At any given time, I have approximately six lipsticks in my purse. That fact would probably come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, because it's not like I'm walking around rocking bold red lips on a daily basis. It's just that I'm slightly addicted to having the *perfect* barely there color on at all times. In fact, it's become sort of an obsession of mine — which has led me on a quest to find the best subtle lip colors that provide just enough color to leave people guessing about whether or not there's anything on my lips at all.
And it's probably not a surprise that that search led me to a cult favorite. I tried Glossier's Generation G lipstick when it first launched, and it was essentially love at first swipe. The "Like" shade is my go-to on days when I'm not wearing much makeup to give my face a hint of color that's basically undetectable, but I also love to wear the other colors when I'm looking for something more bold. The fact that the brand introduced a new version in 2018 that's bigger, doesn't break, and provides more color only solidified its status as my holy-grail product.
But my obsession with barely-there lip colors goes further back than that. In fact, it started in my high school days thanks to my introduction to another cult favorite — Clinique's Almost Lipstick in "Black Honey." And no, I'm not the only one to wax poetic about this product — it has more than 2,200 5-star ratings on Sephora's website alone — but I can personally attest to the perfect amount of color it provides and its surprisingly good moisturizing powers.
But a true lipstick lover can't live on two products alone — which is why, naturally, I have a long list of shades I call my favorites. Ahead, 10 of the best subtle lipsticks I've found (and how to use them to get the right effect) for when barely there color is all you really need.
Glossier's Generation G is like the no-makeup makeup version of a lipstick. I use one swipe for days when I don't want much on my face, or add additional layers to build color when I'm looking for something slightly more noticeable.
There are some (admittedly rare) occasions when I want bolder color but still can't commit to going all out. In those cases, I opt for Milk Makeup's Lip Color in "Wifey," which is a dusty, moody pink that's darker than my natural lip color without being too intense.
There's a reason this lipstick has been a longtime cult favorite. I've been using this since high school, and it's still one of my go-to products — it's perfectly subtle and imparts just the right amount of berry color.
This little compact was my introduction to this slightly under-the-radar brand, and I'm now completely obsessed. Though the product is a little dry, I've found that blending it with a tiny bit of lip balm makes it the perfect consistency, and its color is stunning. I use it on days I want a subtly moody lip.
Much like Glossier's Gen G, this lipstick is buildable, so you can choose to go with just a hint of color or keep swiping for more pigment. Its "Whisper" shade is my favorite when I want that natural just-ate-a-red-popsicle look.
I'm super lazy when it comes to makeup, which means I love anything that does double duty. And since my lips are perpetually dry, I love Fresh's tinted lip treatment for its pretty, barely-there shade and its ability to keep my lips moisturized for hours.
I don't usually like a lot of shine, but this lip treatment oil is too pretty to not be a staple in my makeup bag. Its color is noticeable without being over-the-top, and its glossiness is perfect for when I want to make more of a statement.
When I want a softer look, I absolutely love this Flesh lip color for a slightly rosy hue on my lips. The best part is that it also works beautifully as a blush, too, so I can carry around one less product when I use it.
I searched high and low for a lipstick that would give my lips color without being obviously there on my wedding day, and this won out over everything I tried. My trick is to build up the color by swiping a little bit on at a time, blending with my fingers, and then blotting any excess with a tissue to make it look even more natural.
Even when I wear red lipstick, I still like for it to look subtle — and this unusual lip mousse always does the trick. To use it, I start by swiping a tiny bit of balm on my lips (if you're dry, you'll have a hard time getting this to blend) and then I paint a tiny bit on with my fingers. The result is a natural-looking red.