The perfect lipstick—made by you
We’re in a full-on lip-loving moment, with an ever-increasing number of lip color shades, finishes, scents, and brands to choose from. But what about finding a lipstick that’s truly *yours*—and nobody else’s? On the quest for the perfect bespoke shade, writer Mosha Lundström Halbert discovers a different (and fully customizable) kind of lip service.
A juice bar will pulverize a smoothie to your exact specifications. Sneaker brands have 3D simulators to tweak nearly every shoe component. And the beauty industry is embracing customization like never before. From a new crop of digitally-savvy user-generated fragrance houses such as Hawthorne to skin care concepts like Insitu, which creates individualized skincare products, now’s the time to be particularly picky.
Bite Beauty is another breakout in the tailored-to-you beauty space, tackling one of the more elusive product searches via their Bespoke Lipstick Service. With three Lip Labs in New York, San Francisco, and Toronto, this by-appointment service offers custom blended lipstick expressly made in front of you. I couldn’t think of a more irresistible way to spend an hour than playing makeup chemist.
Added bonus: Bite’s ingredients are food-grade—i.e., edible—which is a surprisingly uncommon quality of something that goes on your mouth. They are also free of parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, and phthalates. Instead, they contain ingredients like coconut oil, pearl, silk, and red wine resveratrol. Natural beauty, I see you.
"The beauty industry is embracing customization like never before. Now’s the time to be particularly picky."
Lips have never been more front and center. And with the current penchant for a plush, uniquely-hued pout (and my own wish to find a shade that met my exacting expectations) I visited Bite’s Toronto Lip Lab to try this deluxe experience. It will set you back $150, which includes two artist-crafted shades and a lip kit containing the Whipped Cherry Fruit Scrub, Agave lip mask, and Line and Define primer.
Armed with model-on-the-rise Cleo Sadee and a handful of current favorite (but not quite flawless) lip products, we meet with senior Lip Lab artist Christopher Selvam at Bite’s spiffy downtown space. After leading us through a three-step sugar scrub and fruit enzyme exfoliator, balm application, and clear primer process, our lips are an organically plumped canvas.
Finding the perfect shade
Sadee, who resembles a young Eartha Kitt, namechecks Rihanna as her beauty north star. “Before I do my own makeup, I always search images of her,” she says. Her choice from the singer’s recent hits: a mocha brown look and a color Selvam dubs “electric eggplant.”
The brown will complement her skin tone and act as a rich neutral, while the latter he refers to as a statement lip: “It’s bold, fashionable, and as powerful as a great accessory.” He scribbles key adjectives of their exchange down on a plastic film palette and quickly mixes pigments from the extensive shade library before passing her a mini-brush to sample. It’s a modern take on a ’90s taupe, but perhaps a touch too cool-toned. “It needs more caramel,” Selvam agrees, adjusting the pigment for round two. Sadee’s approval is evident by the rapid-fire selfies she banks. “This is the color I’ve never been able to find,” she says, a happy customer indeed. A batch of ultraviolet draws similarly glowing reviews, but then again, this young chameleon could pull off just about any hue.
I’m not so easy to please (and also not a model), requiring Selvan to pivot from mixologist to therapist as I detail a litany of requests and issues. Is it unreasonable that I am looking for my lipstick to counteract a lack of sleep, be hydrating but not glossy, plus flatter my cool blonde features without looking too girly—or worse, lipsticky? To top it off, I recently developed a complex about the size of my relatively humble lips. Selvan takes it in stride, telling me it’s his job to get to know strangers and help them solve these and other fundamental issues. For those who suffer from decision fatigue, it’s relieving that Bite’s process is esoteric and instinctual.
With keywords “strawberry,” “apricot,” “sheer matte,” “amplified,” and “pretty” scrawled on my palette, he mixes two balmy options, which look poppy but go on translucent. I settle on the less saturated of the two, which is subtle enough to wear with no makeup or to pair with more of a finished face. It makes my eyes look a bit brighter, my lips slightly more pillowy.
"For those who suffer from decision fatigue, it’s relieving that Bite’s process is esoteric and instinctual."
Round two: a natural look
For my second shade, Selvan turns the equation around, suggesting we work with my icy pallor and “your anti-bronzer look”—a polite Canadian way of saying I need some vitamin D. Taking opalescent and light mauve pigments, he whips up a shimmering frosting, letting me scent it with wildberry and mint essential oils before pouring it into the molds.
It’s mesmerizing, like a softly blurred highlighter for your lips. Finished with a monogrammed magnetic cap, this color needs no name beyond simply Mine.
photographs by Riley Stewart