life! Then again, not that many people on my campus wear bold lipstick anyway.

    Fierce really suits you - it's surprising to me how natural it looks, for what is indisputably a brown. Drugstores around here don't have any of the new shades in (my store has just had a hole where Shameless was for months now), but when we get them in, like, 2018 I will definitely swatch Fierce!

    (Also, the Matte Balms are I think $12.99 here regularly. So sad. Canada is awful sometimes.)

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    1. I do see people wearing bold lipstick (both bright and dark) when I visit New York or go back to San Francisco, but it doesn't seem to have taken hold in my nightmarishly preppy college town. I mean, I wear bold lips around town anyway, but sometimes I wish I felt a bit less alone.

      It's true, we Americans are definitely spoiled by drugstore prices. I'm just annoyed with myself for losing that $2-off coupon!

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  2. I've been lusting after Fierce as my next lipstick ever since you first mentioned it. Thanks for the great review!

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  3. I think of this every so often, then I stop noticing it, then I completely forget about (then the cycle repeats itself, en perpetua): very rarely do I ever see people out and about wearing lipstick. Well, let me clarify: non-MLBB lipstick. Key exceptions being the mall and my mother, but generally speaking, so much makeup seems to exist primarily in virtual spaces. I concede that I may not be traveling in the best spheres for observation, but if I go out in say, a berry lipstick, I can pretty much guarantee I won't see anyone else wearing one. In my infrequent perusals of beauty trend media I have wondered where exactly these trends go- when vampy lips for fall hit it big Nars' Train Bleu sold out at my closest Sephora and I never, ever saw anyone wearing anything like it. I can however fully believe that I'm just missing the action because a lot of trends fall into what I loosely consider "going out" looks, and I am a professional hermit crab.

    I picked up Bite's Cava a few days ago because I heard the entire Luminous Creme line is being discontinued (D:) and it's now the reigning closest thing I've got to the taupe-y trend. Not sure how I feel about it, honestly. But I have worn it out, twice, and no one shrieked, "It's a ghost!" so I think the discomfort is mostly mental. I'm also voting "maupe" as Pantone Color of the Year 2017 but only if Moaning Myrtle can be the face of.

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    1. The trends reported in beauty media seem to bear less and less resemblance to what people on the street are actually wearing. Where I live, the only people I see wearing lipstick regularly are old ladies who have probably been buying the same shade of coral since 1955. One thing I have never, EVER seen in the wild is liquid matte lipstick. And yet! When ColourPop released their liquid mattes last summer, the entire website crashed and every single color was out of stock for weeks! WHO IS BUYING THESE LIPSTICKS? Is everyone buying them (or Train Bleu, or whatever) solely for Instagram selfies? It's truly baffling.

      I waffled over Cava for ages, since it seemed to be the perfect nude for my skintone but it was a bit less opaque than I would have liked. When I heard that Bite was discontinuing the Luminous Cremes, I clicked over to Sephora just to see if Cava was still in stock...LOL nope. Just as well.

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  4. Fierce looks great on you! I think the more brick red browns flatter far more people than the cool toned, almost grey browns. I'll admit, I bought into the greige hype and bought NYX Stone, but it definitely doesn't flatter me unless I pair it with a lip liner with some color/warmth in it. My go-to brown lipstick is also by Revlon (in the shade Mink).

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    1. Yeah, people are definitely going to wear gray-brown lipstick to 2010s parties three decades from now and wonder how their moms convinced themselves it looked good. But I like that! I like knowing that this particular cultural moment has a defining lipstick color, even if that color is far from universally flattering. Screw "timeless" makeup, honestly. No such thing.

      I also like that Revlon quietly kept making all those classic brown lipsticks like Mink and Toast of New York long after they fell out of fashion, and now they're back!

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  5. OMG shameless is gone? It was the best colour ever in the drugstore, a daring colour like no other in a main line. Luckily i will never need a backup for it.

    You still need to do a blush centered look!!!! :D

    Regarding statement lips: there's a girl at my office who I've noticed wears bold colours like bright red and fuchsia sometimes, so i guess that makes two people in my floor of 100? Lol. When destashing, i notice that reds always go the fastest, but i don't see anyone wearing red out on the streets either.

    That said, i HAVE noticed a slight uptick in people wearing bold lipstick on the trains/buses, not only those alternative types with crazy dyed hair and studs but also some 'normal' office going boring people.

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    1. I tried Shameless and couldn't get it to apply evenly, but it seems like a lot of people love it! I wonder why Revlon discontinued such a bold color (and one that's so trendy now), especially because their other dark purple lipsticks are all sheer. I've read that Revlon isn't doing well financially, so who knows what they're trying to accomplish with this.

      I knoooow, I'm just so afraid of heavy blush. Okay, I promise I'll do it this week. I have the look all planned out, I just haven't gotten around to actually wearing it.

      There's one other person in my graduate program who wears bold lipstick regularly (she found this blog while looking for swatches of MAC Eugenie, in fact!), so we have a kind of lipstick-based solidarity. I do see more people wearing lipstick than I did five years ago, but then I wasn't super-attuned to people's makeup five years ago, so who knows.

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  6. I started wearing makeup in the '90s poo-coloured era and they really were very brown in my memory, to the point that I've purged that sort of shade from even my clothing and accessories. I like the current muddy-blackened twist on that revival actually! Why repeat the something the exact same way?

    I still have three Revlon stick balm whatsits and they're handy and do the job. Sultry is my favourite right now. I was thinking about repurchasing Bite Rhubarb but Sultry's close enough!

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    1. Like you, I prefer the current twist on brown to the original '90s brown. I also like all the dusty mauvey shades that are out there right now, and it doesn't seem like brights have fallen totally out of fashion either. I think there's a lot more acceptable color variety now than there was 20 years ago.

      Sultry is so great! And I'm wearing Crush as I write this, actually. The only stick balm whatsit I don't care for is Mischievous, but it's hard to get a good pale orange lipstick from any brand.

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