A Beginner’s Guide to Lip Finishes

Mattes, glosses, stains...how to choose?! With so many formulas out there, it can be tough to know what to expect from that newly purchased tube. We give you the lowdown on lip finishes and show you how they’ll look in real life.

Creams

Classic Creams

As the most common of lipstick finishes, creamy lip formulas straddle the line between glossy and matte for an easy, everyday look that puts the focus on the color. We’re particularly fond of MAKE’s Silk Cream Lipstick, which combines long-lasting pigment with moisturizing aloe and chamomile.
When to Wear It: Cream finishes are as easy to wear as lip balm—pack them in your purse to wear to work.

Mattes

Dramatic Mattes

The antithesis to a gloss, the suede-like finish of matte lipstick oozes drama. Newcomers to matte should try a moisturizing formula Vasanti’s Soft Finish Matte Lipstick with Anti-Oxidant to prevent any cakiness. Ready for the big leagues? Try stila’s mega-pigmented stay-all-day liquid lipstick.
When to Wear It: A little bit ‘90s, a little bit Old Hollywood, wear a matte lip when you want to steal the spotlight.

Glosses

Poppin’ Glosses

Flirtatious, glossy lips catch the light for major shine. And though they may remind you of your high-school days, glossy finishes have, in fact, made a high-fashion comeback. The new formulas like Smashbox’s Be Legendary Lip Gloss eschews stickiness for look-at-me sheen, deeply pigmented color and long-lasting hydration.
When to Wear It: On a night out—there’s nothing that stands out on the dance floor like a slicked-back pony and a glossy smile.

Stains

Buildable Stains

If you’re obsessed with the vivid, stay-for-days color of your lips after you've just consumed a cherry popsicle, then lip stains are for you. These gel-like, fast-drying formulas are perfect for experimentation too. Combining the look of a creamy lipstick with the long wear of a stain, Cynthia Rowley Beauty’s Creamy Lip Stain becomes more opaque as you layer it.
When to Wear It: Wear one coat of stain to work, and layer for drinks after afterwards. Even though a martini or two, this color isn’t going anywhere.

Sheers

Simple Sheers

With just the right balance of subtle shine, a hint of color, and megamoisture, sheers are the antilipstick. Pair a bare face or minimal makeup with the translucent pop of Pixi by Petra’s Shea Butter Lip Balm, which comes in five feminine shades and hydrates with vitamin E.
When to Wear It: When you’re in a low-maintenance, I woke up like this kind of mood.

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