Lip stain is one of the hottest beauty trends right now. We’ve seen it on TikTok, in beauty editorials and even on the faces of the world’s most stylish celebrities. And though it’s been around for years (ancient Egyptians used crushed beetles and henna to color their lips in purple or red hues), the modern-day version was first developed by Benefit in the ’70s, when it was actually created for exotic dancers.
Unlike lipsticks and glosses, which are typically made from oil, wax and pigment, lip stain is usually water or gel-based with a blend of natural plant oils. This helps them last for hours on end and resist wearing off, so they don’t smudge or fade.
Aside from their staying power, lip stains are also known for providing a sheer wash of natural-looking color that looks like it came from your lips—only better. That’s because they tend to blend in with your natural lip shade rather than stand out as much as bold pink or coral shades, explains celebrity makeup artist Molly Stern. “If you’re looking to try something new, but not sure about a bright or vibrant color, a lip stain might be the way to go,” she says.
Another advantage is that a good lip stain formula is typically less hydrating than a lipstick or gloss. And because they don’t contain emollients, it’s often easier to remove them than lipsticks that require a special cleanser or makeup wipe.
When it comes to choosing a lip stain, we recommend sticking to a simple, clean list of ingredients. Check out the label to make sure there are no fillers, phthalates, parabens, or synthetic fragrances. It’s especially important to pay attention to any preservatives or antioxidants that might be added, since these are the chemicals that tend to stay on your lips the longest.
Then, apply your stain in small taps starting at the center of your lip and blending outward with your fingers or a brush. For a brighter color, add additional layers in very small taps.
If your lips feel parched throughout the day, a dab of lip balm on top can help them look and feel healthy. A product with shea butter, coconut oil or even just a dab of plain old vaseline can do the trick—just be sure to use an organic brand.
Lip stains come in both matte and glossy finishes, so it’s important to choose the shade that works best for your skin tone. And for an extra boost of hydration, try adding a drop of your favorite lip balm to your liquid lipstick before applying it. This will ensure it glides on smoothly, while keeping your lips hydrated throughout the day.