On… natural-but-not lipstick

When you work from home (as I do) and have small children who need frequent kisses (as I also do) but also have lips that left to their natural devices are the color and texture of dried-up oatmeal (as I totally do), you become quite obsessed with the subject of the perfect natural-but-not-because-natural-isn’t-that-good lips (which brings us to today’s topic of conversation and the end of my scintillating parenthesis series, I swear).

Here’s the thing: nude lips are hard for me, because it’s awfully easy for me to look worse, and that’s hardly the fucking point. I don’t want flat greige lips that look like I’m emulating some awful Kardashiperson. I don’t want sticky glossy lips that look like I just blew a jellyfish. I don’t want thick fake grandma lipstick that will rub off on my children and coffee mugs and everything else that crosses my path. I don’t want anything that will make me look older, yellow-teethed, sick, or bimbo-ish. And I don’t want to look like I made too much effort. Even though effort is my middle name. Gemma Effort Burgess. That’s me.

I want pouty perfect lips that look smooth and over-kissed and flush and delicious. (NOT puffy, there are way too many over-filled sloppy trout-pouts flopping around NYC.) Shiny or matte is fine, as long as they’re not sticky or dry. The color can be rose-ish or brown-ish or peach-ish. It just has to make me look BETTER. That is not too much to ask in this day and age, surely? If we can put a man on the MOON oh wait, that adage is a little old. If we can… okay, whatever, let’s just get on with it, shall we?


Boots No7 Lip Balm in Deep Raspberry is something you can throw on, without looking, on your way out the door, while forcing scooter helmets on the heads of very small boys. It is that unfuckupable. Swipe it on like Chapstick, run your pinkie around the edges of your lips in case you were a titch messy, and go about your day. Insanely flattering. My sister discovered this first – she has it in Poppy Petal, an orangey-red shade, and it looks amazing on her. I like the pink. I’m sure the others are gnarly too.


Bobbi Brown Crushed Lip Color in Baby. DUDES. First, I am not wild for Bobbi Brown, on the whole. I think the skincare is whack (RIP Whitney) and the supposedly amazing gel eyeliners are a boring nightmare to apply, the Shimmer Bricks have turned into glitter bombs and the lipsticks are very, very drying (I had a fling with Raisin, it’s a great 90s-ish color but just too damn dry). I do like her Skin Foundation v much indeed, which I wear in Porcelain in the depths of winter. ANYWAY. She just launched this Crushed Lips product and OH MY GOD. It’s lipstick for people who hate lipstick. It feels like a balm, very smooth and light, looks like a lipstick that has sheered out perfectly evenly and matte-ly, and it’s only one swipe. It’s like God painted your lips with watercolor and then blessed them. (Is that sacrilegious? I can never tell, and I’m married to a nice lapsed Catholic boy from Ireland – one time we were at a wedding in Dingle and I was like, I might take the communion just because I’m starving, and he was shocked. Apparently you do NOT JOKE about bread that, although bought in Tesco, represents Himself. Sorry, back to lipstick.) Bobbi Brown Crushed Lip Color is everything that the Glossier matte lip balm promised to be and wasn’t (my Leo broke from the base within a week and dried out within a month, and the same thing happened to all my girlfriends, too, seriously f’king irritating). Get it in Baby or Angel – I couldn’t decide, got Baby, and will probably go back for Angel because, well, you know me.


Orlane No.97 lipstick with Milani Nude lipliner. No, it hasn’t got a name, just a number, and yes, that’s the best image I could find. Orlane doesn’t seem to even make lipstick anymore. I have a feeling that they’re selling old, old, old discontinued stock on eBay. It’s a baked apricot color, it’s hydrating in a slightly waxy kind of way but not thick, and (yes, I take make-up way too seriously) I have never seen its equal anywhere. I bought it in a funny little make-up store in Melbourne Plaza on Queens Road in Hong Kong in… oh man, probably the mid-2000s, at least. (I can date my lipsticks based on the guy I was dating when I bought them. How appallingly tragic.) I trot it out when I’m going out for dinner and want a my-lips-but-better shade that complements-but-not-competes with slightly dramatic eye make-up and oh, how I like slightly dramatic eye make-up. Recently I realized that I was running out of it so I went looking for more. You can buy it here. Thank me later. While you’re at it, get three of the Milani lipliners and you will never have to worry about the perfect nude lipliner ever again. I cannot say it too many times.


Laura Mercier Lip Glace Black Cherry with Mac Hot Gossip lipstick on top for an insanely delightful lilac-pink pearly sheen that, through some trickery, lasts ALL DAY. Am I the very very first person to put lip gloss on first and THEN lipstick OVER THE TOP!? I THINK I AM! IT’S A REVOLUTION! Why the hell am I writing, I should patent this idea and retire.

Okay, enough from me. I must get back to work.





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6 thoughts on “On… natural-but-not lipstick

  1. Nicole Brant

    I adore a good lipstick. I now must try that No7. Unless it has mint in it. I loathe that. Drying mint does NOT belong in lipstuffs! Anyway, might I also suggest Wander Beauty beach balm. It’s magical. It’s one of only 2 lipstuffs I’ve finished EVER. The other is Rally balm by Red Apple Lipstick. That stuff is wicked pricey but makes dry lips a thing of the past.

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      I agree completely, and the peppery stuff in Blistex makes me feel sick. And I am so excited to try this Wander stuff! Am ordering it!

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Oh, thank you so much. I LOVE Shiseido make-up, so many unsung heroes in that line-up!! I’m ordering it!!

  2. Nicole Brant

    Well, now I had to go order that No7 balm. Thanks for feeding my addiction. :-) By the way, the best stuff I’ve ever tried (finished & reordered!) is Wander Beauty’s beach balm in Sangria. It’s fantastic.


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