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When Instagram gifts me with a paparazzi shot of Paris Hilton in her early aughts heyday, I don’t stop scrolling and wonder what else she was packing in that Miu Miu bowling bag besides a teacup Chihuahua. As someone born pre-Clueless, I know the answer is a Motorola flip phone, a litre of Evian and a Lancôme Juicy Tube.
No celebrity in her league left the house between 1999 and 2005, in boot-cut Sevens and handkerchief halter-top, without lacquering their lips with layers of mirror-shiny gloss. For we civilians at home watching Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica in velour sweats and a baby doll tee, a commercial break meant another coat of lip gloss ourselves that slid on like margarine and smelt like strawberry.
Skip to 2019 and ultra high-shine lips are back, and so much better. If there’s such a thing as an “it” facial feature, lips have been in focus since the invention of the selfie, but thanks to the current wave of nostalgia amongst millennials for everything Y2K, deep, dark pouts are being done over in sheer, glittering pastels. At Paris fashion week in March, models walked the Balmain, Rodarte and Christopher Kane shows with lips polished to gleaming, while Hailey Bieber, Ariana Grande and Gigi Hadid have taken the trend to the street.
After so much matte, a sparkling gloss, worn by itself or as a layer of sheen on top of your regular lip colour, will feel like an instant beauty refresh, especially for first-timers. If you’re a veteran of the trend (and understandably hesitant about a do-over) be encouraged that, unlike earlier formulations, the latest versions don’t smear, slide off in seconds, contain dangerously high levels of gloop or add shine while actually drying out your lips.
On that subject, to achieve a shimmering finish, lips are best treated for any flakiness first with a hydrating and gently exfoliating balm like Lanolips Lemonaid Lip Treatment. Although it leaves a pretty clear gloss, it’s the instantly soft feel on lips that were desert-dry a second ago that will have you stowing a separate tube in your desk drawer, gym bag and glove box.
Like everything by the luxe brand Chantecaille, its Brilliant Gloss provides intense moisture (by way of green tea extract) and colour at the same time; from the shade Lucky, a soft, still-luminous peach, to Glee, a lustrous raspberry. Thankfully, the gel-like texture is supremely unsticky—essential for those of us who can still recall the pain of ruler-straight acrylic extensions catching in a fresh coat of sparkly 2000s mouth glue.
While there’s no judgement in transitioning from matte to iridescent colour in baby steps—in which case, Lip Sleek, also by Chantecaille, is a perfect hybrid of gloss and a twist-up stick colour, sheer with a subtle sparkle—if you’re ready to go straight to early Aguilera-level opaque, Lipstick Queen’s Altered Universe Lip Gloss in the gold-metallic shade of Meteor Shower is your genie in a bottle. Likewise, MECCA Max’s Shimmer Shot Lip Glitter in frosty pink Billionaire is more bling-bling that J. Lo’s belly-chain drawer.
As well as providing shine, sheer colour and hydration, Unreal by Hourglass, another compelling new arrival, adds volume with hyaluronic acid and active botanical ingredients. On the lips, it leaves a mild tingle, and mercifully not the million invisible needles sensation triggered by the 2000s proto-plumpers, which matches its minty flavour. Unreal comes in 18 resplendent shades, from a peachy pink like Child to statement-making magenta in Impact.
Since tasting like watermelon, piña colada, bubble gum or cherry cola was a non-negotiable for lip gloss of old, Tutti Frutti Juicy Fruits Comfort Lip Glaze by Too Faced, in Ruby Ripe, feels true to the times with its intense dose of berry and candy and, not in a bad way, shampoo. That and 11 other shades in the range deliver a depth and intensity of colour that rivals regular lipstick, and in darker shades for those with a no-pastels-ever policy. See also Stila’s rich, light-refracting Beauty Boss, the brand’s volumising update on the iconic Lip Glaze that was our everything in the year 2000, packed this time around with vitamins, antioxidants and botanicals. Look for In the Red if pigments in the fire engine to pillar box range are your trademark.
Considering the brand’s edgy reputation, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the 16 colours in Urban Decay’s Hi-Fi Shine Ultra Cushion Lip Gloss, from an Avril Lavigne-worthy lavender to you-at-your-formal-in-2003 purple are a tiny bit off-putting at first glance. But as liquid topcoats, they add a hint of jewel-tone shimmer to a flat lip colour, and are perfect for converting the matte crayons you already own
Essential with all of these glosses, the translucent, semi-sheers and full opaques, is going nineties minimal elsewhere on the face, including base, cheeks, brows and especially the eyes. While Britney and Lindsay and Nicole always paired their polished lips with frosty pink or creamy blue eyes and tadpole brows, you wouldn’t want to—oops—do that again.
Words by Meg MasonJune 2019
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