Getting lippy

We put 6 popular lipsticks to the test, and results are in

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"Syrup A82" by Mac

"Syrup A82" by Mac (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune)

What's not to love about a new lipstick? It perks us up for not much cash. But really, even if it's not a huge expenditure, we still want value for our money.

Is there that much difference between a $34 Chanel and a cheapie from the drugstore?

And then there's the existential question: What does a woman want in her lipstick? Is it moisture, great packaging, longevity, good smell, smooth application? All that and more?

To find the answers to these and many other questions raised by a simple lipstick, I bought a half-dozen highly rated ones and put them through some rigorous testing by a half-dozen picky women.

Five co-workers and I tested six brands at vastly different prices. The ones I chose for the lip-off got high marks from Internet sites including totalbeauty.com, oprah.com, consumersearch.com, beautypedia.com and goodhousekeeping.com. (I bought neutral colors for the test so color was not considered in the rankings.)

And the winner is …? If only it were that easy. It turned out that each of us (and all womankind for that matter) has very specific, but often different, must-haves in a lipstick.

For instance, two of us picked Rimmel's Kate Moss as our favorite lipstick and two of us (me included) rated it dead last. I loved the Chanel and the Cover Girl because they stayed on all day. (Incidentally, no way was the $34 boutique Chanel worth $27 more than the drugstore $7 Cover Girl.) Other testers didn't care that much if they had to reapply often because they were more concerned about feel and comfort so they preferred the Estee Lauder or MAC.

In fact, the only thing the six of us agreed on is that the Maybelline and MAC we tested were neither best nor worst of the six but somewhere in between. See what I mean? It's complicated.

Despite two spread sheets (Help!!!) and ratings on 11 characteristics (even kissability) there was no clear winner. But here's something important to remember: Many stores will let you return makeup — including lipstick — if you don't like it. But be sure to ask before you buy.

The testers:

Kristin Samuelson, Regina Robinson, Brandi Larsen, Courtney Crowder, Barbara Brotman and Ellen Warren

SAFE PICK

MAC Lustre, Syrup, $15, Nordstrom, nordstrom.com

Overall: 4 of 6 testers rated it 3rd out of 6.

Kristin: "Pretty average"

Regina: "Before I finished my orange, it was gone."

MOST COMFORTABLE

Estee Lauder Signature Hydra Lustre, Dune Rose, $22.50, Nordstrom, nordstrom.com

Overall: Rated 1st by 2 of 6 testers; one ranked it last.

Regina: "A little 'old church lady' fragrancy."

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