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The lip product world is a big one, so it can be daunting when you start learning how to find the best lip makeup products. It’ll come down to your color preferences, how opaque you want the color to be, texture and finish personal preferences, application methods, and more.
We’ll break down all the things you need to consider when choosing a lip product, whether it’s a lipstick, a lipgloss a lip liner, or something in between.
A Brief History of Lip Makeup Products
Can you believe lipstick has been around for 5,000 years? The ancient Sumerians and Egyptians wore it as a status symbol. Through time, lipstick has been made from crushed bugs, fish scales (for a pearly shine), gemstones, fruit, henna, tar, beeswax, and clay. Some of those ingredients are still in modern lip makeup.
Though red lips were often a status symbol around the world and throughout history from Cleopatra to Queen Elizabeth I, prostitutes were required to paint their red lips in ancient Greece to show their lower status in society and Queen Victoria demoted red lipstick’s reputation to something respectable women would not wear.
Lipstick had another moment at the end of the 1800s when French fragrance company, Guerlain, started selling a lip and cheek stain in commercially pots, but the type of tube we buy today didn’t show up until the 1920s .
In the 1920s and 30s, once again, lip makeup (especially red and dark shades) was associated with feminism and a “certain type of woman.” By the 1950s, though, the stigma was largely gone and women were free to wear their lipstick without having their morals questioned. In fact, most women wore it .
Fast forward through the next few decades–the pops of coral of the 1970s, the bold pinks of the 80s, the matte understated shades of the 1990s, and then the glossy any-color-goes shades of the 2000s and 2010s–and we’ve got lipstick (as well as gloss and liner) as a way to express any mood or style, with a variety of finishes, formulas, and colors.
How to Find the Best Lip Makeup Products for You
There are enough lip makeup products out there to make your head explode when you start to look for something new, I know. In most cases, you’ll be starting with color first, then move on to texture and opacity. There are a few other things to consider, too.
I’ll be the first one to tell you to just go by what your intuition tells you when you want to choose a new lipstick. What you’re drawn to (unless you’re drawn to it simply because it’s the brightest of a line-up) is likely to be something that will look good on you.
Not everyone’s comfortable choosing a lip color that way, though. The first rule of thumb when you want guidelines is to choose a shade with undertones that match yours.
If your undertones are cool (pink, veins appear blue, and you look better in silver jewelry than gold), choose a cool lip shade, or a shade with cool undertones (for example, a blue-based red versus a yellow-based one ). In general, these are the pinks, berries, cool reds, and pinkish-nudes.
If you have warm undertones (yellow, veins appear green, and you look better in gold jewelry), look for shades with warm undertones. These are often the corals, peaches, browns, and rust shades.
If you seem to have cool and warm undertones, you’re probably neutral and may be able to wear shades with either undertone, as long as they’re not extremely warm or cool. first). So again, you’re trying to match your undertones with a somewhat neutral shade.
Depth and drama
Within the range you find, you can go as light or dark as you’d like, depending on how much drama you want.
When Rules Don’t Apply
If none of these rules seem to work for you, consider a rose/mauve shade and work your way out from there as you expand your lip makeup product wardrobe, especially if you think your undertones appear more green than pink or yellow and you look best in rose gold jewelry.
These undertone guidelines will apply whether you’re looking for your perfect nude shade or something bolder. Don’t hesitate to break the rules, though. The color you will love the most at this season of your life—or for a specific outfit or event—may just go against all of the rules.
The thing about color and the best lip makeup products is to remember to have fun with them. Lipstick can be pretty inexpensive and it’s the fastest way to shake up your whole look.
Opacity and Finish
Once you’ve decided on a color, you’ll want to decide on the opacity of the lip color you’re going for. For more opacity, meaning stronger color and less of your natural lip color peeking through, you’ll want to look for finishes like cream or matte. Satin and frost are generally almost as opaque to those.
Shades marked as sheer will look the most natural of all and are perfect for the “no makeup, makeup” look or just a touch of color to complement the dramatic eye look.
Liners will usually fall into the matte or cream category. Lipsticks can be any of them. Glosses can, too, but are usually a bit sheerer overall.
Are you sensitive to fragrance in your products? Lip makeup products will be right under your nose and they do sometimes come with strong scents.
Generally speaking, you’ll find more of the strong fragrances in higher-end brands (not all) than the drugstore options, but if you have a chance to check for fragrance in a store before you make a purchase, you could save yourself a literal headache.
Do you just want color and finish that gets the job done or are you going for a whole luxury experience every time you apply your lipstick? If you find a high-end shade you like, always look for swatches online to compare to other lipsticks you may already have in your collection or something you can pick up at the drugstore.
There’s nothing wrong with purchasing a lipstick designer, but if it’s not important to you, you can probably get by with something less expensive that performs just as well with minimal differences outside of scent and packaging.
