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Is This the Telfar Bag of Lip Gloss?

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Courtesy

A few weeks ago, I found myself at a launch party amid a sea of Black and brown creatives. Oversize tailoring, baby Brandon Blackwood bags, and chunky silver jewelry made frequent appearances among the crowd. Also in attendance: Ami Colé Lip Treatment Oil. The tube is unmistakable, so much so I can spot it from across the room. Transparent with a black cap, the rosy brown gloss inside betrays how close its owner is to needing a replacement.

I spotted the gloss a few times throughout the night, often in the hands of people I follow on Instagram. Once, I saw a circle of friends pass it around, each person checking out the tube. I suddenly realized the Lip Treatment Oil, which launched last May, had not just become a staple in my own makeup bag. It was a verifiable thing. Before venturing to write about the phenomenon, I polled my Instagram, asking who’d tried it. Seven die-hard fans responded, and many who hadn’t tried it were hoping to. I reached out to some of the respondents to ask what actually made it so good. Interestingly, they mostly said the same things.

First, there’s the color: Despite being dark in the tube, the gloss goes on near clear with a slight brown tint. “It’s a universal nude that I haven’t found in any other formulation. It fits my skin when I have a tan during the summer and when I don’t,” says Asia Milia Ware, a junior fashion and beauty writer at the Cut. “Nudes can be very tricky, and it’s not too nude. It’s the perfect tint,” says stylist Mecca James-Williams, who also said it also works for her complexion year-round. “Because it’s not a true nude gloss, it merges easily with different makeup looks, whether I’m wearing a bold eye or a monochromatic one.”

It does look good on literally everyone. I’ve seen it enough in the wild to know for sure. The Lip Treatment Oil is like a next-gen Fenty Fu$$y. “It’s replaced every lip product I had,” says Shenell Renwick, a publicist who has been following Ami Colé since it was a moodboard page on Instagram. “I was using the Fenty Lip Balm and Gloss Bomb, and I stopped using those.” Ware has a similar story. “Fenty and Glossier were my favorites before this,” she says. “But Fenty can get icky and sticky, especially with masks. I also like to over apply because I like super glossy lips, and I can do that with Ami Colé. I can do as many swipes as I want.”

Ami Colé fans are just as excited about its perfect formula as they are about the color. Beauty writer Akili King says it’s a perfect blend of stickiness and softness: “Some glosses are too sticky or melted, but this is the perfect balance.” Blake Newby, who heads up beauty and style at Essence, told me it’s so nourishing that she’s been able to leave her Aquaphor behind. “I keep it for a rainy day, but if it’s not Ami Colé, I’m not putting it on my lips.” The gloss, which uses clean ingredients and is both vegan and cruelty free, contains baobab and camellia oil, which work together to moisturize and nourish for hours, making it a high-shine gloss that’s good for your lips too.

It’s also long wearing. Writer Hunter Harris, who describes herself as a “true disciple of Jennifer Lopez, the year 2004, and lip gloss,” recently wore it to a wedding and was happy with how it lasted throughout the night. “I don’t have to worry about it moving; it’s super nourishing and wears really nicely without being super sticky,” she says. “It’s wet and luscious but not so sparkly.” Ware, who wears it daily — even to the gym — agrees: “When I was on the beach this summer, I could apply it in the morning and be good all day long.”

Also, people keep losing them. Misplacing an Ami Colé lip gloss means fans are forced to use their old favorites as a stopgap. And those favorites are not cutting it. “I was so upset about losing the first one, I immediately went online and bought two so I could put one in my bag and have one at home,” says Ayanna McNeil, a creative strategist. I heard this type of story a few times — so much so that I had to wonder if I’d tapped into a hyperlocal trend. Was this an echo chamber? Was the Lip Treatment Oil only a thing among Black girls who work in beauty and fashion and live in New York?

To get a sense of the scope of its influence, I spoke to Ami Colé’s brand community manager Samantha Scott, who told me the trend is indeed national. (Interestingly enough, Hunter was inspired to buy the gloss after Scott’s rave reviews — and a slew of pointed Instagram ads.) “It’s a mix of people from different walks of life doing different things — from small content creators to large ones to girls who are just buying makeup and are really excited,” she says. It’s made fans of everyone from aesthetician and skin-care influencer Sean Garrette to vintage-shop owners to micro-influencers to beauty-obsessed moms.

Ami Colé, with its minimal-but-melanated approach to beauty, feels like a love letter to Black community. It’s not a coincidence that the brand deftly creates both an actually great product and a distinctly Black brand story. Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye, the brand’s founder, is a Glossier and L’Oréal alum and has always been vocal about championing Black women and their beauty concerns. “N’Diaye understands formulation, distribution, branding, and marketing,” says Newby. The brand started with the basics: skin tint, highlighter, and the lip oil — giving Black women their own your-skin-but-better makeup experience without sacrificing quality. “It’s clear that not only is she looking to make great products, but she’s specifically making products with Black women in mind,” says McNeil. For example, N’Diaye-Mbaye polled 400 people to get a sense of the gaps in the makeup market.

Ami Colé’s omnipresence has created a community that moves seamlessly from the internet to real life. McNeil recalls pulling it out at an event, her friends raving about it, and convincing the lone girl in the group who hadn’t tried it yet to buy a tube. “When someone pulls Ami Colé out, it’s like ‘Oh, you’re in the know. You’re not pulling out Glossier.’” It’s the kind of camaraderie I haven’t seen since the early days of Fenty. But Fenty was built on the power of a megastar and fashion behemoth LVMH. Ami Colé was started by a beauty veteran from Harlem who’s building a community from the ground up. Some of her early investors are Black women, including HBFIT founder Hannah Bronfman and the Cut’s Lindsay Peoples Wagner. That difference isn’t lost on Black women: “It makes it even more community-based and special to me,” said McNeil.

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Why Ami Colé’s Lip Oil Is the Telfar Bag of Gloss