In 2007, it seemed nearly impossible to escape the infectious chants of Lil Mama's iconic hit "Lip Gloss." The track saw the rapper proudly flaunting her irresistibly shiny and plush lips, while also giving a shoutout to her favorite beauty brands, MAC and L'Oréal, notably mentioning "those Watermelon Crushes." Fast forward to 2024, and it appears that this anthem to cosmetics is ripe for a sequel, given the inundation of lip glosses, balms, butters, oils, masks, and scrubs flooding the market in recent times.

Across BeautyTok and Instagram, it's a challenge to scroll past without encountering users flaunting their beloved lip gloss-balm hybrids, such as Rhode's Peptide Lip Treatments or Summer Fridays' Lip Butter Balms — often presented in sponsored posts. These two products, launched in 2020 and 2021 respectively, have garnered significant attention from makeup enthusiasts, frequently landing on various best lip product compilations. Additionally, top sellers on Ulta and Sephora's online platforms include Dior's Addict Lip Glow Oil, Fenty Beauty's Gloss Bomb Lip Luminizer, NYX's Fat Lip Oil, Glossier's recently revamped Balm Dotcom, and E.L.F.'s Glow Reviver Lip Oil — alongside some vintage favorites making a nostalgic return.

It's widely acknowledged that beauty trends follow a cyclical pattern. The once-dominant matte trend of the 2010s has now been supplanted by a fervent desire for ultra-shiny lips, marking a clear resurgence of makeup aesthetics from the '90s and early 2000s, when Lancome's Juicy Tubes and Mac Lipglass reigned supreme. For numerous lip-gloss aficionados, acquiring and frequently applying these products has evolved into a distinct obsession, often leading to the accumulation of extensive collections — deemed unnecessary by some, while others view it as a form of self-expression.

Last December, 27-year-old beauty influencer Ky Mason (@iamkytoo) treated her TikTok followers to a comprehensive five-part "lip product collection tour," showcasing an extensive array of balms, glosses, and lipsticks from both high-end and budget-friendly brands. "I've found that certain drugstore lip oils offer comparable levels of shine, moisture, and color variety as some of the pricier options I've tested, but at a fraction of the cost," Mason explains. Another influencer, 21-year-old Clara Li (@ok_clara), proudly identifies herself as a "squeezy (tip) lip balm connoisseur." "I keep multiple lip balms in my bag, one on my nightstand, one in the bathroom, one by the couch, and various backups scattered throughout the house," she shares.

In a bid to cater to lip gloss enthusiasts like Mason and Li, Hailey Bieber has introduced gray Rhode phone cases that allow customers to attach their glosses to the back. This innovative accessory, considering that a common cellphone attachment is typically a cardholder, suggests that lip balm, particularly Rhode's, is now deemed as essential to carry around as one's driver's license. From all indications, lip products have transcended their status as mere inexpensive, everyday essentials casually tossed into purses. In the post-pandemic era, where our mouths are often unmasked, they have transformed into miniature status symbols embraced by influencers and casual "makeup aficionados" alike.

The decline in the prominence of lip fillers, often associated with the "Kylie Jenner era," signifies a notable shift in beauty trends. A decade ago, beauty influencers captivated audiences with intense focus on their lips, spurred by reality star-turned-beauty mogul Kylie Jenner's revelation about her lip filler procedure amidst widespread public speculation.

Despite the persistent desire for full, voluminous lips in the 2020s, there has been a shift in attitudes towards lip fillers. Plastic surgeons have observed an increase in individuals seeking to dissolve their filler. Following the surge in lip augmentation procedures, beauty vloggers and social media users started discussing their encounters with filler migration, an unintended consequence where fillers relocate from the injection site to other areas of the mouth. Although this complication remains relatively rare, it appears that patients are exploring options to rectify their procedures or subtly enhance their lip appearance.

