Sometimes, you can browse sites like Sephora and Ulta for only so long before everything starts looking the same. It happened to me while I was impatiently waiting for fall things to debut. By August, I had such a dying hunger for fall colors, I thought I was going to lose my mind. That’s about the time indie cosmetics companies entered my life. If you are on the hunt for something truly unique, there is a plethora of small cosmetics businesses out there that are based on various themes, and it’s fun to see the types of things people come up with. There is no doubt just about anyone can find exactly what they need in the world of indie cosmetics.
Portland Black Lipstick Company is best known for its unconventional lipstick shades. Silver? Gold? Green? Purple? Blue? They’ve got it all (and a few other products, too). The best part about ordering from a smaller company like this is that can you purchase reasonably priced samples before taking the plunge on a full-size product only to find it didn’t work out for you. While I don’t usually go around wearing completely off-the-wall shades on my lips, I was interested in trying some of their red-toned shades since they are a little more unusual than what you might find anywhere else, so I purchased samples of all the ones they had for $2 each. The full sizes are sold in lip balm tubes for $12 each.
From left to right:
Undead Red-A reddish, chocolate brown with a hint of plum.
Blood Red-A warm, reddish brown. The color of-you guessed it-blood.
This Corrosion-The exact color of rust.
Bug’s Blood-A hot pinkish red.
Irony-A metallic burgundy.
Lux et Voluptas-A shimmery rose gold with a pink base.
I don’t normally wear a red this dark, but after trying this, I just might start. Undead Red is very balmy and slippery like chapstick. It has a slightly sheer application, almost like a tinted balm, but can be built up. It’s perfect for a dramatic fall or winter look.
Blood Red is one of my favorites. It’s opaque and applies evenly just like a regular lipstick. It’s dark, but has the perfect amount of red in it for those who may be a little wary of trying a really bold and dark lip color.
This Corrosion is, unexpectedly, my absolute favorite out of the samples I purchased. It adds an amazing pop of color to my face and compliments my skin tone. The 19-year old goth girl inside of me starts hearing that Sisters of Mercy song that shares the same name every time I see the packaging.
The appropriately named Bug’s Blood contains carmine, a red pigment produced from some species of scale insects. Since it has been known to cause allergic reactions in some people, it’s always a good idea to test it on a small area before using it on your lips. The color is so sheer, I found it difficult to apply with a brush because it kept looking streaky, but I can’t imagine this being an issue when applying straight from the tube.
Irony has a balmy feel and applies opaque and evenly. It’s a nice color and easy to work with, but I found it much too metallic for my taste.
Lux et Voluptas, meaning “light and pleasure”, was the shade I was looking forward to the most and ended up liking the least. It has a very chunky, glittery feel and smells like craft supplies. It makes my lips blend into the rest of my face, leaving no contrast to balance everything out. It could be a nice, sheer finish over a darker color, but alone, it just isn’t flattering on me. I also found it insanely difficult to remove. Like Bug’s Blood, it contains carmine, so it’s a good idea to test it out first.
Bad Penny is like the metallic, coppery cousin of This Corrosion. This is the only one with a metallic/shimmery finish that I felt didn’t go overboard. It’s just the right amount to add some dimension. It has that same balmy feel as Irony and is opaque and easy to apply.
Overall, I really enjoyed trying Portland Black Lipstick Company lipsticks. It was a breath of fresh air to try something a little different, and with Undead Red, Blood Red, and This Corrosion, I am ready for fall! I favored the solid shades over the shimmery/metallic ones, but that is just personal preference. I feel that most of them performed really well, but the solids seemed to last longer than the others. None of the shades settled into the lines on my lips or created any weird highlighting as a result of that.
As for my purchasing experience, it was a little complicated. To start with, the Portland Black Lipstick Company website doesn’t have any actual swatches for the lipsticks. Instead, it’s a colored box that, more often than not, is a color that is not even close to the actual lipstick shade. You’ll have to do quite a bit of Googling unless you’re the type of person that likes to fill up virtual shopping carts all willy-nilly. There is a page on the website featuring employees wearing a handful of the shades, but the picture quality isn’t very good and it doesn’t show all of the colors.
Also, if you’re like me and you like to flip back and forth between the shop and the shopping cart to see what you’ve already added and what you still need to look at, there isn’t a link to do it. To get to the shopping cart, you have to add something. When I was ready to make my purchase, I had to add something else to my cart and then remove it just to get there. These kinds of issues seem pretty common when ordering from indie cosmetics websites, but some of them can be easily fixed (like the swatch situation).
As for the arrival, three weeks passed and I still did not receive a shipping confirmation, so I contacted them and quickly got a very personal response and apology for the order being so late because they were apparently swamped with orders at the time. The order was shipped the next day and arrived in less than a week. I can easily look past the fact that sometimes things might slip through the cracks due to this not being a huge company with tons of people keeping up with everything because the product quality and the customer service are pretty stellar. It would definitely do them a world of good to add swatches and improve some of the difficulties with the website, but if they’re so overwhelmed as it is, maybe that is not the priority for them right now.