It's a plausible technique, says Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Susan Rabizadeh, who explains that the thin skin of the lips allows small quantities of product to be absorbed into the bloodstream. But the amount that is actually absorbed depends on the concentration of the ingredients and how often the gloss is applied. "With any herbal remedies you have to be careful of side effects," she says, so read labels carefully.
"It's an intriguing idea," naturopath Anne Dunev says as she reads through some of the ingredients of the new products. Hoodia has been demonstrated to suppress appetite, St. John's wort is a mood elevator that could potentially help prevent emotional eating, and stimulants kola nut and peppermint can slightly increase the metabolism, she says. The question is whether enough of the ingredient is absorbed to have a substantial effect on your appetite, she says -- but don't underestimate the placebo effect. "Feeling it might work might make it worth it."
How do the glosses fare in the face of sweet temptation? We road-tested four products to get the skinny.
Huge Lips, Skinny Hips by Purple Lab
The product: According to some experts, hoodia -- the active ingredient in this new gloss, due out at the end of the month -- can help suppress appetites (though no published clinical evidence supports the claim). Huge Lips also contains lip-plumping vitamin B3, which stimulates blood flow; vitamin E; lemon peel oil; and meadowfoam oil, a natural moisturizer. The gloss is available in six shades.
The test: We slicked on this lip gloss a couple of hours after lunch to see if it could help deter an afternoon sugar binge. It glided on smoothly, and the sheer shade gave us a sexy pout. Within a few minutes we didn't feel the need to snack on M&Ms. It was another hour before the chocolate proved too tempting.
The verdict: This moisturizing gloss sweeps on like silk and the sophisticated shades (Worship Kate, a sheer, deep rose, for instance) make it a worthy purchase regardless of whether it appeases restless appetites.
Express Effects Thingloss
The product: Thingloss takes two approaches to appetite suppression. It offers "crave controlling" ingredients such as hoodia and kola nut, and it stimulates an olfactory response with peppermint essential oil. Just as the aroma of freshly baked cookies can make you feel hungry, certain scents, such as peppermint, may (conversely) inhibit your appetite. Other ingredients include vitamin E, safflower oil and cinnamon. It comes in two neutral shades.
The test: As instructed, we inhaled the scent of the gloss (reminiscent of spiced gingerbread cookies) 30 minutes before a meal three times in each nostril, then applied the product three times daily, as recommended.
The verdict: The super-sheer gloss has a slightly oily consistency that keeps lips smooth, but the tint fades quickly. The strong smell helped temporarily diminish our appetite, but it's difficult to tell how long the effect actually lasted.
Fiji Blend Loss Gloss and Loss Gloss Blast
($13 and $15; www.fijiblend.com)
The product: Loss Gloss incorporates St. John's wort and methionine (found naturally in sesame seeds) as its appetite suppressants, while Loss Gloss Blast also contains caffeine, ginseng and guarana for an added energy boost. Both products feature moisturizing almond, papaya and monoi oils, and come in a SPF 25 formulation.
The test: One swipe of Loss Gloss Blast gave lips an iridescent shine, while the Peppermint Pattie scent (surprisingly) satisfied cravings. Loss Gloss, which smells like maple syrup, didn't leave us wanting pancakes, but it needed to be reapplied within the hour.
The verdict: Probably the thickest and the strongest smelling of all the glosses, the Loss Gloss Blast seemed to have the most immediate effect on suppressing our impulse to snack, but the tacky formula left lips feeling dry.
($25.45; www.jbni.us/details.html #A_balm)
The product: This medicinal-looking lip balm is formulated with Trichosanthis Radix, commonly known as snakegourd root, and Anemarrhenae Rhizoma to keep the stomach in a state of contraction, which helps a person feel satiated. The all-natural product also has rhubarb extract, beeswax, castor oil and rice bran.
The test: Tint-less, with the consistency of Vaseline, the balm has no specific taste or scent. According to the manufacturer, it's best applied after dinner to avoid late night snacking, and lasts up to four hours. Carefully sweep finger across the balm and apply to lips -- it's easy to use too much force and end up with a messy glob.
The verdict: A. Balm seemed to help stem cravings for almost two hours, but its no-nonsense formulation leaves lips lacking aesthetically. Skip this one if you're after a sexy pout.