The lip gloss industry has gotten downright kinky. What was once called mauve, bronze and mocha is suddenly Purr, Brick House and Melt My Chocolate.
"Quickie!" Kristen Mallonee hissed through cherry pink lips. "This one's named Quickie!"
"OK, you have to buy it then," Allison Morris said.
And yet tantalizing men was not really what these college students had in mind as they browsed the pots and tubes and palettes of lip gloss at the new Sephora in the Westfield Annapolis mall. Other women pouted and preened into the cosmetic store's many mirrors, perhaps imagining an admirer's gaze, but Mallonee and Morris spent much of their time among the makeup samples looking at each other - and cracking up. Morris, 25, had painted her eyelids in thirds, each with its own electric streak of shadow. Mallonee's cheek was smeared with a rejected shade of red.
"My fiance actually hates my gloss," said Mallonee, 23, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park. "It kisses off on him. When he sees me put it on, he runs."
Despite its name, Quickie had taken the better part of an hour to find, but Mallonee and Morris claimed that's nothing - the search for the perfect lip gloss never ends. Ideal glosses do much more than compliment the complexion. They have personality, staying power and the right combination of shimmer and depth.
The hunt began in the Smashbox section, and from there the women cut a swath through Dior and Urban Decay, chatting away when not puckering up for another sample. Their conversation was by turns savvy ("That is sooo holiday-esque"), skeptical ("Do I look like a drag queen?") and triumphant (This tastes like peppermint!").
Morris was impulsive and experimental in her selections - a glitter-infused lilac here, a nude there. Mallonee, on the other hand, zeroed in on a single shade, a sort of warm rose with an underlying shine, which varied just slightly from brand to brand.
Their life experiences differ as much as their taste. Mallonee grew up in Pigtown, Morris is from Severna Park. Morris is pursuing a degree in early childhood education at Towson University, and Mallonee studies economics at UM. Morris has dark brown hair and a jolly manner, and is unafraid to aim a can of spray foundation directly at her face and fire. Mallonee is blonder, and more cautious.
"I don't get along with every girl I meet," she acknowledges. It's hard to bond with women as you get older, she says.
They met at a party a few years back - Morris knew Mallonee's fiance from high school. They hit it off and made a date to go dancing at the Cancun Cantina; it's been lunches and shopping trips ever since. Lip gloss bought today will likely stain the rims of ladies' night cocktail glasses, or be smoothed on in the moments before one of Morris' epic "Living on a Prayer" karaoke performances.
"It's one of those things where you click or you don't, and we click," Mallonee said.
"It takes a long time to find a cool person," Morris said.
Scouring the rows, they helped each other choose. Mallonee gently steered Morris away from a rhinestone-studded necklace filled with copper-pink gloss as soon as she - ever the economics student - spied the $90 price tag. And Morris nudged Mallonee toward the bolder colors.
"I think you need something really wild," she said.
Thus, Quickie ($16). And Morris decided on an opalescent plum shade, Sephora 07 ($15).
Although their lips burned from all the blotting, the women grinned as they waited to check out. They were pleased with finding the right lip gloss - and also, perhaps, with finding each other. The qualities of a good gloss are also vital in a great friend: personality, staying power. Shimmer and depth.