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An ultra gloopy, bubblegum flavoured lip gloss is the first makeup item I can remember buying when I was ten and in the years that followed I was a devotee, buying any magazine with a free lip gloss stuck to the cover and worshipping at the altar of Lancome Juicy Tubes (the height of 2003 sophistication, don’t you know?)
But I didn’t give much thought to lip gloss after about 2005. Too sticky, too shiny, too teenage. Until now. 2021 has seen a wave of grown-up glosses launch, from brands including Votary, Tower 28 and Bobbi Brown’s new range Jones Road. Cult Beauty even reports a 16 per cent growth in gloss sales compared to this time last year. "Sometimes I wish there was a new word for gloss, so you forgot those old connotations of gloss being sticky and unflattering," says Bobbi Brown.
What sets the grown-up glosses apart from their early noughties ancestors? Makeup artist Wendy Rowe, who works with the likes of actresses Priyanka Chopra and Sienna Miller explains. “The resurgence in lip glosses has come about as brands are using exciting new formulas, that allow the lip glosses not to be so sticky, with skincare infused, while still having shine.”
I’m also inclined to think the boom in glosses comes now that we’re able to go out without our masks. 2020 was all about functional lip care that stayed put under our masks and didn’t transfer. Now that we can head into bars and restaurants sans-mask, we don’t need to worry about the inside of our face-covering being slick with gloss.
Because I jumped on the gloss wagon at such a young age, I came to think of glosses as a younger woman’s game. Think again! You’re never too old for a gloss, says Wendy. “Lip glosses are wonderful for all ages as they give the appearance of youthful lips which, in short, means plump and hydrated with no fine lines,” she says. “Lip glosses can make the lips look fuller. By highlighting the middle of the lips you give the illusion that they stand out from the face, making them appear bigger.”
In fact, makeup artist Tricia Cusden, 73, who heads up age-positive makeup brand Looks Fabulous Forever, which has a gloss in its collection, points out that glosses are actually better for more mature lips than lipsticks. “Lip glosses are not an automatic choice for my age group – we’re much more likely to go for a traditional lipstick. By choosing a lip gloss you're showing that you're happy to experiment with something that can add a youthful quality and brighten your face.
“Many women shy away from strong lip colours, especially when they're older, so lip glosses are a great alternative as they tend to be softer and easier to wear,” Tricia continues. Plus, they’re less likely to sit in the fine lines on your lips, according to Dior Makeupe international pro artist Jamie Combes: "Glosses are lower maintenance than bright pigment-rich colours which means it they won't sit and accentuate fine lines."
Here’s our edit of the best glosses for high shine lips without the stickiness.
LA brand Tower 28 launched on Cult Beauty last month and the Shine on Lip Jelly sold out within three days, such is the hype surrounding the brand that's loved by the likes of Khloe Kardashian. This translucent lip jelly glides on and isn't sticky at all. It gives the slightest wash of colour and is made with a blend of five nourishing oils to keep lips moisturised – see below for a swatch. It's weightless and addictive to apply; your lips feel like silk when you rub them together when you've got this on. I've got it in the sheer purple shade Fear Less, which is currently sold out on Cult Beauty, but the clear shade Chill, orange-red Fire, pink XOXO and red Spicy are still available and I highly advise snapping them up before they're sold out too. The brand also has a Shine On Milky Lip Jelly , £14, for a more creamy lip colour.
"My team and I went through numerous reformulations until we got to this one – shiny and moisturising, but not sticky," says Tower 28's founder Amy Liu. "I’ve always been a gloss girl, even when everyone else was rocking a matte lip! But I wanted to create a product that was truly different since I know how much competition there is. Shine On Lip Jellies are truly unique in the fact that they provide the shine of a gloss with the comfort of a balm, without any toxic ingredients.”
The vegan formula of this gloss glides over the lips thanks to the oil-like texture made with 12 natural plant oils which feel immediately nourishing and hydrating when you swipe it on. There's no stickiness even after constant reapplication, which you won't be able to resist. The moisture comes from natural squalane , which smoothes fine lines whilst working hard to moisturise. It gives the lips an oh so subtle and super chic no-makeup, makeup look thanks to the subtle raspberry glow. Our tester who is in her fifties is a lip gloss convert after using this.
Available in ten shades, from sheer Original to deep burgundy Boysenberry and popping pink Peony, these non-sticky glosses gently plump your lips whether you wear them on their own for a barely-there tint or on top of lipstick to amp up the glamour. They have a slightly tingly peppermint flavour and feel more like you're wearing a balm than a gloss. It’s so non-sticky that Bobbi recommends tapping it onto your cheeks too for a flushed tint.
MORE GLOSS: How does Bobbi Brown's new clean beauty range compare to her namesake brand?
Makeup by Mario launched on Cult Beauty last month and one of my highlights from the collection is this gloss, available in three nude shades, Golden Nude, Mauve Nude and Rose Nude. As you'd expect from someone who counts Kim K as his muse, these are ultra-glam glosses, which glide on and give high impact pearly shine that would glisten on the red carpet. Rose Nude is the most pared back, while Mauve Nude has a hint of blue in its shine and Golden Nude is a popping peach that goes all out on sparkle.
This calls itself an oil, but applies with a gloss-like fluffy doe foot applicator, gives a high shine and a subtle colour, so we’re calling it a gloss. It’s infused with cherry oil to nourish, protect and soften the lips, all the while giving mirror shine. The applicator is pillow-soft and I was instantly addicted to swiping this on. There are six shades to choose from - my favourite barely-there Pink, alongside rich plum shade Berry, bold red Rosewood, girly Raspberry, slightly orange Coral and fruity pink Cherry.
Makeup by Mario
Luxury vegan beauty brand Dear Dahlia sells some of the most prettily packaged makeup buys we've laid eyes on, including this ultra-shiny lip treatment. It gives a glass shine and nourishes the lips with a blend of antioxidants. Available in five shimmer-flecked shades, it does have more of a glitter to it than some of the glosses in our edit, for a classic early 2000s vibe without the stickiness of those pre-2010 glosses. You can't feel the glitter in the formula; it's as smooth and silky as lip oil.
This slightly gold, subtly shimmering lip gloss comes courtesy of makeup artist Jamie Genevieve and just like everything else we've tried from her collection, is seriously high performing. It's a lip oil and lip gloss hybrid, giving a non-sticky sheen that is every bit as glossy as your Juicy Tubes. It enhances your natural lip colour with a subtle gold shine, with raspberry seed oil extract and green tea extract for softening powers. "I wanted to create the ultimate lip transformer that could switch up any lip colour with an irresistible gloss, as well as worn alone to provide deep hydration and fuller-looking lips," Jamie said. "It was designed to make lips feel supremely comfortable and look plump and hydrated. It’s glossy, not gloopy, and contains a subtle sparkle to provide a coveted sheen."
Available in seven shades, this vegan formula gives a wet look shine plus it plumps the lips with hyaluronic acid to make them look fuller with no need for filler. It has shea butter and passion fruit oil in for a hit of moisture and ranges from punchy shades such as holographic sparkly pinky-purple Wilshire and neon pink fuschia Extra, to clear Coconut Water and nude peach Secret Menu. Unlike other plumping glosses, this doesn't make your lips uncomfortable or sting.
MORE GLOSS: The best lip care for plump, youthful lips