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Best Lipsticks

Updated June 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
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.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
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.
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How we decided

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

  • 22 Models Considered
  • 6 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 175 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

    Why trust BestReviews?
    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.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    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.

    Shopping guide for best lipsticks

    Last Updated June 2018

    You don’t need to be a makeup expert to wear lipstick with confidence. It’s all about finding the right formulation, finish, and shade that suits your skin tone, undertone, and style.

    If you’re new to the world of lipstick, the sheer number of options available can be overwhelming. If you’re confused by blue reds, pinky nudes, and liquid lipsticks, we’re here to help.

    At the top of the page, you’ll find the matrix, which includes our top five picks for the best lipsticks. For everything you need to know to find the right lipstick for your pout, including our flawless application tips, keep reading.

    Heading outdoors? Start with a layer of lip balm with SPF for sun protection. The skin on your lips is incredibly sensitive and can get sunburned, too.

    Types of lipsticks

    Traditional lipsticks

    Traditional lipsticks are solid sticks, or bullets, that twist up for application. These lipsticks are available in every finish, from sheer stains to opaque mattes. They tend to be less drying than liquid lipsticks, though they are rarely transfer-proof.

    Liquid lipsticks

    Liquid lipsticks come in liquid form in a tube with a doe-foot applicator. They are often matte, though sheer, cream, and metallic liquid lipsticks are also available. Lip stains also usually come in liquid formulas. Matte liquid lipsticks are very long-lasting, often transfer-proof, and extremely opaque. However, these liquid lipsticks can also be drying.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you wear a bold lip, try to keep your eye makeup subtle. Flattering makeup is all about balance.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Lipstick finishes

    Sheer

    Sheer lipsticks usually provide more moisture than other lipstick finishes. They often have a balm-like texture. In the tube, sheer lipstick appears darker than it does on the lips. This type of lipstick is best for those who want to add a hint of subtle color.

    If you’re just starting to wear lipstick and experiment with colors and finishes, try a sheer option first. You can decide how opaque the application will be.

    Stain

    Similar to sheer lipsticks, stains provide a natural look. However, stains are longer lasting. A heavier application deepens a stain’s color. Ever looked in the mirror after eating a bowl of strawberries or a juicy red popsicle? That’s the look you’ll get with a stain.

    Cream

    Cream lipsticks contain wax for durability and oil for moisture. Creams go on smoothly and are easy to apply. They offer a concentrated dose of color like matte lipsticks but are more hydrating. Creams are versatile and don’t require much effort to remove. Some cream lipsticks have a satin, or semi-matte, finish for a touch of shine.

    Matte

    Matte lipsticks have a flat finish, without shine. The non-reflective color of matte lipsticks has significant staying power but can be drying. Mattes are the best option for those who love ultra-bright colors, since they are highly pigmented and opaque. While matte color is tough to remove – you’ll need makeup remover – it’s a great option for parties, since there’s often no need to reapply.

    Metallic

    Metallic lipsticks create a shimmery or frost-like effect on the lips. These fun lipsticks come in unique shades – like metallic mermaid blues and iridescent unicorn purples – that create a statement look. For the most payoff, most metallic lipsticks are liquid lips.

    Lacquer

    Lacquer is essentially a combination of lipstick and lip gloss. This finish produces a shiny pout. Lacquers are a good choice for those with small lips, since the glossy effect makes lips appear larger. However, lacquer sometimes has a sticky feel and easily transfers. Most lacquer finishes are hydrating.

    A bold pop of color

    Vitamin-infused NARS Lipstick offers wearers a highly pigmented formula with a creamy texture. These superior lipsticks come in every color and a variety of finishes, and they are hydrating thanks to the added lip conditioners. For a bold lip that won’t budge, this high-end lipstick is worth the splurge.

    Choosing the right shade

    To find a flattering shade of lipstick, the most important thing to identify is your skin’s undertone. Your skin can be cool, warm, or neutral, and different shades of lipstick look best on different undertones. That said, don’t be afraid to break the rules. While skin tone is a good guide, it doesn’t mean you should limit your color horizons.

    Cool undertone

    Those with cool skin have pink undertones. If you fall into this category, you’ll find the veins on your wrist appear either blue or purple. You probably sunburn easily, too. Redheads, those with very fair complexions, and those with very deep complexions often have a cool undertone.

    Lipstick shades that contain blue and purple flatter cool undertones. Look for these shades:

    • Light mochas and other cool brown nudes

    • Blue-based pinks

    • Ruby reds and blue-based reds

    • Wines and berries

    Warm undertone

    Those with warm skin have yellow undertones. If you fall into this category, you’ll find the veins on your wrist appear green. You likely tan easily.

