Lip gloss has yet to let me down.
I’ve moved quite a bit. I’ve moved into fresh apartments, thrown my livelihood into boxes and moved out, changed states, all of that. With each move, my makeup collection morphs. Sometimes, I hold on to every item during a cross country journey. Other times I let the majority of my collection go, especially if the eye shadow palettes are cracked and foundation bottles are nearly empty.
My relationship with using makeup is ever changing as well. There was a scorching summer in Texas when I barely wore any makeup. The winter before, I was in New York and I put on a full face nearly everyday. But through it all, you know what item stayed with me? My beauty supply store lip gloss.
My Aunt Rhoda is a glamour-puss if there ever was one. The summer before my sixth grade year, she did my makeup for the first time. I knew that a full beat wouldn’t be permitted, but truthfully, I would’ve been satisfied with anything that made me look like her. I’d previously begged her to buy me BR Glow Kiss Fruit Gloss and Lip Smackers, both of which provided thin layers of barely-there shine to my lips. I was excited to try something a little more mature. Aunt Rhoda didn’t do much but fill in my brows a bit too dark and cover my lips in viscous gloss, but it made me feel like a pop star. I didn’t fill in my brows again for several years, but since that day, I’ve made it my business to have a tube of lip gloss nearby. Victoria Secret’s Beauty Rush and CoverGirl’s Outlast gloss that came with a tube of matte lipstick became early favorites.
The first time I saw Lil Mama’s video for “Lip Gloss” was on a sticky day—the cool girls in my apartment complex were wearing white tank tops and thick coats of the clear, goopy substance on their lips. I was indoors though, sweating from the lack of air conditioning, my lips moistened only by water. I flipped through the limited number of channels and stopped on a music station that featured a Black teenager with hazel eyes and popping lip gloss.
At that point, I hadn’t seen or heard anyone quite like Lil Mama. She wasn’t much older than me, but she had made it to my TV screen. Most importantly though, she was talking about things I understood and cared about. The beat for “Lip Gloss” was bare bones, as it possessed the same type of cafeteria table recreation-ready spareness as The Clipse’s “Grindin’.” But I wasn’t nearly as acquainted with street life as I was serving looks up and down school hallways.
Sweet stories aside: lip gloss is not all fun and games, boo. There are rules. If the gloss oozes out of the tube and into your bag, prepare for a fun game of “I wonder how many pieces of paper were ruined by this accident?” And unless you want to wear out your shirt collar from stretching it to avoid getting lip gloss on it, it’s probably best if you put on your lip gloss after your clothes. I personally don’t rock bubblegum pinks and caramel nudes without a perimeter of lip liner, but frosty purples and deep brown shades are perfect by themselves. And oh yeah, if you don’t cut open the tube towards the end of the gloss’ life, give it up. You’re not getting that last bit of gloss, no matter how hard you squeeze. That’s just the way it is.
In 2018, I went to a sizable beauty supply store in my hometown. Once inside, I passed by polka-dotted children’s hair bows, fake gold jewelry and musky roll-on scents. I walked down the aisles carefully, knowing all the while that it was my intention to leave with a single item—lip gloss. It wasn’t hard to find, but there were a slew of options: gloss that became matte when applied, dark gloss, scented gloss. The one I chose had a barely-there pink tint and a hint of glitter. It was the perfect complement to a dark brown lip. I held on to it for as long as I could, but eventually, it ended up in gloss heaven, along with all of other well-used tubes of my youth.
When I visited my hometown again Shreveport, Louisiana last month, I didn’t pack extensively. I didn’t bring a single drop of makeup. So one evening, I walked to a nearby store for a quick glam up. I knew I wasn’t going to go all out and buy eyeshadow, foundation and concealer, but gloss just made sense. I needed it, even if it wasn’t anything but a tiny tube of Wet-n-Wild. Just something to spice up my look. While I was in line, the miniature gloss I selected fell out of my cart and rolled underneath a shelf. It was a mixture of embarrassing and annoying, because I knew I wasn’t going to just let it roll away. Lip gloss was pretty much point of the trip. How ironic would it have been if it just slipped away and sat underneath candy I’ve yet to try, tabloids, and Uno cards?
Lip gloss is there before and after long work days. It’s there when you’re not exactly sure what the office vibe is yet, and you’re nervous about what lip color is appropriate. And remember that glass eyeshadow trend? In my house, it was often accomplished with a thin layer of lip gloss and a steady finger. My aunt, the same one who shined my lips all those years ago, didn’t quite get the fad. “Is that lip gloss?!” she asked, already knowing the answer, but wanting confirmation from her then-trend oriented niece. “Yes,” I said. It was my old faithful, keeping me fly once again.
Photo credit: Getty Images/Jive