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    Updated on Jan 22, 2020. Posted on Jan 22, 2020

    How Lip Smackers Changed The Game For Tweens Everywhere

    An ode to a drugstore-aisle icon.

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    Who here remembers the thrill of their first-ever cosmetics purchase? That singular item that instilled the hope that you might actually, finally, be segueing into Cool Teen territory (or somewhere close to it)?

    Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

    Because, of course, all you needed to get there was one pivotal product that would allow you to express yourself — with the color or scent or look that you’d been jonesing to rock since you flipped through your first YM magazine.

    If you came of age somewhere between the ’90s and mid-‘00s, as I did, perhaps this thrill was evoked by the one item you were allowed to wear for some time: Maybe it was Sunflowers eau de toilette or some candy-scented roll-on glitter. Maybe it was bright blue hair mascara that got all over your fingers every time you forgot you’d applied it. Or hey, maybe it was even Sun-In or Manic Panic hair dye, if your parents were cool as hell!

    For me, that product — one that could only loosely be filed under “cosmetics” — was Bonne Bell’s Lip Smacker lip balm.

    Imagine this: It’s 1995, and you’re having the time of your life on a trip to the drugstore with your BFF. The first choice for what you’ll spend a portion of your $10 allowance on, in your dream world, is a vampy blue lipstick or an eyeliner pencil you probably have no idea how to wield. But perhaps, like me, it would be years before your mother would allow you to appear in public wearing anything on your face beyond a barely visible lip tint.

    Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

    The thing is, this Lip Smacker product wasn’t a slick gloss or a bold lipstick, but rather a pretty ho-hum lip balm. A balm that barely moisturized and hardly provided any evidence of being applied, unless you opted for one of its glitter-line options (Moon Rock Candy for the coolest silver lips in town, anyone?). The fact that Lip Smacker lip balm wasn’t a beauty product per se didn’t matter: It was all about the flavor and the pure, unadulterated fun it provided. And that joy ultimately was enough for me — and many others — to quell the smoldering desire to become a card-carrying makeup-wearing teen, at least for a little bit.

    All multicolor bubble-letter logo, the quirky design of Lip Smacker lip balms secured their place as a common denominator among tweens and teens, regardless of style or scene. (Not that at 12 years old I had much of either.) The balms were housed in the cutest packaging known to humankind, and every last one of them smelled so damn good, if not bordering on overwhelmingly sugary sweet. Much like the Great Herbal Essences Obsession of the 1990s, there was a community aspect that these lip balms encouraged organically, similar to the fandoms of cult-fave beauty products today. But this was before the internet dictated what “cult favorite” meant — before everyone got their beauty recommendations from an infinite scroll or the highest-rated products on Sephora.com.

    Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

    One of the most enduring memories of Lip Smackers wasn’t necessarily the application of the product itself, but the sense of kinship it cultivated among girls of a certain age. You wore it to set the tone for the day, to have fun and feel cute, and to show off your newest additions to your friends. You could buy variety packs and trade ‘em piecemeal with your *~paLz~*, but let’s be real: Dr Pepper was the only flavor that mattered (root beer and cotton candy were close seconds). In addition to its delightful scent and the cool factor of its branded partnership with the soda, it was one of the select few, if memory serves me correctly, that actually provided a subtle rosy sheen.

    Where teen magazines — often read by not-quite-teen girls — doled out suggestions for preventing or covering up zits, for the outfit that would make you stand out to your crush, or for ways to tame your frizzy hair, Lip Smacker was the anti–whatever that was. At 13, no girl should be thinking, “What can I be doing to conceal my under-eye circles?” They should be deciding which gem-capped Jewel Lip Smacker flavor (shoutout to their ‘00 launch) to add to their arsenal and coordinating matching looks with their BFF.

    Beyond waxing poetic about drugstore visits of yore, what I’m trying to say here, plain and simple, is not to forget that makeup should be fun; the routine of it all is an act that we deserve to enjoy. Of course, it’s the onus of the beauty industry that women need to look better, look younger, prevent, treat, and enhance anything that’s not as “perfect” as it can possibly be. But even acknowledging this, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the quest to transform or conceal the features that don’t align with what conventional standards say they should align with — no matter how feminist or confident or antiestablishment we may be. The best of us fall victim to it at some juncture. Plus, in an era where beauty and skincare routines are now so personalized, there’s something extra-refreshing about reminiscing about those simpler times.

    All that to say, don’t lose sight of the pure joy of using beauty products — and the connection with others that it fosters. Okay, g2g, adding this eight-pack to my bday wish list!

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