Available in several attractive shades that look great with most skin tones. Creamy stain gives a natural glow, and can be worn on lips and cheeks. Provides a brightening effect. Long-lasting wear.
Takes a bit of practice to apply, and is a bit messy to use.
Lightweight and comfortable feel. Matte finish. Long-lasting. Includes precision applicator. Wide variety of bold and everyday hues available. Affordable price.
Takes a little longer to dry than expected.
Stands out for the natural formula that uses fruit and vegetable ingredients to create a beautiful stain. Doesn't contain chemical additives and can be used on the lips and cheeks. Cruelty-free.
Makes lips feel dry. Flavor is on the bitter side. We love that the packaging is environmentally-friendly, but it feels flimsy.
Pretty colors that look natural. Buildable, full-coverage formula. Wide range of soft and deep-toned nudes and neutrals. Works well for all-day wear. Made without harsh ingredients; cruelty-free.
Feels somewhat drying on the lips. Product is prone to breaking if you push too hard during application.
Unique angled applicator helps you build up color. Finish is glossy yet non-sticky and provides a natural look. Feels comfortable on the lips, and comes in several pretty colors.
Has a taste that is noticeable when eating. Stain lasts for hours, but the vinyl effect tends to fade throughout the day.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Finding a comfortable lip product that stays in place for hours can be a serious challenge. Glosses and creamy lipsticks wear off easily, especially when you’re eating and drinking. Liquid lipsticks offer serious wear time, but they’re usually heavy and drying on the lips. A lip stain, on the other hand, offers soft, easy-to-wear color that can last all day without touch-ups.
A lip stain is a lightweight lip product with a thinner texture than liquid lipstick. It dries down in a similar way, though, to become relatively budge-proof on your lips. The color that a stain provides is not as opaque as a liquid or cream lipstick but not as sheer as a gloss. A lip stain gives a stained appearance that’s similar to how your lips look after you’ve eaten a popsicle.
Not all lip stains are the same, though, and sorting through all the options can be overwhelming. Our handy buying guide has all the information you need to choose the right lip stain for you. For specific product recommendations, take a look at our picks for the best lip stains.
Lip stains are available in both liquid and gel formulas. Liquid lip stains have a thin, almost watery consistency. They dry down extremely quickly and typically offer the longest wear time. Liquid stains are usually more drying, though, so they may not be as comfortable to wear.
Gel lip stains have a thicker consistency. They usually require more time to dry and don’t wear quite as long on the lips as liquid stains. But gel stains typically are less drying, which makes them more comfortable to wear.
Lip stains usually dry pretty quickly because they aren’t as thick as liquid lipsticks. There’s some variation among lip stains in terms of how long they take to dry, however. Liquid stains generally require 30 seconds or less to dry, while gel formulas usually dry in a minute or less.
The key to making sure that a lip stain dries quickly is not to apply too much product. If you apply too much or too many layers of the stain, it may be too thick to dry quickly.
Some lip stains also double as cheek stains for a flattering monochromatic look.
Most lip stains have a matte finish, meaning they don’t have any shine or gloss. That’s part of why they’re able to wear for so long on the lips. It’s also why they’re more drying than lip glosses. Lip stains contain few emollient ingredients to provide moisture.
You can find some lip stains that have a satin finish. They have a slight sheen thanks to some hydrating ingredients, which make them more comfortable to wear. They won’t offer as long a wear time, though.
The majority of lip stains include a built-in applicator, so you don’t have to use a separate brush to apply them. Liquid lip stains may have a doe-foot or brush-tip applicator, depending on how watery the formula is. You can also find liquid lip stains with a felt-tip applicator.
Gel lip stains typically feature a doe-foot applicator to effectively spread the thicker formula across your lips. Some gel stains come in stick form. You twist up the bottom of the stick to dispense more product.
Lip stains typically provide at least five hours of wear, but some formulas last longer than others. If you want a stain that will last all day, look for an option that promises at least 10 hours of wear to get you from morning to night without any touch-ups.
Many lip stains are available in a wide range of hues, from natural nudes to bold oranges and reds. But some stains are only available in a few shades, usually pinks and berries. Lip stains give a softer look than lipstick, and most colors will look more subdued on the lips than they do in the tube.
A lip stain may fade a bit when you eat and drink, but it holds up much better than traditional lipstick.
Lip liners: bareMinerals Gen Nude Under Over Lip Liner
If you want even more wear time from your lip stain, it helps to start with a good lip liner. We love this option from bareMinerals because it has a creamy texture and works well both under and over other lip products.
Lip primers: Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Primer
Lip stains can be drying, so it helps to start with a lip balm that hydrates your lips before you apply the stain. This lip primer from Anastasia Beverly Hills is a favorite because it’s sheer and lightweight but still moisturizing enough to prevent dryness and flaking.
Lip makeup removers: Clinique Take the Day Off Makeup Remover
Lip stains are called stains for a reason. They won’t budge with just soap and water. Remove the stain at the end of the night with a makeup remover that’s formulated for long-wearing lip products, like this fan favorite from Clinique.
When you’re applying a lip stain, start at the middle of the lips and work outward. That ensures that most of the product is in the center of the lips, so the stain is less likely to bleed around the edges of your mouth.
Lip stains vary in price based on the quality of the ingredients, which impacts how comfortable they are to wear and the wear time. Most lip stains range from $5 to $40.
The most affordable lip stains are usually from drugstore brands. They contain lower-quality ingredients, so they’re typically more drying and not as comfortable to wear. You can expect to pay between $5 and $14 for these lip stains.
Mid-range lip stains contain higher-quality ingredients, so they’re less drying and more comfortable on the lips. They usually offer longer wear times, too. You’ll typically spend between $14 and $24 for these lip stains.
The most expensive lip stains are from high-end and luxury makeup brands and contain high-quality ingredients. They’re usually the least drying, so they are extremely comfortable to wear. They also wear a long time on the lips and are available in a wide range of shades to suit all skin tones and preferences. Expect to pay between $24 and $40 for these lip stains.
Q. How long does a lip stain usually last on the lips?
A. It depends on the formula. Nearly all lip stains last at least five hours without needing to be touched up. Some liquid stains can last even longer. You can find lip stains that offer 10 to 12 hours of wear if you need your lip color to last from morning to night.
Q. Can I apply a lip stain to chapped lips?
A. Lip stains can be drying, so if your lips are already dry and flaky, a stain can make the problem worse. A lip stain will also accentuate any dryness or flakiness, so it’s not the best lip product to wear on chapped lips.
Q. How should I prep my lips for a stain?
A. Your lips should be as smooth and hydrated as possible before you apply a lip stain. Exfoliate with a lip scrub to remove any flakes or roughness. Then apply a layer of lip balm and give your lips time to absorb it before applying the stain.
Q. Can a lip stain go bad?
A. Like all makeup products, lip stains do have a shelf life. Most stains last for six to 12 months, but manufacturers often indicate on the packaging how long it takes a product to expire once it’s opened. If a stain starts to smell strange or its consistency changes, it’s best to toss it even if it hasn’t reached its expiration date.
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