Glossier Ultralip in Ember and Trench

After releasing Skywash liquid eyeshadow in early 2020, Glossier went pretty quiet for about a year. The only products it debuted during the remainder of 2020 were a new flavor of Balm Dotcom, two new shades of Cloud Paint, and some highly questionable merch, including a $75 set containing a lip gloss and a gold-plated G necklace. The pandemic undoubtedly interfered with Glossier’s ability to source ingredients and components, but I couldn’t help wondering if the brand was losing momentum.

Finally, in May of 2021, Glossier announced its first new makeup formula since Skywash, and its first lip formula in two years: Ultralip, a sheer, balmy lipstick in nine shades. (And when I say “announced,” I mean they accidentally-on-purpose leaked a couple of photos in their Instagram stories, planted a tube of Ember in a Vogue video featuring Olivia Rodrigo, and hired Jenna Lyons, formerly of J. Crew, for a photoshoot emanating strong Women Laughing Alone with Salad energy.)

As usual, Glossier touted its new formula as revolutionary: “The rich moisture of a balm, the sheen of a gloss, and the buildable color of a lip tint, without the hassle of layering extra products—it’s one step, one tube, one…Ultralip!” Congratulations, guys: you created a sheer lipstick. But despite the cringey ad copy—and despite my bad experiences with Vinylic Lip and the most recent formulation of Generation G, both of which irritated and dried out my lips—I couldn’t resist ordering two shades of Ultralip: Ember, which Glossier describes as “a deep mauve,” and Trench, “a toffee brown.”

I also bought the two new shades of Lidstar, Branch and Bun, which I’ll review in my next post. (By the way, could that be the cutest Glossier seasonal sticker ever? I think yes.)

Ultralip is the same size and price as Generation G: $18 for 3g, or 0.1 oz. The plastic-and-metal component is also similar to that of the Gen G, but Glossier pink instead of white, with a raised G on the top of the lid.

The tube feels sturdy, though the cap has a habit of coming off in my purse.

Each lipstick bullet has the Glossier G pressed into the top, which is a cute touch.

Ember is a very Art Deco color, a moody, muted purplish plum with hints of brown and gray. Trench is a ’90s-style light caramel brown; it reminds me of the long-discontinued tan M&Ms, which I’ll never stop missing. Trench is basically a shiny version of Gen G in Cake, of which I used up an entire tube in the original formulation. I bought these two because they seemed to be the most unusual colors in the Ultralip lineup, or at least the ones for which I was least likely to have dupes.

Trench on left, Ember on right, in direct sunlight; each swatch is two swipes.

In indirect natural light:

L-R: Urban Decay Sheer Vice in Lawbreaker, Revlon Glass Shine in Glassy Ruby, Ember, Urban Decay Sheer Shimmer Vice in Seismic (two swipes); top photo in direct sunlight, bottom in shade. I thought Ember would be a good replacement for Seismic, which I’m about a millimeter away from finishing, but it’s actually closer to Lawbreaker; Seismic is brighter and more purple.

L-R: NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita, Trench (two swipes), Urban Decay Sheer Vice in Lawbreaker, Revlon Glass Shine in Glaring Coral. No dupes here, obviously. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sheer brown lipstick that leans as yellow as Trench does, and I’ve looked at hundreds of swatches of sheer lipsticks in my time. Kudos to Glossier for creating a truly unique shade!

Now to assess the formula. Sigh. I really thought this could be the Glossier lip formula to change my mind about Glossier lip formulas. After all, Ultralip was supposedly “the (cashmere) sweatpants of lipstick,” with “4 molecular weights of hydrating Hyaluronic Acid” (this sounds like bullshit, but I’m not a chemist) and “a nourishing three-oil blend—Meadowfoam, Jojoba, and Watermelon—[that] locks in moisture.” Surely even my super-finicky lips would get along with this formula!


The good news is that, in my opinion, Ultralip is superior to Gen G and Vinylic Lip. The bad news is that almost any formula would have been an improvement over those two. Ultralip does feel moist and plush when I first swipe it on, but the hydrating ingredients sit on top of my lips instead of sinking in, and the pigment clings to dry patches instead of smoothing them over. The finish is reasonably shiny: more so than Maybelline Shine Compulsion, but less so than Revlon Glass Shine, and about the same as the Urban Decay Sheer Vice lipsticks.

Lip swatches, from top: bare lips with clear balm; two layers of Trench; two layers of Ember.

Unfortunately, the shine and color both wear off after two or three hours (even more quickly if I eat or drink), leaving my lips dry and prone to peeling. If my lips are in perfect shape before I apply Ultralip, they’ll still be fine after it wears off, but if they’re on the drier side (as they often are), they’re almost guaranteed to peel, even if I layer the product over balm.

Ember has more of an irritating effect than Trench does, perhaps because it lasts about an hour longer. This is Ember on my lips after a couple of hours:

I used to assume the fragrance was the main culprit in my bad experiences with Gen G and Vinylic Lip, but now I’m starting to think there’s some other ingredient in Glossier’s lip products that doesn’t agree with my skin. Here’s a screenshot of Ultralip’s full ingredients list:

From my limited research, I know that cinnamate can cause skin sensitivity. However, I just looked up the ingredients of the Urban Decay Sheer Vice lipsticks, which don’t irritate my lips at all, and that formula also contains pentaerithrityl tetra-di-t-butyl hydroxyhydrocinnamate, so…who knows. Maybe one day I’ll go full skincare nerd and get to the bottom of this mystery, but for now, I’ll just avoid buying any more Glossier lip products. I should mention that I emailed Glossier about this issue and they refunded my $36 within the hour, which was very classy of them.

[Edit, 3/11/22: After some more research, I’ve concluded that the culprit is probably the hyaluronic acid.]

Finally, Ember and Trench on my face! Here I am wearing two layers of Ember, as well as Lidstar in Bun and Cloud Paint in Dusk (I got a sample of Dusk with my order).

Two layers of Trench, along with Lidstar in Branch and Tower 28 cream blush in Magic Hour:

Clearly, I have mixed feelings about Ultralip. I’m pleased with the packaging and with the shades I ordered, but disappointed in the formula, which is kind of the main thing. But I seem to be in the minority in finding the formula drying, so I wouldn’t discourage you from purchasing Ultralip if you see some shades you really like. You should keep in mind, though, that almost every beauty brand offers a similar lipstick formula. Frankly, I prefer the formulas of Revlon Glass Shine and Maybelline Shine Compulsion, both of which are less than half the price of Ultralip.

(My boyfriend just walked by, glanced at my laptop, and expressed amusement at the name “Ultralip”: “I guess they wouldn’t call it ‘Normal Lip.'” But now I think there should be a brand for the many people who don’t really know where to start with makeup and just want, you know, a normal lipstick. I can see the products now: Normal Lipstick, Basic Eyeshadow Palette, This Is Literally Just a Black Mascara. Let me know if you’d like to get in on the ground floor of this amazing business idea.)

3 thoughts on “Glossier Ultralip in Ember and Trench

  1. That’s a shame about the formula irritating your lips, Trench is a really cool colour. I wonder if Glossier is trying to take a slower route to avoid the ColourPop stigma of releasing too many things too soon, or if they’re going to pick up with the releases again.


    1. Glossier definitely tries to maintain a minimalist image, but last year was slow even by their standards. The Glossier Play launch in 2019 was poorly received, so maybe they took some extra time to figure out what their customers wanted. I have to say, I’m impressed that they’ve retained as much hype as they have, considering their limited releases and the almost seven years they’ve been around!


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