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Green Lipstick Is A Neutral, & Other Lessons From NYX Cosmetics

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Green lipstick is not for everyone. Even if you've got some screenshots of Rihanna's sea-punk days floating around somewhere on your desktop, it's going to take some courage to recreate. So when a bevy of NYX Maccaron Lippies debuted last summer—in colors like green, yes, but also lavender, black, and yellow—the first reaction was intrigue—followed by hesitant application, and then an application that was stunningly smooth and comfortable. Prompting us to ask ourselves, first why we hadn't paid more attention to NYX, and second, how on earth it got so good for so little money? What follows is the result of our investigation.

Though NYX may be known well in suburbia, metropolitan drugstore cowboys may have only heard tales of the elusive brand. Is it N-Y-X, like N-Y-C, or Niks? (It's 'niks,' in reference to the Greek goddess of the night). Where can you find it? What's their story? Every luxury brand has a romantic backstory that makes buying a lipstick something more meaningful—take Chanel's Rouge Coco lipsticks, named after the loves in her life. So if there's something behind Chanel's Arther “Boy' Capel, there's got to be some intriguing details that come with a lipstick called Dirty Talk...

NYX Cosmetics started small 1999 by founder Toni Ko. The brand was initially only available to professionals through trade shows. “We really grew by word of mouth,” said Joyce Kim, NYX's global director of product development. The company's Los Angeles home base made it readily available to the burgeoning makeup artist community (evidence of this is now all over YouTube tutorials), as well as the movie industry. “We were small, so we just made sure that we were always at these relevant trade shows. As we started to grow and have more of a presence, I’ve had so many people come to me and tell me, ‘When I was just starting out, I could only afford drugstore brands and found you, and it’s just been a great payoff.'' Nowadays, NYX falls under the L'Oréal conglomerate (a move made in 2014) and can be found at Ulta, Target, Urban Outfitters, some CVSs, and independent beauty supply stores nationwide as well as internationally.

While some brands run a tight-lipped operation on the product development side of things, NYX invites bloggers and YouTube makeup gurus to the company's headquarters in LA to consult with when launching new products, colors, and formulas. “We’re not asking them to give us good reviews,” Joyce said. “We’re asking them to give us something really authentic, and to see that they love our products or that they enjoy the color payoff and it’s working, that's what's satisfying,” she said. “So we want to make sure that every launch is with purpose and has exactly what a consumer is looking for, which at the end is just really great quality at a great, affordable price,” As for the eventual product, it's function over form. In order to keep the brand high-quality but affordable, the packaging is simple and black. Luckily, their two million followers on Instagram don't care.

Neither do the award winners at NYX's own Fine Artistry of Cosmetic Elites Awards (FACE if you're savvy). Launched in 2012, the FACE Awards is now something along the lines of the YouTube makeup community's yearly prom-meets-American Idol. “We started seeing a lot of content obviously generated online through YouTube tutorials and hauls, overhauls, and reviews on products where people were really talking about NYX,” Joyce said about the inspiration for the annual event. “They're using the products in ways that we hadn’t even known that people were using them,” Makeup artists go through rounds of challenges, and at the end of it all, an award show presents the big winner with a $25,000 prize. Five finalists also get $1,000 worth of NYX—that's a lot of NYX Jumbo Eye Pencils.

But back to those Crayola-colored Maccaron Lippies. Launched as a quick promo to catch summer 2014, now Joyce said they'll now be around until people don't want them anymore.“It’s funny because if you were to show me a year ago somebody wearing blue lipstick, we would probably be like ‘What the hell is going on right now?’' she said. “But now it’s so normal to see somebody rocking a blue lip, green lip, or even gray lip,” Beyond that, Joyce said the brands aims to launch 200 to 300 shades a year within 20 products. This year’s release of their High Voltage Lipstick featured 22 shades, while an extension of their popular Butter Glosses, the Intense Butter Glosses, came out with 12 additional shades. “We want to make sure that any person, any race, color, background, age is going to be able to find some shade that is going to work for their complexion,” Joyce said. “But you don’t have to be this super-charged makeup guru that wants to do a full-face makeover every day. You can be the girl that’s just on the run that wants to make sure her brows, mascara, and lip gloss are done. We want to make sure they can find all that stuff at NYX,”

Photographed by Tom Newton.