Yes, Smudge-Free Lip Stains Do Exist—These 18 Passed the Coffee Cup Test

To be or not to be… practical? That is the (ultimate beauty) question. The plight of all makeup wearers has always been the choice between practicality and aesthetics—especially when it comes to lipstick. We’ve adapted, of course. Carrying mini mirrors in our purses, constantly reapplying and blotting, and counting on our friends (the good ones) to tell us if we have any smudges on our teeth. But does it have to be this way? What if we could go out without digging for the right shade of lipstick to replace the coat now smudged on our coffee cup? Enter: the best lip stains that get the job done.

Lip stains are not new, but they’re increasingly becoming the lip product of choice. We’re entering a new age where the best makeup is made to suit our lifestyles, not get in the way of them. From multi-tasking products to trends that celebrate what we actually look like, it was only a matter of time before we swapped out smudgy lipsticks for long-lasting color choices fit for all skin tones.

Featured image from our interview with Cyndi Ramirez by Belathée Photography.

Woman applying lip stain in mirror.
Image by Teal Thomsen

Lip trends are no longer just about the color du jour. The best products prioritize hydrating ingredients and powerful pigments. The matte trend gave us long-wearing products, but the trade-off was dry lips. The enduring glazed lip trend offers hydration, but not the transfer-free pouts that work for our everyday lives. So if you’re seeking products that nourish your lips and last through the day, read on to discover the best lip stains on the market.

The Difference Between Lipsticks and Lip Stains

There used to be just lip balms and lipsticks. Now we’re spoiled by choice. Lipsticks are your classic creamy makeup staple. But now there are also liquid lipsticks, which give you the same coverage without the waxy coating.

So, what sets the lip stains, oils, and tints taking over the beauty sphere apart? Let’s investigate.

  • Lip Tints: A sheer color option for a more effortless look.
  • Lip Gloss: A sticky gloss coating that gives your lips a shiny surface.
  • Lip Oils: An oil-based product with a liquid, glazed finish.
  • Lip Stains: A long-lasting liquid that absorbs into the skin.

What makes a lip stain long-lasting?

Unlike other lip products, lip stains don’t just sit on top of your lips. They absorb into your skin to create a long-lasting pigment that doesn’t budge. Since the pigment is not on the surface of your skin, it’s transfer-proof.

Makeup products.

Ingredients to Look For in a Lip Stain

The best lip stains are as nourishing as they are pigmented. Look for ingredients that give your skin moisture and lasting hydration, such as:

  • Jojoba oil
  • Shea butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Squalane
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Beeswax
  • Honey
  • Aloe vera
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Avocado
  • Vitamin E
Catt Sadler applying makeup in mirror.

How to Apply a Lip Stain

The right lip stain goes—and stays—on smooth. But preparing your pout doesn’t hurt. Some lip stains go on with just one swipe or a couple for more buildable coverage. Others, you have to swipe or peel away.

Whatever type of lip product you choose, proper lip care can boost your lip health:

  • Use a lip scrub weekly. To avoid your lip product flaking or sticking to dry patches on your skin, add an exfoliating lip scrub to your routine to give yourself a clean slate.
  • Try a nightly lip mask. The best way to hydrate your lips is to drench them with a nightly lip mask. You’ll wake up to hydrated lips, which create a healthy canvas for your daily products.
  • Choose your lip balm wisely. Did you know that some lip balms slowly suck the moisture out of your lips? Choose one with hydrating ingredients like natural oils to nourish your lips instead of just applying a synthetic glossy coating.
  • Remove with an oil-based cleanser. How you take off your lip stain is just as important as how you put it on. By gently wiping (don’t rub or scrub!) with an oil-based cleanser, you can easily remove pigment without drying out your lips.
Woman applying lip stain in mirror.
Image by Belathée Photography

The Best Lip Stains for Vibrant Color and Long-Lasting Coverage

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