Product Review: Ilia Lip Conditioner (Plus: High School Lipstick Highs and Lows)

My relationship with lipstick began, as many girls’ do, with Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. I was 14, and all my friends wore it: the Ashkenazi Jews, the Irish girls, the doe-eyed brunette of forgettable but super-pretty extraction. There was a reason we all wore it: It had just a touch of color, which made it  less of a commitment than a real lipstick. It also meant you could apply it without a mirror, but most of all, it looked good on everyone. Like, everyone.

(Now, you are under strict orders not to go out and buy it, even though it’s kind of amazingly pretty. Clinique—which I emailed twice and live-chatted with to try to get an ingredient list for this lipstick, and which promised a response within 24 hours but never did—is not a clean brand by our standards.)

So anyway a couple of years later, all my friends graduated to Revlon’s Coffee Bean—another lipstick you should not go out and buy—and with that, my girls left me behind. No, it didn’t look good on pink-faced blondes, but neither did any other lipstick as far as I was concerned. Which means my love of lipstick crested when I was in the 8th grade. I proceeded to take about 15 years off until, as I’ve explained in the past, I decided to write a beauty book, which was going to mean trying on lipstick would become an occupational requirement—and I wasn’t terribly excited about that.

But then, something happened. You can read about my early a-ha moments here: it involved beautiful W3LL People, Living Nature, Lip Ink, and Vapour—all colors I still like. Since then, I have continued to experiment. I love RMS in Smile, which is a screamy kind of pink that somehow totally flatters, despite its bold hue and now, my new toy:

Ilia – Pure Lip Care

The ladies at Nubonau were raving about this stuff, and sent me a tube in carefully chosen Blossom Lady (good call, girls). It has less blue in it than appears in the picture, at least on me. It’s a soft, warm pink on my face, and it has everything you could ever want from a daytime lipstick: It’s semi-sheer for easy application on the go (and without a mirror), it is loaded with skin-friendly moisturizing oils, it feels amazing and isn’t sticky (personal pet peeve), and the ingredients are 85% organic according to the company—which is CANADIAN. From Vancouver, no less.

I’ve been wearing this for about a week every day and one application lasts an hour or two depending on how much water I’m drinking. I have also forced it on a couple of other women and I’m happy to say it looks great on lots of different complexions.

And best of all, for me anyway: It’s the kind of lipstick that I’m doesn’t read as lipstick, so much as just: pretty!

J’aime! Have you tried Ilia? And what was YOUR first lipstick?

24 Responses to “Product Review: Ilia Lip Conditioner (Plus: High School Lipstick Highs and Lows)”
  1. Naomi says:

    My first try at lip colour was using Clinique Black Honey gloss, but it was one I “borrowed” from my mum (when she wasn’t looking – I was really young when I fell in love with lotions & potions!!!) so the first lipstick I actually owned was Cover Girl in Pinkier Pink – eighties frosted lips at their best!!! I have, of course, owned several Black Honey Almost Lipsticks because they are the most universally flattering colour and pretty much foolproof.

    To redeem myself, let me say that these days I stick to 100% Pure glosses (although I’m a little disappointed by the faint tints) and plain old tinted lip balm (Burt’s Bees / Yes To Carrots / Hemp Organics) and RMS balm.

  2. Marci says:

    Does Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers count? It had tiny bit of color but it tasted good (but was probably not good for you). I am working from home a lot so I don’t use lip color everyday, but sad to say I am still using some not so clean lip sticks and glosses (I like color on my lips, we all have our weaknesses)! I will be checking out the Ilia brand and hoping for some great colors.

  3. Sam says:

    I don’t really have a fav one, i think i love everything that is natural :)
    Lipstick seriously changes your face and gives another glow to your face and lips of course. My mom only uses lipsticks and no other beauty product and she still looks great and beautiful :) I wish i could be like my mom too <3

  4. stephanie says:

    ahhh yes! black honey was a must have! especially after we found out it’s what they used on all the girls on Friends. oh how “of the moment” we all were…in 9th grade.

  5. Deanna says:

    My first was Maybelline’s lipstick in a frosty, light pink shade called Sugar Plum Fairy. It was that kind of nauseating pink that you’d wear to a costume party to replicate a late 80’s/early 90’s look.
    I feel like a clown when I wear lipsticks of any shade, so I stick with Burts Bees clear lip gloss now, which I adore.

  6. Helen says:

    Dear Siobhan and Alexandra,

    I see that these contain synthetic colors in the ingredients, which makes me think of a question: what do you girls think of synthetic colors in cosmetics? I know it is commonly used in some food products like candies and gum, but I never really see “organic and natural” brands use synthetic colors.. until now. What are your opinions on the use of synthetic colors? Please respond!!!

  7. r says:

    i have been just the same about lipstick! after watching my mum slather on a dark purple waxy sticky smelly color for years, and with my blonde pink look, i HATE lipstick … but… my best friend is getting married in july and i would like a bit of a lip enhancer! Atm, i use burt’s bees for tint, but dont really like it. otherwise i just use coconut oil and *gently* nibble my lips when i want a burst of quick color. But the big question is: what is a good coral pink color you can reccommend for us blondies? … her wedding colors are black orange and red so i am looking to fit the bill w/out being too pink, or orange, or red,,, and coral is my new favorite color! obviously you’ll reccommend said Ilia, but is there a more affordable ($10-15) brand you reccommend?
    Thanks ladies!

