Best Lip Liners

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

31 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
465 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best lip liners

Last Updated November 2019

Whether you’re looking for an everyday look or red carpet glamour, the right lip color sets the tone for a head-to-toe look. Lip color celebrates style and captures your inner beauty, and with the right shade, inspires an extra-sexy confidence. That’s why every mouth deserves the right lip liner so you can achieve a polished pout, day or night.

Lip liner is an essential lip product that makes lipsticks look better and last longer. The thin line defines the shape of your lips and prevents feathering of the lipstick, and its formula is designed to extend how long your lipstick lasts. With color, you have a rainbow to choose from — you can match your lipstick exactly or opt for a shade slightly darker for more contrast. For a more natural look, you can even wear lip liner alone or with a clear or nude gloss.

If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s time to add lip liner to your makeup essentials. We had fun trying out these liners and encourage you to try some of our favorites for yourself. If you need more information, our buying guide can help you find the right one for your look. 

Carry your lip liner and lipstick together. It makes touch-ups cleaner and more precise than simply applying another coat of lipstick.

Key considerations

Do you need lip liner?

While it’s not unusual to wear lipstick or gloss without lip liner, it tends to last longer when you first line your lips. Besides providing definition, lip liner also holds onto pigment, so it helps lipstick wear longer before you need to reapply it. Some people choose to simply line their lips, while others color the whole lip. At the end of the day, it’s purely preference, though it does serve an important purpose if your goal is to have long-lasting lip color.

How to wear lip liner

There are two schools of thought when it comes to applying lip liner: before or after you apply lipstick. There are benefits to both ways, so it boils down to preference. If you’re applying liner before lipstick, you can create an outline that you can easily fill in with lipstick. When you apply liner after lipstick, you have the chance to tweak the color around the edges.

Look

Classic: It’s easy to achieve a classic, simple look by matching the lip liner to your lipstick and following your natural lip line. You can either purchase a matched lip liner and lipstick combination or select a liner that’s within a couple shades of your lipstick. Also, if you have a couple lipsticks that are close to each other in color, the same lip liner could work for both of them.

Defined: If you’d like your lips to appear plumper, then overlining is your best best. In recent years it’s grown in popularity for everyday wear, and if strategically done, it looks natural. If you’re looking to add dimension or experiment with color, there are various ways to use lip liner to create these effects, such as using liners from the same color palette to highlight and emphasize specific areas.

Finish

Lip liner comes in a matte or cream finish. There are plenty of finishes in between, including satin, semi-matte, and velvet,  so matte and cream are just at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Matte: Matte lip liner lacks a glossy shine or shimmer, so the color appears flat. These tend to be more drying and sticky and smudge less than cream liners. They’re ideal if you’re looking for a long-lasting formula.

Cream: Cream lip liner has a rich, velvety fullness. Some of these liners are shiny, glossy, or shimmery. Cream liner is often made with moisturizing oils and so tends to be more hydrating and nourishing than matte liner. Cream liners smear much more easily than their matte counterparts, though there are some long-wearing formulas available.

Length of wear

When it comes to any kind of makeup, how long it lasts can be a deciding factor in a purchase. Lip liner, by design, is intended to extend the wear of lip products. The average lip liner can last a couple of hours without budging and sometimes longer if you’re not eating or drinking. High-pigment lip liner has more intense color and can last for several hours. Some lip liners, especially high-pigment ones, advertise their extended length of wear as all-day wear, 24/7 color, or kiss-proof.

EXPERT TIP

Red lipstick complements every skin tone, though with so many reds available, you want to choose the right one. Ask the staff at a department store makeup counter to help you select a red that works with your eye color and complexion in different types of light.


Staff  | BestReviews

Lip liner features

Color

The sky’s the limit when it comes to lip liner because there’s a rainbow of colors to choose from. Some makeup lines have a one-to-one correlation of lip liners and lipsticks to make matching simple. However, you’ll find some lip liners that are versatile enough to wear with several lipstick shades in their color family. If you happen to have a unique or bold lipstick, like hot pink or bright red, you may or may not find a coordinating lip liner from the same product line.

Barrel

Pencil: Pencil lip liner requires sharpening, so having a quality sharpener is important. A sharpener that is too dull can shave off too much color, and you could end up replacing the liner more often than necessary. Some pencil liners come equipped with their own specially designed sharpener that’s built into the cap or the bottom of the pencil.

