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The products that go viral on TikTok often seem to come out of nowhere. A stroke of pure luck, an impressive, visible before-and-after or the stamp of approval of a big, trusted influencer can catapult a product from obscurity to sold out in a few hours. For Clinique’s Black Honey, its recent TikTok fame marks the already famous product’s Gen-Z debut. “What’s amazing about Black Honey is that it’s a trend that’s so easy to try because it’s so universal. It doesn’t matter what your lip color is or your skin tone,” said Carolyn Dawkins, Clinique’s svp of global consumer marketing, insights, data and analytics. As the product blew up on TikTok throughout August, it “very very quickly trickled over into sales results,” she said. The product is now out of stock on both Sephora and Ulta.
Visually, it’s a perfect product for content creation: It looks extremely dark in the tube, but goes on as a sheer, but buildable, berry tint. At $20, it’s accessible enough for most everyone to try out. #Blackhoney currently has 11.4 million views on TikTok.
There are videos demonstrating the application of Black Honey, recommending it for brown girls. “There is so much diversity throughout the videos,” Dawkins said. There are also posts of happy shoppers snagging the last tube at Ulta or Sephora and showing off their find. Of course, the problem with selling out on TikTok is that content creators are quick to search for dupes to suggest to their followers. E.l.f’s Sheer Slick Lipstick in Black Cherry and Chapstick’s Total Hydration Lip Oil in Sheer Plum are being recommended, particularly on Reddit.
Black Honey, the shade, was first introduced by Clinique back in 1971, in a pot. Carol Phillips, a Clinique co-founder and a former editor at Vogue, is credited with having created the shade in an attempt to create a ‘black turtleneck’ for the lip that would be a universal go-to. But its current iteration, in the brand’s “Almost Lipstick” formulation, launched in 1989, is what catapulted its hero status. Essentially, it was no-makeup makeup before that became a thing.
Influencer Tara Segari (73,000 followers on TikTok) posted a video comparing the Clinique and E.l.f. products. “If I ever see a makeup product more than a couple of times on my FYP, I know people are interested,” Segari said. Ultimately, she deemed the Clinique product to have better longevity. “In my opinion, Clinique has had enough time to master that,” she told Glossy. Taylor Deitman, a nursing student and Beauty Adviser at Sephora with around 3,500 followers, was inspired to look for a dupe at work, after seeing the product all over TikTok. In an August 16 post, she recommends the Sephora Collection Melting Lip Clicks Lip Balm in Blackberry, currently on sale for $5. “It’s not a new product by any means,” she said, “but people are loving its natural flush.”
Clinique responded to the hype within days, Dawkins said, reposting user content on TikTok and also dedicating Instagram real estate to the cult favorite product. The brand also had celebrity brand ambassador, Emilia Clarke, test the product for an Instagram post. “I’m a granny, I’m sorry. I’m not on TikTok,” Clarke said while demoing the product in real-time. “It looks really scary. It looks like my lips are about to go black,” she said, before exclaiming, “That’s amazing! Clinique, send me seven more, thank you very much.”
Dawkins noted the authenticity of this content, too: “The phenomenal thing is she’s discovering it for the first time, too, which makes her even more relatable,” she said. The brand, she added, didn’t want to take away from the authenticity of normal people showing themselves testing the product, and as such, opted to avoid creating a “hyper polished brand response.”
#Tiktokmademebuyit, Dawkins noted, is very, very real.