Nothing says effortless and sexy quite like a lip stain. It's the perfect way to go sheer while imparting a sexy flush. Once you’ve mastered how to use these game changers, you’ll find there’s just about no look they can’t create. But they do come with their own set of rules.
Since most lips stains are, by definition, drier than your lipsticks, they can (and will!) emphasize any flaws — think flakes, small lines and general dryness. Plus, they’re usually thinner in texture than creamier products so they just aren’t very forgiving. So don’t even think about reaching for one until you’ve prepped lips properly. Trust us — the extra minute it takes to do this will be more than worth it to make the long wearing color look perfect all day long. Just take a wet toothbrush and rub it onto lips using a gentle circular motion, says DC makeup artist Victoria Alexander. Voila! A few other tips to get you ready for our seven favorite lip stains:
Your One Must-Have Product for Nailing the Sexy Stained Look
The biggest amateur mistake you can make before reaching for your new fave stain, isn’t the stain you choose, but skimping on lip balm. That little layer of moisture keeps that flaky dryness you sloughed away from coming back and gives you an overall smoother, softer surface with which to work. Throw a tube in your bag too to keep lips looking fresh and juicy throughout the day. Try:Maybelline Baby Lips Dr. Rescue Medicated Lip Balm
Lock it in with Lip Liner
Yes, the stain is designed to stick around, but it’s not going to apply as precisely as a good old-fashioned lipstick with a point and the creaminess to trace a line. Reach for a lip liner in a matching color (or clear, if you’re going for a more natural look). The goal here is use a soft stroke, just to have a guideline. Super important: Blend, blend, blend the lip liner so there’s no obvious outline.
Choosing the right color
Once upon a time, lip stains were all about berries — looking like you munched on them and left behind a pretty purplish stain. But all that has changed — with glossy stains, matte stains, thick stains, thin stains — the range of colors has exploded. Now it’s all about finding the right shade for your skin tone, says Alexander. Cooler tones — those that are blue-based — work better for fairer skin. Warm tones — those closer to orange or red — look gorgeous on olive complexions. The hot new tangerine shade is better (or at least less intimidating) when it goes sheer — as in start with an orangey stain, and top with a clear gloss. With pink blowing up and moving way past princess realm and into board meetings, it’s important to find one that’s the tone for you. Warm, peachy pinks light up olive or darker complexions, while cool ones look tres romantique on fair skin. Back to berry, the reason it’s the original lip stain? It looks fabulous on everyone.
Check out our top picks for best long-wearing lip stains!
Why we love it: It’s nonsticky and has a gorgeous matte finish, but is also hydrating and doesn’t let lips ever look the least bit parched
Perfect for: Snogging. Remember when looking like you were doing the walk of shame was something to be avoided? Thanks to the hot-mess makeup trend called snogging (the Brit slang for making out ), that smeared, steamy lip look is being celebrated. Apply to the lips, barely reaching the outer lip line. Then take a clean lip brush and buff the color just outside of the line so that it’s on the skin. Finish by applying a clear lip gloss all over lips (just not outside).
Why we love it:The water-in-oil emulsion feels like a second skin and dries to a lush matte finish.
Perfect for: Creating the ombre lip. Use the supercool sponge applicator (designed to absorb, then deliver max pigment) to apply color to the center of the lips only. Then use your fingers to smudge the color out. Top with clear lip balm (not gloss) for just the smallest hint of shine.
Why we love it: The delicious mousse texture delivers a matte, natural flush, and can multitask on your cheeks too.
Perfect for: Making your summer lips look like you’ve been sucking on a popsicle (as in, saturated color in the middle of the lips that seeps to the outer corners of the mouth). Your secret weapon is actually your fingers. Dab some color on your index finger and press into the center of the lips, where the darkest will be. Then to create the softer look on the outer edges of your mouth, simply blend out and smudge.
Why we love it: The watercolor-soft wash of color is kicked up a notch by the high shine of the gloss
Perfect for: One-step lip application. You can skip the gloss with this stain, but still rest assured that it’ll last for hours. Apply directly onto lips by starting in the middle (when the applicator has the greatest amount of product), then carefully lining the lip line with the color that remains and filling in anything in between. For even longer wear, blot lips with a tissue and apply a second dab just to the center of lips.
Why we love it: Two shades that look fab together and can be worn separately
Perfect for: The Two-Tone Lip. It’s pretty cool that one of our favorite lip trends this season can be created with just one product. For an ombre dual-colored lip,apply your base color to the entire lip. Then take the second lip stain color and apply it only to the middle of the bottom lip. For a funkier, runway-inspired look, try the Split-Lip. Using two different shades in the same color family (like you’ll get in this product), apply the lighter color on top and the darker on bottom. Guaranteed you’ll become just a little obsessed with this Instagram-worthy trend.
Why we love it: It’s a true buildable longwearing rose-colored stain that lets your lips look naturally pinker (read: the color you had when you were a child).
Perfect for: Layering under regular lipstick. When you want to wear your creamier lipstick but are worried about the color wearing off throughout the day, just put lip stain underneath. Apply to your entire lips in layers to reach the desired color and let dry, then apply your lipstick. Even when lipstick wears off, you’ll avoid the dreaded outer lip line and have a pretty even color for the whole day.
Why we love it: It literally lasts all day—and night (as in, we tested sleeping in it overnight and woke up with perfectly painted lips) and comes in a ridiculous amount of colors (24, to be exact).
Perfect for: Kissing without leaving a mess on him, of course. This stuff is pretty much goof proof. Apply it all over lips (no liner necessary). Let dry for 2 minutes, and top with the moisturizing sheen, which can be reapplied through the day for added luster and hydration. The longer it wears, the more stained effect it gives.
Why we love it: This is beyond love. We may never be the same again after trying these shimmery, glittery, budge-proof topcoats that transform any and every lip color you already have into something that literally makes people on the street stop and ask you what you’re wearing.
Perfect for: The Glitter Lip. Let’s be honest: As much as we lust after the glitter lip that’s been all over the runways, it’s just not very practical IRL (unless you want to be eating glitter for dinner or having your boyfriend snack on it during a make-out session). But simply top whatever lipstick you’re wearing (or use them alone for a glittery stained glass effect) with one of these gorgeous topcoats, and not only will you leave a patent-leather like shine, but plenty of glitter that will. Not. Flake. With colors ranging from gold to red to our personal favorite, Ritual (a smoky blue-gray with iridescent 3-D sparkle), you can have long lasting statement lips with one swipe.
Why we love it: It gives lips a cushiony look and feel. And who couldn’t use some extra padding on their pucker? Plus it’s super pigmented for a major pop of color.
Perfect for: The Neon Lip. The 80s are calling, and if you’re answering, you’ll want to reach for two of our favorite hues this season, Orange Obsession and Electric Pink. When you go this bright, you definitely want to choose a formula that stays put and is just the right combo of matte and cream. This is it. The applicator is small enough that you can apply directly to lips without liner. Simply trace your lip line, then fill in the rest of the lip. One swipe gives you the perfect dry-down into a stained matte finish.
About the Author:Karina Giglio is a lifestyle, beauty and health writer whose work has appeared in numerous national publications including Women’s Health, Washingtonian, Ladies Home Journal, OK!, Allure, Fitness, Marie Claire, Bride’s and The New York Post. She was a regular contributor to makeup.com, and her articles and blog posts can be found on prevention.com, dailyglow.com, yahoo.com and huffingtonpost.com. Karina has worked onstaff at Cosmopolitan and YM, as well as being part of the original Sephora.com launch team