Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sensai The Lipstick 21 Shirafuji review and swatches

Ever since I posted paper swatches of the Kanebo The Lipstick range, an internal clock has been counting down to my inevitable purchase. With the help of a £20 voucher from Harrods to halve the £40 price, I chose 21 Shirafuji, a versatile neutral bright rosy pink -- which will count as three of twelve.
To thoroughly test out its anti-ageing skincare claims, I wore this lipstick continuously over two sets of five days in a row (in very cold early February and once again in warm mid-March)... and saw absoutely no improvement in the condition of my lips after either period. Honestly not a shocker given the fairly standard ingredients list (note that the much touted koishimaru silk extract comes right at the end, just before the parabens, and that the gold is just an afterthought):
I'm sceptical of any makeup that claims to replace skincare anyway so the absence of any longer-term effects isn't a dealbreaker; though it's a nice bonus when they do improve the condition as well as look of my lips, e.g. Suqqu Creamy Glow, Fresh Sugar, Lanolips Tinted. More disappointngly, The Lipstick doesn't deliver any spectacular cosmetic benefits either. It doesn't emphasise my vertical lip lines (structural), but nor does it blur them. It doesn't make my lips look dessicated, but it doesn't make them look plumped and pillowy either. If my lips aren't in the best condition, it will highlight flakes and chapped areas, though less than some other formulas. And I absolutely need a layer of lipbalm underneath.

Shirafuji applied, emphasising the chapped area on my lower lip:
 (Suqqu EX-07 quad from the Lilac Allure set)

And on lips in dry but unbroken condition:
That said, it's a perfectly nice formula and the tone of this review would be pretty different if the retail price were around £25. Medium pigment, elegant satin cream finish, scentless, weightless feel, good lasting power fading to a light, even stain after a meal (although a darker shade may last/stain better). The packaging has a nice heft and looks sleekly, quietly luxurious, and it's not as GOLD! as I'd feared based on picture.
(Surely I'm not the only one who cares about this very important element. The YSL has been depotted, btw)
The shape of the bullet itself is also well thought-out; there isn't a 'front' and a 'back' but two gentle slopes tapering to a slim horizontal line, which makes for precise touch-ups. And you get a plush black velvet pouch which is -- oh Japanese attention to detail -- a perfect fit (I hate opening my bag to find that a heavy lipstick has abandoned its designated costume and wreaked havoc on my phone/camera/kindle/ipod).

Okay, you know it's desperate times when a serial depotter compliments packaging in an attempt to be fair. Here are some comparison swatches so you can see where this shade lies in relation to some other roses (next to red, my favourite shade):

From left to right and cool to warm:
Kanebo Lavshuca Dramatic Memory Rouge RS-1
Sonia Rykiel Sublime Lipstick 24
Kanebo Sensai The Lipstick 21 Shirafuji
Suqqu Creamy Glow 02 Kyoganoko
Guerlain Rouge Automatique Chamade
Hourglass Femme Rouge Fresco
Rouge Bunny Rouge Colourburst Whim of Mine

Obviously, I have no complaints about the shade, which changes a bit depending on lighting, but is equally flattering on lips and cheeks, and has enough slip to work beautifully as a dewy cream blush:
(Chanel Beiges on eyes)

In conclusion, Kanebo Sensai The Lipstick is, at £40,...

Not as good as: By Terry Rouge Terrybly (£31), Suqqu Creamy Glow (£27) or the best Guerlain Rouge G's (Gigolo, Girly and Garçonne, £29.50), Guerlain Rouge Automatique (£24.50)
On the other hand, better than: Serge Lutens (£53), Cle de Peau Lipstick ($55+) or Tom Ford (£35)
On par with: Hourglass Femme Rouge (£22), the best Chanel Rouge Allures (Genial, Super £24)


  1. So that's one of the 12, uh?
    Well done my dear, it's so pretty on you!

  2. I like this shade on you! last time I was looking for a new red, Kanebo had a beautiful colour range to choose from. they feel like a dream but I couldn't choose between guerlain RA or kanebo. *sigh* so mayn reds I need to try, lol.

  3. thanks for such useful comparison with other brands.
    It looks very pretty on you

  4. Beautiful colour and amazing comparisons! I really love your reviews, I've become a fan of the way you write.

  5. very helpful! ^_^ I had been interested in this brand but I don't get too excited about l/s $50+ since quality kind of levels off there.. i.e. cdp, tom ford.

    on an unrelated note... I love how your hair has grown out! Mine isn't looking too hot since I'm trying to grow it out to a med-long length & haven't been in for haircuts :/ Are you much of a hair person in terms of styling, hair care products?

  6. Intensely helpful: actually also because I was eyeing up RBR whim but I already have HG fresco. Good to know you don't rate Tom Ford highly and I share your love for the Guerlain Rouge formula