In the summer of 2017, when I was first working in New York City and stressed out of my mind, I became a Glossier convert. The now-ubiquitous millennial beauty brand known for its low-effort skincare and no-makeup makeup doesn’t just sell products, it sells a lifestyle—one that is decidedly more calm, cool, and beautiful than the one I was living at the time.
I bought The Super Pack of skin serums to help me look a little more awake, Boy Brow to replace the way-too-dark eyebrow pencil I had been using, and Balm Dotcom lip balm because, well, I was sad and it tasted like birthday cake. I even visited their flagship in SoHo and snapped a selfie in their iconic mirror that reads, “You look good.” I did!
Now that I know a lot more about skincare and don’t need to get ready in five minutes flat every morning, I’ve expanded my repertoire beyond Glossier’s basics, and developed a healthy skepticism for their natural beauty branding. They’ve recently been criticized for their less-is-more approach, being called makeup for people who are “already beautiful.”
Their response? Glossier Play, a new spinoff brand of “dialed-up beauty extras” for those who want their makeup to look like, well, makeup.
What is Glossier Play?
Unlike the original brand, Glossier Play is a beauty line full of color, sparkle, and shine—think '70s disco meets Paris Hilton. Their core line, dubbed the “Playground,” includes four main products: Colorslide gel-pencil eyeliner ($15), Niteshine highlighter ($20), Glitter Gelée eyeshadow ($14), and Vinylic Lip lacquer ($16).
The eyeliner and lip lacquer are available in a wide range of vivid, retro-inspired shades, while the highlighter and glitter shadows come in more standard metallics. These products are available exclusively through Glossier’s website, and can be purchased separately or as a discounted bundle for $60.
While Play’s products recall some of the usual offerings from other brands like Fenty Beauty and Urban Decay, their distinctive packaging, comparatively low price-point, and Glossier simplicity make them uniquely appealing. Yes, bold eyeliner and eye glitter have been done before—but can Play take them to a new level? Glossier sent us a batch of their new products in a variety of shades so we could see for ourselves.
Putting Glossier Play to the test
While simply wearing all the different Glossier Play products and jotting down my thoughts might have been sufficient research for a casual beauty blog, that’s not the Reviewed way—we’re all about testing. So, with the help of our senior scientist, Julia, I developed a series of tests to figure out how just usable, wearable, removable, and beautiful these beauty products really are.
Because this information means nothing in isolation, I researched which brands at lower and higher price points offer products most similar to those in the Playground and chose two to test alongside Glossier—Wet n Wild (drugstore) and Marc Jacobs Beauty (luxury). I ordered one to two shades of every comparable product from these brands to see if spending more actually gets you more.
The first test involved wearing each product in isolation during a normal day, noting how easy it was to apply, if it needed to be reapplied throughout the day, and how I (and others) thought it looked. The second test? I combined one of every product from that brand into a “going out” look and wore it on the town. Dinner, drinks, dancing, you name it—I partied in the name of science.
When the night was over, I noted how the look held up and how easy or difficult it was to get my face clean again. The final test involved making a swatch of the products on my forearm and measuring how quick they were to dry, how easily they smudged, and if they were waterproof.
Of course, there’s also the simple question we all ask ourselves when our makeup is done—how do I look? Most of these products are designed to be worn for a good time, not a long time, so I tried to consider their je ne sais quoi along with their objective strengths and weaknesses. Also, certain color palettes appeal to me and my light skin tone more than others, so I let my friend Alex, who has a warmer, medium skin tone, contribute some data by wearing a Glossier Play look on the town, too.
Round 1: Eyeliner Pencils
Move over, liquid eyeliner—a creamy, blendable version of the classic eyeliner pencil is back in style, and Glossier wants to help you make the switch. We tested Glossier Play Colorslide in the shades Critical Mass, Sparkle Shark, Cash Salad, Hardcore Velvet, and Nectar against Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner in Out Of The Blue and Wet n Wild On Edge Longwear Eye Pencil in To My Yang.
While we were given more shades of Colorslide to test, Marc Jacobs Beauty offers an even greater range of colors to choose from than Glossier Play. The Play collection is more curated, with a funky, matte palette—Marc Jacobs offers the whole rainbow in matte, glitter, and shimmer finishes. Wet n Wild, meanwhile, only offers their longwear pencil eyeliner in five core shades.
I’ve never been a fan of eyeliner pencils—the woody, dry feeling of applying something so sharp to my delicate eyelids has always put me off—so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Colorslide. Because it’s a “gel pencil,” it glides on without much eyelid tugging or scratching, and can be blended if you’re not going for a look with distinct lines.
