Last week, an end of an era was announced — cult makeup brand of all 90s kids, Bonne Bell, will be closing all of its U.S. operations by March.
The brand was known best for its Lip Smackers product, which was created in 1973 and has the claim of being the world’s first flavored lip gloss. It was also my gateway introduction to the world of cosmetics, an aspect of my life I hold dear in shaping my individuality and personality.
I got my first Lip Smacker when I was in fourth grade, because my lips were chapped and I wanted something a little more special than ChapStick. My mom allowed me free reign in the cosmetics area of the drugstore and I chose a pink tube of bubblegum-flavored Lip Smackers.
The anticipation I felt on the car ride home was almost unbearable — the second we parked, I ran to my bathroom, closed the door, tore the tube out of the packaging and applied the flavored wax slowly over my lips. Slightly shiny, intensely fragrant and sugary sweet, the Lip Smacker imparted a pretty rosy tint on my lips and seemed to change my entire face. My cheeks looked pinker and my eyes brighter, almost like the gloss had revealed a better version of myself.
I had always been fascinated with the process of dolling oneself up, and I felt like this Lip Smacker was the key to revealing all the secrets of becoming a grown-up, just like the way glamorous women confidently handled their tubes of red lipstick before stepping out to take the world.
I began collecting Lip Smackers the way some people collect baseball cards and set aside portions of my allowance to indulge in a new flavor. I brought my tubes to school and church, revealing them to my friends during free time and delighting in watching their eyes light up as they uncapped the tubes to sniff them or smear a little on their lips. It was like being part of a secret club where I had the power to show my friends the transformative power of lip gloss, how it made you look and feel prettier both inside and out.
I bought my first liquid Lip Smacker gloss about a year later, and I couldn’t imagine anything more glamorous if I had tried. My lips sparkled and were shiny to the point of being reflective and, of course, topped off with the sweet scent and flavor of cotton candy.
My friend urged me to bring it to church to show her. In her excitement, she twisted the cap off too hard, causing a split to run all the way up the cap and rendering the gloss useless. I was so stricken with grief that my Sunday school teacher pulled me aside to calm me down, and very kindly presented me a replacement tube the next week.
I treated my treasure trove of Lip Smackers with the same kind of affection many do with family heirlooms and associated fond memories with each tube. I wore Dr. Pepper to my sixth-grade formal, strawberry when I made my speech for the position of class president and watermelon to a church event where I knew the boy I had a crush on was also attending.
When I began to experiment with more “mature” cosmetic items like mascara, powder and eyeliner, I still kept my mainstay Lip Smackers in my makeup bag as an anchor of comfort and familiarity while navigating a bigger, more intimidating world. Although the countless cheap mascaras I attempted at first would smear on me halfway through the day, at least I knew my Lip Smackers would never fail me.
As I got a handle of what products worked best for me, my beloved Lip Smackers began phasing out in terms of importance and usage. I remember when I had thrown out my last Lip Smacker, an old scratched-up tube of Strawberry Banana, in order to make room for my fancier MAC Lipglass, I felt a slight twinge of guilt and betrayal — like I was tossing out an old childhood toy that once gave me great comfort and joy for something sleeker and fancier.
I haven’t owned a Bonne Bell product since starting high school, and I would pass by the stand in drugstores without a second glance in order to get to the Maybelline or Revlon displays.
My makeup collection now has developed in sophistication and practicality, now including a full range of products like foundation, highlighters, various eyeshadows, liquid eyeliner, brow products and a seemingly bottomless collection of lip colors.
Bonne Bell’s closing is a nostalgic end to the start of my journey in my personal appearance and in developing the sentimental love I have for the world of cosmetics. Like that old blankie you used to carry around with you everywhere, there is still an undeniable comfort and warmth those multicolored flavored tubes evoke when mentioned. It’s been real, Bonne Bell — thanks for the memories.