What Happened When I Wore 30 Different Lipsticks For 30 Days

Photographed by Tory Rust.
This story was originally published July 29, 2016.

What's the difference between a signature look and a rut?
That's the question that struck me one morning this past December as I swiped on my crimson lipstick — the same one I'd worn for the past three years. While I consider myself an adventurous person, it seemed that once I found a beauty look I loved, I stuck with it. And that look was a red lip.

It's so ingrained in my identity that it's even begun to announce itself before people meet me. My best friend who lives in L.A. once sent me a screenshot of a text from her friend. "I started following Maria on Instagram," the text read. "I love her daily red lip."

The idea of uniform dressing has always appealed to me, which is likely why I mostly dress in denim and black. But as a beauty editor, I'd tend to turn up my nose when someone started extolling signature beauty looks. "Makeup is about expression!" I'd cry. "You should constantly be experimenting!" And yet there I was, standing in my cold bathroom, swiping on the same damn MAC lipstick I'd worn since I was 23. Was I a hypocrite?

So I did what I always do — I went to DEFCON 1. (My mother says this is a problem with me.) I decided to wear a new lipstick every day for 30 days, regardless of whether my lips fell off in the process. I scoured the market for shades I loved and others that scared the crap out of me. And, like you do with any challenge, I set some ground rules:

1. I'd only wear red lipstick twice.
2. I couldn't repeat brands.
3. I had to wear black lipstick at least once.
4. I had to keep the lipstick on all day, no matter what.

Armed with 30 tubes of lipstick, I set out on a monthlong beauty identity crisis, changing up my look every single day. What I didn't expect is that something as simple as applying color to my lips would have such an impact on my daily life — or that there are so many insane lipstick shades out there. Would I go back to being a crimson devotee, or would I find love in a tube of black lipstick? Click through to find out — and to hear my unfiltered reviews (and see my swipes) of 30 must-try shades right now.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
I decided to kick off the challenge with a little theme: "I Love the '90s." Nude, brown, and peach-toned lips are a huge trend right now — but I hadn't tried them yet. (Bad beauty editor!)

Day 1
The first lipstick I swiped on was from the infamous Kylie Lip Kit, in Dolce K — a mid-tone, neutral brown — which left me pleasantly surprised. Aside from the overpowering smell (a cloyingly sweet vanilla), I truly dug the texture and how long it stuck to my lips. My fellow beauty editors gave me snaps on the shade, and I only had to reapply it once post-Shake Shack burger.

Day 2
While I'd heard great things about Wander Beauty, I wasn't all that familiar with its lipsticks, which was definitely part of the appeal. When I rubbed on Rose, a dusty pink, in the morning, I almost didn't believe I was wearing anything. The formula is super-sheer, which is great for gals who don't like in-your-face color. I am not one of them, but it turned out to be the perfect shade for a makeout-heavy date that evening.

Day 3
I am a massive fan of Urban Decay lipstick, so I was stoked about the brand's collaboration with Gwen Stefani. And since there was very little rhyme or reason to how I picked shades anyway, I chose Ex-Girlfriend simply because that's one of my favorite No Doubt songs. The sheer, blush hue looked amazing at first, but I found myself having to reapply it over and over again. It's a semi-matte, and it came off fairly quickly. Even so, it's still my new go-to brunch shade — even if it stains my coffee cup.

Day 4
Oh, Kat Von D. You and I share the same adoration of badass lip shades — and I especially love your Studded Kiss Lipstick in Chula, a perfect mix between burnt-orange and brown. Like all of Von D's matte lipsticks, it clung to my lips for hours. I felt so confident in this color that I brazenly walked up to a guy at the bar that night and started chatting him up (a rarity for me). I ended the night with a phone number and a new favorite hue on rotation. Was ditching my red lip already working in my favor?

Day 5
I rounded out my week of '90s hues with a tube from Charlotte Tilbury. Walk of Shame has a cheeky name, and the color payoff is brilliant. One layer coats your lips in a cool pinky-brown shade — although the pigment didn't really stick to the inner rim of my mouth. (Don't you hate that?) This is the perfect lipstick for the 9-to-5 girl who's headed to drinks after work and doesn't want to reapply.

From start to finish: Kylie Cosmetics Lip Kit in Dolce K, $29, currently sold out; Wander Beauty Up Close Lipstick in Rose, $24, available at Net-A-Porter; Urban Decay Gwen Stefani Lipstick in Ex-Girlfriend, $18, available at Urban Decay; Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Chula, $21, available at Sephora; Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Walk of Shame, $32, available at Charlotte Tilbury.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 6
After my whirlwind week of browns and taupes, I needed a little normalcy in my life. So I played one of my safety cards early and swiped on this sumptuous red from Marc Jacobs. This turned out to be a major mistake, because I immediately fell in love with the color.