  8. murt says:

    Honestly when it comes to coloured cosmetics, especailly stuff like lipsticks and nail polishes, I don’t really see much difference between the so-called ‘clean’ brands and brands like clinique.

    All of them, with the exception of pure mineral cosmetics, have synthetic ingredients to create the colour, and in the case of nail polishes, I understand the 3-free requirement, which I adhere to, but beyond that, I don’t think there’s any difference between OPI and some of the brands you list on your site. All of them have something that’s not the greatest for you. Plus I don’t think labelling requirements are that strict anyway when it comes to natural cosmetics, so who knows what’s exactly in the product.

    That’s why my philosophy tends to be just to use a moisturizer that I make myself with edible aloe-vera and jojoba oil, and to not use cosmetics daily. When I do feel like using makeup, I’ll use whatever I like, ‘clean’ or not..

  9. Hi Helen,

    The 3 synthetic colours listed are minimally used with percentages as low as 0.1% of the total formula. The majority of the shades are a combination of these with “natural dyes”, or iron oxides. Ironically, natural dyes or iron oxides dyes that come from the earth as minerals are full of metals…which our bodies are really good at absorbing and holding onto forever. It was a big decision to use a combination of the two in order to achieve more contemporary shades and provide options. There are many organic cosmetics brands that choose not to disclose the use of mild synthetic colours, yet most will have them if there is a brighter colour involved. Sharing this information was important to me, as to be completely transparent with nothing to hide. As an extra note, there is no Carmine in any of ILIA’s shades, which was a morale decision. The one colour that is completely natural with natural dye is the nude “Nobody’s Baby”. Hope this of help to you, and could write forever about what I have learned in regards to sourcing the ingredients for this one product, yet I do know where each ingredients comes from, right down to its source. If you have any other questions please let me know. Cheers! Sasha // Founder ILIA Beauty

  10. Krystal says:

    Hey Murt,

    100% Pure colors their makeup with fruit pigment. Even the mascara is tinted with blueberries or coffee.

  11. Rebekah says:

    My first lipstick was Flower Child from Jane. Eight or nine years, I still have a little left…. I seldom wear lipstick, I hate reapplying.

  12. Rebecca says:

    My lips are even more sensitive than the rest of my skin, and they tend to get super gross and inflamed/irritated with lipstick. I always was a lip balm addict though, and I’m sure my first stuff was some gooey tasty version of Bonne Bell roll-on gloss.

    I haven’t tried Ilia, and will probably pass on it. Most of the ingredients look good but I think I’d react to the synthetic colors. Kudos to Ilia on staying away from carmine, though!

  13. Sarah says:

    Oh Benefit Benetint, how I loved you in high school! Even if you were really too red for my coloring.. and made me look a little bit geisha-like.. sigh. Benetint and I broke up when I went to college. When I had a boyfriend who gagged at even the sheerest hint of Chapstick. These days I stick to balms. My natural color is enough for me and I like to draw attention more to my eyes.

  14. Debbie says:

    A social anthropologist could probably guess a woman’s age if presented with her first lipstick choice. Mine was a set of “Slickers” by Yardley. These were extremely popular with the teeny bopper set when the Monkees ruled the airwaves. If I remember correctly, this company advertised on the Monkees TV show, which would explain the popularity of the products with the Monkees target audience. “Slickers” were very metallic looking, mostly silver with some sort of base colors. They also had a very strong frangrance. Nothing natural about them!

  15. murt says:

    @Krystal – I just checked out the 100% Pure website – thanks! I’m a bit suspicious, though, of their claims… For instance, they say that their body washes foam, but the ingredients they list show nothing that could foam…

    Anyway, maybe I’m wrong, but I wonder if they are leaving out ingredients in their lists. I’m also a bit wary of their claim that they only use dye derived from fruit – I don’t see how that is possible unless the fruit derived dye has been chemically changed somehow. I’m no expert though.

  16. Rebecca says:

    @murt, the foaming is from the pump in which the 100% Pure facewash is packaged. They have a boutique not far from me and I like many of their skin care products, but have not used the fruit pigmented make-up. I don’t find the fruit pigment far-fetched, though – many times I’ve stained clothing with berries.

  17. Kate says:

    Way late to the comment game on this particular post but I had to chime in about Ilia. I just received Shell Shock and Blossom Lady in the mail today and, frankly, I’m going to have to restrain myself from ordering more (still a product junkie even though I’m trying to downsize). They are both amazing – great color, balmy, slightly shiny, pure love. One thing to note – Blossom Lady (at least on me) is a dead ringer for Chanel’s Boy…which was my very last dirty cosmetic. Yes to a clean replacement!

  18. Anna says:

    I looked up Ilia Cosmetics on the Skin Deep website & it lists the toxicity of the lip conditioner as 3! So I’m wondering who’s accurate & why the toxicity is so high?

  19. Yumi says:

    Does anyone know if there is a clean alternative to Black Honey?

  20. Nina says:

    To second Yumi’s question — is there a clean alternative to Black Honey?

  21. Brooke says:

    I love this post, even though it is from so long ago. I too love/loved Black Honey. I have found a similarish clean alternative – Dr Hauschuka Lipstick Novum 12 in Exhilarating Berry. It has a tiny bit of shimmer in it unfortunately and is a wee bit darker, but it’s the closest I have found to Black Honey and it smells yummy too.

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