Virtual gatherings with my friends during lockdowns may have been a both a blessing and (in a few instances) torture. It’s not my friends, and to be honest it might not even be Zoom. At first, the weekly online seshes were a reprieve from the pandemic, seeing familiar faces and acknowledging that, yes, this situation is indeed !@#$ (Google doesn’t like swear words, sorry!). I also connected with friends I hadn’t spoken to or seen in years, as their moving and the distance got in the way. Suddenly meeting a friend for a drink had no boundaries, other than having the time, an agreeable 40 minutes that would be free on Zoom. But soon, very soon, I grew tired. It’s a lot. After a workday of meetings with colleagues across the province, then slapping on some lipstick to chat with friends blurred into the same feeling: Another damned virtual call?! So, when I saw the “make your own lipstick store” ads, I bit. Literally, as Bite Beauty Lip Lab moved swiftly their custom-lipstick-making parties online.
The virtual gathering that’s actually fun
I signed up my best FLEETSTREET friends for the Bite Beauty Lip Lab At Home Virtual Service. It sounds so formal, but I knew this was just the indulgent virtual event I needed to revive our regular online chats. (Or any virtual party for that matter, including showers and birthdays.)
I had thought about the cooking parties or an “invited guest” to lead a talk, but frankly, it all seemed like too much work with little reward. But a customized lip party was something that would be not only self-serving but also a little voyeuristic as I could see what my pals were getting too. Plus, the takeaway: My very own customized lipstick.
What you need to know about Bite Beauty Lip Lab
I won’t go all Wikipedia on you, but Bite Beauty is a cool brand to know about. First, it’s Canadian-founded and has always been sold at Sephora. I remember buying my first Bite Beauty lip pencil in a matte powdery pink at the Bloor Street Sephora, when other brands were going hard with glossy vibrant pinks (ahead of the lip curve, you could say). The company launched in 2012 as one of the few if only lipstick-first brands, a good four years before Kylie Jenner sold a single lip kit. The small-batch lipsticks were also made from natural ingredients. While you can buy vegan lipsticks from Bite Beauty, the Lip Lab lipsticks are not. Bite Beauty is also known for its cult-ish Agave lip balm. The at-home custom lipstick service launched in July 2020.
What happens at a Lip Lab party?
Well, first you have to book it. You do that online at liplabboutique.com. There are often promotions so check the homepage for a promo code (like “weekdaylip” for 10% off, at the time of writing this article). You select the virtual service for Canada or the U.S., depending on where you live, as that’s where your lippie will be created and shipped from.
You’ll also want to know the number of friends, including yourself, from just yourself up to you and five friends. More than that, and it’s considered a virtual “party” where a manager will reach out to help plan it. The custom lipsticks are $70 each ($60 US), and $50 ($40 US) for each additional lippie you order. Shipping is free when you order more than one lipstick for yourself (since you don’t live with your friends, obviously their lipsticks aren’t part of your order). But to be honest, it’s a reasonable price considering what a spa day, dinner and drinks out, and so on, would have costed.
Before you head over, make sure you have a couple of things ready first, including the dates and times you and your friends are available for the half-hour-ish call (or you can just hop on text to book it together), as well as their names and emails. And that’s it. Bring your credit card and your mailing address to the virtual gathering.
It’s lip party time!
What’s it like to make lipstick online? It’s a lot of fun. Hedyeh, our Zoom party host and store manager, led our lippie party. She was friendly and a great guide as we investigated the colours we each wanted. I asked for a pretty pinky red; Courtney went for a brighter red with an orange flavour, and Beth wanted the perfect pink mauve.
Hedyeh went through the process for each of us, one at a time. Blending pigments with some expected and unexpected colours, including black and white (which now make sense for tone). It’s like watching an oil-painter-slash-ASMR influencer at the same time, crushing and swirling lipstick colours on a laminate palette. We all sit in silence, until Courtney admits that she’s mesmerized by the process. Hedyeh said, when she first started doing the virtual gatherings for Bite, she worried the silence meant people weren’t engaged. But she learned that it was the total opposite.
