With a clear uptick of secret lipstick, liner, and gloss recipes floating around TikTok and beyond, 2023 is clearly the year of lip combos. The beloved ‘90s product has re-solidified itself as a modern mainstay. And as a result, the following question has resurfaced, often flooding the comments on your favorite creator’s videos: “What products are you using to on your lips?” The look might be two-tone, a “your lips but better” pinky-nude, or cherry cola red. Whatever it is, there’s undeniably an art to discovering which shades and formulas can be mixed and layered.
While the products you use majorly impact the final result, your application technique is equally important. Los Angeles-based makeup artist Courtney Hart offers a few foundational tips to keep in mind, “Lip liners contain waxes that act as a base for your lipsticks, so line the lip then fill it in completely,” she says. “Next, apply your lipstick in thin layers as a thick application will actually rub off easier. In general, matte finishes tend to wear longer than something wet or glossy.”
Below, makeup artists share the lipstick, liner, and gloss combos they turn to when creating both classic and trending lip looks, plus which prep products to use to prevent caking and flaking.
How To Prep Your Lips
You’ve probably heard that prepping your face with moisturizer, primer, and setting spray will help your makeup stay intact, and your lips need the same TLC. David Birdwell, makeup artist and executive director of global education and artistry for Buxom Cosmetics, recommends exfoliation as a pre-application must for the perfect lip look. “Lip exfoliation helps remove any dry, flakey, or dead skin for a smoother application and better wear of [your] products,” he shares. The makeup artist recommends using a formula that offers both physical and chemical exfoliation to ensure you completely resurface the lip. He’s a fan of BUXOM’s Power-Full Lip Scrub.
After exfoliation, drench your lips with a dose of deep hydration. New York City-based makeup artist Chaellynn Street suggests applying treatment product before color application, “Now that we’re heading into the colder season, lips tend to get dry, so I love using hydrating treatment like Kiehl’s Buttermask Repair Lip Treatment to pack in as much moisture as possible to give you softer and smoother skin after each use,” she says.
Makup Artist-Approved Lip Liner Combos
Natural, Plump Lips
To create the illusion of natural, full lips without the help of filler, Taylor Hook, pro educator of Anastasia Beverly Hills, has an easy hack. With a small brush, apply a tiny amount of cream bronzer to the outer perimeter of the lips to create dimension. Next, use a liner that’s one to two shades darker than your skin tone to contour the outside of your natural lip line and inner corners to fake the look of plumper lips. Finally, fill in the center with a lipstick that’s lighter than your liner. Bonus points: Top it off with a matching lip gloss for even more volume.
Effortless and sultry, there’s a reason why a pinky-nude lip is always in style. New York City-based makeup artist Joel Vasquez, shares one of his go-to combos. “I’m a big fan of a gorgeous smoky eye, so to accompany that, I often gravitate to a sultry pink nude lip,” he shares. Vasquez says to start with a pale pink stain and to give the product a minute to settle. Next, go in with a dirty rose liner to define and contour the shape of the lips. Top it off with an opalescent mauve-pink gloss.
The spice look is all about utilizing rich earthy tones, like cinnamon and nutmeg, to warm up your face. New York City-based makeup artist Nina Soriano explains the secret to the perfect spiced look is heating up and pressing the color into the lip. Soriano says to first apply a warm rose-nude liner and tap it into the skin with your ring finger. Then, fill it in with a rich brown-nude, again pressing the product in with your fingertip. Finish with a nude-brown lip oil to add shine and a hint of color.
A ‘90s staple with a dose of drama, the vampy lip feels more modern than ever. Hart loves to achieve this bold look by lining the lips with a deep berry shade and then softening it with a clean lip brush. Next, Hart says to take a dark berry lipstick and focus it in the center of the lip to add depth and dimension.
With the latte makeup trend still going strong, there’s something undeniably chic about a milky coffee-hued lip that feels seasonally appropriate in the chillier months. To achieve the versatile latte look, Hart suggests lining in a rich chocolate brown shade and then using a rosy-brown gloss as the top layer.
Another trend inspired by beverages, cherry cola is a bold twist on a classic red lip. To create the look, Street starts by lining the lips with an intense brown pencil. Next, she says to fill it in with a fire engine red. “It gives you a beautiful ombré look from the darker pencil to a nice gradient into red,” she shares. When it comes to formulation, the makeup artist recommends sticking to matte finishes. “It will last you throughout the day and night with no touchups,” Street explains.
‘90s Two-Tone Brown
While Y2K is dictating many of this year’s beauty trends, many popular ‘90s looks are also making a comeback. Hook says the formula for a two-toned brown lip is all in the liner application. The makeup artist suggests starting with an extra sharp pencil that’s two to three shades darker than your skin tone. Use the tip of the pencil to precisely define the cupid’s bow, then line from the outer corners and repeat the steps on the bottom. Next, use your liner to shade in and blend the edges, keeping the center of the lips bare. Finally, fill in that area with a brown lipstick that’s lighter than your liner. This contrast between light and dark creates the appearance of fuller lips.
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