It’s the chameleon of lipsticks.
Welcome to Editorialist’s “Hype or Holy Grail”—a biweekly series where our beauty editors test cult-favorite beauty products to determine if they’re all hype or truly a holy grail product worth your hard-earned cash.
What if I told you that there is a lipstick that embodies the same mystical spirit as the one-size-fits-all jeans in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? According to TikTok, there is, and it looks incredible on all skin tones. It’s been glossing lips since 1971, and your mother (and grandmother) probably have it in their makeup bags. It’s Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. Thanks to TikTok (where all beauty trends are born), Black Honey has gone viral, and those sleeping on it are now woke to this universally flattering lipstick.
What exactly propelled Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey into TikTok fame? Surprisingly enough, Liv Tyler and The Lord of the Rings. Throughout the movie, Tyler’s pout was swiped with the most perfect shade of sheer plum. Decades later, cosplayers have been on the hunt for that exact shade to recreate Arwen’s alluring aesthetic. They’ve taken to TikTok to chronicle their search, and in a span of a few months, #CliniqueBlackHoney garnered over 29 million views. Just like that, something that’s been around for over four decades is cool again. To find out whether or not it was worth the hype and to determine if it really has the chameleon-like ability to look good on everyone, I put this must-have lipstick to the test.
- Smooth consistency
- Universally flattering shade
- Balm-like texture
- Sells out quickly
- Fades after a few hours
More Products We Put to the Test
About Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey
When Black Honey first hit the scene, it was packaged in a tiny round pot. Back then, people treated it more like a gloss, so they used their fingers to apply. It now lives in a sleek, long silver tube, and its formulation has received a slight upgrade. Black Honey is a lipstick, gloss, and balm hybrid that is Clinique’s best-selling product (even before its TikTok fame) thanks to the universally flattering shade that looks stunning on everyone. Straight out of the tube, it appears goth-like and almost black (hence, the name). However, the dark pigment is transparent and glides on sheer, adjusting to the shade of your natural lips. Its emollient-rich texture gives lips a soft wash of color and keeps them hydrated throughout the day.
That’s a great selling point for me, as I’m always reaching for a lip balm during the dry winter months. However, I’m a far cry from Liv Tyler and her creamy porcelain skin. So I had to wonder if this sheer shade would translate well on my paper brown skin.
Editor-Approved Beauty Tools
Without makeup, my complexion can appear mellow and dullish-brown. Without lipstick, my lips vanish altogether, and I get asked questions like, “Are you feeling okay?” So, I have to swipe something on my lips to look like I’m surviving and thriving. Don’t ask me to do a full-on lip every day, though—because, let’s face it, I’m lazy.
I like Black Honey because it’s uncomplicated. You don’t need a liner, a steady hand, or even a mirror to apply it. Just swipe the lipstick straight from the tube, and you’re good to go. As for the dark color? When I first opened it up, my initial thought was, this may be better suited for Halloween. Indeed, the shade is so moody I felt like I was in an Anne Rice novel. However, as the TikTokers said, the lipstick swiped on sheer and transformed into a soft berry tint. Black Honey saturated my lips with a deeper, more natural-looking tone that gave me that coveted no-makeup-makeup look.
I also love that when the color faded (after a few hours), it never left me with that weird half-on half-off look that appears sloppy and unkempt. After eating, drinking, and kissing my husband and kids, my lips always kept a nice subtle tint. Black Honey also gave my lips a healthy-looking shine and kept them moisturized all day, even better than my go-to balm.
Final Verdict: Holy Grail
The only downside of Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey is that it keeps selling out. If you can get your hands on a tube, I guarantee that you’ll have little regret. The transparent shade will adjust beautifully to your natural color, and it will not overpower your lips. It has a smooth and lightweight application that feels great against your skin and, in some cases, works even better than a lip balm. It’s the ideal pick for someone who wants a fresh wash of color without applying a precise lip.
If you can’t get your hands on this holy grail pick, don’t fret. I recommend some fantastic dupes that deliver almost the same look, feel, and texture as Black Honey. Chanel’s Les Beiges Healthy Glow Lip Balm in Deep is an amazing alternative and has a sheer balm-like consistency that is buildable in coverage. You also can’t go wrong with Ilia’s Balmy Tint Hydrating Lip Balm in Lady. It’s a pigmented and moisturizing balm that resembles a natural finish, leaving your lips smooth and moisturized.
If you do manage to get Black Honey in your makeup bag, hold on tight to it and get ready for endless compliments on your pout. This lipstick will remain a classic, even after the fanfare subsides.