The last time I tried a water-based lip stain was the infamous Serge Lutens and that didn't go as well as one would hope. Hourglass Aura Sheer Lip Stain in Scarlet is sort of a do-over of the Lutens experience- the colors are identical, the texture similar but the pen format and applicator of Hourglass make Aura Sheer Lip Stain a better choice.
The sponge applicator looks like the one on Ellis Faas lip colors, but this is obviously a different texture and product. Scarlet looked quite scary when first emerged- an almost black plum color, but it soon revealed itself as a true plum and not even a dark one. When applied, this Hourglass stain is sheer enough to be very wearable. The water-based formula spreads easily and holds onto the lip surface. It wears much more evenly than the Lutens and if it weren't for the scar on my bottom lip it would have looked perfect. Apparently water-based lip stains are just not the right choice if you have lip imperfections.
The texture of Hourglass Aura Sheer Lip Stain is dry but not drying, so well-conditioned lips would look great wearing it. My preference is to wear this stain under a thick balm or gloss- it evens out the scar thing and feels more comfortable as I'm prone to dry lips. As long as I touch up the gloss as needed, the color stays vibrant for about four hours, throughout drinks and a snack. I find that I really like Scarlet as a color and wish it came in easier-for-me to wear formula like a sheer lipstick. The need to be mindful when applying (otherwise the stain pools in my scar) and necessity of using a balmy coat makes it a bit high maintenance when on the go.
Bottom Line: You will love it if you're a lip stain person.
Hourglass Cosmetics Scarlet Aura Sheer Lip Stain ($26) is available from Barneys and Sephora. It comes in two other colors, pink and peach. A press sample was sent for my consideration from the company.
Photos are mine.