Though masks currently obscure lips from the limelight, brands are like Hermès Beauty are working to make refillable lipstick luxury the norm.

By Madison Patterson.

Lipstick is one of those items that has the rare ability to immortalize the wearer – think Marilyn’s everlasting red, Molly’s Breakfast Club mauve, the list goes on. Equally immortal, unfortunately, is the single-use plastic packaging in which lipstick is sold.

Virtually all cosmetics, an estimated 70% of which are unfinished, end up in landfills, where the packaging lasts indefinitely and its suspect chemical components pollute and toxify. And the beauty industry knows it. As it reckons with the impacts of its existence and demands for change, one solution gaining popularity is refillable lipstick.

Hermès debuted its first ever beauty line earlier this year, the centerpiece of which was 24 shades of red (but really pink and orange and red) lipstick. While it was quickly christened “the Birkin Bag of lipstick,” the key to the cosmetic’s luxury (and sustainability) are the refillable metal tubes the hues come in. “These objects are made to last, favoring noble materials such as metal, with the use of plastic limited to essential elements (the interchangeable mechanism and inserts),” Hermès’ releases stated. The designer of the tubes, Pierre Hardy, said in an interview with wallpaper* that they are meant to be kept as precious objects, like jewels.” For Hermès Beauty, it seems the packaging is as important as the product. All the lipsticks, like the three new winter shades the brand recently released, are $67, while refills are $42.

Other brands have dabbled in the phenomenon at similarly high price points, like the Hourglass Confession refillable lipsticks, which are among the most popular and are available at Sephora for $36. On the more affordable end is a vegan and plastic-free option, courtesy of Lush. Refills cost about $12 while the tube itself is around $10.

With sustainability and responsibility becoming musts for many beauty consumers, refillable cosmetics have emerged as one of the largest trends in the industry. In 2019 Dior Beauty released a holiday set with refillable features that sold out quickly, while Ulta Beauty has pledged to commit to 50% recycled, bio-sourced materials, or refillable containers by 2025.

Of course, refillable containers aren’t the perfect solution to beauty’s green gap. The tubes, luxe as they are, will eventually be discarded, and that’s to say nothing of chemical components and the production of the packaging. But it’s a start. Though our masked world precludes lipstick from taking center stage at the moment, thanks to debuts like Rouge Hermès, lipstick lovers have plenty to look forward to.