How do you need your lip product to perform? How often are you willing to reapply it? Long-wearing formulas have come a long way in the past several years, but they can still be drying (not all of them are). That means your lips may not just be uncomfortable, but look drier and thinner as the day goes on.
Sure, the idea of a lipstick that lasts 12+ hours sounds appealing, but do you really need it? How long will it be between application and when you want the lipstick gone? Is the difficult removal process and potential drying effect of a long-wearing lipstick a good trade-off in your situation?
There are definitely people who benefit from the long-wearing formulas, and not all long-wearing formulas will dry out their lips, but they’re not necessary for everyone who wants to wear lip makeup products.
If that’s not something you need, you’ll find yourself with a much wider range of options, including those that deposit medium intensity color and hydrate your lips like a balm.
So which “normal” lipsticks—in liquid or tube form—wear the longest? Mattes. Then creams.
You’ll get the least amount of wear time from a sheer finish unless it’s intended to be a stain. Glosses tend to give you only an hour or two, but some of those will leave a stain behind, as well. The shine will just disappear.
Where and How You’re Applying It
Do you want a lipstick you’ll have to apply with a separate brush? Do you prefer the flexibility of a brush or the firmness of a doe-foot applicator in liquid lipstick or gloss? Will you be using this specific color all over, or just as an accent (which could affect your applicator preference)?
How Big of a Collection Do You Want?
Are you a one lipstick staple kind of person who wears the same shade every day because it’s flattering to your coloring and any products or clothing you’ll ever want to wear, or do you want a whole lip product wardrobe with a natural shade, a fun shade, flirty shade, dramatic shade, etc.?
The Major Differences Between Lipstick and Lip Gloss
Over time, the line between lipstick and lip gloss seems to get increasingly blurred, since some glosses have quite a bit of color payoff and liquid lipsticks glide on with a wand. Here are some of the differences you can keep in mind as you shop:
- Lipstick tends to be lighter, whereas lip gloss is more lightweight.
- Lipstick traditionally is somewhat opaque, whereas lip gloss is sheerer.
- Lipstick can come in a twist-up tube or tube a wand (which could potentially leak, depending on the quality of the packaging), whereas lip gloss just comes in a tube.
- Lipstick can melt in the sun if it comes in a tube, whereas lip gloss is usually unaffected.
- Lipstick in a tube can be sanitized, whereas lip gloss cannot.
The Major Differences Between Lip Crayons, Lip Liners, and Lipsticks
Lip crayons, lip liners, and lipsticks are all pretty opaque, normally. However, there are some differences to keep in mind, as they are not completely interchangeable.
- Lip crayons can line and fill in the whole lip in order to be worn alone, whereas lip liners typically line the lip and fill in only to be covered with another product and lipsticks aren’t great for achieving crisp edges.
- Lip crayons and lipsticks can come in any finish, although lip liners are often cream or matte.
- Lip crayons and lip liners tend to need sharpening, whereas lipsticks simply twist up or are applied with a wand.
Advantages of Lip Makeup Products
There are so many advantages of lipstick, gloss, and liner, and when you learn how to find the best lip makeup products for your style, you’ll be able to enjoy them all:
- You can get the appearance of a brighter, healthier complexion.
- You can quickly transform from just-woke-up to put-together with minimal effort when you’re running late.
- There’s an element of creative expression, from the art involved in applying makeup to complementing your overall style.
- You gain the ability to enhance your features or give the illusion of plumper, bigger lips.
- You may experience boosted confidence.
- If your lips need moisture, some lip makeup is incredibly hydrating and nourishing.
Disadvantages of Lip Makeup Products
They’re not all positive, however. Here are some of the disadvantages to lip makeup:
- It may get on your teeth and show when you smile.
- There could be smudging when you eat, drink, kiss, or even accidentally bump your hand against your mouth.
- Lip makeup can be expensive, especially if you’re determined to find your one perfect shade or want to have a massive collection to cover any mood or creative makeup project.
- Some products may dry your lips out or cause cracking.
Safety Tips for Lip Makeup Products
There aren’t too many safety tips for lip makeup, but it’s important to remember the few we have.
Don’t Use Expired Lip Products
If your lip makeup smells “off”, toss it. If it doesn’t look right in color or texture, toss it. There’s a risk of introducing bacteria to your mouth or skin that can cause an infection or rash.
Once opened and used, your lipstick will only last around two years before it’s expired. Glosses can last up to 18 months.
Don’t Share Your Lip Products
You can sanitize tubes of lipstick with alcohol as they did from the testers in the stores, but it’s probably best not to share your lip products at all. Anything with a wand that goes back into the tube can’t be sanitized for sharing.