Dr. Peter Lee, chief surgeon at Wave Plastic Surgery in California, notes a noticeable increase in patients seeking a more subtle outcome from lip augmentation procedures. In addition to hyaluronic acid filler injections, Lee mentions alternative options such as longer-lasting fat transfers, silicone or ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) implants, and lip lifts. The latter is a relatively quick procedure lasting about an hour, subtly lifting the corners of the mouth for a more youthful look. For those seeking even quicker results, there's the "lip flip," a procedure utilizing Botox to give the appearance of a fuller upper lip, often completed in less than 30 minutes.

Despite the association of lip filler with concerns of cultural appropriation, Dr. Lee has observed an increase in Black women seeking lip treatments at his office. He suggests that Black women, like individuals from other ethnic backgrounds, pursue these procedures not solely to augment lip volume but also to achieve greater definition and shaping of the lips. This trend highlights a broader recognition among diverse communities of the multifaceted benefits that aesthetic lip procedures can offer beyond mere augmentation.

Indeed, the concept of "lip care" ultimately circles back to the perpetual quest for youthfulness. Dr. Lee highlights another compelling aspect of lip augmentations: "Fuller lips not only enhance beauty but also serve as a marker of youth."

As a prominent facial feature, thin and wrinkled lips can quickly signal the aging process. With age, the body produces less collagen, elastin molecules, and hyaluronic acid, leading to a loss of volume in the lips for some individuals. From this perspective, it's reasonable to infer that beauty consumers are, at least partially, investing in "lip care" products for similar reasons to those seeking cosmetic procedures for a more natural-looking pout. In addition to connoting attractiveness and sensuality, there's a widespread desire to maintain a youthful appearance reminiscent of one's twenties.

Currently, Generation Z appears to be collectively grappling with concerns about premature aging, sparking an interest in what's termed as anti-aging skincare among many tweens. Consequently, it's no surprise that young individuals are gravitating towards lip products that not only provide color and sheen but also tout dermatological benefits. Samantha Arnstadt, VP of creative, strategy, and design at the marketing company Front Row, highlights the fusion of skincare benefits with traditional makeup attributes as a significant driver behind the viral success of certain lip products. Among Front Row's clients are brands like Summer Fridays and Saie, which offer popular lip gloss oils. Arnstadt explains that these viral products are effectively bridging the gap between skincare and makeup by promising not just aesthetic enhancements but also hydration and protection.

In the past year, Kylie Jenner's brand Kylie Skin introduced tubed "lip butters," bearing a striking resemblance to products by Summer Fridays. Similarly, Topicals, a viral skincare brand, launched a Slick Salve Mint Lip Balm, swiftly becoming the lip balm of choice on TikTok. Additionally, Laneige, a Korean skincare brand, has seen its Lip Sleeping Mask rise to cult favorite status due to its instantly hydrating properties.

In addition to newer entrants, older brands are actively vying for a place in beauty consumers' "lippie" collections. Arnstadt highlights that many mass-market brands have revamped their product lines to incorporate lip gloss, aligning with current market trends and appealing to Generation Z. Furthermore, established brands such as Vaseline, Nivea, and Aquaphor have launched new lip therapy products or repackaged existing ones to align with the aesthetic of these newer, more buzzworthy products.

Peptides, which are short chains of amino acids aiding in the formation of proteins in the skin, have emerged as a noteworthy ingredient for marketers, as noted by New York-based dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss. Alongside Rhode, brands such as Ole Henriksen, Paula's Choice, and Persona are among those incorporating peptides into their latest lip products. "Certain peptides possess humectant properties," explains Idriss. "This implies they can draw in and preserve moisture in the skin while also assisting in the natural repair processes for dry lips."

For numerous enthusiasts, these assurances hold significant appeal. "I believe many individuals desire lip products that provide moisture while also maintaining lasting power beyond just a few sips of soda," notes influencer Ky Mason.

During times of economic downturn, lip glosses have evolved into affordable status symbols. Apart from their skincare benefits, there's a noticeable enthusiasm among individuals on social media who amass these lip products in large quantities. MacKenzi Nelson, art director at beauty PR company Helen + Gertrude, suggests that this surge in lip gloss hoarding mirrors an existing consumer trend.

