Friday, April 29, 2016

What's in a dupe? Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry vs. Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Touch of Spice

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Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry vs. Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Touch of Spice

During last fall and early this winter, I kept reading recommendations for Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry from reliable sources and seeing Instagram posts of people wearing it and looking stunning. I became convinced that I needed it, despite my previously less-than-stellar experiences with two of the lipsticks in that line: Elusive (reviewed here) and Striking (reviewed here). Surely if so many sensible people liked Sultry, there must be something to it. And indeed, the performance of Sultry is vastly better than the other two matte balms, both in terms of application (not streaky) and wear (not patchy).

But when I got it home and put it on, something seemed eerily familiar. Oh shit, I bought a dupe! Why did I want this when I already had the very similar Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Touch of Spice? You can see from the swatches below that they are quite close.

Swatch Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry vs. Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Touch of Spice

They're not identical, but they fit into the same basic category. Touch of Spice (left) is a more brown/neutral with a little grey, while Sultry has some more plummy-red in it.

On my face, the difference is subtle, but one lipstick is noticeably more flattering on me than the other. The second time I wore Sultry, I had also been playing around with some subtle contouring. When I looked at my face in the bathroom mirror, it looked kind of dirty, and I thought I had messed up the contouring. But then I got to thinking about how similar my new lipstick was to Touch of Spice and decided to remove Sultry and replace it with the Maybelline lipstick to compare. All of the sudden, my contouring looked fine. I looked healthier. As it turns out, the subtle difference in the two lipsticks makes a real difference when I wear them.

I don't know how much the effects are visible in the brightly-lit photos below (not taken on the day I did the contouring), because I think the Revlon lipstick (in the second photo) looks better here than it does in person. Sultry is okay on me, but it tend to makes my skin appear a bit sallow while bringing out redness at the same time, and it makes my dark circles darker. It's not the most flattering. I can get away with it, but it's not ideal.

Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Touch of Spice (and smudgy glasses)
Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry
On my coloring, Touch of Spice looks like a neutral, if a fairly bold/dark one (bolder in person than in a photo, as with most lipsticks). It's no surprise that it works for me, since lip colors with a bit of grey in them tend to flatter me. Sultry, on the other hand, is much more red/pink. It's hard to know how to avoid shades like this that are just a little off--what exactly is it in Sultry that means it doesn't get along with my coloring? I think that my skin tone is neutral leaning warm (many bases are too yellow or too pink for me), but then shouldn't a warm, reddish-plum work for me? Apparently not. And Nars Cruella, often lauded as a "universally flattering red" and beloved by many a warm- or olive-toned person, gives me the same slightly sickly look. There must be an elusive undertone in my face that I'm missing. This is some elusive, high-level, makeup magic that I have not mastered.

Since I already owned Touch of Spice, and Sultry is so similar, it was an unnecessary purchase. The fact that Sultry isn't very flattering on me makes it doubly so. So while my first impression was that I had made a mistake because these two lipsticks were practically dupes, it's actually the differences between them that make one or the other especially redundant. I would suggest that if you already have one of these, and you like it, there is no need to buy the other--you might be disappointed. If you are thinking about replacing one with the other because you prefer a different formula or packaging, you might find that the difference between them is enough that you won't be satisfied with the other one. If you have one of these and don't love it, however, but you still want something in that general color family, you might find that the other works well for you. (Is that clear?)

These two lipsticks are similar in formula and finish. I love the formula of the Maybelline Creamy Mattes, which I find easy to apply straight from the bullet, and which stay in place for a long time. Revlon Sultry is a bit thinner and slipperier, so Touch of Spice wears better for me. Sultry is also slightly more drying. The Maybelline lipstick has a light scent that reminds of Play-Doh for some reason, but isn't like the gross fragrance of the Vivid Matte Liquid, and I only smell it while I'm actually applying it. The Revlon lipstick is a bit minty and tingly.

Do you have either or both of these lipsticks? I'm especially curious if anyone has had a similar experience to mine with Sultry. Maybe you can help me narrow down what I need to try to avoid in lipstick shades--or help me to understand my undertones better. In the meantime, I'll have to keep buying lipsticks at stores with good return policies. (Though I never returned Sultry, because it kind of works and is such a lovely color. I can usually only be motivated to return truly terrible products).


  1. I'm one of the Sultry people and often thought of getting Touch of Spice as well! But I can't stand the smell of Maybelline lipsticks, so that was that.

    I think both look great on you and it's hard to tell the difference on the face. Also, loving the waves in your hair!

    1. Yes, you were definitely one of the ones making me covet Sultry! Normally it's a good thing when my photos look more flattering than reality, but I think here it fails to convey my point haha.

      The hair here was practice wedding hair. I like the waves too, but my hair is so stubbornly straight that it takes a lot of work just for this. I have to sleep in soft curlers and ALSO curl it with a wand. Normally I am way too lazy for that.

  2. I chose Touch of Spice between the two (I was aware that they were almost-dupes) because it was a bit more brown and I have enough rosy-red lipsticks but no brown ones. I really like it, and the slightly more subdued colour makes it semi-natural. Mine also smells vaguely like vanilla, even though I always though Maybelline lipsticks smelt like plastic!

    I think that the bit of grey in Touch of Spice makes it more flattering on you. IS it just me or is Sultry a bit yellower, is that the reason why it makes you look sickly?

    1. I didn't get vanilla from the scent--mine does seem more plasticky. But I can't smell it after it's been applied, so I don't really mind. Maybe yellow is the problem? Yellowish-orange lipsticks usually don't work on me. I'm having a hard time seeing yellow in the swatch, though. So confusing!

  3. It's crazy how these colors look almost vampy on you! And gorgeous, I mean!--just that I also own Touch of Spice, and on me it's definitely a lighter rosy brown.

    That said, I totally feel you on the 'two colors with a hair's width of difference looking completely different on your actual face' thing. I once had a lipstick that to my eyes washed me out, and at first I thought I was just being a drama queen and looking for an excuse to buy more lipstick--but then I got one that was just a tad darker and it was absolutely perfect. Weird.

  4. Touch of Spice is the perfect rosy MLBB shade on my skin tone. Already owned it; but was crazily looking for Sultry here in India after catching it on a pink-must-haves video. My search has ended... Thank you!


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