If you’ve had Internet access in the past year, you’ve almost certainly heard of ColourPop, a small online-only brand with a formidable range of lipsticks, lip liners, and cream-to-powder eyeshadows, each a mere $5. Launched just last year, the brand has risen to prominence almost overnight, largely through partnering with popular bloggers and YouTube gurus. I first heard of ColourPop last fall, when Temptalia began reviewing their eyeshadows and lipsticks, and my curiosity grew as more and more bloggers raved about the products (which, as a bonus, are cruelty-free and made in LA). When I mentioned wanting to try Frenchie, a lipstick described by ColourPop as “bright warm neon red in a matte finish,” Renee of Bad Outfit, Great Lipstick very kindly offered to send it to me. She’d ordered both the lip pencil and the lipstick (every ColourPop Lippie Stix [shudder] has a matching pencil), but hadn’t loved the color. You can see her review of Frenchie and four other Lippie Stix–Frida, Cake, Fancy, and Pony–here. For my own impressions of Frenchie, read on!
ColourPop’s origins are shrouded in mystery, which has led to some entertaining speculation on Reddit. The branding does seem a bit slick for a new indie company, and there’s no face of ColourPop, no obvious creator (though there is a reference to “our fearless leader” here). Does this mean that ColourPop is “a diffusion line for someone big,” or “a shell company created for some creepy nontraceable cosmetics incubator,” as Redditors have proposed? I dunno, maybe. But I also think the beauty-junkie community displays an odd resistance to the idea that a brand might have entered the market to, you know, make money. I’m being very glib here, but let’s be honest: capitalism is shady and we’re always being hustled somehow. If you applied enough scrutiny to any beauty brand, you’d probably find something unsavory. Show me evidence that ColourPop is ordering hits on Fyrinnae and Lime Crime employees, and then we’ll talk.
I do want to discuss ColourPop’s brand identity for a second, because I find it fascinating in a cringey way. Every aspect of ColourPop is designed to appeal to bloggers, Instagrammers, and their followers. This is apparent in the product descriptions (“True cool toned lavender in a satin finish”), in the oh-so-hip lingo that peppers their copy (“This sh*t is soo neon it practically glows in the dark”), and in their allusions to Kylie Jenner’s lips and Iggy Azalea’s lyrics (“Makes you fancy…but you already know”). “Beauty for cool kids,” proclaims ColourPop’s Instagram profile, and they’re trying so hard to prove it. This kind of marketing tends to leave me cold, because I know very well I’m not cool. Yesterday I burst out laughing at something Thomas Hobbes wrote in the 1640s. No duochrome eyeshadow is going to change this–not even “the F**king Queen of shadows.”
Anyway, let’s review this F**king sh*t, shall we?
I really like ColourPop’s packaging: the white tubes with silver holographic lettering and blocks of identifying color are sleek but playful. The caps snap neatly onto the tubes: no fear of a lipstick coming unlidded in your purse. Note that the pencils do need sharpening, despite being made of plastic. I couldn’t find my sharpener before taking this photo, of course.
As Renee points out in her review, the Lippie Stix may be cheap, but they’re also very small. At 1g each, they’re about one-third the size of your average lipstick (~3g), half the size of Tom Ford’s “clutch-sized” Lips and Boys series (2g), and two-thirds the size of the miniature MUFE lipstick I got as a Sephora birthday gift last year (1.5g). Don’t be deceived by the length of the tubes: it’s best to think of the Lippie Stix as minis. But if you want to try a mint or aqua lipstick without committing to a full tube, ColourPop is a great choice.
I almost never wear lip liner, but Renee is a classier broad than I am, which means you get comparison swatches of the lipstick (left) and liner. The pencil is a true old-fashioned matte, while the lipstick has some sheen, and the pencil is a bit warmer than the lipstick.
I’d hoped that Frenchie would be a matte version of Revlon Fire & Ice, and I wasn’t disappointed. To my eye, Fire & Ice is slightly brighter and lighter than Frenchie, but they’re pretty darn close. Below, left to right: Fire & Ice, Frenchie lipstick, Frenchie pencil, and a cool red for comparison (Maybelline On Fire Red).
First I tried on the pencil alone. It has a dry texture and drags on my lips slightly, though it’s less dry than my two drugstore lip liners (by NYX and Barry M). As you can see, the texture emphasizes imperfections and doesn’t adhere to the inner edge of my lower lip. I wouldn’t wear the pencil alone unless my lips were in perfect condition, which they never are. But if you have smooth lips, this is a great matte warm red.
Then I layered the lipstick over the pencil. Much better, though not quite matte.
Because the lipstick is so slender, it’s easy to get a precise application even without the liner in place, which is useful for a bold color like Frenchie. The Lippie Stix matte formula is soft and thick, like a slightly heavier version of the Revlon Matte Balms. Unlike the Matte Balms, however, Frenchie has a finish I can only describe as “gummy.” When I press my lips together, I can feel them lightly sticking to each other. The gumminess wears off eventually, as does the faint (and, to me, pleasant) vanilla scent. I’m afraid I didn’t get to test the layered combination for longevity, because my lips were screaming for moisture after about two hours. But here’s how the Frenchie pair looked on me when freshly applied. I was extremely lazy with the rest of my makeup that day: I’m wearing concealer, MUFE Smoky Extravagant mascara, and a bit of Illamasqua Zygomatic blush.
Contrary to the description on ColourPop’s website, I don’t see a lot of neon in Frenchie. Granted, my lips have the talent of pulling bright, warm lipsticks cooler and softer (see also NARS Grace), but the word “neon” to me implies a white base that Frenchie just doesn’t have. Nor do I think Frenchie is quite pink enough to fall into the “coral” category, though coral is such an ill-defined color that I’m not sure anyone has the authority to distinguish corals from not-corals.
Today I took mercy on my lips and applied the Lippie Stix without the pencil. This produced a slightly cooler and brighter red–a red much like Fire & Ice, in fact. Once again I got the gummy effect, but the lipstick wasn’t drying, and it withstood coffee and a snack. If you prefer lightweight lipsticks, this one isn’t your best bet, but it’s smooth and pigmented in just one swipe, and it does stain the lips.
I think the lipstick on its own suits my complexion better than the pencil-stix combo.
Please note that I managed to apply black liquid eyeliner without smearing it all over my eyelids, which happens about twice a year. Revel in that tiny flick, my friends. You probably won’t see it again for months.
Though ColourPop has gotten a lot of hyperbolic praise over the last half-year or so, Frenchie doesn’t quite live up to the hype for me. Both the lipstick and the liner are solid budget options, but the formulas are nothing special, and I don’t think I’ll be ordering any more ColourPop lip products unless I want a really unusual color. I still have high hopes for the eyeshadows, though, and I’m currently waiting for four to arrive in the mail. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my ColourPop reviews!
Finally, I should note that the name “ColourPop” always makes me think of the eccentric k-pop girl group Crayon Pop. Could they be the marketing geniuses behind this enterprise?
Have you tried anything by ColourPop? What do you think of the brand? Thanks again to Renee for her thoughtful gift! ❤