Lipstick Comparisons: $13 to $25 (Part 2)
In this price range, lipsticks tend to be more pigmented, have less synthetic scents, and wear an average of four hours. I’m not typically disappointed beyond belief with a lipstick formula in this price range. Brands from MAC to NARS to Smashbox fall into this price tier, while designer brands like Chanel, Dior, and YSL are in the next tier. There are really SO many brands and formulas to choose from in this category that I had to split this post into two parts!
MAC Lipstick ($14.50)
- PROS: Ridiculously large shade range, variety of finishes, wears from 3 to 6 hours (depends on finish/shade)
- NEUTRAL: 0.10 oz., Depending on finish, shades range from sheer to opaque; similarly, more matte shades are drier while lustre shades are more moisturizing, vanilla-scented
- CONS: If you’re not familiar with the MAC range and finishes, it can be overwhelming and difficult to choose the right shade; not all shades are great or consistent against other shades within a finish family
- MY REC: I like MAC lipsticks quite a bit. I think they have some incredibly flattering shades as well as fun colors in their permanent line, but without having some MAC product knowledge, I can imagine it being daunting trying to figure out which shade is opaque, which is sheer, what finish might be best, and so on. There is a lot of variance between shades and even within finishes. Lustres and glazes tend to be sheerer, while amplified cremes and satins are creamier and more opaque. Mattes are on the drier side with some being exceptionally so (Ruby Woo, I’m talking to you).
- PROS: Long-wearing (5 to 6 hours on average), pigmented, wide range of shades
- NEUTRAL: 0.12 oz., range includes wearable shades as well as out of the box shades, scent0free
- CONS: Shades are a bit one-note, texture is a little dry (but it’s not drying)
- MY REC: If you have pigmented lips and struggle to find true-to-tube color translate onto your lips, Rouge Artist Intense is a good line to try out, because the colors really are opaque.
NARS Lipstick ($24.00)
- PROS: Long-wearing (4 to 6 hours on average), moisturizing, creamy, good shade range
- NEUTRAL: 0.12 oz., scent-free, some really sheer shades while others are opaque
- CONS: Can smell waxy, lighter/sheerer shades fade in 1 to 3 hours
- MY REC: Though NARS’ lipsticks are unscented, sometimes the waxiness of the lipstick itself comes through, and it’s not so pleasant. It’s a more moisturizing lipstick than your average lipstick, though if you have ultra dry lips, you may still want to prep lips with some balm. I’ve also found that their sheerer or lighter shades don’t last nearly as long as their medium to dark shades.
Shiseido Perfect Rouge Lipstick ($25.00)
- PROS: Creamy, moisturizing, glossy, semi-sheer to opaque, wears 2 to 4 hours, good shade range
- NEUTRAL: 0.14 oz., scent-free
- CONS: Numbering system can make it difficult to determine colors
- MY REC: I feel like I rarely see mentions for Shiseido’s Perfect Rouge lipstick line, and it’s really a top notch line. They’re creamy, smooth, and richly pigmented.
Smashbox Photo Finish Lipstick ($22.00)
- PROS: Creamy, glossy, moisturizing, semi-opaque to opaque colors, wears 3 to 4 hours
- NEUTRAL: 0.12 oz., vanilla-scented
- CONS: Limited shade range
- MY REC: It’s a shame that Smashbox doesn’t expand their lipstick range, because I’ve liked several of the ones I’ve tried from it–but there just aren’t many colors available. These are moisturizing with a glossy finish and creamy texture. Similar to Laura Mercier Stick Gloss and Korres Mango Butters.
Urban Decay Lipstick ($22.00)
- PROS: Creamy, moisturizing, wears 3 to 5 hours
- NEUTRAL: 0.13 oz., burnt sugar scent (“caramel” or “creme brulee”)
- CONS: Sheer to opaque variances make it difficult to buy online or sight unseen, sometimes has an off-taste
- MY REC: I know that one of the biggest drawbacks to Urban Decay is inconsistency in the scent and taste of their lipsticks. The more shimmery shades seem to have a stronger averse taste than creamier shades. I don’t notice the scent when I wear them, so it’s not a deal breaker for me.
The Lipstick Comparisons series is designed to provide a quick reference summary sheet for some of the many available lipstick formulas. It seems like most brands have at least a couple of formulas, if not half a dozen, and it can be difficult to find the formulas that will work best for your budget, coloring, style, or taste.
This is not necessarily a best of list, and it’s not exhaustive–it is based on actual lipsticks that I’ve tried; they are all, however, decent to excellent lipsticks. (And perhaps, some day, it will be an exhaustive list.) I have summarized my experience based on pros and cons, but also some “neutral” factors that may be pros or cons, depending on your preferences. I will update this series as I try new lipstick formulas.