"We've all heard of the 'lipstick effect theory' in culture, where sales of affordable luxuries, such as lip products, surge during times of economic distress," Nelson remarks. "These small indulgences, so to speak, have a significant physical and emotional impact." In addition to their affordability, lip products are accessible to individuals who may not consider themselves makeup enthusiasts or prefer not to wear a full face of makeup, as highlighted by influencer Clara Li. "I used to be a makeup minimalist, except when it came to lip products," Li recalls.

Nelson emphasizes that the sensory experience of lip products significantly contributes to their popularity, offering "a moment of ritualistic self-care, comfort, and play." Li concurs, describing the lip products as "definitely habit-forming," suggesting that they provide not only aesthetic enhancement but also a comforting routine.

Indeed, there's a noticeable irony in the relentless purchasing and usage of these products. The frequency with which individuals feel compelled to reapply or replenish their lip gloss appears to contradict its primary purpose of providing long-lasting lip moisture. Beauty columnist Jessica DeFino delved into this paradox in February, responding to a reader's self-described "addiction" to lip balm. "The fact that lip balm necessitates constant reapplication isn't perceived by consumers as a flaw in the product, but rather as an opportunity to fulfill their personal desire: shopping," she aptly noted.

Dr. Idriss also points out that it's possible to overuse lip balm, which can hinder the health benefits these products claim to provide. "Continuous application of lip balm may cause your lips to rely too heavily on the moisturizing effects, leading to a decrease in natural oil production," she explains. "Consequently, your lips may feel even drier and more chapped when you're not using lip balm."

As DeFino eloquently stated, the tendency to constantly reapply lip balm appears to facilitate consumers' accumulation of more of these items. Conversely, these brands, often providing a range of shades and flavors, excel at promoting this compulsive overconsumption — the more products you own, the more enticing the collection becomes.

A significant portion of the packaging and marketing for these trending lip balms conveys an aura of luxury and self-indulgence. Rhode's marketing materials on social media frequently showcase the peptide lip treatment alongside fruits or decadent sweets, effectively emphasizing Nelson's characterization of lip products as "treats." Similarly, brands like Topicals present their lip glosses in conjunction with items commonly associated with affluence, such as a Louis Vuitton wallet and a roll of cash, on their Instagram accounts.

Indeed, these lip products provide a relatively affordable entry point into the world of cosmetics, particularly when compared to more expensive luxury brands. For instance, while Chanel's foundation can cost anywhere from $55 to nearly $80, its Rouge Coco Gloss retails at $40. Brands like Rhode and Summer Fridays, positioned between drugstore and high-end categories, offer lip balms and oils priced under $30. Moreover, true luxury brands such as Dior and Chanel providing somewhat accessible lip products enable consumers who may not afford their clothing or accessories to indulge in a slice of luxury.

Lip gloss has emerged as a low-risk solution to a specific type of apprehension felt by many, particularly young women. In 2023, women on TikTok began grappling with the extent to which they had been influenced, both by celebrities and ordinary individuals, to purchase unnecessary or ineffective beauty products on the platform. Users declared their efforts to resist these impulses with the hashtag #deinfluencing. However, the potential success of this trend appeared unlikely from the outset, given the ad-driven nature of social media platforms that shows no signs of fading. By purchasing lip gloss, beauty consumers seem to have found a middle ground between "deinfluencing" and indulging in their compulsive shopping tendencies.

While not everyone purchases lip products for this reason, the opportunity to accumulate them without breaking the bank can foster a misguided sense of luxury and reassurance. During times of economic uncertainty and widespread pessimism, it's comforting to believe that we can impulsively splurge on the latest trendy item and partake in the same indulgent activities as celebrities like Kylie Jenner or Hailey Bieber. However, for individuals like Mason, collecting lip gloss may not signify an existential crisis but rather a source of simple joy — even if it comes with a price tag.

"I don't think it's realistic to finish over 300 lip products in my lifetime," she remarks. "But I'll enjoy the process of trying to use up as many as I can and reviewing them along the way."