I wore the Critical Mass shade solo for a day and didn’t notice any undo smudging or flaking, later blending it with Nectar and Sparkle Shark for an evening look. Even though it’s waterproof, it came off easily enough with some makeup remover at the end of the night.
Thanks to the Glossier Play Blade (AKA their pencil sharpener), I was able to keep my favorite shades of Colorslide sharp for precise lines. Oddly, many reviews for Colorslide explain that these pencils don’t work well with other sharpeners, so you should spend the $4 on Blade if you’re interested in these liners.
I was similarly impressed by Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner, an even creamier eye pencil that comes in a wide range of shades. My vibrant cobalt blue pencil went on easy and stayed put the entire night, bringing out my eyes and inviting some welcome David Bowie comparisons. Unfortunately, the eyeliner isn’t a true pencil and therefore can’t be sharpened, making it hard to achieve fine lines. This is also true of the Wet n Wild On Edge Longwear Eye Pencil, an otherwise fine product that lasted through testing but didn’t impress with its low pigmentation.
Ultimately, while Marc Jacobs took top marks for pigmentation and creaminess, Glossier Play’s Colorslide was my favorite pencil overall thanks to its versatility and simplicity. It’s not as bold or groundbreaking as Glossier claims, but it’s a great eye pencil for those (like me) who would otherwise stick to liquid.
Winner: Glossier Play Colorslide
Round 2: Liquid Lip Color
Liquid lip color is a notoriously messy affair, and unfortunately, Glossier Play’s Vinylic Lip doesn’t do much to improve upon existing formulas. We tested the sticky, shiny product in the shades Baby, Casino, and Pony against Wet n Wild Megalast Liquid Catsuit Metallic Lipstick in I Don’t Dessert You and Marc Jacobs Beauty Enamored Lip Gloss in Rah Rah! and Ch-Ch-Changes.
The Vinylic Lip was difficult to test—and compare—for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t fall properly into either the “lipstick” or “lip gloss” categories. Its slender, marker-like package dispenses a thick, glossy, pigmented product from a doe-foot applicator, making it a unique hybrid lip color. Considering this, we chose to test it against both traditional liquid lipsticks and pigmented lip glosses.
Upon first application, I was pretty pleased with the Vinylic Lip formula—it was smooth, rich, and sweet-tasting, with the bold pop of color as advertised by Glossier. My experience quickly devolved when I tried to do anything other than stare in the mirror. Just wearing the product around the house, I ended up with color on my fingers, my face, my water glass, and my jeans.
The rich shine quickly faded into a sort of lip stain, which was difficult to remove, and I got tired of reapplying after the second or third time. The shades also didn’t suit my coloring, although I didn’t have a choice over which I received—their pink shades are more my speed.
I was also disappointed to see that Vinylic Lip doesn’t have the depth of tone or sparkle advertised on the Glossier Play website and Instagram. Rather than glimmering, multi-dimensional lip color, I noticed rather solid pigmentation with a creamy gloss finish. I tried to wear Vinylic Lip in Casino out for a night, but most of it was gone by the time I got to the bar, and I couldn’t bring myself to reapply. My friend Alex wore the more subtle Pony and didn’t complain, but also noted how quickly the shade disappeared.
The glimmering, layerable formula of Marc Jacobs Beauty’s Enamored Lip Gloss was much more pleasant to wear than Vinylic Lip. I chose a sherbet pink shade for daytime and a glimmering, iridescent red for evening, both of which went on smooth and gradually wore off without making a mess. This formula is much less pigmented than that of Glossier Play, but can be layered alone or with lipstick for deeper color. It also has a minty flavor that made me want to keep reapplying.
Wet n Wild’s Megalast Liquid Catsuit Metallic Lipstick was—and I can’t emphasize this enough—horrible. Drying, flaky, and difficult to apply, this lipstick completely lacked the shine and smoothness I saw with the other products. My boyfriend actually made of point of saying it looked scary, and that I probably shouldn’t wear it out to drinks. I did anyway, for science, but rubbed it off with a napkin when I caught sight of myself in a spoon. So long, Wet n Wild! Marc Jacobs wins this round.