Retractable: Retractable lip liners come in a barrel and don’t require sharpening. You only need to twist the barrel to reveal more liner. It’s easy to always have the right amount of liner available, generally recommended as 1/8 inch at a time. Watch out for retractable liners in which the color isn’t well secured. If you happen to drop it, the color could dislodge and fall out, so you’ll need to replace it.

EXPERT TIP

It’s not unusual to run out of lip liner before you run out of lipstick, so buy two liners when you purchase the lipstick. You’ll never run out of the matching color or run the risk of it being out of stock when you need it most.


Staff  | BestReviews

Lip liner prices

Inexpensive: At the low end of the range, between $10 and $14, you can expect to find lip liners with average pigmentation and without any moisturizing or nourishing benefits.

Mid-range: Most of the liners we tested cost between $15 and $25. Many of these are high-pigment liners with improved formulas offering long-lasting wear.

Expensive: High-end lip liners priced between $30 and $40 are mostly luxury brands whose formulas include the best available and longest-lasting ingredients. These often come with unique add-ons like a dedicated sharpener, lipstick brush, and protective case.

EXPERT TIP

If you use lip liner infrequently, expect to replace it every two years or so. Some creamy or oily lip liners list an expiration date on the packaging, too.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Exfoliate your lips. No matter what lip liner you choose, you’ll get the most wear out of it if you apply it to smooth, exfoliated lips. Exfoliation prevents color from settling into the creases of chapped lips, which could cause color bleeding or smearing.
  • Apply a primer. To extend the wear of your lip liner, apply a lip primer to your lips and slightly beyond them. If you don’t have a dedicated lip primer, a little concealer or foundation will do the trick.
  • Criss-cross the bow of your lip. To begin with an even application of lip liner, first criss-cross the color at the bow and then trace around the remaining areas.
  • Clean up with concealer. Achieve the ultimate precision by following up the lip liner with concealer applied with a thin brush. It will clean up any errors and define the area between the lip color and your skin.
  • Replace the cap carefully. To avoid denting or damaging a freshly sharpened lip pencil, take care when replacing the cap.
  • Remove liner carefully. Always remove lip liner and lip products with makeup remover or mild soap and a damp cloth. A dry tissue or a towel could be too abrasive and strip layers of skin if you rub too hard.

Other products we considered

We love the Kat Von D Everlasting Lip Liner, especially since it comes in almost 30 bold and edgy colors. You’ll be able to choose from a matte or satin finish to truly match your lipstick or gloss. As a highly pigmented color formula, it lasts for hours of comfortable, lightweight wear. Best of all, you won’t need to worry about damaging the pencil with sharpening because it has a built-in twist mechanism that makes the liner easy to control and apply. We also think the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil is an ideal pick if you’re looking for all-day wear. As a waterproof liner, you can drink and eat without worrying about your lip color budging. It even moisturizes lips with a unique blend of vitamin E, jojoba oil, and cottonseed oil. While the liner is designed to be worn with Urban Decay’s Vice lipstick, you’ll find this lip pencil is versatile enough to use with all your lipsticks.

Invest in a good-quality metal pencil sharpener. These tend to last the longest and provide consistent sharpness to lip liners and other pencils. Some sharpeners have holes of different sizes to accommodate various pencil sizes.

FAQ

Q. Does my lip liner have to match my lipstick exactly?
A. If you want a single color on your lips, then yes. You can purchase the corresponding lip liner for your lipstick to ensure a perfect match . On the other hand, if you’d like to achieve a higher contrast, a slightly darker liner will define the shape of your lips. 

Q. How do I overline my lips without looking too obvious or over the top?A. Stick to the matching lip liner for your lipstick so that the color is uniform and not obvious. Some make-up artists recommend overlining with a nude or skin-toned lip liner before lining with a colored liner and lipstick. Another trick is to only overline certain areas as opposed to an overall outline. This works especially well if you have a fuller bottom lip and only need to add minimal volume to the upper lip. 

Q. Can I use lip liner without lipstick?
A.
Absolutely. In fact, it’s a trendy, low-maintenance look. If you’re not a lipstick fan, lip liner can achieve definition and add a pop of color without the pageantry of creamy and matte formulas that require reapplication or are difficult to remove. For a natural look with stepped-up pizazz, line your lips with a color a couple shades different than your lips and apply a shiny clear or nude gloss over it.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer

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