Seriously, this may be my new favorite red. It's semi-matte, applies like a dream, and is insanely flattering. A girl on the subway actually took off her headphones and told me how much she liked the color. I nearly cried knowing I wouldn't be able to wear it again for another 24 days. Hey, the heart wants what it wants.

Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick in Dashing, $30, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 7
When I polled my coworkers about which shades I should absolutely try during my 30 days, our editorial assistant Mi-Anne Chan exclaimed, "Hot pink!" (a shade she'd never seen me wear). Hell, I don't even think I'd seen myself in a hot-pink lipstick.

So I gave this fuchsia hue from Lipstick Queen a try...and felt so not like myself, it was almost painful. But I reminded myself of why I was trying this challenge in the first place and soldiered on. I pressed on the pencil with my finger to create a stained effect, which actually turned out to be quite pretty. The formula was creamy and shockingly hydrating. Overall, it was a nice departure from my typical routine. It wasn't my favorite thing on the menu, but I'd order it again.

Lipstick Queen Cupid's Bow Lipstick in Eros, $22, available at Lipstick Queen.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 8
You guys — I'm horrible at resisting my vices and ended up using both of my bright-red lipstick cards in less than a week. This orange-red shade from Iman Cosmetics was a little glossier than what I'm used to. In fact, it felt more like a lip balm than a lipstick, which was a nice way to kiss my crimson obsession goodbye.

Iman Cosmetics Luxury Moisturizing Lipstick in Iman Red, $10.79, available at Walgreens.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 9
With both my red options exhausted, I fell into the loving arms of Tom Ford. I, like many other women on the planet, lose my shit over a Tom Ford lipstick. Instead of Black Orchid or Bruised Plum (two of my favorite shades), this time I went for Eddie — a metallic nude from his Lips & Boys collection. Once on my lips, Eddie looked like one of those Bonne Bell lip sheers we were all obsessed with in the '90s. It gave my lips a subtle sheen with just a blush of color. I'd love to try this layered over something else, like a deep-plum hue.

Tom Ford Beauty Lips & Boys Lip Color in Eddie, $35, available at Tom Ford.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 10
Consider this my lean-in day — the day I stopped bullshitting myself and finally got serious about this project. And all it took was this crazy blue hue from Anastasia Beverly Hills. I fought it the morning it was time to apply it. But, once I did, I was actually surprised that I didn't hate it. In fact, I kind of liked it — the blue made my hazel eyes pop.

On the subway, no one looked at me twice. (God, I love New York.) It did smear off a bunch when I was eating a burger for lunch, though. There was an ugly blue lipstick smudge on the bun that looked uncomfortably similar to mold, and my coworker Cat Quinn said the more I ate it, the more it smudged, and the more I looked like Harley Quinn. But, yo, she's a total badass, so I was pretty okay with that.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Paint, $20, available at Anastasia Beverly Hills.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 11
I'll admit it — I chose this lipstick because of the snakeskin detailing on the bullet. I mean, how cool is that? But I also picked it because, again, it's a departure from my typical red. I usually stay away from bricks and rubies, but this deep scarlet added a depth to my look that felt edgy and sexy — and made me wish I'd saved this for a weekend night at a dark bar, and not a weeknight of takeout Chinese at home.

One caveat, though. The applicator is quite curved and shallow, which makes for an awkward application process. But the color is so great, it's almost worth investing in a lip brush.

Laura Geller Iconic Baked Sculpting Lipstick in Fifth Ave. Ruby, $21, available at Laura Geller.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 12
I thought the Lipstick Queen pink was a bright pink — until I pulled out this little guy from Chosungah 22. Holy crap. I felt like my lips were announcing themselves whenever I walked into the room. I actually skipped my typical black cat-eye (another one of my makeup mainstays) because this neon hue was so pronounced. It may not be my new go-to, but if it's a bold lipstick you seek, look no further. Plus, you don't need a sharpener; just twist the bottom of the tube and fresh color rolls up.

Chosungah 22 Fullmoon Party Lipstick, $22, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 13
If I had to wear one lipstick brand for the rest of my life, it would be Bite Beauty. If I had to wear one type of lipstick for the rest of my life, it would be Bite Beauty's Matte Crème Lip Crayon. Why? It clings to lips like a liquid lipstick, but without the dry-mouth effect. Plus, the sharp pencil shape makes it a snap to apply.

I chose a bright-orange hue for day 13, and was impressed by how flattering it was. It had the impact of my standard red, but with a fresh new take. Consider me a tangerine convert.