Round 3: Liquid Highlighter
If reading about the complexity of liquid lip color is making your head spin, welcome to the world of liquid highlighters—shimmery, simple, and overwhelmingly similar. We tested Glossier Play Niteshine in Pale Pearl, Platinum Rose, and Deep Copper, against Wet n Wild MegaGlo Liquid Highlighter in Rosy and Ready and Gilded Glow, and Marc Jacobs Beauty Dew Drops Coconut Gel Highlighter in Fantasy.
As someone who already uses Glossier’s stick highlighter, Haloscope, I was looking forward to trying Niteshine. The little bottles of concentrated shimmer produced pleasantly glowy results, with more pigment than I was used to in Haloscope, but didn’t quite have the “wow” factor I expected from a brand of evening makeup.
In the end, I think I prefer Haloscope—the stick is easier to apply, and the dewy, oil-based formula has more of an impact on my dull skin. Alex was similarly neutral on Niteshine, and had hoped for a more impactful result.
The Wet n Wild MegaGlo Liquid Highlighter comes in a similar shade range as Niteshine, but each bottle has a thicker, larger applicator that helped me get enough product with one swipe. The formula itself is brighter and more multi-dimensional, and I noticed it still glimmering away on my nose bridge after a full night out.
The Marc Jacobs Beauty Highlighter is more of a bronzer than a true highlighter—the towering, pill-shaped pump bottle full of richly-pigmented formula is best for highlighting summer skin (both face and body) than wearing for a normal night out. It smells absolutely amazing, and I will be using it when I have something of a suntan in a few months, but it’s not in the running for this competition. For a quarter the price of Niteshine, it seems that MegaGlo is the way to go.
Round 4: Eye Glitter
Last but not least, everyone’s favorite makeup ingredient—glitter! Well, everyone except those who really care about the impact of plastics on the environment. Glossier Play has received a ton of criticism for including non-biodegradable plastics in their Glitter Gelée, a multi-purpose sparkle product for bold looks. We tested Glitter Gelée in Phantasm and Firewalk against Marc Jacobs Beauty See-quins Glitter Eyeshadow in Flashlight and Wet n Wild Color Icon Glitter Singles in Spiked and Brass.
Unfortunately, literally all of these products contain pieces of PET, a common type of plastic. Although the Marc Jacobs product is also mineral-based (and gives off a more natural sparkle), it isn’t guilt-free. If you’re not interested in purchasing products with non-biodegradable plastics, read no further. It’s worth noting that all these Glossier products are pretty heavy on the plastic packaging, but that’s unfortunately still common throughout the beauty industry.
Glossier Play’s Glitter Gelée and Marc Jacobs Beauty See-quins are both fun and beautiful in their own way. Glossier goes the New Year's Eve route with big, confetti-like pieces of glitter in clear gel bases, whereas Marc Jacobs offers more a more sophisticated, spreadable glimmer with mineral-pigmented formulas.
In the end, I preferred wearing the Marc Jacobs because it went on smoothly and came off easily—the Glossier glitter flecks clung to my waterline for days after. If you can put up with the plastic, there’s room for both in your rotation. I tried using the Glossier Play Detailer to apply the Glitter Gelée, but ultimately preferred using my fingers.
The messy, gritty, cheap, and difficult Wet n Wild Color Icon Glitter Singles are not even in the running. I unfortunately wore the gold shade out with the very dry Wet n Wild lipstick and looked like a solid mess. I went to a Kesha concert my freshman year of college, and the random pods of glitter I bought on Amazon to wear all over my face and body were still better than these glitter singles. Don’t buy them.
How does Glossier Play stack up?
For the digital beauty brand’s first venture into makeup-makeup, Glossier Play isn’t half-bad. Their Colorslide eyeliner impressed me with its versatility and ease of use, and I plan to use my Niteshine highlighters and Glitter Gelée eyeshadows again in the future. The only product that truly disappointed me was Vinylic Lip, and I’m already pretty fussy when it comes to lip color.
That being said, there’s a definite disjoint between Glossier Play and the brand’s original, effortless approach to beauty that made me fall in love with them two years ago. To make fuchsia eyeliner and goopy orange lip color work, you need to know what you’re doing and apply your makeup with confidence—you can’t swipe it on, pose in a sunny window, and suddenly look like an Instagram model.
If you’re just dipping your toes into evening makeup, buying a Playground set in your favorite shades and getting acquainted with techniques is a solid use of $60—but if you already love high-impact makeup, you’d be best investing in individual products with a proven track record, like our favorites from Marc Jacobs Beauty. I hope that Glossier Play develops products that are more wearable than their current offerings, but until then, I’m happy to keep drawing on myself with Colorslide.