Squee! Mini-Review: Clarins Instant Smooth Crystal Lip Balm in 04 Crystal Red

Call me Voxy. Some months ago – never mind how long precisely – having a bit of mad money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me at Sephora, I thought I would cruise about a little and see other parts of the world of cosmetics. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to buy a lipstick as soon as I can.

(Melville is giving me the stinkeye from his grave. I can feel it.)

So, last summer, feeling a little spleenish, I was looking around for summer collection items beyond what Sephora carries. And I found, on several beauty blogs, these delectable, lipsmacking photos of Clarins Crystal Lip Balms in red, orange, and pink. They were completely translucent and looked like they were made of some kind of ice or gel. Popsicle-like. Totally drool-worthy. I searched for them for months, but to no avail — because I didn’t know they weren’t released in the US. (Duh. I am such a dork sometimes.)

But this year they are being released in the US. At last! For years weeks days I stalked the Clarins website, pacing the deck, harpoon (in the form of a credit card) in hand. At last, the white whale — which is to say, the Crystal Lip Balm collection — was sighted! And, in an utterly undramatic fashion, I bought the one in Crystal Red.

I know. Anticlimactic.

But wait there’s more! It arrived today, and it is AMAZEBALLS. From the swatches I’ve seen on UK blogs, the versions put out in previous years were pretty much completely translucent. They looked gorge in the tube but on lips translated to only the slightest hint of color. This year’s version seems to be more pigmented — there’s a solid core of pigment surrounded by a very lightly tinted translucent balm. It’s so lightly tinted it’s effectively colorless. When I swatched it on my hand I was surprised.

Then I went ahead and put it on my lips. It is fabulous. It is a totally wearable not-too-intense shade of red. I can’t really call it a balm, though — the pigment makes it feel like a lipstick when it’s on your lips. It’s not drying but I didn’t think it was particularly moisturizing either. I didn’t do a wearlength test (hence why this is really only a mini-review), but it lasted a couple of hours for sure.

I immediately went back on the website and purchased two of the other three shades: Crystal Pink and Crystal Coral. I was wondering about the fourth shade, Crystal Violet, but based on how much pigment is in the Crystal Red, I suspect it would be way too purple for me. But we’ll see.

These should be on counters shortly but they are available now from clarins.com (limited edition) for $24.50. Through 4/24 you can get free shipping with code MOM.

UPDATE! The other two colors I ordered arrived today. The pink is much less pigmented than the red and does feel more like a balm (though still not entirely); the coral is almost as pigmented as the red and it is fairly bright. It is OK for my skin tone but going much brighter than that would be a bad idea.  I wore the red to school the other day, through one of my longest teaching days, and got about 3 hours’ wear out of it before I had to reapply. It stained a little bit, but less than I’d have anticipated. Still a win all around, though.

Close-up and hand swatch!


You can barely see that on either side of the red pigment there is a tiny bit of shiny balm, almost totally colorless.

Squee! Estee Lauder Mad Men Collection

These just arrived so I haven’t had time to give them a wear test yet, but I couldn’t wait to post for you all!

Estee Lauder has released a [very small] limited edition collection in conjunction with the long-awaited start of the new season of Mad Men. And by “collection” I mean two pieces. I don’t think you could have a “collection” of one piece, so this is pretty much the smallest “collection” imaginable. If we go by this definition, then I have a “collection” of cats. And a “collection” of bathrooms in my apartment.

Anyway, I hear there are future installments of this “collection” in the works, but the first two items to be released are a lipstick and a cream blush (and we all know what a sucker I am for a cream blush).

The packaging is very vintage — I’m very much reminded of the cream blush my mother used to keep in the medicine cabinet when I was a little girl.  Estee Lauder actually calls it a creme rouge, and I do remember my mother referring to hers as “rouge.” The packaging is metal, and not light. They definitely have a vintage heft. However, as every blogger from here to Ossining has commented on, the lipstick is teeny tiny. In my order from esteelauder.com, I also got a BB cream sample, and the box for the BB cream sample and the box for the lipstick are the same size. It’s tiny. However, since I never finish a lipstick anyway, I decided I didn’t care. The cardboard boxes are also vintage-style, and within the boxes the items come packaged in little gold leatherette bags, which frankly I could have done without.

In the promo photo, the lipstick looks like a deep red, but in real life it’s actually a pink. They call it “cherry,” which it isn’t, at all, but OK. The blush is Evening Rose, and it’s a lovely medium pink: not too light, not too dark, not too cool, not too warm.

Bigger photo and swatches!

Left: lipstick in Cherry. Right: cream blush in Evening Rose.

These are not cheap. But they are Mad Men. And I will take any opportunity I can get to channel my inner Christina Hendricks. The lipstick is $25, and the creme rouge is $40. Available only at esteelauder.com (online only as far as I know) and Bloomingdale’s (online and selected stores).

Will you indulge?