I spend approximately 90% of my life writing about beauty (I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not.), and feel pretty confident that when it comes to products, I know what’s up. So when a farmer in Kuala Lumpur recently told me that he had the longest lasting, most vibrantly-colored natural lipstick in the world growing in his garden, I was skeptical. What kind of straight-up plant works as well as an actual lipstick does?
Enter the Achiote Tree. Otherwise known as the “lipstick tree,” the plant grows naturally in South and Central America (TBD on what it was doing on some guys farm in a village in Malaysia, but whatever). The tree’s fruits are known as “Annatto,” and look like red, spiky little tennis balls. When you crack the spiky tennis balls open, there are a whole bunch of poppy-colored, pigmented seeds. They seeds are covered in what looks — and feels — like melted red/orange Crayola crayon.
Back in the day, the insides of the fruit were used as ritual and decorative body painting (which is still an important tradition in many Brazilian native tribes), sunscreen, and insect repellent, as well as for medical purposes. Now, the pigment is used as a natural dye to make foods look more orangey-yellow… Like packaged cheddar cheese. Mmmm.
After hearing that the cheese-coloring plant was also known as “The Lipstick Plant,” I decided to test it out for myself. Considering my makeup habits are well above my pay grade, I figured it would be pretty awesome to find a free, natural matte lippy that was pretty much guaranteed not to give me cancer. I was shocked at how smoothly it went on, and how full the coverage it gave me was. It was also insane how long lasting it was, and it stayed on my lips until I rubbed it off with a makeup removing towel hours later. It also happened to stain my hands and my clothes, but NBD.
…I forgot to brush my hair this day, so the lipstick was actually a welcome addition to the “hungover-chic” look I was going for. Here’s what the lipstick plant looked like on three different lip and skin tones pouted seductively for the camera:
Based on a brief search on the interwebz, it doesn’t seem like any of the major cosmetics companies have embraced Annatto as an ingredient, though Tarte released a limited-edition “Achiote” collection a few years ago, but it’s no longer available for purchase.
Sadly, if you want to experience the wonders of Annatto lipstick yourself, it may require hiking into the Amazonian jungle (or, apparently, to a Malaysian village). If anyone wants to go into business manufacturing this stuff, though, hit me up 📲 📲 📲