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June 6, 2019

Glossier Play vs. K-Beauty: Worth the Coin or Just More Dupes?

It doesn’t mean we don’t like Glossier Play. It just means we’ve seen this before.


The parallels between K-beauty and North America’s Glossier have always been apparent to me. I wrote a piece about it last year, so when Glossier announced their Glossier Play line I wanted to revisit the subject and see if the same lines could be drawn to connect it to K-beauty once again. Would Glossier Play be a totally new concept or something those of us in the K-beauty world were already intimately familiar with?


Glossier Play launched online to much fanfare a few months ago. This was Glossier’s foray into the colorful side of makeup, the fun side if you will, but they did end up staying on brand with Glossier’s minimalism by keeping the collection limited to a single lip formula, a glitter gelee, 14 shades of eyeliner, and a highlighter, with a silicone applicator and sharpener rounding out the collection. They brought on one of my personal favorite makeup artists to consult in the making of Glossier Play, so I had high hopes.



During the initial launch, I have to admit I was swept up in the excitement and really wanted to get my hands on everything. As the reviews and swatches came out, I realized that once again, I had seen this before. So I put Glossier Play to the test and tried them out against K-beauty dupes. Here’s what I found.


Colorslide Technogel Eye Pencils


Let’s start with arguably the most popular product in the lineup, the Glossier Play Colorslide Technogel Eye Pencils. To nitpick, even the name sounds like it would be right at home in a K-beauty line. Like Tony Moly Back Gel Liner. I know that’s a reach and there’s no way that was on purpose, it’s just something that stuck out to me.


glossier play


Like I mentioned earlier, the Colorslide pencils come in 14 shades, and admittedly they are pretty fun shades. From what I read online, during development they brought in pastels from an art supply store to get color inspiration. All in all, a great concept.


glossier play


My problem lies in the fact that I can either direct dupe or near dupe every shade available for half the price with Etude House Play 101 pencils. I mean, there are 101 shades to choose from, so I guess it’s not that shocking. You might think that because there’s at least a $10 difference in the price that the Play 101 pencils are lacking in quality and staying power. Quite the opposite: They in fact glide better and apply with a truer color than the Colorslide pencils. And unlike the Colorslides, the Play 101s come with a built-in sharpener. The sharpener for the Colorslides is an additional $5.


I guess where it’s a draw is the automatic versus wooden pencil debate. If you vastly prefer a wooden pencil to automatics, you’re going to want to go Glossier Play. If you’re ambivalent, I’d say Etude House is the clear winner for this round.


Winner: Etude House


Niteshine Highlighter Concentrate


Moving on to the highlighter, this one was difficult for me to judge. I’m a well-known highlighter junkie so just seeing a new one on the market gets me all hot and bothered, and this one did not come to play, despite its name. It’s an admittedly gorgeous liquid highlighter concentrate, which really appeals to me as someone with aging skin. The older I get, the more I’m moving away from powder highlighters and seeking out the dewy sheen of liquids.


glossier play


Glossier Play Nightshine Highlighter Concentrate is no doubt beautiful, but it’s not groundbreaking. It reminds me of any number of K-beauty liquid highlighters that have come and gone over the years. Where they win for me is the shade selection. Whereas Tony Moly’s closest approximation to this product has only two very light shades to choose from, the Nightshine Highlighter has four gorgeous shades to better serve deeper toned skin. The Molten Umber shade is a particular standout shade for dark skin, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.


Winner: Glossier Play


Vinylic Lip


No color collection worth its salt would leave lips out of the game, and Glossier Play’s Vinylic Lip (another product name that sounds so at home in K-beauty) is touted as the brand’s innovative new way to deliver color. This lipstick is a pen that comes with a doe-foot applicator cushion. Simply click the pen to push the color into the cushion and apply.


glossier play


My mind immediately went back to the old Etude House Rosy Tint Lips, which had the exact same cushion applicator; the only difference there was you had to squeeze the tube instead of clicking. But if we’re going with the clicking pens and cushion model, K-beauty’s I’m Meme I’m Tic Toc Tint Lip Cashmere is the exact same thing and $5 cheaper. The shades are also comparable — near or exact matches.

What it’s going to come down to is finish preference. Vinylic Lip is a high-shine formula, and while it gives a brilliant, pretty sheen, it obviously won’t have all that much staying power. The K-beauty versions are a soft matte that give a really cute blurred effect and have a bit more muscle in terms of carrying through to your next retouch as the lipstick leaves behind a soft tint as it fades. Honestly, there’s room for both in my collection, but be clear that this “new” delivery system is nothing new.


Winner: draw


Glitter Gelée


So let’s get down to the last product, Glossier Play’s Glitter Gelée. This product as far as I know has no dupe in K-beauty, but given the reviews I’m totally OK with that. Glossier Play’s Glitter Gelée is a chunky glitter gel that gives a jewel effect anywhere you choose to apply it. This is the product I haven’t tested, and I’ll tell you why.


glossier play


Several reviews reported burning, itching, and even stinging in the areas where they applied the Glitter Gelée. My eyes are already incredibly sensitive so I’m not even going to test this one out for science.


Another gripe I have with this product is it doesn’t use biodegradable glitter. They go so far as to advise you to “Avoid washing off with water to prevent getting glitter into the waterways.” Like … no ma’am, not in 2019 we’re not doing this. It is too easy to source biodegradable glitter, and Lemonhead.LA proves it. While Glossier Play only offers four shades of the Glitter Gelée, Lemonhead.LA did it first and does it better with like 20 shades of their fully biodegradable Spacepaste and Spacejam glitters.



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Winner: Lemonhead.LA by miles, leaps and bounds


So all in all, I wouldn’t say Glossier Play is a failure. Like I said before, I know it was developed by some very talented people that I respect very much in the makeup artist world. But I also know that there’s nothing new under the sun, and this is a path I’ve traveled down before, and in some cases, the old path was a lot nicer.


Have you tried Glossier Play? What do you think of it?




Coco Park is an author, beauty journalist, blogger, podcast host, and all around oddball living in Montreal Quebec with her family. Originally from the southern USA, she worked for several years in the makeup industry as a professional makeup artist and holds a certificate in esthetics. She is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Want to know more? Check her out on the Beauty Beyond Basics podcast, on her blog, on Instagram @thebeautywolf, and in her book "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup."