Style/ Beauty

What’s in “Longwear” Lipstick, Anyway?

When I was a teenager and just beginning to explore the vast, intoxicating world of makeup, no product was more impressive or more of a mystery to me than long-lasting lipstick. At that time (the mid-2000s), the launch of Kylie Cosmetics and its penchant for ultra-matte, cling-to-your-lips-for-dear-life, bulletproof lipstick was still a decade away, and we had not yet been introduced to the world of makeup tutorials on YouTube. Instead, the biggest innovations in long-lasting lipstick consisted of two steps: a lipstick followed by a topcoat. (Yes, like nail polish!)

In the early and mid-2000s, lipstick got a major upgrade, thanks to products like CoverGirl’s Outlast All-Day Lip Colour with Topcoat and Revlon Colorstay Overtime Lip Colour. These lipsticks were sold with a clear topcoat, made of waxes like beeswax and ozokerite (more on those below), that you’d apply on top to “seal” the colour in and ensure nothing moved when both coats dried down. The Revlon pick boasted eight-hour wear, while CoverGirl’s claimed it could last 16-hours. While this may seem like child’s play in 2020, back then, it was basically witchcraft. 

Fast forward about 15 years and consumers are more obsessed with long-wear makeup than ever before. In fact, for many people, it’s become expected that products glide on and don’t budge until they’re forcibly removed. But today, how much more does the average consumer understand how long-wear makeup works? Why has 24-hour wear become the new norm? (Not to mention, do we *really* need lipstick that lasts an entire calendar day, including the time we’re supposed to be sleeping?) Finally, with our collective growing interest in “clean” makeup, does our relationship with long-lasting makeup have to evolve?

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We turned to the pros to find out everything there is to know about long-lasting makeup.

First things first: what can possibly make a lip colour stay on for hours?

“Longwear products will often contain ingredients that add wear and water-resistance to the formulations,” explains Stephen Alain Ko, also known as @kindofstephen, a cosmetic chemist who found online fame by doing a Reddit AMA eight years ago, and has quickly become the internet’s go-to source when it comes to learning about the formulations of our favourite beauty products. “These ingredients are often film-formers, meaning they form a film over the skin that adds this type of resistance. Waxes with a high melting point, silicones and other ingredients like polyurethanes (polymers that are composed of a chain of organic units that form somewhat of a film to prevent pigment transfer) are often used for this effect.” 

What’s the difference between the two-step formulations of the past and the long-lasting liquid lipsticks that are popular today?

Former formulations came as two parts (a lip colour and a topcoat) and “the topcoat contained waxy ingredients like sucrose polycottonseedate, ozokerite and beeswax,” says Ko. “These formed a water-resistant film over the lip colour beneath. Newer formulations, however, moved away from waxes, and replaced them with newer ingredients like trimethylsiloxysilicate,” that are able to evenly disperse within a liquid product, naturally forming a film as the liquid lipstick dries. So when it comes to new liquid lipsticks that dry down into an impossibly smudge-resistant finish, that long-wearing nature is made possible by the film-forming products (the kind that used to be in lipstick topcoats) that are already incorporated into the lipstick formula—making a two-step process unnecessary.

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Some brands are surpassing the 24-hour claim and even suggesting their products last for 48 hours. Can this be true? And if so, is that safe?

“It’ll be up to how it was tested and what conditions it was tested under,” suggests Ko. “It’s not clear whether these claims are based on people wearing [the product] for 48 hours, simulated conditions, or based on an estimate. There aren’t necessarily any red flags, but I don’t think any customer really requires a product to last up to 48 hours.”

Since there aren’t any dangers associated with the use of long-lasting products, why do “green” beauty brands stay clear of them?

“Depending on the brand, they may be limited to using ‘natural’ waxes, which don’t perform as well as some of the newer (synthetic) film-formers,” says Ko. This may include ingredients like beeswax and a variety of floral waxes that may work just fine, but aren’t specifically formulated to form a film over lips, keeping the colour in place for several hours.

Makeup artist Christine Cho says she has definitely seen an increase in clients asking for ‘green’ beauty products. “It’s no secret that many of these types of products don’t have the staying power or pigment of typical longwear products,” she says. “However, there have been progresses in both areas of the beauty realm to lessen the chasm between extremes.” Many green products are improving in performance and wear, while mass brands and brands that don’t necessarily consider themselves ‘green’ are being developed without unnecessary additives. “At the end of the day, makeup-wearers need to prioritize goals and remember their personal purpose in wearing makeup. Why are you wearing it? What do you want to look like? What is most important to you?”

Are there any specific things to keep in mind when wearing long-lasting makeup?

“There are two main issues to keep in mind: proper application and proper removal,” explains Cho. “Typically, long-wear products have a formula that is quite potent, pigmented and ‘gripping’ in some way. It’s important to remember that a little goes a long way, and gentle light-handed application is best. It’s also crucial to make sure your skin, lips and eye area are well hydrated before longwear application. Removal requires a good makeup remover (like Bioderma’s iconic Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution) that is designed to remove water resistant/waterproof makeup. Sometimes double-cleansing with an oil or balm (we love Clinique’s Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm), and perhaps a micro-cloth to make sure all of the product is removed, is necessary.”

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Shop some of the pros’ favourite long-lasting makeup products below.

Ooyoo Beauty Liquid Lip, $21,

Makeup artist Veronica Chu loves this Canadian brand (the products are formulated and produced in Toronto) because it’s infused with essential fatty acids and antioxidants, is highly pigmented and lasts all day. However, Chu warns that this might not always be what you’re after. Extremely long-wearing lipsticks “can sometimes stain your natural lip colour for a while after removal, so it doesn’t work for all situations.” For instance, she never uses long-lasting products on set at a photo shoot because the formulas don’t lend themselves well for quick removal and transitioning models’ lip colours.

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner, $29,

Cho’s go-to when it comes to an eyeliner that will stay put (especially when it comes to bridal makeup, where tears might be flowing all day and night) is this always reliable, cult favourite pick. The hype is real when it comes to this holy grail product that’s basically a celebrity on Reddit.

Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-In-Place Foundation, $52,

This foundation promises an impressive 24 hours of wear. Is that necessary? “It really depends on what your day to day is like,” says Cho. “If you’re running around a lot, have an extremely busy schedule and prefer looking put together throughout the day [sans touch-ups], then yes, every day is a long-wear day for you. If you don’t feel every single day requires fully made up or long-lasting makeup, save it for special events, if ever.” 

CoverGirl Exhibitionist 24 Hour Ultra Matte Lipstick, $9.50,

Chu loves this longwear pick from one of the OGs of long-lasting lipstick for its easy, on-the-go formula. It’s more hydrating than ever, while still providing a transfer-proof finish, and unlike many liquid lipsticks, which require precision, a steady hand, and of course, a mirror, this bullet lipstick is as effortless to apply as it is long-lasting. 

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