2020 Lipstick Chronology #4: Urban Decay Lip Chemistry Tint in X-Ray

Product: Urban Decay Wired Vice Lip Chemistry Lasting Glassy Tint in X-Ray

Date Purchased: Mar. 1, 2020

Grade: B

Let’s take a time machine back to the United States on the first day of March in the year 2020. After a shaky start to his primary campaign, Joe Biden has just emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee. President Trump still has his Twitter account, of which he makes prodigious daily use. What increasingly dominates the American headlines, however, is the novel coronavirus. It seems just a matter of time until the virus spreads across the country, but no one seems to know how fast it will spread, how broadly it’s already spread, or how easily it’s transmitted. (The answers, as it turns out: very, very, and very.) Panic buying hasn’t yet set in, but many of us are nervously, uncertainly picking up extra cans of beans or packages of spaghetti on grocery runs. And Urban Decay has released its ’80s-inspired Spring 2020 collection, centered on a palette that’s supposed to be the spiritual heir of the Electric palette.

All right, no one remembers or cares about that last thing, but this is a beauty blog.

So there I was at Sephora in Cleveland, determined to leave with just one item: the new 24/7 eyeliner pencil in Jolt, a matte chartreuse (mini-review here). But I couldn’t help swatching everything else in the spring collection, including the five new shades of Lip Chemistry Tint, a formula that I’d somehow never noticed or heard of. Gothademic that I am, I was especially taken with the shade second from the bottom: X-Ray, a very dark plum, which looked like it would pair well with Jolt. So I bought it, too.

In both formula and packaging, the Lip Chemistry Tints remind me of the YSL Glossy Stains, one of which I reviewed almost seven years ago (!). Like the Glossy Stains, X-Ray has a pronounced alcohol smell that dissipates soon after application. It comes in a square bottle with a twist-off lid and a flat doefoot applicator.

Urban Decay’s ad copy described X-Ray as a “black cherry,” but it contains very little red; it’s a deep raisin with a lot of gray and brown. When I made comparison swatches for this post, I was surprised that X-Ray’s closest cousin in my makeup collection turned out to be not one of my other purples or plums, but MAC Antique Velvet, a dark Jazz Age brown with a hint of violet.

L-R: MAC Antique Velvet, X-Ray, MAC Men Love Mystery, Marc Jacobs Vinyl Dream, Urban Decay Seismic.

Above, two coats of X-Ray just after application; below, two coats after a couple of hours and a can of La Croix. The gloss wears off fairly quickly, but the stain can outlast a bowl of pasta. Unfortunately, the stain alone is much less attractive than the stain plus gloss. (There’s a reason why the look of a cherry-popsicle stain is generally seen as desirable and the look of a grape-popsicle stain is not.)

Putting on X-Ray is a somewhat stressful process, because once the product makes contact with your skin, it sets almost immediately. There’s no going back: if you happen to smear it outside your lip line, or to decide after fifteen seconds that you’d rather wear NARS Red Square, that’s simply too bad. The only way to remove most of it soon after applying is by scrubbing your lips with a washcloth (or, I suppose, with a lip scrub). When my mother was waiting tables back in the ’70s and ’80s and a customer asked one too many times for a water refill, she’d reply, “Well, you’ll just have to wait.” Likewise, if you regret putting on X-Ray on a particular day and aren’t willing to exfoliate your lips to remove it, you’ll just have to wait for it to fade. I find that the best application method is to carefully coat my lower lip, VERY QUICKLY smush my lips together to transfer the color to my upper lip, tidy up the edges with the doefoot applicator, then repeat these steps if I want a deeper color (which I generally do). Once set, the formula feels weightless and skin-like and isn’t particularly drying.

You’d think that such a formula would be mask-proof, but alas, it is not. For science’s sake, I wore X-Ray under a KF94 mask for over an hour during a visit to the optometrist. When I removed the mask, it was covered in purple smudges, and only a bit of color remained on my lips. I will say that the longevity of X-Ray seems to have decreased somewhat in the year since I bought it, so a newer Lip Chemistry Tint might hold up better under a mask.

Now for some looks! I’ve always struggled to make X-Ray flatter me. This is odd, given that MAC Antique Velvet is one of my most flattering lip colors and X-Ray is essentially a sheer, slightly cooler-toned version of Antique Velvet. However, X-Ray tends to emphasize my cool olive (i.e. gray) undertone and make me look a bit sickly. My instinct is to pair dark lip colors with very subtle makeup everywhere else, but I’m not sure that’s the best approach with X-Ray:

I’m much happier with the look I put together today. I came upon the inspiration for it on one of my favorite Instagram accounts, Discontinued Makeup, an hour or two after publishing this very post last Sunday, and I immediately unpublished the post so that I could try out the look and report back. I’d feel weird uploading a screenshot of someone else’s Instagram post, but you can see the look here; it’s a 2003 ad for Versace makeup, featuring pastel lavender eyeshadow and a glossy brownish plum lip, an interesting cross between Biba and Y2K-meets-’60s. Here’s my modest attempt:

For the eyes, I used ColourPop Howlin’ on the lid, Urban Decay Undone (from Naked2 Basics) on the upper lashline, Covergirl Snow Blossom and Topshop Holograph on the browbone/crease, and more Holograph in the inner corner. I realized this morning that I didn’t own any white eyeshadow, so I picked up Snow Blossom for $3 at the grocery store. What a blast from the past, down to the extreme fallout:

Close-up of the eye (there was heavy cloud cover today, so you can’t see the pretty pink/blue shift of Holograph). It was fun to reverse the usual order of things with a matte lid and shimmery crease!

My blush is 2aN Dual Cheek in Cotton Candy Violet (a new purchase that I’ll review before too long, I hope), and my highlighter is NYX Twilight Tint (as invisible as Holograph because of the bad light, sorry):

Outtake feat. a photobomber and a different inner-corner shade (ColourPop Sunburst):

Of course, you could also go full vamp and pair X-Ray with an intense smoky eye, à la this look from a recent k-pop video:

Despite its good qualities, X-Ray has come to reside in my “what was I thinking?” category. I really like the Lip Chemistry Tint formula and would be interested in trying more shades of it, but this particular shade doesn’t work very well for me. Oh, well: even the most seasoned makeup gremlins among us sometimes make such mistakes.

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