When you think of makeup, you think of lipstick — lipstick and blush, probably. Lipstick is a cornerstone of everyone's beauty routine and an essential to every beauty bag. It's one of the few products that can finish a look, or be a look all on its own. With so many lip products available, finding the right product for you can be a challenge, but finding the perfect shade and formula is always, always worth the leg work. Let me help!
Illustration: Elena Scotti/Lifehacker, Photos: via Shutterstock.
What Is Lipstick?
Truthfully? It's anything you want it to be! Its literal purpose is to apply colour to and accentuate your lips. With traditional lipsticks, supple texture and a bit of shine were added, too. These days, lip colour comes in so many formulas that you aren't bound to any one thing.
For example: Some people have very lightly pigmented lips, so adding a bit of colour, natural or dramatic, can simply help their face look healthier and more vibrant without having to apply a ton of makeup. Matching a lipstick to a gown or even a T-shirt can bring the colour up to your face and tie an outfit together. Basically it's there to define your mouth and give your face a little more structure.
Different Types of Formulas
Traditional lipstick is made with waxes, oils and pigments, and is in the form of a stick that is housed in a tube which twists up to apply and back down to travel safely. Stick lipsticks have the widest range of finishes, from high gloss to matte, and typically have the largest variety of shades compared to other formulas, depending on the brand.
Liquid lipsticks are the newest and fastest growing formula. Though the each formula differs, liquids are typically known for full opacity and all day wear. They apply, as the name indicates, as a liquid, but unlike traditional lipsticks, they fully dry down on the lip to a velvety finish that doesn't budge. Their packaging is similar to that of a lip gloss, as they are in a tube and applied with a wand with a doe foot applicator on the tip. If you want a bulletproof lip, a liquid is the way to go. Because they dry down and wear well for so long, some formulas can tend to be a little drying.
Lip stains were a precursor to liquid lipsticks, as they, too, are a liquid. The difference is that a stain is heavily pigmented but sheer, so your lips will be tinted, but still show through the product. Think a popsicle stain. They are very thin so they feel light on the lips, and the colour clings for hours until it wears off. Stains are great for casual wear that you don't have to constantly check up on or reapply. Also, many lip stains double as cheek tints (that being said, you can also use lipstick as a cream blush).
There are new innovations in lip products every day, so you'll hear about lip crayons and lip pencils, which usually fall in the lipstick category, and lip creams, which tend to be a liquid tint with less stay power than a traditional liquid lipstick.
Everything You Need to Know for Perfect Application Every Time
These are a few steps before you actually apply the lip colour to your lips that will make it look perfect and help extend wear. If you want to just pop on the lip colour and be out the door, you can do that, too! These will just help the colour last all night. If you're opting for a lip stain, you can skip all of this since stains are all about enhancing the colour of your lips without making them look too painted on.
First, if you're wearing base of any sort, bring a little bit of your foundation or concealer down over your lip line to block it out. This is beneficial for a few reasons. First, everyone's lips are different, Some people have a very defined lip line, others have redness that extends over the lips. Personally, the sides of my lips are a little red, and if I don't block that out, it can look like my lip colour is blotchy, or bleeding out from where I applied. I'm always so much happier with my lipstick when I take 10 seconds to block out my natural lip colour.
Finding the right foundation isn't easy. With so many options available, it's almost impossible to know where to start. If you narrow down what you're looking for from your foundation, the level of coverage and type of finish you want, it can make finding the perfect base a lot easier.
Next, lip liner. If you're wearing a traditional lipstick, using a lip liner of the same or a similar colour underneath with help the colour last longer and stop it from migrating over your lip line. Liners are more dense and dry than lipsticks, so they cling to the lip longer and are more immovable.
There are a few ways to apply lip liner. You can trace around the perimeter of your lips, which works to define the shape and prevent your lipstick from feathering or bleeding. You can also use the liner to fill in your lips entirely before applying the lipstick. This may seem like you're doubling down on lip colour, but it will help keep your lip colour in place all night and prevent it from getting wearing unevenly, becoming patchy or rubbing away completely. It also helps to intensify the your lip colour.
Liners are good under liquid lipsticks, too. Though liquids have more stay power than traditional lipsticks, they sometimes crack or flake around your lips after hours of wear, depending on the formula, especially around the lip line. Lining the lips first will help keep your line precise throughout wear. And if you eat a meal in your lipstick, nine times out of 10 the food will rub the lipstick off, but not the liner, so running to the bathroom and reapplying is a breeze since you're basically just colouring inside the lines.
Matte lipsticks reflect less light (that is, they're not glossy). They give the lip a luxurious, velvety finish, which helps the colour appear more rich and vibrant. Matte lipsticks typically last longer since they are less emollient, making them harder to rub off. The downside is that some matte formulas can be a bit drying, or at least feel drying during wear.
Satin lipsticks can also be referred to as demi-matte, or the middle ground between a matte and glossy finish. They have a soft shine that helps lips appear softer and a bit more plump. Satins tend to be the best of both worlds as they are comfortable on the lip, usually have a bit more moisture to them and feel better for longer.
Glossy lipsticks pack a high-shine finish that can be just as glamorous as a matte lip. They are usually the most comfortable and moisturising on the lip, though because of that high moisture content, can be the easiest to rub off.
Sheer lipsticks give your lips a wash of colour, while still letting your actual lips show through. These differ from a lip stain because sheer lipsticks still provide a moisturising barrier and feel plush and comfortable on the lips, whereas stains simply stain the lip.
A Word on Wear
I know that everyone looks for product that is a comfortable, moisturising and long wearing, but the truth is, those two things don't always go together. A lot of the critiques about long-wearing lipsticks is that they're drying; that's unfortunately part of what makes them stay. Whether it's a traditional lipstick or a liquid, if you want long-lasting colour, you're going to have to sacrifice a little bit of moisture to get it.
If you do want a more moisturising product, a glossy or high shine finish will be the way to go, with the understanding that they don't have the best staying power. Hydrating and glossy lipsticks are comfortable, but because of the high moisture content, it's going to be easier for them to slip off. That's why a liner is always a good idea. Because the product is drier, it will create a nice base so that even if your lip colour does slide off, you won't be left with bare, patchy lips until you reapply.
Eating is a sure fire way to make your lip colour rub off, no matter what formula or finish you choose. Obviously, you have to eat, so just carry your lip colour with you if you're concerned with maintaining your makeup and reapply after the meal! Oily or greasy foods remove lipsticks the fastest, as oil breaks down makeup, so if you're in the middle of like, I don't know, an important job interview over lunch (do those happen?) and really want to keep things in place for as long as possible, just keep that in mind. Go for sushi! Sushi is a great lipstick meal.
And that's basically it. It seems like there's a lot to know, but trust me, it's easy. Once you get a feel for what you like, you'll be able to find the perfect lipstick in no time!