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Wearing a lip liner can truly make all the difference. When lip liner is used correctly, it can help give the appearance of fuller, more defined lips, make bold lip colors appear more prominent, and prevent lipstick from feathering. “Think of lip liner as a primer for the lips. It’s a barrier to keep lipstick from bleeding onto other areas of the face and ensures that it will last longer,” says Patrick Ta, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Patrick Ta Beauty.
But, you don’t have to splurge on lip liners to receive the full benefit from them. You can snag quality lip liners from your drugstore that’ll work just as well as pricier ones. Plus, they come in a wide array of shades, textures, and colors. Once you find your favorite drugstore lip liner, you’ll be wondering how you ever functioned without it. And, you won’t have to shell out tons of money to purchase it.
Read on for the best drugstore lip liners for every occasion.
Best Overall: L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner
What we love most about this lip liner is its versatility—and this one is super easy to wear with any lip color. Composed of eight versatile hues, you’ll have no problem finding a shade that matches your favorite lipstick or gloss. Plus, it easily sharpens and can be worn alone beautifully.
Best Budget: Essence Soft Contouring Lip Liner
If you’re looking to spend only a few dollars on a truly incredible lip liner, then this one's for you. Highly-pigmented and composed of barely-there neutral hues, we love how flawlessly it looks with literally every lip color—regardless of how bold or sheer. Bonus: the silky formula is both smudge-proof and long-lasting.
Best Matte Finish: The Lip Bar Lip Liner
Few things are comparable to the perfect matte lip liner—and this one is remarkable. Use it to outline, define, or fill in your pout for a pristine look every time. Plus, it’ll keep your lips impeccably soft and smooth due to the infusion of aloe vera and jojoba oil.
Best Long-Wear: Revlon ColorStay Longwear Lip Liner
Looking at your lips after a couple of hours and seeing the color bleed outside the lines is the worst, which is why you need a foolproof liner handy at all times. With Revlon’s Colorstay, it’ll literally lock in your lip shade and prevent any of that from happening for hours.
Best for Red Lips: Flower Beauty Petal Pout Lip Liner
You’ll want to add this red lip liner to your beauty repertoire asap. Suited for practically every skin tone, this adventurous red means business. Because the formula is so rich, the color pay-off is intense—meaning all you need is one swipe for the perfect red pout.
Best Nude Shades: Maybelline New York Color Sensational Shaping Lip Liner
Maybelline's lip liner truly lives up to its name; sensational. Its wide array of neutral shades are exactly what you think of when you’re looking for a nude lip liner. Creamy and smudge-proof, it also won’t move a single centimeter when worn.
Best Waterproof: JOAH Beauty Lip Candy Auto Lip Liner
Say goodbye to smudging, this is the best lip-liner you could wear for a swim. Silky and non-sliding, this intense formula glides around your lips effortlessly. Wear it alone for a natural, accentuated lip or underneath your favorite lipstick to really make it pop.
Best Multi-Use: e.l.f. Cosmetics Lip Liner & Blending Brush
This smooth-gliding lip liner comes in a stunning berry hue, so don’t be surprised that it looks unbelievably flattering on every lip hue. Even better? It comes with a built-in blending brush for blending flawlessly on the go.
Best for Fair Skin: Colourpop Lippie Pencil in On Snap
Super pigmented and long-wearing, this high-intensity lip pencil applies beautifully with little to no effort. Its muted pink nude, "On Snap", is incredibly flattering for fairer skin tones. Accomplishing clean lines with zero feathering has never been easier.
Best for Deep Skin: Iman Cosmetics Perfect Lip Pencil in Cocoa Mass
Cocoa Mass, a cocoa-colored brown, is absolutely captivating on deeper skin tones. Smooth and creamy, it defines lips flawlessly while staying in place all day. And, it has a built-in sharpener for those times when you need to touch upon the go.
Best for Medium Skin: CoverGirl Exhibitionist Lip Liner
"Mauvelous" (aka mauve), looks gorgeous on any skin tone, but especially so on those with medium skin tones. Contouring your lips has never been simpler with zero feathering or bleeding whatsoever. Plus, the application is easy, breezy, beautiful (like their commercial slogan).
Best Shade Range: NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil
This liner is one of NYX Professional Makeup’s best sellers for a reason. The teeny-tiny tip will create the finest line to give you that sharp definition you’re looking for. Your lips won’t get dry, either, since it’s formulated with coconut oils for extra hydration.
With the wide array of choices available in drugstores, finding the best lip liners can be quite tricky. To narrow it down a bit, our favorite pick overall is Lóreal’s Color Riche Matte Lip Liner. Its versatility is what truly sets it apart from others and it can literally be worn with any lipstick or gloss. If you’re looking to save money, Essence’s Soft Contouring Lip Liner is a great choice for its silky, smudge-proof, and long-lasting formula. Lastly, for the best shade range, try NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil for a choice between more than 30 different lip liner colors.
FYI, the way you apply lip liner can make a huge difference. If you’re looking for an over-lined look, never over-line your entire lip all the way to the crease, explains Ta. “You want to over-line only at the cupid’s bow and draw a little farther down the lip. This will give you that sexy, pouty mouth and will avoid looking too overdrawn” he says. "If you’re applying a super pigmented matte lipstick, I love to apply it to the lips directly from the bullet and then follow up with a lip liner to get a super precise line."
What to Look For in a Drugstore Lip Liner
“When purchasing a drugstore lip liner, look for moisturizing ingredients to keep the product from piling,” recommends Ta. Some of these ingredients include shea butter, castor oil, beeswax, and lanolin—just to name a few.
“I like lip liners that are retractable, as I’m not a fan of carrying a lip liner pencil when I’m on set,” explains Ta. It can be quite difficult to sharpen your pencil on the go, so a retractable formula is less messy (no lip pencil shavings!).
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Rachel Dube has written for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there and has tested hundreds of products. She is constantly researching the newest trends and is always looking for the best drugstore finds.