The Best Lip Colors That Aren't Lipsticks

Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Many beauty enthusiasts have a thing: For some, it's a precise cat-eye, or perfectly placed highlighter. But for others, lipstick is core to who they are: Some may not even feel like themselves until they've swiped on a tube of their favorite red. But for those who love the pigment a rich lipstick provides but hate the heavy feeling of product on your lips — or the mess it can cause — you don't have to go without it entirely anymore. Now, there are tons of lip color options that aren't lipstick on the market now.

And sure, when you think of lip color that isn't lipstick, maybe a sticky, thick balm comes to mind. Luckily, thanks to new formulas that offer anywhere from sheer to stay-all-day coverage, the options are limitless.

"Some lipsticks can feel drying, and some that wear lipstick worry that it will crack, smudge into fine lines around the lips, or become half eaten off, leaving an unfinished look," says Rachel Toledo, a makeup artist at Crosby Carter Management, whose clients include Mariah Carey, Vanessa Hudgens, and Rashida Jones.

And if you're not sure where to start, Toledo says to go by brand: "MAC Cosmetics is excellent for high-pigmented options," she says. :Also, Tom Ford lipsticks not only feel luxurious on the lips but have terrific staying power. I’m also a fan of the feel and color range of Charlotte Tilbury's lipstick line," Toledo explains.

It's also important to note ingredients that contribute to vibrant and lasting color. "Mica is something I usually look for regarding pigment in any lip products," explains makeup artist Emily Jimison. It's a natural way to create long-lasting color on the skin and gives a mineralized shine to your lips that looks and feels natural,"

The key to creating visible color is all in the technique: “Preparing your lips before applying a stain helps," says Toledo. "If there’s any dry or flakey skin — the stain won’t set as well and appear patchy. After a warm shower, I suggest taking an old toothbrush over the lips to exfoliate, then rehydrate with an all natural lip balm.”

And Toledo isn't alone: “I'm huge on priming,” says Jimison. “Exfoliate your lips, then use a drop of argan oil to make sure you have a clean, soft canvas before an application; that's almost a guaranteed way to keep that color vibrant and intact for longer wear.”

If you're worried that a stain or balm won't provide as much color as a lipstick, here are a few tricks to help keep your color from fading: “A lot of times, I'll ditch the brush and use my finger to press it into the skin to get a more pigmented look," Jimison says. "I like to start by dabbing in the center and to work my way out. This way the color is still visible, but you're left with a more natural, pouty look."

Another trick, she says, "is to use a lighter foundation or concealer to outline your lips to create the look of a fuller lip without having to use a liner."

Ahead, eight lipstick substitutes to swipe on now.


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