Review: Portland Black Lipstick Company Lipsticks
There are a lot of arguments in favor of indie makeup, but I think the most compelling one is the capacity for accommodating variety. If you’re in search of the perfect red lipstick, you can probably find it in a drugstore. In search of the perfect green lipstick? Indie companies are your new best friend. Portland Black Lipstick Company (PBLC) is the current unrivaled queen of bizarre lipstick colors.
This is every PBLC lipstick that is currently listed on the website save “the Secret of Invisibility”, which is clear and thus probably not worth swatching.
PBLC lipsticks are available in samples, which come in neat little ziplock bags as pictured, or full-sized tubes, which are in a lip-balm style container.Now, I will mercilously throw swatches at you. Arms first:Here are some lip swatches and more detailed information about each color:
Blood Red is sort of a rusty, dark red that leans a bit brown. I normally think of a “blood red” as being a bit brighter than this. This is less of a “blood that is spurting out of my body right now” red and more of a “coagulated blood on a wound you got a few hours ago” red.
Imitation Cherry is probably my favorite of PBLC’s reds. It’s more of a true red, but it maintains some of the musty darkness of Blood Red.
Bug’s Blood is a mix between a red and a neon pink. It could perhaps be described as a Popsicle red. I love the fact that PBLC is embracing the fact that this product was made from carmine, a pigment that is usually obtained from certain species of scale insect.
Undead Red is what you get if you take Blood Red, turn down the saturation, and throw in a little bit of plum. It’s the perfect vampy-yet-wearable color.
This Corrosion is advertised as being rusty orange. To me, it looks a lot closer to a carrot soup.
Irony is a metallic maroon that is definitely reminiscent of red iron oxide, for which it was named.
Bad Penny looks like exactly like what it sounds like. It’s the color of a brand new copper penny!
Lux et Voluptas (meaning “light and pleasure” in Latin) is SO PRETTY ERMEHGERD. I JUST WANT TO PAINT MY ENTIRE FACE THIS COLOR.
Ahem, let me compose myself. This color is the definition of what a “rose gold” should be. It shifts between a soft white gold and a lovely light pink. This lipstick is bit sheerer than the other colors, but it can be built up to opacity if you like (it is opaque on my lips below). You could also definitely layer this over another lipstick, though, to get that awesome duochrome effect on a bolder color.
Artificial Amethyst is a dark, gray-ish purple with a metallic sheen.
Purple Cloud is a pastel blue-based lavender. It’s got a bit of a demi-matte finish.
Coffee, Black is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the color of a cup of joe! Alternatively, compost.
Metallurgy is a dark, forest green with a hint of gold. I’m sure you’ve seen cargo shorts in this color, although they may have been less shiny.
Chaiborg is a metallic light brown that confusingly straddles the line between warm-toned and cool-toned.
Black Lagoon is a metallic blue-ish dark green.
Black is, well, a black. Perfect for those who never fully got over their teenage rebellion. I found it took a little bit of building to get a nice opacity, but it definitely wasn’t a challenge.
Perfect Foil was my least favorite of the lipsticks that I tried because I real challenges getting it to be opaque. Even when it started looking pretty good, I’d move my mouth and the glitter would re-arrange and I’d find a pink patch or eight. This is too bad because the color is really pretty in a Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz-type way.
Pewter Cauldron is the color that my lips would be if they were in grayscale.
Snow Queen is another one that I was disappointed in. It’s a frosty, metallic white. It just couldn’t find a way to make it look good on my lips, unfortunately. I still think that this would be an excellent tool in your arsenal for creating awesome lip effects, though!
Gilded Lily is another super pretty one. It’s a blinding light gold that is both romantic and unexpected. It leans on the sheerer side, but I didn’t have any significant problems building it up.
Chlorosis (named for a botanic condition where plants produce insufficient chlorophyll, leaving them a pallid, pale color) is a pastel mint. The color is looking a little off on my lip swatch picture; check out the arm-swatch above to get a better sense of the color.
Indigo Bridge is a dark, metallic blue. If dark-wash denim was foiled, it would look like this.
Finally, Difficult Island is an aquamarine that immediately makes me think of a tropical resort.
A lot of these also look spectacularly awesome when used for ombre lips.
Okay, now that we know what colors we are dealing with, how do these suckers wear?! I conducted my “four hours and a meal test” on six of the PBLC lipsticks. Additionally, I’ve had these suckers for a while (as some of you can probably tell based on the fact that I’m in my old house in all of the following pictures), so I can speak to the longevity of all of the colors, even if I didn’t take specific before and after photos.
So y’all can probably see: there’s variability here. Specifically, Artificial Amethyst and Bad Penny had longevity troubles. Gilded Lily looks good in this particular test, but I’ve had issues with it when I eat a lunch that isn’t the epitome of daintiness. Basically, I’ve had difficulties with the lasting power for all of the metallic colors, but the non-metallics do quite well, even when they are super unconventional shades. If you’re looking for a really unconventional color that doesn’t need constant touch-ups, I would steer you away from PBLC’s metallics and towards colors like Difficult Island, Purple Cloud, or Pewter Cauldron. All of their conventional colors, I should note, hold up really, really well.
I would also recommend checking out lots of swatches before you make a purchase. (Although if you are here, I probably don’t need to tell you that.) PBLC really does not provide good information on their colors on the website. The have one section (here) that has employees wearing their lipstick in bad lighting. Unfortunately, you really can’t see what is going on and they only have a couple of their colors listed. On the shop page, they have colors that seem to have little relationship to colors of the actual products. (For example, next to Lux et Voluptas, they have a dark purple pictured. What?!) Even their product descriptions are vague. They say things like, “this color is perfect for the end of the world and other special occasions” with no mention of what it actually looks like.
I would strongly recommend that the company remedy this situation by asking a blogger to provide some well-lit lip swatches of their products. (Hell, if you’re reading this: y’all can have mine!) The products are good, they just need to market them better!
The last thing I want to talk about is value. I weighed three of the samples to get a sense of how much product you get. I found that the samples were remarkably precise, varying less than a tenth of a gram. Each sample was a hair over 1 gram, or 0.035 oz, making the sample cost $28.57 per ounce. The full size costs $10 for 0.15oz, which makes it more than twice the cost, ounce per ounce: $66.67 per ounce. This is probably not the best strategy for the company, since it discourages people from buying the full-sized product.
I did find that I needed more product for these lipsticks than I would from a conventionally colored one. In my “How Many Swipes are in a Tube of Lipstick?” blog I found that I usually need about 0.08g per lipstick use. Here, I was using closer to 0.015g per use. That’s means that there are probably a solid 60 applications in each of these samples. That’s… that’s a lot, especially for really funky colors.