In my search for maskproof lipstick last fall, I neglected an entire product category: lip tints from Asian brands. It’s not that I was unaware they existed, or that I didn’t like them—I enjoyed the Too Cool for School tint I bought five and a half years ago. It’s just that I generally feel about lip tints as I do about indie nail polishes: there are so many choices from so many unfamiliar-to-me brands that it’s hard to know where to start. Researching all the options would consume hours and hours. Best to avoid that rabbit hole entirely.
At the end of last December, though, I acquired two Etude House lip tints in exactly the same way that I acquired Too Cool for School Milky Lavender back in 2016: I wandered into an Asian beauty store, gravitated toward the lip products, and was swiftly overcome by the cuteness of one particular packaging design.
OMFG THEY’RE LITTLE POPSICLES!!!1
The first tint I bought was RD306 (Shark Red), a bright, cool-toned berry red. (What is “shark red,” anyway?) I wore it a couple of times and decided I wanted a more subtle shade as well, so I went back for PK004 (Red Bean Red), a soft mauve. I paid $12.99 for each one, which is several dollars more than they cost on Amazon, but I have a paranoid fear that every beauty product on Amazon is a fake. And I’d rather support a small business in San Francisco’s Japantown, anyway.
The applicator is a shaggy doefoot with a depression in the middle:
These are your standard water-based lip tints, sheer in one coat but close to opaque in two. (Surprisingly, the lighter, more muted Red Bean Red is less sheer than the bold Shark Red.) I’ve noticed that many lip tints, whether orange or red or purple or brown, wear off to an unflattering hot pink stain; however, both of these tints retain their color as they fade. The formula has a strong candy-grape scent that I’ve come to like—it adds to the verisimilitude of the popsicle theme, and it dissipates pretty quickly once the lip tint sets. I’d advise you to do everything in your power not to get the tint in your mouth, though, since it tastes very bitter.
The stains left by these lip tints aren’t the most tenacious ones I’ve ever seen, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. Personally, I don’t like tints that stain so deeply that I have to scrub my lips to get the color off. That species of tint tends to dry out my lips, which neither Red Bean Red nor Shark Red does. As always in lip products, there’s a tradeoff between comfort and longevity, and comfort generally wins for me…which means that I probably have no business writing a series about mask-resistant lip products, but hey, who else is going to?
Here are Shark Red (left) and Red Bean Red right after swatching, one layer each:
Seven minutes later, after the swatches had set a bit:
I waited another twenty minutes, then wiped off the swatches with a dry tissue to reveal the stains:
Finally, I washed my arm with soap and water, which basically got rid of the stains:
Since the two shades differ quite a bit in formula, I’ll review them individually, starting with Shark Red.
This shade is more watery than Red Bean Red and goes on less evenly; I have to be especially careful not to press my lips together right after application, lest the color vanish from the inner part of my upper lip. The formula takes at least twenty minutes to set completely, so I have to remember to apply it well in advance of when I leave the house. Who has that kind of forethought? Certainly not me. If I do let the product set for twenty or thirty minutes, it stands up well to cups and small bites of food, but not, alas, to masks.
Here’s one and two coats of Shark Red just after application. Whenever I wear these tints, I blur the edges a little with my finger so the color looks more natural.
On my face:
Here’s how the tint looked after an hour or two of masked museum-going back in December (before KN95s and N95s were widely available). As you can see, much of the color has already rubbed off, and some pink has migrated outside my lower lip line.
And, more recently, here’s the damage to a KN95 mask after less than an hour of contact with Shark Red:
Honestly, I sort of regret buying Shark Red. It’s a cute, cheerful color that I’ve worn frequently this winter, but mask-resistant it is not.
On to the next: Red Bean Red. As this article explains, the trend of “red bean paste” lipsticks emerged in East Asia a few years ago, inspired by the makeup in Chinese historical dramas. There’s a lot of variation between so-called “red bean” shades, some of which, like Red Bean Red, are closer to pale mauve than to the deep purplish red of the delicious sweet bean paste present in so many Asian desserts. I grew up eating red-bean popsicles from a Chinese grocery store, so I love having a red-bean-popsicle lip tint!
I also love the performance of this lip tint. Red Bean Red is so much better than Shark Red that I can hardly believe they’re from the same product line. It looks creamy as opposed to watery, blurring my lip lines and uneven patches instead of emphasizing them. Here’s one and two layers of RBR:
Here I am wearing 1.5-ish layers:
A little faded after an hour of teaching. It doesn’t fade much more than this over the course of a day:
I can’t find a photo of Red Bean Red smudged on a mask, but I can assure you that there’s very little transfer from my lips. It’s the only colored lip product I’ve been wearing to teach these last few weeks, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
This will be my last mask-related post for a while. On Monday, when the state mask mandate for schools expires, I’m going to teach unmasked for the first time since February 2020. I plan to keep masking in large indoor crowds (e.g. school assemblies) for the foreseeable future, but I’m looking forward to uncovering my face—and finally wearing lipstick again—in the classroom. It’s going to be emotional, guys! Will I cry with happiness? Will I freak out and return to masks after a day? Hard to say. One thing I know for sure, though: come Monday morning, I’ll be wearing my oldest and dearest lipstick, NARS Mysterious Red.