Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lipstick Queen Black Lace Rabbit: Just Another Gimmick?

Lipstick Queen is a brand that confuses the hell out of me. When I first heard of it, about five years ago, I got the sense that it specialized in high-quality, beautifully packaged, somewhat overpriced renditions of traditional lipstick shades. Despite reading favorable reviews online, I found the shade range uninspiring and the price point too high, and I wrote the brand off as Not My Thing. In the next few years, the Lipstick Queen founder created a couple of lines for other brands: I remember a "Poppy King for J. Crew" red-orange lipstick and Kate Spade's Supercalifragilipstick! collection, both now discontinued. Lipstick Queen itself didn't come to my attention again until 2014 or 2015, when I started hearing about the brand's new lipsticks: four "Butterfly Ball" shades with faint blue shimmer; a sheer green "Frog Prince" lipstick that turned pink on the lips; whatever the fuck "Liptropolis" was supposed to be; and a set of five "Velvet Rope" lipsticks that each cost $50, twice the price of the Sinners and Saints, for no apparent reason. Lipstick Queen seemed to have metamorphosed overnight into a gimmick factory.

WHY.

The Lipstick Queen website is equally baffling. Look at this drop-down menu:


Some of those names are individual shades and some are categories containing multiple shades, but it's impossible to know which is which without clicking, because the names aren't descriptive at all. It's like Linnaeus's worst nightmare. I share this blogger's exasperation: "I lost half an hour of my life trying to sort through that bullshit, which gives me extreme cat's bum face and a burning desire not to reward this taxonomic fuckery with precious $$$." I could also do without the self-serving quotations from Poppy King on almost every page of the website. Tellingly, Poppy has a lot to say about the concept of each lipstick but almost nothing to say about the product itself: "I was inspired by the golden years of Hollywood when glamour was in every detail. This is the lipstick of the red carpet, the people, the places and the personalities that glide past the Velvet Rope and into the night." That's cool, I guess, but I'm not convinced that I should pay $50 for it.

But I've never claimed to be impervious to makeup gimmicks, and one of LQ's new lipsticks eventually caught my eye: Black Lace Rabbit, a sheer black with gold sparkles. I couldn't be bothered to watch the elaborate promotional video for this shade, but I liked the idea of a soft-goth lipstick that could darken other shades and hold its own over bare lips. As luck would have it, I found Black Lace Rabbit on Dermstore during the site's 20%-off sale, so I paid $19 instead of $24 for the lipstick. Not a bad deal. (Shoutout to Dermstore, by the way, for offering free shipping and for mailing my order a mere 12 hours after I placed it.)

Black Lace Rabbit's packaging gave me high hopes for the lipstick itself. Not many lipstick boxes deserve to be photographed from three different angles:


The tube was also cute, but it felt slightly less luxurious than the ornate box had led me to expect. Unlike most other LQ lipsticks, which come in brushed-metal tubes, it was made of solid black plastic with a lacy design on the cap. (When I posted a photo on Instagram, two people said they saw Sam Eagle in the lace.) The cap didn't snap on as securely as I would have liked, but it didn't seem likely to come off in my purse, either. Shown in my hand for scale:


When I unveiled the bullet, all my excitement returned. I mean, how pretty is this:


In artificial light, the gold shimmer was more apparent:


I felt a certain amount of trepidation before trying it on: would the product live up to its perfect branding? I wanted so badly to love this lipstick and carry it with me wherever I went. I swiped it over my bare lips, and my heart fell:


It looked no better in context:


It was...bad. There was no getting around it. The formula was very slick, shiny, and sheer. One swipe provided almost no pigmentation, but two or three produced what you see above: an uneven, patchy mess. Yes, I do have dry lips, but I think my lips would have to be Juvedermed and professionally exfoliated for Black Lace Rabbit to work on me. I feel confident in saying that if your lips have any texture at all—any dry patches or lines—you probably won't be able to wear Black Lace Rabbit on its own.

But all was not lost: I hadn't yet used it as a darkening topcoat for another lipsticks. Over the next few days, I tried it on over a few different lip colors, with varying results. Over a dark reddish berry (NYX lip liner in Cabaret), BLR delivered shine but no color change. Over a creamy, shiny lipstick (NYX Round Lipstick in Castle), it simply made a mess, removing half the base color from my lips. BLR worked best over three light-colored matte lipsticks: Milani Matte Naked, a slightly grayish nude; Urban Decay Backtalk, a mauvey pink; and ColourPop Trap, a light purply greige. This didn't surprise me, since Lipstick Queen sells two "Smokey [sic] Lip Kits" that pair Black Lace Rabbit with a beige nude and a neutral pink. The kits may seem like a deal at $35, but if you're someone who's fallen deep enough down the rabbit hole (sorry) to buy a sheer black lipstick topcoat, you already own at least one nude or neutral pink. You know you do.

