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.
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 the exasperation of this blogger: “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):
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.