Why Clinique's Black Honey Lipstick Keeps Selling Out

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Since 1971, Clinique's Almost Lipstick in Black Honey has been a popular beauty staple for its moisturizing effect and sheer burgundy pigment that works across many skin tones. Although the lip product got a face-lift in 1989 when its pot packaging became a lipstick tube, it's managed to maintain popularity throughout decades and generations. 

Toward the end of the 2021 summer season, TikTokers pushed the product's popularity even further with glowing reviews causing it to sell out all year long and forcing many to search frantically for alternatives. Just scroll through the #cliniqueblackhoney tag on the app, which has over 26 million views, and you'll find countless people raving about the lipstick. 

But what has made the product so coveted for more than 40 years? "Its success lies in its color and formula: a sheer, moisturizing, red-raisin balm," New York City-based makeup artist Tommy explains. "When 1970s naturalism was a pendulum response to the makeup-rich '60s, Black Honey was unique at its debut because it answered a need for a you-but-better traditional lipstick that didn't necessarily make a statement or look like lipstick." 

When you open Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey, a deep burgundy is revealed. That somewhat intimidating color is deceptive, however, because it transforms into an almost-sheer mauve that melds with your natural lip color. As its name suggests, it's not quite a lipstick. It feels more like a tinted lip balm as it deposits a moisturizing layer of pigment with a glossy sheen. 

Below, a few Allure editors put the sheer burgundy tint to the test to see how it adapts to each of our lip colors.

On digital deputy editor Kara McGrath's medium-rose lips and fair skin, Black Honey looks like a mauve, which she loved because it merely enhanced her natural color. "I've heard great things about this product, but in my 32 years of life have never tried it," she says. "It definitely falls into the sheer-and-moisturizing category of lip products that I've been favoring lately over matte or full-coverage formulas."

The shade settled into a slightly brighter pink hue on beauty assistant Talia Guiterrez's naturally pink lips. She's a fan of nude tones, so Black Honey allowed her to move out of her comfort zone a little bit. She enjoyed how it "saturated my natural lip color with deeper tones." 

On my two-tone lips, which are a darker, purplish-brown on the top and a mixture of pink and purple on the bottom, the gothic shade became a sheer berry sheen that added a hint of pigment. It still looked natural, but you could tell I was wearing something

Tommy says that because this product is "uncomplicated," you can apply it straight from the tube, which is exactly what we all did. If you do want to use it with a lip pencil, he recommends using one that's close to your lip color or a bit darker. "I like to blot a layer of Black Honey with a tissue and reapply for extra color payoff, longevity, and hold," he says. "I've had clients who wear it alone or under clear gloss."

If you're uneasy about dark lipstick, the classic Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey is a perfect baby step: It's not too deep or dramatic, it works on nearly everybody, and the results are shiny and gorgeous. We gave it a Best of Beauty Award three times for a reason, after all, so it's no wonder that it's a best-seller for the brand. 

Courtesy of brand

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

For $20, you can get your hands on this lip product at ulta.com.

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