Oh, the stories – lipstick chronicles!
Throughout, we asked about the most-out-there lipstick she created (a greenish black) and the most common request: the perfect nude (“it’s your lip colour, but better,” she says). We were also curious about what everyone’s been asking for since the pandemic hit and we’re all mask clad? Red. For real. We were all surprised – until we realized that each of us walked away from our virtual call with at least one red. Even Beth, who’s not a fan of the colour on herself.
“It’s a fun way to connect with friends and feel 100 per cent safe while doing something new – not an easy feat during the pandemic,” said Beth, afterwards. “Plus, getting your goodies in the mail a few days later is just so much fun. I love that Hedyeh encouraged me to try a colour that’s outside my comfort zone. By custom-blending bits of pink – my go-to – with red – my never-go-to – I feel like I can pull off this new shade with confidence.”
Screen grab your swatches!
Next, Hedyeh posted a photo on the call of the swatch in good light to see the true colours. If approved, then we picked the finish, from matte, satin and luminous textures. As well as scents, too, choosing vanilla, citrus mango, lime and mint. Each, in the same order, Hedyeh described them as: “exactly as you’d expect it to smell,” “my favourite,” “like a lime sucker,” and “fresh mint.” And finally, you choose your engraving for the bullet lid. We obviously, chose FLEETSTREET for one of our two picks each.
“Hedyeh mixed up a sheer but buildable shade of vibrant red for me, that’s perfect for spring,” Courtney shared with me. “But what I really loved was hearing the anecdotes of clients bringing in long-discontinued lipsticks, ones that were deeply nostalgic and sentimental. Makeup is so personal. And knowing Bite has this capability is a small comfort that might get me to stop hoarding my favourite shades.” Hedyeh shared tearjerkers that some will create colours from their youth or shades/scents that moms had worn.
Seeing what we each created had us each Jonesing over the others’ creations. So, we each walked away with more than one, including Beth and her unexpected red!
Virtual online party ideas
It goes without saying that you could arrange Lip Lab virtual get-together with your friends for a variety of occasions. Think: A surprise birthday party, a bridal shower or even an untraditional baby shower. (Some women do plan to wear makeup for their delivery room photos). Here are some of my recommendations to make this very interactive experience even more of a blast.
Make it a full evening or afternoon
- Plan a Zoom with your friends for a half-hour before. It’s like meeting up for drinks before heading for dinner. There, you can do your makeup together, if your friendship allows for bare-faced exposure. You can help each other choose the lipsticks you will wear for the Lip Lab call. Clink glasses and toast the person you are celebrating. Talk about your lipstick inspo. Maybe it’s a magazine tear (remember those) or a screengrab from Pinterest? Or a colour you’ve always wanted to try but couldn’t find the right tone for your skin colour. A discontinued lippy you’ve been craving for years. Also, you can also screenshare with a quick tutorial on how to upload backgrounds to your Zoom accounts, too!
- Plan a game during the actual lipstick making. Maybe it’s a dare every time someone says “red.” Do a colour-personality reading when a pal decides on her lipstick of choice. Or do a couple of beauty pop-quiz questions between your lipstick swatches (or any type of quiz that suits you and your friends).
- Instead of letting your call end when your host heads to his or her next virtual gathering, get back on another Zoom link. This is when you can chat about your experiences, your colour picks, and just round out the end of a good time.
As for this Bite Beauty Lip Lab review: We all gave it five stars. I love my custom lip colours. The personalized engraving on both. And to fulfill that ASMR need from Hedyeh’s swatching, I enjoy the magnetic click of my new lipstick cases. Swoon.
As Courtney told me: “It’s a virtual way to socialize that avoids all the trappings of regular Zoom hangs. Instead of getting trapped in a cycle of ‘what’s new?’ – uh, literally nothing – you can enjoy the simple pleasure of watching someone make a treat just for you. It reminded me of the way we used to saddle up to a bar and chat with the bartender, while they whipped up custom cocktail in the old days, sigh. Just like that cocktail, you can give feedback about what you like, what you don’t, and watch them take the lead creating something entirely unique.”