Though a picture is worth a thousand words, it takes one to incite tens of thousands in uproar. Apparently “flesh”—five letters, one syllable, once a crayon name but pre-Crayola notoriety, was simply a word used to describe “the soft substance consisting of muscle and fat that is found between the skin and bones of an animal or a human”—isn’t as innocuous as it seems. Flesh is carnal. Crass. Lewd, even. Flesh is all the things that are so human, but somehow also taboo.
And when printed across a compact, it became controversial.
Was it because Flesh was in pink? Because it was a beauty line found in a store frequented by impressionable girls buying their first acne treatment or lipstick—and god forbid they see Flesh? Or all the above: because Flesh was neither “feminine” nor “girly,” and therefore foreign?
Traditionally, the beauty space is supposed to be pretty, sweet, and P.C., but here came Flesh: bold, unapologetic, and kind of crude. It’s not the first brand to disrupt conservative industry values, but to my knowledge, it’s the first to rattle mainstream beauty. NARS’s Orgasm and Deep Throat were suggestive; cheeky. Flesh, on the other hand, is smutty. Much like its cousin, moist.
I’m here for it. Vulgarity is always welcome, and anything evocative of 70s Playboy is up my alley. Give me all of it—or, since I’m practicing self-restraint this summer, two will do. Here’s my impression thus far: It’s a shame that people expect the formulas to be groundbreaking simply because the name is so newsworthy. Don’t correlate the two; once the shock value wears off, it’s easy to see that these products are good. Period.
And as solid as they turned out to be, I’ll admit that I bought into the brand for the product names and packaging. How could I not? Linda Wells and Ruba Abu-Nimah are visionaries, and this line was their ingenuity—well—in the flesh.
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I instantly gravitated towards the lip compacts. As a proud member of the fingers-are-your-best-tools camp (likely an affiliation that comes down to laziness, but I prefer to attribute to artistic tendencies), I adore the packaging. Germaphobes may turn away in protest, but there’s no denying the freedom and control offered in application. The packaging is part of it, yes—but its cream-to-powder-like finish and intense pigmentation offer versatility in both usage and final look.
For starters, it’s easy to work with. As the name suggests, swipe it on and go. You can get a high-impact look, but I prefer a softer finish achieved by tapping the tiniest bit of product to the center of the lips until it blurs past the lip line. Think less Harajuku-inspired ombre lips, and more undone—like you’ve been making out.
I chose Swollen specifically for the shade and its formula. It’s my lips, but a hint brighter—like the color of my lips when they’re actually swollen. With it, I’m able to emulate how my lips look when they’re numb from sucking on a Chloe’s raspberry ice pop, or, if I’ve bitten my bottom lip. It’s provocative, versatile, non-fussy. A+ for anyone who craves the look of je ne sais quoi with actual effortlessness.
Now this is a thing of beauty. The pièce de resistance of the line, if I might, is Fleshpot, a peach-colored gloss for the eyes and lips. It’s mesmerizing to stare at even if the wet look isn’t your cup of tea: each pot is packed with micro glitters in an array of pink, gold, and copper, suspended in jelly. Apply a light layer across your skin and it’ll simply reflect the light; pack it on and the glitter becomes a statement. Either way, it’s beautiful.
The formula is worth raving about, too. In a sea of glosses that are too tacky or not glossy enough, Fleshpot’s texture is just right. (For reference, I have combination/oily skin and monolids, which is why most glosses on the market don’t work for me.) Dab the tiniest bit to the center of the lids and it gives a humid, sensuous look to the eyes. Pat Fleshpot across the tops of your cheekbones and you’ll look like you’ve emerged from a sweaty nightclub—but in the best way possible.
Granted, it’s not for everyone. But consider this: why fight the heatwave when you can lean into the slick with manufactured dew and shine?
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