It doesn’t seem much to ask that, when I finish yet another lipstick, I can simply pop in a new bullet of colour rather than chuck the empty tube into recycling, or to landfill, where an estimated one billion lipstick containers end up each year. Finally, the growing demand for refillables is seeing some supply, albeit mostly at the pricey end of the market.
Newest, and right up my strasse, is Charlotte Tilbury’s Hot Lips 2 collection. These lipsticks (the same formula as Tilbury’s others, but named after her famous clients) come in characteristically overstated, decadent packaging – panthers, leopard print, deco stripes and glittery stars (all £28, including lipstick) – only this time, they’re for keeps. Made from satisfyingly weighty metal, the lids can be mixed between tubes for a cheering maximalist clash, and the refills (£19) simply click in and out. My favourites are Glowing Jen, a flattering tawny rose in tribute to Jennifer Aniston, and Red Hot Susan, an unusually muted orangey red that I’ll just have to forget is named after one political campaigner, Ms Sarandon, who unwittingly but idiotically helped Trump into the White House. More usefully, Tilbury has pledged to donate an impressive £1m from the sales of Hot Lips to the Women For Women charity, that helps women survivors of war and terrorism to rebuild their lives.
Unusually, the cheapest refillable is also the most sustainable: Lush makes the only completely plastic-free mass-market lipstick (£7.95 for the case; £8.50 for refills), and so I wanted to love it most. But while it’s perfect in its intentions, it is somewhat flawed in its delivery. It took me ages to get a good flow of colour after peeling off the wax outer (think cupboard-stale Biro), and the vegan shades, though broadly lovely (and available in finishes from sheer to matte), lacked definition.
Guerlain’s Rouge G refillable lipsticks are an older proposition, but utterly sublime. This time the peerlessly good-quality metal cases – incorporating a proper snap-up mirror – are sold separately for £14.50, and the shades for £24.50, so you can design your lipstick exactly as you wish. They make beautiful gifts and, though pricey, will last a lifetime.
Lacking that heirloom quality but delivering on stunning, moisturising, pigment-saturated colour, are Hourglass’s cruelty-free, and wonderful, Confession lipsticks (£31 complete; £20 for refills). The thin stylo-style bullet makes precise, neat application a cinch.
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