this thing's incredible

I Bulk-Buy This £3 Dupe for My Beloved M.A.C ‘Chestnut’ Lip Liner

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

As a Black woman, I consider a brown lip liner to be nonnegotiable. I’ll explain: I’ve found that buying nude lipstick is tricky. Shades are often too bright or too dark for my skin tone. But if I add a brown lip liner (specifically: M.A.C “Chestnut,” beloved by many Black women), I can adjust the nude lipstick (like “995,” by Pat McGrath; “Taupe,” by M.A.C; or “Cindy,” by Lime Crime) to become the perfect colour for my complexion. Additionally, “Chestnut” is creamy and easy to apply — it’s smooth and long-lasting just over a balm. I mean, I could eat a hamburger and drink wine and “Chestnut” would stay intact. However, the lip liners are small, and with one in every purse, jacket pocket, and handbag, I kept on losing them. I couldn’t continue spending £15 every time I lost my lip liner (it began to stack up), so I had to find an alternative.

First, I tried the NYX “Espresso” lip pencil but found that it was quite dry and didn’t give me the finish that “Chestnut” did. Then I had a phase in which I just started using brown lipsticks as lip liners. I tried “321” brown, by Kiko, which was a bit smudgy — though with a Morphe “M443” pointed lip brush, it did the job. So did “Cork,” by M.A.C, and Maybelline Color Sensational in “Rich Chocolate.” But in my heart, I didn’t think I’d ever find a lip liner as good as “Chestnut.” Then one day two years ago, I popped into the Morphe shop in Stratford. I was window-shopping for a new eye-shadow palette, but I stumbled into the lip-liner section. I started talking to one of the sales assistants, who was also a Black woman. We spoke about how much we loved “Chestnut,” and she introduced me to the Morphe lip liner “Trendsetter.” She told me that it was the “exact dupe of ‘Chestnut.’”

I was still skeptical, but since the Morphe lip liners were only £3, I decided to give it a go. When I got home and applied “Trendsetter,” I was instantly impressed. It’s extremely pigmented, like “Chestnut,” and gives you that perfect ’90s chocolate shade of brown. Unlike the NYX lip pencil, “Trendsetter” is creamy and glides over your lips. Other lip pencils I’ve used in the past have broken easily, but similar to “Chestnut,” “Trendsetter” is very sturdy.

Two years on, I love this dupe so much that every time I buy one, I have to buy two: one for me to keep at home, and one for me to keep in my bag. At £3 a go, it’s cheap enough to lose. It’s also cheap enough to experiment with: It lets me play around with different lip-colour and lip-gloss shades that I wouldn’t have risked £15 on before. Now, I use it to do an ombré with “Baby Cherry,” by Lime Crime; a low-key nude with “Blushing Rose,” by e.l.f.; and on its own with “Extra Poppin” by Lime Crime. Basically, whatever colour you’ll see on my lips, just know that “Trendsetter” is behind it.

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I Bulk-Buy This £3 Dupe for My M.A.C ‘Chestnut’ Lip Liner