Chanel Vamp nail polish is an icon, but is the lipstick worth spending $36 on?

For decades, I was a serious designer makeup snob. And while Emma Stone and her lovely Revlon contract have convinced me of the benefits of drugstore makeup–it is so cheap and good–why was I still so obsessed with labels? Well, because I am not made of stone. I still have a weakness for the slick black shelves of the Chanel counter and feeling like a fancy lady when I hand the lady at the register something with a pair of interlocking Cs on it.

“Oh, this? I’m just buying some Chanel. No big deal.”

I’ve been happily indulging my makeup experiment desires with drugstore products for a month or two now, but temptation got the better of me when I saw that this year’s Chanel Holiday Collection was focused around Vamp. Vamp, or Chanel Rouge Noir here in Europe, is that dark, blood-red that took over the whole world in 1994, which was a pretty formative period of my adolescence. I was a gothy tween obsessed with vampires and just getting interested in fashion, and Chanel Vamp was my Holy Grail.

(Related: Is This $50 Tom Ford Lipstick Worth All The Hype?)

I did not get Vamp in 1995–my mother bought me the cheaper dupe, Revlon Vixen, instead–but I sure wanted it. Now that I am an adult, I have a real bottle of Chanel Rouge Noir nail polish, and I still love the color. It hits all my former goth nostalgia, and I think it looks really good on me. And it might just be the 90s trend taking hold of my brain, but the idea of matching my nails to my lipstick suddenly seems like a good idea again. Chanel makes a lipstick to go with the nail polish, but is Chanel Rouge Allure #109, Rouge Noir, really worth $36? I decided to try it out.

I put the tester on my hands, but I have never been able to successfully tell anything from a hand or arm swatch, so I caved to my inner designer label snob and bought the thing. The lady at the register did not seem any more impressed than normal, but she gave me a free sample of Chanel Mademoiselle perfume. It is the first time in like two years I have received a free perfume sample that I actually wanted, so I am considering that a good sign.

The packaging is lovely, of course. I like the magnetic closure on the Rouge Allure lipstick tubes. It is a shiny, pretty black and gold, but so is Revlon. The packaging does not make the lipstick seem that much fancier than Revlon does.

Here is what it looks like on:

Chanel Rouge Noir Lipstick

I love the dark color, but this lipstick was actually strangely difficult to apply. The product was comparatively hard and slick, and it did not apply very smoothly. It took a lot of fussing just to get it on without smearing it all over my face, and the dark color is particularly unforgiving of slip-ups or peeling lips. I had to apply three coats just to get it to look even.

With a lip liner, some pre-exfoliated lips, and 15 to 20 extra minutes, I believe I could get Chanel Rouge Noir lipstick applied very nicely. I might need a lip brush, too. But then I would walk around in a twitchy panic, afraid to touch or say anything lest I mar the effect. It was surprisingly difficult to get it on even this straight, and it’s not on all that straight.

For comparison, here is a single coat of Revlon’s Black Cherry, which costs only $8 and could be tossed on and blotted with a Kleenex in about 20 seconds:

Revlon Black Cherry Test

I’m still completely obsessed with Black Cherry. In a world in which Black Cherry is available for $8 and Rouge Noir is available for $36, does it make any sense to buy the Chanel? I guess maybe if you’re rich and want lipstick to match your Vamp nails. But if you’re just looking for a dark, the 90s, vaguely gothy lipstick to wear for the winter, I’d go for the Revlon and use the remaining $28 on sushi or cocktails or a manicure or three months of Netflix. There’s a lot of stuff a person can buy for $28.

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