Bite Beauty Matte Crème Lip Crayon in Blood Orange, $24, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 14
Dark brown can be a scary shade for some. (Ahem...) So, I was nervous when I picked up Elizabeth Arden's Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick in Chocolate. But there was a nice richness to this brown that kept it from skewing too goth — or too circa-1998. The shade slid on easily and stayed put for hours. If you're still nervous about the trend, like I was, this is the gateway color.

Elizabeth Arden Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick in Chocolate, $25, available at Elizabeth Arden.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 15
One thing I've learned from this challenge: Lipsticks change as you wear them throughout the day. Case in point: this shade from By Terry. In the tube, it looks like a dark wine hue, but once I swept it onto my lips, it turned more plum. And as the day wore on? It faded into this amazing neon purple with just a touch of pink. It was like a mood ring for my lips — and I totally dug it.

By Terry Sheer Rouge Hydra-Balm Fill & Plum Lipstick in Plum Plump Girl, $36, available at Beauty.com.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 16
I have to say, at the halfway mark I started to hit lipstick fatigue. Firstly, it's hard to put so much thought into your beauty routine every day. And secondly, just because you're wearing a bold lip doesn't necessarily mean you can ignore the rest of your makeup. Which is what I learned with this tube of Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Lipstick. I tried to just do mascara and this plum shade (skipping my typical concealer, brow powder, and blush) and I looked like a vampire. Not cute.

As for the color, I wasn't completely sold. It goes on somewhat dark, but isn't very buildable. It was, however, quite pretty after I blotted it with a tissue, creating a cool wine-stained effect.

Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid Lip Color in Possessed Plum, $7.99, available at Ulta.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 17
Day 17 taught me a valuable lesson: I look awful in coral. It's simply not my color. But, hey, I gave it a shot. And the lipstick in question — Flower Beauty Lipstick in Ginger Lily — was amazing otherwise. It's insanely pigmented for a formula that will cost you less than $8, and never feathered or separated. I'll definitely be trying it in a different shade.

Day 18
I had a hot date on day 18 and, when I sat down wearing this lavender hue, the guy was surprised. "I expected you in red lipstick," he said. "Your profile photos are all of you in red lipstick." I couldn't help but laugh, because he was right. I explained the challenge to him, and then asked what he thought about my current color — a CoverGirl shade called Divine Wine. He paused for a second to ponder, and then gave it two thumbs up. I wholeheartedly agree.

From left to right: Flower Beauty Kiss Stick High Shine Lip Color in Ginger Lily, $7.33, available at Walmart; COVERGIRL Colorlicious Lipstick in Divine Wine, $7.99, available at Drugstore.com.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 19
I've been a huge fan of OCC Lip Tar since my bartending days. The formula is so long-lasting that I'd swipe it on at 9 p.m. and it would still be clinging to my lips around 2 a.m. when I was counting the bills in my tip jar. I chose a color that was completely outside my comfort zone, and I think it showed. I looked a little washed out in this frosty taupe shade, but someone with a warmer skin tone may have been able to rock it better. I had a doctor's appointment on this day, and the nurse gave me a weird look. I may have looked like an alien, but I was a chic alien, okay?

Day 20
When it comes to finishes, I tend to stay away from metallics, shimmers, and glosses. Of course, I decided to try one of them for this challenge. This shimmering brick shade from Ramy Beauty Therapy looked normal in the tube, but once I swiped it on it turned into a cool, metallic crimson.

Day 21
I dreaded this day: the day I was supposed to wear black lipstick. It's funny, because there was a time in middle school when I'd sneakily apply black lipstick in my school bathroom. (I was in the middle of a pretty serious Hot Topic phase.) So, in true form, I waited until I was on the subway to swipe on this true black. The guy sitting across from me — a stuffy finance bro — stared at me the entire time. I gave him a wink.

Aside from the gross smear on my coffee cup, the black didn't wear any worse than a dark brown or a dark purple would have. It did, however, stick to the inner rim of my lips. (Seriously, can we get NASA on this or something?) I didn't get any strange looks at the office — but I do work at Refinery29, a place where off-the-wall fashion and beauty are encouraged.

From start to finish: Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar/RTW in Disintegration, $16, available at Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics; Ramy Beauty Therapy Lipstick in Berry Kissable, $17, available at Ramy Beauty Therapy; E.L.F. Moisturizing Lipstick in Black Out, $3, available at E.L.F.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 22
I was actually excited to try this emerald-green lipstick from ColourPop after my positive experience with the metallic blue. But this hue had different ideas for me. Firstly, the formula is a bit of a pain to apply — you really have to scrub and prep your lips, otherwise you'll see every flake. And, apparently, I didn't look as cool in green as I did in blue. Over brunch, my friend kept telling me I looked like I had made out with Oscar the Grouch.

