Gucci Rouge à Lèvres Mat in 702 Anne Lilac, to be precise. LOOK AT HER. I don’t even have to write anything (but you know I will).
Until this month, the most I’d ever spent on a lipstick was $38, for Pat McGrath Madame Greige at the end of 2017. Madame Greige was my reward for finishing and defending my doctoral dissertation, and this past May I completed another enormous task: I survived my first year of teaching high school. I enjoyed it enough that I’m staying, but it was hard work, possibly even harder than writing a dissertation. So naturally, as the semester drew to an end, I started thinking that I might deserve another ridiculously fancy lipstick. I looked online at Hermès and Byredo and Tom Ford and Gucci, and at Pat McGrath again, but nothing stood out. “It will come to me when I least expect it,” I thought.
And so it did.
There I was two and a half weeks ago, at the Union Street Sephora, which in my opinion is the nicest Sephora in San Francisco. Opened a few years ago in the slightly annoying Marina District, an outpost of SoCal where everyone wears athleisure, drinks green juice, and pushes double-wide baby strollers, it is immaculately organized and contains all the bougie brands absent from lesser Sephoras (Sephorae?).
Whenever I see a Gucci Beauty display, I have to swatch at least a few of the lipsticks. There’s something so alluring about those midcentury-inspired engraved gold tubes against the Tiffany blue of the display. Gucci Beauty was relaunched in 2019, and while the brand’s lineup is somewhat imbalanced—a full range of base products and close to a hundred lipsticks across six formulas, but only a few afterthought eye products—I’m certainly not one to complain about an overabundance of lipstick.
Until that fateful Tuesday, no one shade had ever stood out to me. But on that day, I saw Anne Lilac, glowing neon purple like a lighthouse on ’80s night.
I didn’t expect much from the formula, since bright purple lipsticks are notoriously patchy, but even the swatch outperformed the others on my hand:
I was reluctant to try on a Sephora tester, which I hadn’t done since before the pandemic, but spending $42 on a lipstick I’d never actually worn seemed like an even worse idea. So I sanitized the tube as best I could and used a disposable lip brush. It was love at first swipe. The formula applied smoothly and evenly, and the color lit up my face, sweaty and disheveled as I was from a long walk. As you can see, I was feeling myself.
So I bought it! I blew $42 on a fancy-ass purple lipstick! And I didn’t feel a trace of the guilt and class anxiety that haunted me when I spent $30 on Marc Jacobs Rei of Light six years ago. This lipstick is just an object that I like and can afford. It’s not that deep. Being in my thirties and having a full-time job is nice.
Then, because it was a lovely day, I walked to the Marina Green and watched some pelicans.
Now for the review! The packaging is simple and elegant, which is…not necessarily what I’d expect from Gucci, but I’m not complaining. The box is blush pink with black trim, in keeping with the “rich Italian lady from the ’50s” vibe.
I believe this is the heaviest lipstick tube I own—even heavier than my Pat McGrath, so far as I can tell. And it’s undoubtedly the most elegant lipstick tube I own (sorry, Pat).
The shade name is perplexing, because the color isn’t even close to lilac; instead, it reminds me of the bougainvillea that grows on houses all over San Francisco. I guess “Anne Bougainvillea” would sound a little too clunky.
I initially described Anne Lilac as a neon purple, because that’s how it looked to me in Sephora’s artificial lighting, but it doesn’t contain quite enough blue to be a true purple. I think I’d call it magenta, right between purple and hot pink; however, it’s bluer than most of the magenta lipsticks I’ve tried, such as NARS Angela and Revlon Dramatic. Here are some comparison swatches, in indirect (indoor) and direct (outdoor) natural light. L-R: MAC Men Love Mystery, Maybelline Berry Blackmail, Anne Lilac, Revlon Dramatic, MAC Breathing Fire.
You know the joke that if you’re going to spend $X on a lipstick, it should apply itself and also make breakfast and do the dishes? Well, Anne Lilac basically does apply itself (jury’s still out on the other stuff). I can put it on in just a few seconds, no liner or finessing required. It has one of those powdery matte formulas that I don’t always like, but this particular one is a little heavier and more luxe-feeling than, say, the Lisa Eldridge Insanely Saturated formula. When I sent a selfie to my boyfriend, he commented that my lipstick looked “smooth,” which is exactly right—it smooths and blurs the usual unevenness of my lip skin. My one quibble is that the formula takes about twenty minutes to set fully; before that, it feels a little slippy and moves around if I drink. Once set, however, it lasts several hours at full color, doesn’t come off very much on cups, and leaves a nice stain even after fading.
I don’t usually care for heavy floral scents, but I don’t mind Gucci Beauty’s. According to Gucci, the fragrance is violet, one of my favorite perfume notes. I get a little violet from the lipstick, but mostly it just smells expensive. I would probably start to find the scent annoying if it lingered all day, but fortunately, it fades in about as much time as the formula takes to set.
In other words, this is just how I’d expect a $42 lipstick to look, feel, and behave. While I still love my drugstore lipsticks, I also believe that there are certain levels of quality you can’t find at the drugstore.
Now for a couple of photos of my face! In both of these, I’m wearing ColourPop Pressed Powder Blush in Night Bloom, which I bought last year but never reviewed; it’s a medium lavender pink that’s the perfect complement for Anne Lilac. Here I am inside, in my mom’s kitchen in SF:
Outside at brunch, back in Connecticut (warmer light):
While Anne Lilac feels very summery to me, I think it has enough depth for fall makeup looks. And because it’s not a true purple such as MAC Forget-Me-Naughty, I’ll even feel comfortable wearing it to teach. My sense of what constitutes a “teaching lipstick” has expanded since I returned to teaching, both because I’m older and give less of a shit in general and because I never know when I’ll have to start masking again. So I might as well wear the bright, bold colors I love whenever I can—which is, of course, what I should have been doing all along.