Long kiss, good buy? We test Elizabeth Arden's Exceptional Lipstick, pounds 12.50
Cosmetics-industry boffins work night and day to bring us the ammunition we need in the daily battle of the sex war and their latest secret weapon is the luxury, long-lasting lipstick. Without the constant need for re-application how much happier and freer our lives will be!

So thinks Elizabeth Arden, with its Exceptional Lipstick being one of the most expensive on the market. You'll find Arden supermodel Amber Valetta puckering up in all the glossy magazines this spring.

Exceptional Lipstick costs a shocking pounds 12.50 (it's up there with Lancome, at pounds 12.50 and Chanel, at pounds 13.50), which is pretty steep when you consider that, at the other end of the market, you only pay pounds 4 for Rimmel's long- lasting 1000 Kisses lip stylo. So what, exactly, are we getting for our extra pounds 7.50? "We put a lot into the research and technology," explains a spokeswoman for Arden. "We've got a huge R&D department in the US which is coming up with new formulas all the time. This lipstick is creamy, comfortable, conditioning and long-lasting."

The lipstick's lasting performance is due to a mysterious pair of ingredients, Nylon Six and ceramides. One sounds like a pair of tights, the other a Greek tragedy. So, what do they actually mean?

"Nylon Six - or to call it by its chemical name, polyacrylamide - is used primarily for increasing shine and adhesion in the printing industry," says John McCook, corporate vice-president of R&D at Arden. "We've used a cosmetically acceptable version to give the lipstick added gloss and extensive wear without tackiness."

Pretty ground-breaking, huh? Not according to Dr Ian White, a dermatologist at St Thomas' Hospital in London. "Nylon Six has film-forming properties. You find it in most moisturising creams. Ceramides are fatty things. They have a moisturising effect, as any oily film will. Lipsticks are made from a combination of waxes and oils."

When I read out the long list of ingredients - ricinus communis, octyldodecyl stearoyl stearate to name but two - kind Dr White was able to translate them into plain old castor oil, fatty acids, corn starch, waxes and an anti-oxident that stops the ingredients going rancid. "The whole industry uses the same ingredients," he says. "The magic is in the cookery not the ingredients."

It seems that Arden has got the recipe right - Exceptional Lipstick has the tenacity of a bull terrier. It left a whisper of colour on my coffee cup while staying ferociously attached to my lips. The lipstick still has that over-perfumed taste and smell associated with your grannie's powder compact, but it dissipates soon after application. To sum up: this product does what it promises.

I also tried Rimmel's 1000 Kisses. It, too, contains ceramides and initially works just as well. Promising to lock colour in in 60 seconds, it doesn't even leave a trace on a coffee cup. However, after using it for a day my lips felt dry and sensitive, probably because I had to apply it several times to get a good colour. Arden's Exceptional Lipstick is more vibrant, goes on more smoothly and comes in far more glamorous packaging.

When it comes to luxury cosmetics, we all know we're paying over the odds. Out of the pounds 12.50 you spend on Exceptional Lipstick, pounds 7.50 is going on glamour. The more frivolous of us will be happy to part with our money.