No Shoes, No Gloss, No Service

May 29, 2012
By Carly Caudell BRONZE, Springville, Indiana
Carly Caudell BRONZE, Springville, Indiana
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

It’s in those tacky (and for some reason, sticky) one dollar bins in the checkout lane; it’s sold as a precious commodity at the counter of Sephora, a beloved posh salon. Its substance is something of a Frankenstein’s monster, with “ingredient” labels containing unpronounceable gibberish a la high school chemistry class. It’s shiny. It’s gloopy. And for me, it’s not just a badge of girlhood, an accessory; lip gloss is a lifestyle.

According to makeup historians, the popular brand Max Factor introduced lip gloss in the 1930’s to be featured on the big screen; the lacquer was applied to actresses appearing in silent films, since their naked lips weren’t considered glamorous enough. I glance down at the familiar, cylindrical shape bulging from my right pocket. Taking the punchy, pink tube from my pants, I wonder if it makes me more glamorous. I don’t really think so; I would have to be pretty glam by now, considering the fact that I have collected (a less guilty term I use in place of “hoarded”) over 50 tubes of the stuff. Most of the time, they sit idle in my bedroom, in a large canvas box adorned with brown stripes. But my little trinkets don’t go unloved; each morning, I select only one from the pile in hopes that it will reflect who I want to be that day.

If I’m feeling particularly nostalgic, I’ll grab the cylinder of Bonnebell’s Lipsmacker, an offensively oily but fruity balm created alongside the “girl power” youth of the mid nineties. As the first whiff of artificial strawberries ambushes my nostrils, inescapable but comforting memories of Barbies and beanie babies resurface. However, sometimes I feel a bit too mature for flavors such as “Vanilla Ice Cream Cake,” and opt instead for a cooler, more sophisticated medium- the C.O Bigelow Apothecary 2% Mint Oil Balm. Apparently, the longer and more medicinal the title, the older the target audience is. So, when the time seems right (for example, if I have an important test or presentation in school), I’ll snag that little minty gloss; I would like to think that a pair of shiny lips are second only to pencil skirts in female professionalism.

Then are those rare mornings when my eggs are frustratingly limp, I spill toothpaste on my collar, and my pants sag a bit too much, and I say, “I don’t care. Today is my day to look good and no one will judge my questionable taste in makeup!” So, I scour my lip gloss agglomeration for that perfect pill, the antidote to cure my insecurities. I finally spot it; it hides shyly from me, underneath its plainer sisters. My hand nearly shakes as I reach for it. This, reader, is L’Oreal Infallible 8-Hour Liquid Lip Gloss. Introduced several years ago in its home of Paris, France, this blood red paint (it transcends beyond being called a “gloss”) stains the lips with such tenacity, its effects supposedly last eight hours. That’s more than an entire school day of pretty chemicals on my mouth.

Apparently, I’m not the only one reaching for L’Oreal; as the most profitable cosmetic company in the United States, the industry churns out as many as thirty new products a year. I would like to think that a large part of their success is the simple fact that they’re centered in France. Girls, particularly teenagers, love the French; pastries, little black hats, and the Eiffel Tower are mainstays in a girl’s mind. But to me, the most lucrative and lovely of all French inventions is the red tinted Infallible.

However, it’s come to my attention that my obsession with thick, gloopy gloss may be hurting me; according to major studies conducted in California, wearing thick lip gloss results in light transmission; this allows the sun to penetrate deeper into the delicate layers of lips, increasing the risk of melanoma and other cancers. Normally, this would be alarming. However, I consider myself quite sun savvy, so I skip the glitter and wear the basic balm for outdoor occasions-Chapstick. No skin cancer for me.

With seemingly healthy lips intact, I find my seat on the school bus. As the yellow vehicle wheezes toward its next stop, I gingerly apply the Infallible with my right arm. One of the skinny fifth graders in front of me turns and stares while I smear the shiny red liquid onto my face. At this point, my lips are puckered as if I’ve eaten a package of lemon candies, so it’s safe to say that I look slightly ridiculous.

“Why are you wearing clown makeup?”
Oh, right. This is why I don’t like small children. But maybe she has a point. Do I really need lip gloss? It does provide me with a sense of comfort and confidence, and sometimes I wonder if that’s wrong. After all, shouldn’t confidence come from inside? (The inside of a plastic tube, maybe) So, I feel vaguely guilty as I reapply the Infallible; it’s sort of like burrowing your hand deeper into the box of Ritz Crackers, because you know that it won’t kill you, but it’s probably not good for long-term health. Then again, every morning at six o’clock, I find myself sifting through the pile, searching for myself in that canvas box.

The author's comments:
It's hard not to write about something that is liberally applied to your face everyday.

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