    Lipstick shades that contain orange, red, and copper flatter warm undertones. Look for these shades:

    • Pink or peach nudes

    • Corals

    • Red-based pinks

    • Orange-reds

    • Coppers and bronzes

    Neutral undertone

    Not sure whether your veins look blue or green? You probably fall into the neutral category. Many people with olive skin have a neutral undertone. If you’re neutral, count yourself lucky – nearly every lipstick shade will look flattering on you.

    Skin tone

    You can also choose lipstick shades according to your skin tone, which refers to how light or dark your skin is, regardless of its undertone.

    • Fair: Bold colors will pop against pale skin, but it’s best to avoid yellow tints or very pale shades, as they will give your skin a sallow appearance.

    • Medium/Olive: Most shades look good on medium skin tones, though nudes that are too pale will wash out medium skin.

    • Deep: Rich shades are the most flattering on deep complexions. Look for plums, brick reds, and burgundies.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Dark lipsticks make your lips appear smaller. Lighter colors have the opposite effect.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Choosing a lipstick that’s too pale or the wrong undertone can cause you to look washed out or ill.

    Other features to consider when buying lipstick

    Color

    The lipstick color you choose depends on your skin and personal preference. When stocking up on lipstick for the first time, however, it’s easy to end up with several shades that look nearly identical. Here are a few colors that are makeup bag staples:

    • Nude

    • Pink

    • Classic red

    • Dark berry

    Hydration

    Some lipsticks include moisturizing ingredients. If you’re prone to dry or cracked lips, opt for lipsticks that contain moisturizers and avoid drying options like mattes and liquid lipsticks. If you really want a matte look, apply a lip balm first for the smoothest application.

    Applicator

    Stick lipsticks come in several different shapes. The traditional bullet-style tends to be the most precise. Liquid lipsticks come with doe-foot applicators for defined application, akin to a lip brush. However, the shape of the doe foot varies brand by brand.

    Longwear formula

    Longwear lipsticks come in a variety of finishes, though they are most often matte liquid lipsticks. They stay on even during eating and drinking, so reapplication isn’t required. Longwer formulas often don’t contain as many moisturizing ingredients, however, so they can dry out the sensitive skin on your lips.

    Price

    There are plenty of quality drugstore lipsticks available for under $20. However, high-end and luxury lipsticks usually are more pigmented, longer lasting, and less drying. Expect to pay $25 to $50 for these high-quality lipsticks.

    A flawless natural look

    BareMinerals Gen Nude Radiant Lipstick comes in a range of subtle shades for a sophisticated, everyday look. These inexpensive lipsticks won’t suck the H20 from your lips thanks to their hydrating formula. You are sure to find your perfect nude in this budget-friendly lipstick that feels luxurious on the lips.

    Tips for applying lipstick

    • Exfoliate your lips, and then apply a lip balm while you do the rest of your makeup. This will help your lipstick go on smoothly when you’re ready to apply it.

    • Don’t just slap on red lipstick. Bold colors should be carefully applied. Use a lip liner if possible, and clean up the edges with concealer and a lip brush.

    • If you’re using lip liner, try to match the color to your lips or the lipstick.

    • Lip liner will prevent your lipstick from feathering or bleeding. Lipstick primer can help your lipstick stay on longer.

    • Use a lip brush for the most precise application, and clean the brush regularly to avoid bacterial growth.

    • Check your teeth post-application to avoid a lipstick-tooth smile.

    Use a lip brush to apply color from a tube that’s almost used up.

    FAQ

    Q. I’m vegan, are there lipstick ingredients I should avoid?
    A.
    Some common animal-derived ingredients that are found in lipsticks are beeswax, lanolin (made from sheep’s wool), and carmine (a beetle-derived pigment). Metallic lipsticks may also contain fish scales. Luckily, there is a large variety of vegan lipsticks available.

    Q. Do I need to use a lip liner when applying lipstick?
    A.
    While it used to be common for lipsticks to bleed, today’s formulations are much improved. A liner can create definition, but it’s not a necessity when applying lipstick. If you still have trouble with feathering and bleeding, try an invisible liner.

    Q. Does lipstick expire?
    A.
    While shelf-life depends on the manufacturer, generally lipsticks are good for about three years. If your lipstick changes color, texture, or smell, it’s time to toss it.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Katherine
      Katherine
      Editor
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Stacey
      Stacey
      Writer
    • Steph
      Steph
      Writer