EOS Crystal Lip Balm is a big debut for the cult-favourite brand right this minute, but it's not the only news: EOS has changed two of its existing, popular sphere formulas and revamped its pegboard packaging too. As well, during a recent NYC visit, I snagged some interview time with Mike Wong, the company's executive VP of research and development. We spoke about the new launch, the challenges in working with natural ingredients, and the protocols in place in case of consumer-reaction issues like those that led to that 2016 class-action lawsuit against EOS.
eos crystal lip balm: the concept
In response to some consumer feedback disclosing a dislike of waxy lip balms – see Liza? It's not just me! – EOS decided to create a wax-free formula that would provide significant softening benefits without a rubbery eraser-across-the-lips texture.
Two years of development later, EOS Crystal Lip Balm ($7.99 CAD at drugstores and $4.99 USD at ulta.com) is making its debut. In packaging loosely evocative of a prism, EOS Crystal hits retailers in Canada and the USA by the end of this month; it's also available (oops, sold out!) to US fans on the brand website.
Key to the petrolatum- and gluten-free formula is a clear shea butter, along with natural coconut, avocado, castor-seed, sunflower and aloe oils (aloe oil is a source of conditioning lipids and amino acids). And without beeswax in the mix, EOS Crystal Lip Balm is vegan. It's also water-free; no preservatives required.
"It's a jellified lip oil," notes EOS R&D guy Dr. Mike Wong. "Try it on top of lipstick for added shine."
FYI: Dr. Wong has a PhD in chemistry and more than 20 years of experience in the consumer goods industry; his resumé includes R&D stints at Colgate Palmolive, L'Oréal and Henkel.
And PSSST! Dr. Wong let a newsy tidbit slip: "In fact, we're coming out with a lip oil," he said. #youreaditherefirst
eos crystal lip balm: the review
When it comes to emollient texture and softening properties, the new EOS Crystal Lip Balm falls somewhere between the original EOS Balm and the original Visibly Soft, albeit closer to the latter. It glides on quite smoothly, however if you live on the dry-ish lips continuum like I do, you might need a lip serum or hydrating serum underneath.
These new Crystal balms are fragranced enough that the scents make themselves known as soon as you uncap them, but they seem to calm down once applied. I'm still a bit apprehensive about trying Vanilla Orchid because vanilla, but although I'm not the biggest fan of the fruity-sweet Hibiscus Peach, I can wear it without scrunched-up face.
Basically, although it likely won't be the best-ever lip balm you try, it'll be an excellent conversation piece for the next little while.
P.S. Of course, beeswax in the formula doesn't automatically mean the finish will drag; these are wax-included lip balms that don't feel waxy.
crystal-clear lip balm isn't new...
Obviously, the see-through lippie concept itself isn't new. DuWop went clear with their IcedTeas lip treatments in the late 2000s and again in 2016 with a Pirates of the Caribbean collection; Clarins did it (ish) with their Instant Smooth Crystal Lip Balm in 2012; and China-based brand Kailijumei did it, as did Winky Lux after them, with their pH-sensitive flower jelly lipsticks, clear bullets embedded with the most delicate wee fleurs. #InstagramGold
But the clear-bullet balm isn't yet commonplace, and EOS Crystal Lip Balm is definitely easier on the wallet. It's more emollient too, insists Dr. Wong. (Yes, more emollient than DuWop IcedTeas and I think same re: Clarins Crystal Lip Balm although I can't quite recall how those felt; I haven't yet tried the other two.)
Also different: out of all of these, EOS Crystal Lip Balm is the only one without petrolatum; it spins on that clear shea butter instead.
eos lip balm formula changes
You may already have noticed all the EOS display packaging has changed, with pretty background illustrations that have a modern-yet-vintage flair. Two formulas have been tweaked as well, with boosted flavour and a few additions and substitutions.
The updated EOS Organic balms in the solid-colour spheres now include carnuba wax and 25% more sunflower oil to deliver a smoother, less draggy texture. And kids, it's better! If, like me, you loathed the original, you'll be pleasantly surprised, even pleased by EOS Organic Lip Balm version 2.0.
EOS Visibly Soft Lip Balm, made with water, hyaluronic acid and a more emollient blend that glides comfortably – that one I liked. A new flavour, Honey Apple, has just launched. But this formula's changed as well.
