As someone with a Type B personality cursed with regular spurts of obsessive, Type A tendencies (or perhaps the other way around), everything is a push-pull battle of ambition and drive versus a deep-seated desire to just chill out. Really, it’s like wearing one Birkenstock and one combat boot at all times. That half-in, half-out vibe touches everything in my life, but it’s never more evident than with makeup: I want to look polished and neat, but the siren song of the couch frequently foils my plans for a full-face look.
Fortunately, there are plenty of meet-in-the-middle solutions. Lips-and-cheek multis can do more to pull a makeup look together than most other products else in a pinch, particularly if the colors are coordinated, matching, or complementary. And with so much emphasis on multipurpose, on-the-go products these days, there are plenty of top-rated, grab-and-go makeup options to make you (and me) look alive and perky but don’t require more than three minutes or a mirror of any sort.
If there were ever a season to go for a multi-use product, it’s summertime. Cream-based sticks and pots, regardless if they come in a satin or glossy finish, mesh better with sun-inducing svitzing than their individual powder counterparts. While powders and matte products break up then cake up at the first hint of excess moisture, creams at best work with your sweat for a glossy, rosy look and at worst get absorbed back into skin — no harm, no foul. They’re especially great for any water-adjacent activities you might want to look extra-cute for — even if you’re literally bowled over by a wave, there won’t be a glaring absence of makeup when you finally make your way back to shore because the texture and colors aren’t so different from your skin.
For an even more foolproof tactic, use shades closest to your natural lip color when doing those sorts of outdoor things and no one will be the wiser — and you won’t have to be so precious with reapplying perfectly either. And just because the labels say lip-and-cheek doesn’t mean that’s where they have to stay, either. For more seamless color connectivity, I like to dab that same stick on lips, cheeks, my orbital bones, nose, and chin for a mild sunburn-approximating effect — a true one-step (nearly) full face.
Here, I’m rounding up some of my all-time favorite lip-and-cheek multi-use products for those days when you want to put in some effort — but not too much, of course.
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This was the one that started it all, discovered on a lunch break at the Union Square Sephora and a mainstay of every purse, glovebox, and beach bag I’ve owned since. Not only does this two-in-one come in a variety of flattering shades and pocket-sized miniature versions, but the soft satin finish disguises heat-induced flushing very well.
It may not come in a stick, but this creamy lip and cheek compact from Gen Z-adored Tower 28 Beauty deposits the most pigmented (but somehow very natural) color and snaps shut with the same satisfying click of a Motorola Razr. With “beach” right in the name, this is the best choice for seaside sitting — the cream is even formulated with soothing aloe vera.
If anyone gets the chill-beauty vibe, it’s Drew Barrymore — she basically originated it. So it makes sense that her bestselling line, the accessible and truly excellent FLOWER Beauty, would come through with one of the best lip-and-cheek sticks in the game. Highly blendable and with just enough shine to catch the light, it’s a must in every color.
I would be truly remiss to build out this roundup and exclude of the most iconic multi-use products of all time: Benefit’s cult-classic Benetint. The grip this had on me through high school cannot be undersold and for good reason. Just two or three drops is absolutely enough to give your cheeks a rosy flush with just a hint of shine. And on the lips, the signature colorway leaves a gorgeous just-bitten look.
Makeup artist Gucci Westman designed a blush stick with such strict standards of clean, it is totally feasible to use it on your lips and eyes too (and looks equally eye-catching). The Vitis Vita Grape Extract boosts moisture levels and detoxifies your skin, while also providing a creamy swatch of color.