ColourPop Ultra Matte Lips in Dr. M, $6, available at ColourPop.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 23
NARS Dominique is a shade I'd had in my arsenal for months. But, for whatever reason, I had never actually pulled it out to wear. Instead, it sat in my dresser collecting dust — that is, until day 23.

The shade is perfect for girls who hate pink. (Yours truly included.) It's somewhere between a rose and a cool violet, and I liked it so much that I felt guilty for banishing it to my drawer of misfit lipsticks. Can you forgive me, Dominique?

NARS Audacious Lipstick in Dominique, $32, available at NARS.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 24
Out of all the lipsticks in the entire challenge, I was most curious about this raspberry shade from Burt's Bees. First of all, it's the natural brand's initial foray into lipsticks. Second, I had basically sworn off berry hues after a particular shade looked horrible on me a few years ago. Regardless, I swiped away and surprisingly fell in love. The lipstick was moisturizing, just like the brand's cult-favorite lip balms, and the color made my face look a bit brighter. Was I finally deciding to betray my signature color?

Day 25
When MAC's Viva Glam collaboration with Ariana Grande came across my desk, I have to admit I rolled my eyes a little. But, kids, I friggin' LOVED this lipstick. It was a super-sexy, perfectly sultry dark purple that was amazing for an evening at a cocktail bar. Pairing it with a subtle contour and a black cat-eye, I felt like a million bucks.

Day 26
Having had such a great experience with metallic blue, I reached for another midnight shade — this time from Ardency Inn. And it rocked, but not for the reasons I had thought. This actually had all the qualities I was looking for in a black lipstick — rich with just the subtlest hint of blue that flattered my cool undertones. And it stuck to the inner rim of my lips — something the majority of dark lipsticks in this challenge were unable to do. Two gold stars for this guy.

From bottom left to top right: Burt's Bees Lipstick in Brimming Berry, $8.99, available at Target; MAC Lipstick in Viva Glam Ariana, $17, available at MAC; Ardency Inn Modster Long Play Supercharged Lip Color in Black Is Blue, $27, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 27
When I walked into the office with this lip color, my coworkers squealed with delight. "It's bright-orange!" said Chan. "I like it!" And, I have to say, I did too. The thing with red lipstick is that, after you wear it for a while, it becomes an old trick. People don't notice it anymore, because they're so used to seeing it. But no one could ignore this fluorescent orange from Kiko Milano. It announced itself in the best way possible.

Kiko Milano Unlimited Stylo Long-Lasting Lipstick in Orange, $9, available at Kiko Milano.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 28
This color reminded me of my mother, which is probably why I chose it. She's into those subversive purple colors that hit their peak in the 1980s. So, as an ode to her, I made sure my hair was extra big the day I wore this hue. It was intense — that slight sheen you see in the tube doesn't go away once you apply it to your lips. But I found myself having to warm up the formula on the back of my hand a bit before I smoothed it on; it's a little dry if you don't take that first step.

Inglot Cosmetics Lipstick Matte in 426, $15, available at Inglot Cosmetics.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 29
On the second-to-last day of this experiment, I went on a nice little museum date with the same guy who already knew about this challenge. When I showed up, he asked which number lipstick I was wearing. It was No. 29 — a really beautiful neutral from Milani Cosmetics. I picked it because it was a liquid lipstick, which would hopefully mean minimal fuss over the course of the date. And, I have to say, not only was the color a great peachy-pink, but I didn't have to reapply it the entire time we were together.

After our tour around the museum, the guy and I slid into the backseat of a cab to escape the snow, and he asked if that lipstick shade would come off all over his face if he tried to kiss me. (Spoiler: It didn't.)

Milani Cosmetics Amore Matte Lip Crème in Loved, $8.99, available at Milani Cosmetics.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Day 30
I had done it — I'd made it through 30 days without repeating a single lipstick. To celebrate, I reached for one of my favorite brands — Butter London — and swept it on with gusto. It wound up being the ideal shade to close out my month. It was bright, it was pink, and it was not something I would have worn before. This time, instead of feeling uncomfortable, I felt rad.

On day 31, I gave myself a break and slathered Eight Hour Cream on my lips. (Needless to say, they took a beating.) But I consider this experiment a total success. Applying different colors every day felt like putting on different personalities. I could be a cool girl, a goth girl, a girlie girl, or a working girl, all with an easy flick of pigment.

So now, even though I've gone back to wearing red most days, I've continued to experiment with other hues. I may never feel fully confident in a bright pink or an emerald green, but I know that there is an entire world of color out there for me to play with anytime I choose. Except, I'll probably skip the coral.

Butter London Plush Rush Lipstick in !!!, $22, available at Ulta.
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