Line Your Lips When You’re Using an Intense or Deep Shade
This isn’t an official “safety” tip like the rest of them, but it’s a warning against a potentially embarrassing situation. Intense and deep shades are not especially forgiving when it comes to application or staying in place all day (there are exceptions).
You may not even be able to see any tiny lines around your lips when you look in the mirror, but certain lipsticks will find them and creep into them and it’s much more obvious when you’re wearing statement-making lip colors. Line your lips to make sure the lipstick stays where you put it.
My Top Recommendations
Here are some of my top lip makeup products:
Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez Lip Souffle Matte Cream Lipstick
The packaging here is like liquid lipstick , but the product has more of a whipped consistency.
- Comfortable to wear
- Difffused matte look
- Easy to apply
- Some shades can look patchy
- Will smudge onto your cups, etc. (but some shades will still leave a stain behind on your lips, so they don’t completely disappear)
Yves Saint-Laurent Rouge Volupté Shine Lipstick Balm
- Medium coverage, even though it feels like a balm
- Beautiful packaging
- Gorgeous range of colors
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil
The chunky size of this product makes it easy to use as a liner or lipstick .
- Strong color
- You’ll need the NARS pencil sharpener
- Limited color selection
Juvia’s Place Lip Liner
These are creamy and pigmented. You can find them at Last.
- Glide onto the lips
- Intense color
- Limited shades
- May not last as long as you expect a lip liner to last
KVD Beauty Everlasting Lip Liner
If you’re looking for an especially long-lasting liner and don’t mind paying around $20.00 for it, you’ll love this one.
- Interesting colors as well as neutrals
- Kind of expensive
- Though the collection is a good mix of bold, unusual shades and neutrals, there still aren’t that many colors to choose from
NYX Professional Makeup Butter Gloss
The name says it all. These are some of the most comfortable glosses to wear , and they’re not especially sticky.
- Not sticky
- Long-lasting for a gloss
- 31 shades to choose from
- Even though they’re long-wearing for a gloss, they still wear off quickly
Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick
If you want something that will last and last , this one’s what you’re looking for.
- Really does last
- Easy to apply
- Dozens of shades to choose from
- Can feel sticky
- Could be challenging to take off at the end of the day
Maybelline New York Color Sensational Lip Color
This well-loved line has been around for quite some time and it has a wide range of shades to show for it.
- Variety of finishes
- Wide range of colors
- Inexpensive and available at drugstores
- Some finishes, like the creams, perform better than others
Kosas Weightless Lipstick
This formula is extremely hydrating, has clean ingredients, and feels like nothing is on your lips.
- Only eight shades to choose from at Sephora (but you can find three more shades on the Kosas website)
MAC Lipstick and Gloss
If you want to have a huge lipstick collection so you have a shade for every mood and outfit, look no further than the MAC counter. Their Back2MAC program even allows you to trade in your empty MAC packaging (the plastic, not the box) for freebies.
- Wide color range with new collections and collaborations coming out all the time
- Impressive number of finishes to choose from, from Luster (sheer and shiny) to Powder Kiss (diffused matte, but not drying)
- Some finishes perform better than others
- Some finishes are more hydrating than others
- Gloss can feel sticky (but it lasts a long time for gloss)
ILIA Color Block High Impact Lipstick
This is a clean lipstick option designed to be especially moisturizing,
- Contains apricot seed oil, beaver seed oil, and mango seed butter to nourish your lips
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil
This line contains a wide range of colors, including clear, that last all day.
- Interesting range of colors, including a clear one that will keep your lipstick in place without distorting the color
- Needs to be sharpened
NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment
Here’s another option for all-day wear , and it’s just lightweight, you may forget you’re wearing lip makeup at all.
- Doesn’t settle into lines
- Add transfer shades
NARS Lip Gloss
NARS glosses glide on and feel hydrating. The packaging is simple and elegant, and the glosses won’t take up a ton of space in your bag because the tubes are so slim and sleek.
- Not sticky
- Lots of shades to choose from
Still curious about how to find the best lip makeup products for you? Maybe this Q&A will help.
Question: What is the best lip makeup?
Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez Lip Souffle Matte Cream Lipstick, because it’s lightweight, opaque but not heavy, applies easily, feels good on, and comes in shades that’ll make you feel confident and beautiful.
Question: How do I know what lipstick looks good on me?
Answer: First question is, what are you drawn to? There’s a good chance your intuition is telling you. The major guideline is to choose a shade that has undertones that match your own (so cool, warm, or neutral), regardless of the color family it’s from.
If nothing seems to work, look for a rosy shade, which tends to be one of the most universally flattering colors.
Question: How do I find the best lip liner?
Unless you want to match your liner to a specific lipstick, choose a liner that’s just slightly lower than your natural lip color. Retractable liners tend to be creamier than pencils (that’s not a hard and fast rule, however) and won’t require you to worry about sharpening them.
