Here’s our staff take on a few items. (Want to join us as a guest reviewer for one item? Tell us why in three sentences and email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
benefit’s Balms and Tints (Gift set with three balms, three tints, $42)
HT: The balm is fabulous, especially if you like rose scent. The tint appears shockingly bubblegum pink in the bottle, but is innocently sheer, requiring layering. A few coats on the lips + the balm = definite color pop. If using on cheeks, blend quickly, as the tint dries fast and can leave concentrated application “dots.” Again, not as obnoxious on the face as it appears in the bottle. The applicator is like a nail polish brush, and as someone with acne-prone skin, I had concerns about the brush harboring bacteria and tainting what’s left in the bottle.
CB: I don't typically use liquid stains to give my cheeks color, so it felt strange painting this on, then rubbing it in. But despite the color in the bottle and when first applied, it smoothed in evenly and darkened to a blush tone that was flattering with my medium-to-fair skin tone. The tint tasted terrible and dried my lips out. But when I applied it after smoothing balm on my lips, it amped up the color and the drying issue was resolved. The balm also stands nicely on its own, smoothing on lips well in a light, blush color. The rose smell and taste was strong – borderline too flowery for me.
The X Look from Formula X (Four colors, $18)
HT: Nice pedicure coverage: two coats was definitely sufficient. High gloss. “Impassioned” is deep plum with a hint of champagne shimmer. Dried quickly and no chips after a week.
CS: I used “Temptation.” The glittery gold shade goes on convincingly – but not in an overpowering way – with just one coat. (I still used two coats for good measure in my pedicure).
CB: The “Obsessed” shade has become my go-to red nail color this holiday season, as it is the perfect festive deep red, leaning more toward pink than orange. Even strangers complimented the color. Two coats were plenty and went on silky smooth, leaving a nice gloss even without a top coat. It was remarkably durable, standing up to the rigors of housework, light gardening and heavy dish scrubbing without chips for several days.
HS: Even a nude shade, in this case “Thrilling,” covered in two coats and stood up to hard wear – as in, I put it on three weeks ago and there’s minimal chipping even now. I don’t want to know what the X in the formula is.
Sweet Nudes from Fresh (four balms and a polish for $36)
HT: Thankfully, “Sugar Honey” had a light citrus scent/flavor vs. actually tasting like honey. Coverage was subtly sheer and buildable; I wasn’t worried about smearing color. Felt hydrating, but like most lip balms, didn’t have much staying power with food/beverages. Small tube was easily swallowed in a massive handbag.
CS: I used “Sugar.” I was a bit confused when I opened it up and saw no shade, simply straight-up lip balm. I thought it would have a tint. It goes on just fine, and stays on, but I’m not sure why I’d buy this tintless product over any other lip balm.
CB: Teenage me would have loved the “Rose” and “Petal” balms, which smoothed on nicely enough but had a, well, sugary taste and bubblegum colors. Too juvenile for a 40-year-old. I appreciate SPF coverage in a lip tint, though (these have 15). The pot of exfoliating lip polish, with what appeared to be rough sugar granules throughout, was a relief for dry winter lips. An odd brownish color in the pot, it went on surprisingly nude.