Here's Matte Naked alone, then layered with Black Lace Rabbit:


Backtalk alone, then with Black Lace Rabbit:



Trap on its own (pardon sloppy application and bad lighting) and under BLR:



The gold sparkles are more noticeable over another lipstick than they are over bare lips, but the effect you get from a normal distance is shine, not glitter. Here's a full face with Backtalk + BLR:


I wore this combination all day to test how BLR would wear and fade. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that a slippery top coat will reduce the longevity of any lip color you put underneath. There was almost nothing left of either BLR or Backtalk after a cup of coffee. I reapplied BLR and noticed that the gold glitter was a lot more evident when the base color was blotted down (this is in artificial light, too):



Personally, I find it annoying to carry around and reapply two lipsticks instead of just one. There's also the fact that after you swipe BLR over another lipstick, the tube looks like this, and cleaning it off wastes a layer of product:


So, yeah: Black Lace Rabbit darkens and mutes light colors slightly, adding a gray cast and a lot of shine. Is that effect really worth $24? Once again, if you're deep enough in lipstick addiction to want a sheer black, you probably own not only a nude or neutral pink, but also a slightly darker version of that nude or neutral pink. I know I do. In fact, I own light and dark versions of almost all my favorite color categories. Backtalk plus BLR looked like a shinier Urban Decay Rapture (the gold sparkles weren't immediately noticeable), and I don't even like shiny lipsticks. 

After a few days of cogitation, I returned Black Lace Rabbit to Dermstore. It turns out that the company provides free shipping if you want store credit but not if you want a refund, so I've now paid a total of almost $4 for the privilege of trying this lipstick for a few days. Maybe it was worth it just to ogle that shiny new bullet...


...or maybe not. In any case, I think I'm in a good position to answer the question I posed in my title: Black Lace Rabbit is indeed just another gimmick. It's definitely not the worst lipstick I've ever tried, but like so many aspects of the Lipstick Queen brand, it confuses me. Lipstick Queen's products are like Kraft macaroni and cheese served in an 18th-century porcelain dish: there's a real incongruity between the exquisite packaging and the uninspiring lipstick. Frog Prince is literally an '80s dollar-store mood lipstick in a $25 tube (more on that from my favorite YouTube reviewer, Kimberly Clark, here). And Black Lace Rabbit had real potential, but that beautiful box far outshone its contents. I can't say I'm tempted to buy another LQ lipstick, but if you've tried any shades that have impressed you, please let me know!


P.S. I was going to talk about some other sheer black lipsticks I tried earlier this week, but this post is already too long, so I'll write a follow-up post instead. Urban Decay, Estée Lauder, and Givenchy: get excited.

17 comments:

  1. I am ready to hear all about the UD Oil Slick. TELL M EVERYTHING.

    I'm not going to touch LQ's website with a ten-foot pole ever again, because I have a professional responsibility to put my head through a wall after viewing that organizational nightmare.

    It is such an aesthetically pleasing tube of lipstick. Such a shame.

    I've not eaten Kraft Dinner in an 18th century dish, but I do regularly eat it in early 20th century wedding china because I am a shameless lover of KD.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spoiler: I liked Oil Slick more than BLR but not enough to actually buy. It's veeery shimmery. The vintage shade I ended up loving was Asphyxia.

      Haha, I can only imagine how infuriating that site must be if it's your actual job to organize and classify things. I'm...not naturally inclined to organization, and even I just can't with the site. THE NAMES AREN'T EVEN ALPHABETIZED. COME ON.

      All this talk of boxed mac and cheese reminds me that I have a vegan version from Annie's in my pantry. I should try it one of these days.

      Delete
  2. I'm glad you were able to return it! Looks like a dud. I was tempted by the gold one and the pale shimmer one a while back, but the Jean Queen formula was really drying on me (not to mention invisible), so I passed. I did just buy two of the Holiday Bite duos with gold and opal, though. I think you are spot on with the gimmick wrapped in a fancy package. The blue metallic tube of Jean Queen was really the best part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, how do you like the Opal/Jam duo? I'm tempted by it even though I know I'm not a fan of the Amuse Bouche lipstick and I have quite enough plum lip colors. I just really want to try Opal.

      Delete
    2. I ordered them from the website and they're supposed to be delivered today, so I will report back soon!

      Delete
    3. Cool, I hope you review them! The gold one looks beautiful too.

      Delete
  3. So, I have tried a few lipstick queens (they go on sale on Amazon all the time so I tend to use them as fillers to reach the free shipping threshold). For a western brand, I thought the ones I have tried are quite nice (I only wear sheer though). Medieval is neutral and very easy to slap on, jean queen looks plush and glossy (but during winter it turns magenta on me) and endless summer is like an upgraded version of some revlon lip butter shades. I haven't bought anything full priced (so far) and never ventured into their truely high end stuff but I suppose I like their take on the basic reds/pink?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard good things about Medieval and Jean Queen, but I'm not really into sheer lipsticks (never mind that I have at least half a dozen, haha). It does seem that they're better at basics than they are at the weird gimmicky stuff.

