This Valentine's Day, women are once again faced with the challenge of finding that fabulous lip color that's going to stick with you -- and on your lips -- through dinner and beyond.
We decided to test 10 lipsticks in sexy shades of red to find out which brand is going to be a gal's best friend on this night of romance. We subjected the lip colors to two tests:
* "Dinner," which involved slurping up five forkfuls of pasta and taking five sips of wine.
* "Kissing," which wasn't as sexy as it sounds. It involved roughly pressing lips to the back of the hand three times.
What we found was surprising: Paying a high price didn't necessarily buy longevity. In fact, some of the longest-lasting lip colors were under $10 and are available at drug stores.
Tips on making color last
Lipstick experts have just one tip for those determined to make their lip color last: "Don't eat."
"If you're just wearing a regular lipstick with nothing on top of it, I would say you're lucky if you last two or three hours," said Molly Nover, Sephora beauty expert. "It will come off when you eat."
So, if you're looking for staying color, here are Nover's tips:
* Prep your lips a few days before the big date by gently scrubbing them with a toothbrush to exfoliate them. Then apply a thick layer of moisturizing lip balm every night before you sleep.
* Choose a matte lip color -- it's more likely to stay on.
* Before dinner, dust your lips and the area around your mouth with a translucent powder. This will prevent your lipstick from bleeding into the lines around your lips and give your color something to adhere to.
* Use a lip liner to line and fill in your lips. This will give your lipstick another base to adhere to, and if your lip color wears off, you will still have the color of your lip pencil underneath.
* Use a makeup sealant, which is a clear liquid that goes on top of the lipstick. Makeup artists use this product, which acts as a glue to keep makeup from melting or smudging, for photo shoots. It should last six to eight hours, even through meals.
What makes lipstick stick?
Jane Hollenberg, a cosmetics consultant who worked on lip products at Coty and Revlon for almost 10 years, said lipsticks with a "transfer resistant" formula tend to last the longest.
"A normal lipstick has about 20 percent wax, 3 to 7 percent pigment and the rest of it is oil that never dries on the lips," Hollenberg said. Transfer resistant lipsticks -- which were developed in the early 1990s -- "are high in volatile oil and about 40 percent of it evaporates quickly, leaving behind a film on your lips that's mostly pigment, wax and only very little oil. So it applies nice and smooth but it sets and dries on your lips."
The problem with these lipsticks, Hollenberg said, is that they don't offer moisturizing protection. However, Cover Girl -- which Hollenberg accurately predicted would be the longest lasting lip color -- dealt with the problem by providing a tube of lip gloss to add moisture throughout the day.
Here are our findings. Smooch ratings show which stand up best to a lip workout.
So, how good are they?
**** Industrial strength! Do not attempt without baby oil or makeup remover handy.
*** Be prepared to lose a little around the edges.
** You might be left with just a red outline on your lips.
* Color disappears faster than your wine will.
L'Oreal Colour Endure Stay-On Lipcolour
Shade: Wine and Dine
Price: $9.49 for .07 oz.
What it promises: "Colour stays on, even after eating, drinking or kissing."
What it delivers: This lipstick performed spectacularly in the kiss test and looked as if I'd just applied it even after three smooches. The color went on creamy but set to form a dry film of color on my lips. Some, however, came off during dinner.
Revlon Colorstay Liquid Lip
Price: $9.23 for .14 oz.
What it promises: A "Won't Kiss Off!" formula that won't fade, feather or bleed for hours.
What it delivers: This lip color gave a lovely, glistening coat that -- as the instructions promised -- took just minutes to set. Once it did, it was hard to remove. My lips looked like I hadn't eaten anything even after the dinner test. And after kisses, the color mostly remained.
Chanel Infrarouge Whisperlight Lipstick
Price: $21.50 for .12 oz.
What it promises: "Colour that clings."
What it delivers: Glided on smoothly and gave lips a glossy sheen, but it had a strong taste of wax with a tinge of vanilla. It came off easily during dinner, and most of it also disappeared after just three smooches.
M.A.C Cream Lipstick
Price: $14 for .10 oz.
What it promises: M.A.C. counter clerks said the matte and cream lipsticks were their longest lasting.
What it delivers: This went on smoothly, and it fared well through our pseudo meal. During the kiss test, a lot of lipstick smudged off but a matte film stayed underneath.
Maybelline Wear 'N Go Long Wearing Lip Color
Shade: Go Sangria
Price: $6.99 for .13 oz.
What it promises: "Hours of smooth, even wear coverage."
What it delivers: This creamy lipstick applied very smoothly and was mostly there even after wine and pasta. Some of the top coat came off after kissing.
Estee Lauder Pure Color
Shade: Ruby Red
Price: $22 for .13 oz.
What it promises: "A long-wearing formula that pampers, comforts."
What it delivers: Most of this super creamy -- and waxy-tasting -- lipstick came off easily during the dinner test. It's not ideal for after-dinner action either. Of all the brands tested, this rubbed off the easiest during kissing.
Clinique Long Last Soft Matte Lipstick
Shade: Hot Date
Price: $12.50 for .14 oz.
What it promises: This "longest wearing" of all Clinique lip colors vows to retain its "just-applied look for hours."
What it delivers: Only the reddish outline of lipstick remained after my faux dinner. This brand fared better in the kiss test, however. The top coat rubbed off easily but a matte film of color remained.
Shade: Smashing Divine
Price: $16 for .17 oz.
What it promises: A "long-lasting, non-drying formula."
What it delivers: The color came off a little during the dinner test but so much remained it wasn't noticeable. However, after the kisses, it was obvious my lips were drained of color.
Stila Lip Rouge
Price: $26 for .42 oz.
What it promises: A felt-tipped lipstick that works like a magic marker.
What it delivers: This lip color provided a thin film of color that did not come off at all during the kiss test. Some, however, rubbed off during the dinner test. Because this essentially is a lip magic marker, it doesn't offer protection from harsh weather. It's also a little hard to apply because you're essentially using a pen to color in your lips.
Cover Girl Outlast All-Day Lipcolor
Shade: Timeless Ruby
Price: $9.99 for a .07 base color and a .06 topcoat.
What it promises: "Eight hours of color that stays true."
What it delivers: This lipstick had the best staying power. You brush on the color, wait a minute for it to set and then put on the gloss. Your lips look like they've been tattooed in the color. Word of warning: be sure to have makeup remover nearby at the end. Tissue, water and lots of rubbing will not remove this.