l-r (top row, then bottom row): Complex, Elusive, Showy, Unapologetic
l-r: Complex, Elusive, Showy, Unapologetic
While both the Matte and Lacquer balms were on offer, I tried on a few of the Lacquer shades that caught my eye, but they all shared the same glaring problem: extreme glitter. The kind that still sticks to your lips in a shimmery mess when you try to take off the product. That was a huge no-no, so I promptly moved on and set my sights firmly on the Matte Balms only.
Predictably, I settled on two "daytime"/"wearable" colours, and two brights. The only colour I was certain I needed was Unapologetic (Cassie, Coco and Alix convinced me), though I was increasingly warming to Showy (mainly thanks to Emma, who likened it to Revlon Matte Lipstick in Stormy Pink, a shade I've been close to purchasing a few times, but doubts about the drying, patchy formula stopped me). Complex seemed promising, with quite a bit of coverage from ViviannaDoesMakeup and Amelia Liana, and Elusive looked so perfect on Christine of Temptalia that it was worth closely investigating. The best, most comprehensive overview I've found of each of the Matte Balms is from Emma of milkteef, whose face pictures of all the shades were super helpful. The bright coral Audacious was definitely in the running, but in the end it was too similar to Unapologetic to justify buying both (notwithstanding the multiple similar colours I have at home).
Complex is a light-to-medium nude, quite brown but with a peachy/orange tone. Elusive is a medium, warm, rosy pink with a touch of brightness. Showy is a bright, strongly blue-based pink. Unapologetic is an incredibly vivid, almost neon coral red with a watermelon pink tinge. This was the only shade that I found slightly staining, the rest of them could be removed almost completely with a tissue.
The formula of these were surprisingly good, though not completely uniform. Complex was clearly the most drying and patchy, with Unapologetic being the most creamy, smooth and pigmented. In general, these feel more hydrating than most matte lipsticks I've encountered, with a creamy but still lightweight texture that applies effortlessly onto the lips with no tugging or resistance. The colour payoff is impressive and on par with the NARS Satin Lip Pencils.
Overall, I'm pleased with the four shades I selected and I'd struggle to find anything negative to say about these lip crayons. They do have a faint peppermint smell and sensation when applied that might bother some, but I don't find it very noticeable and I personally enjoy anything minty/menthol in my lip products. If you have an extensive lipstick collection, then you probably already own very similar colours and could pass on these. If I had to recommend just one, I'd probably say Elusive. I find warm, everyday, medium pinks hard to come by, and there's a slightly dusty, retro vibe that makes it that extra bit girly and complexion-brightening.