Question: What is the best lipstick of 2020?
Answer: InStyle magazine Reported Maybelline New York Color Sensational lipstick to be the best of 2020 inexpensive lipstick and Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution’s the best all-around.
Question: What is the best lip color?
Answer: The one that makes you feel radiant and confident. The best, most universally flattering lip shades tend to be medium rosy shades and peachy-pinks (think about the NARS Orgasm line that’s such a hit).
If you’re looking for a red, MAC Ruby Woo is a classic neutral red that works well with most skin tones.
Question: What is the best natural lipstick?
Kosas Weightless Lipstick is clean and contains mango seed butter, shea butter, cocoa seed butter, rosehip seed oil, and jojoba oil, so it’s especially moisturizing and comfortable to wear. It also comes in a range of shades that will flatter any skin tone.
Question: What color lipstick makes teeth look whiter?
Anything with a blue undertone tends to make teeth look whiter. A rich, blue-toned red is a wonderful choice, but a berry or wine will work well, too, if red lipstick feels too loud for the occasion.
Question: What is the best color lipstick for thin lips?
It’s less about color than it is about making sure it’s some light, though lighter tones (the nude or soft pink/peach shade that works with your skin tone) will help.
You don’t have to go for the glossiest thing you can find, but a little shine on your lips can help them appear larger, as will a lip liner that matches your natural lip color, traced just along the outer edges of your lips.
Question: Do guys prefer lipstick or lip gloss?
Answer: It will depend on the guy, but most seem to prefer gloss. The color is less intense and they don’t have to worry about it transferring as much to their lips if you kiss.
Not that gloss won’t transfer, just that it’s less likely to be obvious or hard to wipe off. Some guys from like intense lipstick shades, though.
Guys’ concerns are similar to yours in this case—taste, texture, and how messy it’s going to be if you kiss.
Question: Should lip liner be lighter or darker?
Answer: Lip liner should be darker, but not by much. About one shade darker than the lip product you plan to layer on top will do.
Question: How do I choose a nude lip liner?
Answer: You’ll want to almost match your lips. You’re shooting for a “your lips, but better” kind of shade that’s just a tiny bit darker than your lips but matches in undertones and still looks natural with your skin tone.
Question: What is the number one lipstick?
According to The Cut , the most classic lipstick color is Christian Dior’s 999, the classic, gorgeous red.
Question: What is the most moisturizing lipstick?
Yves Saint-Laurent Rouge Volupté Shine Lipstick Balm is the most moisturizing lipstick I’ve found. It contains oils, macadamia butter, and hyaluronic acid. Though it sounds like it’d be pretty sheer, it’s actually medium coverage. It comes in 26 shades.
Question: What is the most popular lipstick?
Answer: As of this writing, the best-selling lipstick on Amazon is the Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick on Loyalist.
Question: What can you use instead of lipstick?
Answer: You could always try tinted lip balm, gloss, or a combination of liner with clear gloss on top. If you’re looking to create something for your lips from other types of products in your kit, try mixing eyeshadow or blush with Vaseline or chapstick for some color in a pinch.
Question: How can I make my top lip look fuller?
Answer: Moisturize your lips and allow time for the product to absorb.
Using a liner that matches your lip shade, fill in just along the edge of your top lip, on your skin (so the line will overlap your lip but you’ll be “overlining” by putting some outside the edge, too).
Apply a creamy shade of lipstick to top and bottom lips (a natural shade will work well). From there, take another light-reflecting lipstick or gloss in a similar, but lighter, shade. Apply that to the middle of your top lip and blend the edges out with your fingers.
Question: Should you wear lipstick if you have thin lips?
Answer: Why not? Lipstick’s a beautiful pop of color on anyone’s lips. If you’re concerned about making them look thinner, stay away from especially dark or matte shades. Instead, look for light-reflecting nudes, pinks, peaches, or even light purple.
Question: What lip color makes you look younger?
Answer: Bold (but not too bright) pinks, roses, peaches, and oranges. Skip dark shades and drying formulas that will emphasize any lines in or around the lips. Look for moisturizing and/or plumping formulas.
Conclusion: Finding the Best Lip Makeup Products
The best lip makeup products for you may be different from someone else’s best, though the ones listed above tend to outperform others in comfort, hydration, color options, and/or effect. Keep your preferences and coloring in mind to decide what’s right for you.
The best products will be a combination of a texture you love to wear, that wears as long as you need it to, in a color that matches the guidelines you set (you may choose to follow the “rule” undertones or be a rebel and choose the opposite for an edgier vibe).
The best products will feel comfortable on, smudge very little or not at all, make you feel confident (not self-conscious), and either brighten and enhance your complexion or achieve the amount of drama you were going for.