Black Honey and Me


As Haley has pointed out eloquently and beautifully and Canadian-ly, there are some beauty products that we are told are The Best but are definitely not The Best, just because we’re all different and great in our own ways and there’s no way one blush will look great on literally everyone.

Clinique Black Honey is one of those products. Black Honey “Almost Lipstick” was introduced in 1989, though the color was introduced by Clinique back in 1971. It was touted as a “black turtleneck” of lipsticks, which apparently meant that it could look good on every skin tone, but which now seems ridiculous because almost NOBODY looks good in turtlenecks so why would you even make that comparison.

Black Honey doesn’t look good on everyone. But it looks great on me.

The first time I heard about Black Honey was from some celebrity tabloid. Madonna was wearing it, and I was the age where I was primed to be interested in makeup. It probably wasn’t even the color or the celebrity that made me curious, whatever color and celebrity that happened to show up that day would have done it. I was ready. My mom was also doing her best to introduce me to makeup slowly and kindly and without judgment, and soon after she brought home a tube for herself that she let me try.

It made me look old! In both a good and a bad way. In high school I always shied away from wearing skirts and makeup and fitted things because I thought they made me look like an adult, and I was supposed to look like a careless youth, which I translated to mean baggy, too-long jeans where I stepped through the back and my parents’ old t-shirts. I was afraid of looking old (I’m still afraid of looking old but that’s another post/therapy session), but Black Honey gave me a blip of getting it. I rubbed it into my cheeks as proto-blush and looked at myself and saw the appeal of womanhood. It was the first time makeup didn’t just feel like drawing on my face with crayons.

There was something about makeup that still scared me. Filling in my entire eyelid with black sparkly liner was one thing — my drag-like aesthetic was at least fun and childish, and it provided a mask. Actual makeup that was supposed to enhance your features wasn’t so appealing when I didn’t think there was anything about me worth enhancing. I feared that if I wore makeup I’d come off like I thought there was, that I’d get that attention I was supposed to want, and that everyone would see me and realize there wasn’t much there. I saved Black Honey for family gatherings and maybe going out on weekends.

Eventually I learned that a swipe of mascara didn’t make me look 30 years older, and then a Sephora opened near my high school and it was all over. Even though Black Honey is still like, the #1 selling lipstick every year and is now available in a nail polish and a cream eyeliner, it felt like a trend at the time. I figured I only liked it because that’s what everyone else liked, ditched it for something glossier when everyone else did, and forgot about it until a friend started working for Clinique a few years ago and could bring me free stuff. I think she laughed when I asked for it. And then it still looked great. I’m not sure if that’s because we’re in a 90s revival or because I was trying to recapture my teenage years, but it makes sense on my face.

What a strange selling point, though, to make a beauty product that would work for “every ethnicity.” I guess there are some products that are like that anyway, but to sell yourself on it is quite curious. It’s very indicative of how we considered (and often still consider) race — this idea that we are “one,” and that we should focus on the things that bring us together instead of drive us apart. In general, it’s an idea I agree with. Duh we’re all human and duh we all have our passions and our fears and duh we’re gonna die alone no matter how much lipstick we wear. We have a lot in common, but only focusing on those commonalities erases the differences where the pain and problems lie. There are rarely solutions that work for everyone, so we settle for solutions that work for the majority, forgetting that the tyranny of the majority is part of what got us here in the first place. It’s cute to say there is a product for “everyone,” because it lets us ignore about those problems we forgot to solve. We are the world! We are equal! Stop bringing up the differences, you’re harshing our vibe!

Umm this was supposed to be about lipstick?? Haha alright, tell me your favorite products in the comments!