Just as some people are more susceptible to mosquito bites than others, there are those of us more likely to get “wine lips” when we drink reds. I’ve tried wearing a bold lip color when I know I’ll be drinking cabernet in order to mask it. I’ve opted for a pinot grigio in public even when I’d prefer the pinot noir. I’ve even started carrying little cocktail straws in my purse to sip through, relegating the stain to my tongue only.
So after years of avoidance, you can imagine the indignity of noticing that food and makeup brands are now insisting that we swipe food across our lips. Where once we lauded lipsticks for their ability to withstand a meal, we’re now applying the meal directly to our faces.
The latest such foray into school cafeteria-style cosmetics is from Rhianna’s Fenty Beauty line. The brand collaborated with art collective MSCHF to produce Ketchup or Makeup, a $25 box containing six packets filled with either ketchup or Fenty Beauty lip gloss—and you won’t know which is which until you tear each open. The campaign includes images of models with their pouts smeared with ketchup like sexy adult toddlers left to their own devices in the back of a McDonald’s PlayPlace.
(If you want to skip the guesswork of “ketchup or makeup?” you can also just buy Heinz lip balm for $3. It even comes with a keychain.)
This follows another recent lip gloss and food mashup: Applebee’s x Winky Lux. The Saucy Gloss line includes four flavors/scents/colors: Get Me Hot Buffalo, Sweet Chile Kiss, Be My Honey Pepper, and Honey BBQ-T. An editor at Allure actually wrote a pretty glowing review of the line, and one customer said she purchased the gloss to taunt her dieting husband—who wound up loving both how the gloss looked and tasted on her. Overall, the reviews were pretty positive. And the wet nap industry is trembling.
But why are we no longer daintily dabbing the corners of our mouths and instead actually applying the food, or food-like beauty products, to our lips? We have some theories.
TikTok is a dumping ground for “secret” beauty tricks, and a few popular beauty accounts have recently hyped using food dye as a lip stain. (Quick shout-out to the OG food lip stain: Tropical Punch Kool-Aid.)
These beauty brands are just trying to beat us to the kitchen. Or maybe we’re all getting a little too literal when it comes to the “eat with your eyes first” adage.
You can’t talk about a food brand’s cosmetic crossover without discussing the beloved Dr Pepper Lip Smacker. The soda-flavored balm debuted in 1975, but the license between the two brands expired in 2020, and you’ll be hard-pressed to locate a tube that isn’t marked up in price on eBay.
With bucket hats, flared jeans, and other early-2000s trends coming back into style, the return of food-inspired lip glosses feels only natural. Fenty and Winky Lux are merely picking up where the makeup shelves at Claire’s left off. And our thoughts go out to all the middle-school memories of broken hearts sure to be jogged by the resurgence of vanilla-flavored balm.
A lot of us embraced a less polished existence during months of lockdown throughout the pandemic: Many people stopped wearing foundation, bras, and jeans while working from home. So it seems like the obvious next step to simply let the food we smear on our faces stay put.
My own lunch salad-eating habits have gotten worse. Living alone, no longer surrounded by colleagues, I hoover forkfuls of greens into my mouth while hovering just a couple of inches above the mixing bowl I use as dishware. The end result is, in fact, a lovely little olive oil gloss on the lips. Nevermind the flecks of ground pepper.
So, carry on with the food and beauty collaborations. We love the callback to simpler times and the controlled chaos of this aesthetic. There’s a chance this will even convince me to shrug off the purple hue left behind by my second glass of Malbec. Because maybe it was never about the presentable face with which I started out the evening, but the lip stain I gathered along the way.