Welcome back to Point/Counterpoint—everybody's favorite intermittent beauty debate column. Given this showdown only comes around once in a blue moon, let's have the big conversations: eye look or lip look? Any makeup artist will tell you, just pick one at a time! And ITG’s editors have some thoughts on which that should be. Arguing in favor of a rouge'd lip is Ali Oshinsky, who could play Jenga with the lipsticks she has in her bag at any one time. On the other side of the aisle is Ashley Weatherford, eyeliner fanatic. Fists up, folks. It’s time to sling some mud.
Point, from Ali: You know that children’s book When You Give A Mouse A Cookie? That’s how I feel about eye looks. You start with an eyeshadow, and oh wait! It’ll look better if you lay down some primer. Then you need mascara. You’ll probably want to add liner. I know you’re going to say that lipstick is fussy, Ashley, but is there anything fussier than a countertop covered in dirty brushes after you’ve been messing with one cubic centimeter of skin for 20 minutes? Plus, an eye look is never just an eye look. An eye look without anything else is… well, Jia Tolentino said it best in her Top Shelf: “There’s a real shift between being an adolescent to being an adult, where you go from wearing a heavy eye and nothing on your lips, to realizing that you can do the opposite and look a lot better.”
A bold lip and bare skin go together like Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya on a red carpet. You literally don’t need anything else. In fact, that’s probably when lipstick looks best. During the work week, what a perfectly worn-in blazer does when thrown over a sweatsuit, lipstick does for sweaty gym hair and sat-at-a-desk-all-day wrinkles. You don’t even need a mirror (or a YouTube tutorial) to apply it! Whip the little bullet out from your pocket, swipe it on, add a few smudgy dabs with your finger and you’re pretty much good to go. Outfit saved. Where to next?
Here’s another thought I just had: what has eyeshadow ever done for your eyelids? Because the right lipstick can do a lot for your lips. These days, you don’t need to sacrifice high pigment with high moisturization; when you wipe your lip color off, your lips should feel even softer. And if lipstick leaves anything behind, it’s just a flattering stain. Not only is eyeshadow a pain to apply, it’s also a pain to take off. You need a whole other cleanser to do it. You’ve got to be gentle, so as not to tear your lashes out, yet thorough. And even when you feel like you’ve gotten it all off, there’s always something hidden between your eyelashes that comes off on your pillow. Is that just a me thing? I’ve got to think it’s universal.
Is there anything else I’m forgetting? For the aesthete: lipstick tubes are beautiful, and reapplying it is glamorous. For the budgeter: you can get a really good one for really cheap. For the one with a fear of commitment: put one on when you leave the house, and if you realize an hour later it’s not what you want, just switch to a different shade. You can literally carry six with you at once. I do it all the time!
Counterpoint, from Ashley: I actually love a bold lip look. But like flat lays or latte art, bold lips aren’t made for real life. Or, at the very least, they aren’t made to last for long. After those first few minutes of bliss, reality settles in, because you’ve got to maintain those smackers. Everyone knows the tricky exercise of eating or drinking with a full-on lip, but my God, you can also hardly talk. If you’re lucky you have no idea what I’m talking about, but if you’re like the rest of us, mere conversation while bold-lipping is a lesson in anxiety. What if that weird mouth-corner salvia starts creeping up, or what if some pigment transfers to your teeth? Look! You caught someone gazing upon your top row. Are they admiring your work or taking note of some color gone astray?
So there are a lot of negatives about a lip look, but let’s talk about the positives of eyes. Sure, you could make it ultra-complicated, if that’s your thing, but a great eye look truly requires only one product: eyeliner. It could be a cat-eye if you’re feeling frisky, or just some kohl smudged in between your lashes does the trick. It doesn’t even need to look perfect; smudging is so in. A line up top, a line below, and boom, presto, you look twice as put-together as you did 2 minutes ago.
Now that we as a society have escaped the prison of smoky eyes, eyeshadow is also a lot easier to handle. A few swipes of a liquid one and you’ve got a look, just like lipstick. But unlike lipstick, eyeshadows keep for much longer. That palette that you’ve had for years? Try saying that about lipstick; after a while, the incessant reapplication really adds up.
At the end of the night, it’s true that lipstick is easier to take off. But again, that’s because lipstick is not built to last! And it’s not like an eye is impossible to wash off. Take 30 seconds to remove it with a bi-phase cleanser, or wash your lids and your face with an oil one. Sometimes knowing that I’ll stain my sheets with eye makeup is the only thing that motivates me to get up and do my nighttime routine—and my skin’s all the better for it. But there are a few nights where I can’t be bothered at all. Oh well, it’s just makeup.
Photo via ITG