      Delete
  4. I am an LQ user, but I use items from her original core collection, Saints, Sinners, and Medieval (a total of three lipsticks). I'm not keen on the newer stuff. With the original collection, you found a color that suited and steadily used it until finished. I think that the very thing that pleased her original customers is viewed as a liability in a way. I suspect that a lot of these new ones are about generating impulse and/or trend-driven sales. The original Sinners were about fine tuning classic lipsticks. For instance,I wear Red Sinner--avoids the dryness of Ruby Woo and stays a truer red than a number of Revlons. I remember when Besame had some ups and downs as well; I'm not sure about the health of the Julie Hewett brand. Do you think these vintage-inspired lipstick brands are experiencing business challenges specific to their niche? Also,the LQ website seems like a completely different site now and I stick to buying LQ from Ulta or Nordstrom. I kind of worry these gimmicks may help bring down my source for a reliable red lipstick.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't help smiling at the phrase "LQ user": I think it's fair to describe myself as a lipstick "user" as well!

      There does seem to be a stark divide between LQ's original concept (classic colors in nice formulas) and its current one. It's almost like LQ has divided into two different brands. If they wanted to become trendier, they could easily have expanded the Saint and Sinner lines to include more unusual colors; I don't know why they decided to add a bunch of weird new categories instead.

      It's interesting that you mention Besame, because even though I've been attracted to the brand for a while, I've never bought anything from them. If you're at the point where you're interested in niche brands like Besame, you probably own dupes for all the shades that Besame offers, you know? I can't imagine that Besame and similar brands aren't having problems now that a beauty brand's success relies heavily on constant new launches and social media saturation. The constant demand for novelty is directly opposed to everything that Besame and other vintage-inspired brands represent. It's sad that consumerism has reached this point.

      Delete
  5. I recently started reading your blog, and really enjoy the content, and especially your voice. I felt compelled to comment on this post, as I own and really enjoy two LQ lipsticks, both in the Saints formula: Fire Red, and Rust. Granted, I bought them on sale from Beautykind, so I don't know if I would have paid full price for them sight unseen (I'd never tested them in real life), but I probably will repurchase once I run out of each (and there is a high possibility that I will actually use up two lipsticks, something I have never done before.) Rust satisfied my quest for a sheer brick red lipstick, and Fire Red is a bright, cherry-ish red that is like a way nicer, more pigmented version of the red Maybelline Baby Lips. I love the gold, sturdy packaging, and I like the pigmented-yet-sheer color payoff. I'd definitely recommend the Saints line, and am interested in trying other colors. Might be worth giving their non-gimmicky (or not as gimmicky) stuff a try!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome! I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. I wish I'd known about Rust when I was searching for a burnt-orange lipstick, since the Sinner version looks like just the color I wanted! I'll definitely keep the Saint and Sinner lines in mind next time I need a classic color.

      Delete
  6. I used to really enjoy the LQ line, but the recent foray into the gimicky side of make-up marketing has definitely turned me off some. I have a couple of lipsticks in their Sinner line, and I really enjoy them. They're pigmented and smooth though they're a teeny bit drying. I do have some other colors from the brand, but it's no longer a counter I gravitate to when I'm in Ulta.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny, I just checked out the Sinners on Ulta's website and there are a lot more shades than I thought there were. I was remembering 10 or 12, but there are actually 21, plus a few new shades (Mauve, Bordeaux, and Candy). I hope the brand continues adding shades to the classic formulas!

      Delete
  7. I have three LQs, all from the Butterfly Ball line: Trance, Moment, and Goodbye. The blue shimmer is definitely a gimmick (it's supposed to make your teeth look whiter, or something) but they are among my favorite lipsticks. Moment is the only pink I've ever truly loved. Goodbye is a dark wine purple, and I can definitely see similarities in its performance and Black Lace Rabbit's - it's a slightly more forgiving shade, and if my lips aren't particularly dry it looks fine, but I do have to make that extra effort to wear it. You know, it never even occurred to me that I was buying into a gimmick, because I was obsessed with that blue shimmer (still am) and never had a minute for any other LQ item. Any kind of iridescence is like a homing device for me. I swatched the Moondust palette and my partner had to remove me from the store.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have nothing against gimmicks so long as they're executed well! Actually, your comment gives me a better understanding of the difference between a gimmick and an interesting feature: it's all in the presentation. "This blue shimmer will make your teeth whiter" is a gimmick; "this blue shimmer looks iridescent and cool" isn't. Is the blue shift visible on your lips? I've seen swatches that make it look invisible...

      Delete
    2. It varies by the shade! Trance: no, Moment: hand wiggle, Goodbye: yes.

      Delete