I’ve been obsessed for quite some time with finding a lipstick color that flatters my face. Like many women, I’ve tossed out tube after tube throughout my adult life, falling out of love with shades faster than Artie Shaw and Mickey Rooney fell out of love with their wives. When red was all the rage, I thought I’d try it, but felt self conscious the minute it hit my lips. Bright coral looked good in the store, but too pink once I got outside. Pale shades made me look like Casper, but dark tones turned me into Cruella. Whenever I see a flattering color on a woman’s lips I wonder why I can never find a single one I like for mine! My lips seem to provoke a chemical reaction that transforms tones that look beautiful in the tube into hideous shades once they’re applied.
My quest for the perfect lipstick took a fortuitous turn last week when I spotted a cool shop in Soho called Lip Lab by Bite that looked like it blended custom lip colors. I had some time before my next appointment, and time is a dangerous thing for me if I’m near almost any kind of store, but as I entered I rationalized that I’ve been looking my whole life for a lipstick color I could love. As luck would have it, only one other customer was in the shop so I could meet with a “color artist” right away, even though I didn’t have an appointment.
Inviting me to sit down in front of a tray filled with dozens of little pots of pigment, Jennifer explained I could either choose a pre-existing shade (Lip Lab actually offers 200 pigments, but the little pots represent the most popular colors), or she could create a completely custom shade. I applied five stock colors using cue tips, but none appealed to me, so I told Jennifer I’d prefer to take the custom route. (My lips were feeling a bit chapped after applying and removing the five colors, but I forged on, determined to walk out with a signature Geri Brin lipstick.)
Although I wanted Jennifer to tell me which shade would suit me best, she stressed that choosing lipstick is totally personal. “I might think you look great in a color, but you shouldn’t buy it if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Buy what you like,” Jennifer said.
After asking which family of colors I like best (“oranges, but not too bright or dark,” I answered) and the finish I preferred (“slightly shiny”), Jennifer began scooping out little bits of creamy pigments, blended them on a piece of paper and handed me one cue tip applicator after another topped with a different hue.
A spectrum of colors looked good on the paper and on my lips under the indoor fluorescent lighting, but they were way too red, pink or rose when I carried the hand-held mirror outside to see how they looked in natural lighting. I must have communicated how overwhelmed I felt at this point, because Jennifer said I needn’t feel obligated to choose anything. But she wasn’t giving up and started blending teams of new colors. At last, her artistry paid off, and I fell madly in love with a color that’s a combination of apricot, nude, coral and yellow. The Lip Lab Bespoke Lip Service included a second tube in the same or different color, so I asked Jennifer to create a darker shade, and she came up with another winner, this one combining apricot, yellow and brown.
Colors chosen, the next step was to select the scent for each of my lipsticks, created by infusing essential oil into the color formula. I picked fresh citrus for the darker lipstick and violet for the lighter shade. Other scents included vanilla, mint and citrus mango. Jennifer then poured the liquid concoctions of “all-natural” ingredients into metal, lipstick-shaped molds, which she set atop a freezing unit for about seven minutes until they solidified. Finally, she used lipstick tubes to gingerly extract the solid columns of color from the molds. I also got to name my new lipsticks, so I chose Geri for one and Primo for the other, after my six-year-old grandson. Jennifer imprinted the names in silver type on the tops of the elegant gray tubes. Voila! My custom lipsticks were ready. Besides the tubes of lipstick, my Bespoke kit included a mini whipped cherry lip scrub, mini agave lip mask and mini line & define lip primer, which is supposed to make the color last longer.
Lip Lab, based in Toronto, Canada, also has a shop there, as well as in San Francisco and Los Angeles. You can buy its stock shades online, but can only enjoy the custom experience in person. The Bespoke Lip Service is $150. Certainly not drug store prices, but these lipsticks are certainly not drug store colors or quality.
PS I bought Mac lip pencil in chicory to complement both new lipstick colors.