this thing's incredible

This $5 Alternative to Clinique’s Black Honey Actually Shows Up on My Lips

Photo-Illustration: Diksha Basu

As our masks (cautiously, carefully — please get vaccinated) come down for occasional outdoor gatherings, lipsticks are back in rotation. The other day at Target, I found the one I used over a decade ago when I first finished college: Black Cherry, by Revlon.

I moved to New York City back then, and Black Cherry made the nervous, awkward, 21-year-old me feel very sophisticated, as I wore all black and towering high heels and made my way into settings where I didn’t really belong — including, once, Jimmy Fallon’s birthday party.

I wouldn’t repeat too many of my choices from back then, yet it turns out the power of Black Cherry persists. With two children, I’m no longer partying until dawn with members of the SNL cast, though I still wear mostly black and enjoy a dab of lipstick, even if it’s for a child-friendly, pandemic-friendly outdoor picnic where the adults will slowly drink too much wine and allow their children to eat too much cake.

Everyone always raves about Clinique’s Black Honey. I keep wanting to love it because it looks so sleek and appealing in its slim silver case, but it does next to nothing for me. It is perfectly lovely for some, and it looks good and, more important, is somewhat visible on my light-skinned friends. But on me, Indian me, it shows up as little more than a barely tinted lip balm and wears off quickly. It’s easy to put on, even without a mirror, so maybe that’s part of why people love it and are willing to reapply it all day. I prefer less fuss.

I don’t know what they put in Black Cherry (and I doubt it’s vegan), but it seems to last for hours, through lengthy Zoom meetings and three-hour-long classes. When it does eventually start to fade, it does so without going cakey or changing color.

Revlon’s Black Cherry is perfect for my skin tone, but really it’s perfect for all skin tones, with varying degrees of intensity. On my white friends, it shows up as a deep, dramatic red, perfect for a night out. On my skin and my other brown- and black-skinned friends, it gives a sexy, mysterious effect that’s made-up but not dramatically so (which I can amp up as needed by layering it).

I certainly don’t need the drama of Revlon’s Black Cherry for school drop-off (pickup, maybe), so I suppose Clinique’s Black Honey would work for those instances. But you know what’s better and cheaper than a really lightly tinted lip balm? A tub of Vaseline.

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This Clinique Black Honey Dupe Actually Shows Up on My Lips