The updated EOS Visibly Soft balm now features cocoa butter at the top of its ingredient list, jojoba esters instead of jojoba oil (you know jojoba is actually a liquid wax, yes?), plus rice bran wax and synthetic beeswax. The water and hyaluronic acid content has been removed, as have polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate (emulsifier), sodium isostearoyl lactylate (emulsion stabilizer) and ascorbyl palmitate (preservative). And I'm sorry to say the texture isn't quite as smooth as the original. *moue*
eos and natural ingredient challenges
Fun fact: EOS goes through the largest supply of organic beeswax in the world. And when you chat with longtime cosmetic chemists about the difference between working with synthetic ingredients and naturals, you arrive at the same realization: Mother Nature has no quality controls in place. Or at least it seems that way.
"There are inconsistent sources year by year," explains Wong. "For example, if the bee population in Africa depends on the weather, depends on environmental factors, so does the output of beeswax."
To accommodate Mother Nature's quality peccadilloes with raw materials, natural formulas have to be robust, with a built-in flexibility. "If you're getting a beeswax crop that's a little darker this year, you have to compensate with something else to make sure the colour stays somewhat consistent, or if the olive oil from Italy comes in and tastes different because of the weather pattern, you have to adjust for that too."
And of course, despite the plethora of YouTube DIY hacks, "you can't just throw olive oil and shea butter into something and say, 'Oh magic.' There are dozens of grades of just olive oil, as you know, and each one will affect the colour, the feel and the taste. You have to find the right grade as well as the right percentages, and you really have to know your raw materials and suppliers," says Wong.
Further complications come from the scope of production: you have to be able to manufacture that product perfectly in massive amounts. If you've ever tried to double or triple a baking recipe and failed, you get the idea. "Synthetics are easier and less costly; you'll get predictable, consistent results."
eos and the class-action aftermath
I hadn't intended to bring up last year's class-action lawsuit against EOS; it seems obvious to me that when you're dealing with natural products, you have to be aware that allergic reactions are possible. (More than one dermatologist has told me that botanicals in their beauty products are too often the last ingredients patients suspect when an unexpected issue erupts.) But our chat about synthetics vs natural ingredients sparked curiosity: if anyone else comes forward claiming an allergic reaction, how will the company react?
"We test all our products as rigorously as a pharmaceutical company would," explains Wong. "Under the care of a dermatologist, we test on 50 to 100 participants, leave formulas on skin for two weeks to determine possible reactions – it's industry practice. But even if you test on 200, 2000 or 200,000 participants, there's no guarantee. Some people are allergic to water, you know? As well, for a variety of complex reasons, replicating a reported allergic reaction in another person is really hard. So if someone has a problem and calls us, we have to say stop using the product and go see your doctor."
According to Nancy Chan, EOS's head of marketing and PR for North America, the company has protocols in place "to assist consumers who believe they might have a reaction to the product, including a medical team to provide support to anyone who has an issue. There's also a protocol where we ask people to send in the product so we can test it to make sure nothing is wrong from a manufacturing perspective. That we were able to settle that lawsuit so fast, within two weeks, is a testament to our controls and data."
Several news reports suggested that EOS planned to put "in-case-of-adverse-reaction" warnings on their packaging, but that doesn't appear to have happened just yet.
eos questions for you
So. What do you think of the new gluten-free, cruelty-free and vegan EOS Crystal Lip Balm? Of the formula tweaks and packaging refresh? You gonna try? And what do you think of the consumer-reaction protocols? Do we really need some kind of warning on the packaging?
Oh! And what about the coming-soon EOS lip oil? Are you into such things?
EOS CRYSTAL LIP BALM HIBISCUS PEACH ingredients: Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Polyamide-3, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Decyl Isostearate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Oil, Polyamide-8, Isostearyl Isostearate, Octyldodecanol, Flavor (Aroma), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract, Prunus Persica (Peach) Fruit Extract.
EOS CRYSTAL LIP BALM VANILLA ORCHID ingredients: Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Polyamide-3, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Decyl Isostearate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Oil, Polyamide-8, Isostearyl Isostearate, Octyldodecanol, Flavor(Aroma), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract, Orchis Mascula Flower Extract.