Style + Ask the Edit

Ask the Editor: A Lip Color Lesson

Women tend to fall into two categories: those who rarely if ever wear lip color, and those who have 14 lipsticks, glosses, and balms in their purse at any one time.   Whether you need advice on lip color or can give advice on this topic, join us for this lesson in lip color.

Dear Belle,

I am about to turn 38 and have always worn lip gloss, never lipstick.  I wasn’t a fan of the consistency of a thick lipstick and felt that it aged me.  Also, a bold lip was never my style (my lips are not thin, so volume is not really a concern).  But now I feel like I could and should do better.  Any suggestions for lip color brands worth trying?  I recall trying the Clinique chubby stick once and not being wowed, but perhaps I should try again.

– A

The issue with lip color is that there are so many choices.  Glosses, stains, crayons, sticks, and balms.  Matte, hydrating, natural, sheer, etc.   Add colors from every corner of the spectrum and you create a makeup decisions that should be simple, but feels overwhelming.

First, do your lips get dry easily?  If they do, you want a lipstick that will be moisturizing or that can be layered over a lip balm.

Second, how much color are you looking for?  Some women want  Ocasio-Cortez level red, some women just want a hint of color.   To each her own.  (FYI: AOC wears Stila Stay All Day in Beso.)

Third, how often are you willing to re-apply?  Some ladies want to “set it and forget it,” others are willing to swipe on fresh color throughout the day.

Once you answer these questions, you will have a better idea of what you’re looking for.  Given that you are looking for something on the subtle side, that’s not thick, but has impact, I have a few suggestions for you.

My best drugstore recommendation is Burt’s Bees Glossy Lipstick.  The color in the photo is rose falls, but the photo on Amazon shows the different hues on different skin tones so you can choose a shade that works for you.  The Burt’s lip colors are nice because they’re hydrating, but you will need to reapply for all-day wear.

I would call the Burt’s a step or two above sheer.  The pigments are subtle, but they offer a visible color change.

Looking for something highly pigmented?  You need Revlon Ultra HD Gel Lipcolor.  These sticks offer deep, bold colors in a hydrating formula that doesn’t feel heavy or sticky when you wear it.

For the beauty counter crowd, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick is my favorite.  It goes on smooth, is well-pigmented, and doesn’t dry out my lips.  I like the Pillow Talk color if you’re in the mood for a pink-nude hue.

Need something that will last all day, no reapplications?  Maybelline Stay All Day Crayon is the best one I’ve found.  It also comes with a sharpener, so no more grinding the crayon down to the nub.  Hallelujah.

Have comments and tips?  Leave your thoughts below.

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  1. Meghan says:

    I am also obsessed with Charlotte Tillbury Pillow Talk. I normally don’t like the look of lipstick or the hassle of reapplying. This one makes my makeup feel “done.” I wore it on my wedding day and felt like myself and now wear it to work when I need a little extra polish. HIGHLY RECOMMEND (it’s good enough to justify all caps). 🙂

    July 9, 2019/Reply
  2. Krista says:

    bite is by far my favorite day to day brand. I do love Stila’s stay all day line for events or days I know I won’t have time or energy to reapply.

    July 9, 2019/Reply
  3. Em says:

    I’ve been using that exactly shade of Burt’s Bees for about a year now and I love it! I have one in my purse and one in my desk. I even used it on my wedding day for touch ups after the ceremony/during the reception.

    July 9, 2019/Reply
    • Shelley says:

      Does it have the minty flavor like the lip balms do? Those burs my lips and I can’t use them..

      July 11, 2019/Reply
  4. MargaretO says:

    I really like the sephora brand lip clicks, its sort of a gloss/gel formula. Doesn’t come in a ton of colors, I have the pinky nude one and really like it! It’s hydrating and gives a medium amount of pigmentation. Does require some reapplication but not as much as a traditional gloss. And super affordable! I think mine was 12.50.

    July 9, 2019/Reply
  5. Carrie says:

    I really love MAC lipsticks…they’re an oldie but a goodie with different formulas for different needs, they last hours, and they have practically every color imaginable. Bonus, they come in under $20. But for something less pigmented, I’ve been wearing Sugar by Fresh in Poppy. It’s semi sheer but really warms up my face. And if you don’t mind a splurge, I really like Dior’s Lip Glow…I just went through the stick way too fast to justify spending that kind of money on a lip product.

    July 9, 2019/Reply
    • SC says:

      Another vote for MAC lipstick — the Cremesheen is my favorite formula, it’s comfortable to wear and surprisingly long-wearing.

      I also love the Bobbi Brown Crushed lipsticks — I do one swipe and then pat in with my fingers for a more stained look. I got the color Babe as a sample but I think all of the shades are gorgeous.

      July 9, 2019/Reply
  6. Jenny says:

    If you don’t mind spending a little more, Tom Ford’s lipsticks are phenomenal. I have Indian Rose, and it looks sophisticated and feminine.

    July 9, 2019/Reply
  7. aBBY says:

    The L’Oreal Colour Riche Shine lipsticks are some of my favorite lipstick formulas, luxury or drugstore. They can be sheer or built up, have a slightly glossy look, and are easy to reapply. I ADORE THEM!

    July 9, 2019/Reply
  8. Amy says:

    Like the letter writer I’m soon to turn 38, the difference is I WANT my lipstick to age me. People regularly feel the need to tell me they thought I was in high school. Should I try thick lipstick, or would that just make me look like a child playing dress-up in my mother’s makeup?

    July 9, 2019/Reply
  9. Katel says:

    Another vote for Bite lipsticks and the mini sets of Bite and other brands that Sephora offers. It takes a long time to use up a full sized tube and it’s an easy way to experiment with colors/formulas.

    July 9, 2019/Reply
  10. Katie says:

    I’m a lip color junkie and my favorite formula is the Nars Lip Pencil. I have at least 5 different colors at this point, but I love the way they wear! Cruella has been my go-to red for years, but Red Square is a recent acquisition that I’m loving for Summer.

    Also a huge fan of Lipstick Queen, many of the colors start sheer and are buildable, and Fresh tinted balms. Some give more color than others, but they feel amazing. Charlotte Tilbury is another great formula, I wear Bond Girl semi-regularly.

    July 9, 2019/Reply
    • Lauren says:

      Seconded for Lipstick Queen! The Medieval shade is great if you want to try on a red lip but are terrified of going all in. As Katie said, it’s buildable, so you’ll get as little or as much red as you want.

      Besides that, I LOVE Burt’s Bees Rose Tinted Lip Balm. Definitely subtle, but as a pale redhead who is a weenie when it comes to makeup in general, it’s fab. Also incredibly hydrating.

      July 10, 2019/Reply