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Nothing against a classic lipstick or shiny gloss, but we truly think lip stains are the unsung hero of the lipstick world. They pack a pigmented punch of vibrant color that lasts notably longer than their counterparts (hence them being called a stain). Still, unlike lip lacquers or matte lipsticks that promise similar staying power, stains have a much more comfortable and hydrating wear.
Not to mention that reapplication is a thing of your past. After a full day with them on your lips, they'll look and feel good. There are plenty of great options out there to choose from, including an impressive array that can be found at the drugstore for wallet-friendly prices.
Ahead, we rounded up the absolute best drugstore lip stains on the market right now.
Best Overall: Revlon Balm Stain
Retractable tip never needs sharpening
Infused with a Triple Butter Complex
Not much staying power
This truly checks the boxes for all of our lip product criteria. Per the balm part of things, it’s extremely creamy and moisturizing (credit a triple threat of mango, shea, coconut butter). It feels lightweight on lips, imparting the perfect flush of color that’s easily buildable. Bonus points for the retractable crayon tip that never requires any sharpening.
Form: Crayon | Shades: 8 | Size: 0.095 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Radiant Gel Lip Stain
Enriched with rosewater
Color not fully accurate
Sure, drugstore products are affordable by definition, but this one really takes the money-saving cake. Ringing in at just a few dollars, the tinted gel is water-based and claims to feel innately cool and refreshing. The sheer color looks great worn on its own or layered under any other of your go-to lip products.
Form: Gel | Shades: 1 | Size: 0.6 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Matte: L'Oréal Paris Rouge Signature Matte Lip Stain
20 shades to choose from
Red shades have an orange tint
A matte lip never goes out of style. The only drawback? Most matte formulas, be they stains or lipsticks, tend to be innately drying. Not the case here. Despite the gorgeous matte texture and intense color, it feels so light and undetectable on lips that you’ll quickly forget you’re wearing it. That is until you look in the mirror and realize that, indeed, the color is still there and looks just as good as it did when you applied it.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 20 | Size: 0.8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Shiny: L'Oréal Paris Colour Caresse Wet Shine Stain
Has staying power
Very natural look
Has unpleasant perfume smell to some
As a general rule of thumb, lip stains tend to fall on the matte end of the spectrum. So if you prefer your lips to have a bit more luster, reach for this formula (yes, the same brand does both finishes extremely well.) It has the staying power of a stain, for sure, but is packed with oils that not only hydrate but also impart a gorgeous sheen. We also appreciate the perfectly tapered doe-foot brush that makes precise application a total breeze.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 12 | Size: 0.21 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Sheer: Flower Beauty Sheer Up Lip Tint
Goes on easily
Too much glitter for some
For those looking for a super subtle kiss of color, this twist-up crayon can’t be beaten. Nice and creamy, it may hydrate lips while simultaneously imparting a touch of pigment. The final product is a "your lips but better" type effect, that’s perfect for every day.
Form: Crayon | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Pigmented: Peripera Ink Airy Velvet Lip Tint
Very wearable and comfortable
Becomes drying to some after application
It may not look it in the bottle, but just the lightest swipe of this stain delivers complete coverage and an intense pop of color. Available in six vibrant hues, it’s ideal for those who love a bold lip, but don’t love the touch-ups that come with it. This formula also has great staying power.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 14 | Size: 0.14 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Multi-Purpose: Winky Lux Whipped Cream Lip & Cheek
Airy in feel yet hydrating
Good on all skin types
Provides full coverage
Doesn't work well with foundation
One of the many nice things about a lip stain is that it can pull double duty as a cheek color, delivering a long-lasting and natural-looking flush. We particularly like this one for that very purpose. Whether you dab the whipped formula onto lips or cheeks, it offers a stay-put wash of color.
Form: Whipped cream | Shades: 1 | Size: 0.46 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Shades: Joah Beauty Tintation Lip Stain
Lightweight yet creamy
Feels more matte than glossy to some
Despite the fact that this option only comes in six shades (and yes, there are some picks on this list that do come in more), it earns our vote for those colors being the most perfectly pigmented. They deliver a totally believable, just-bitten type hue, and also have the benefit of boasting a lightweight yet creamy texture.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 6 | Size: 0.13 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Unknown | Byrdie Clean: Unknown
Best Applicator: Ardell Forever Kissable Lip Stain
Up to 12 hours of wear
Bleed- and transfer-resistant
Not very true to color
A marker-esque felt tip makes it easier than ever to precisely line and fill in your lips, making smudges and smears a thing of the past. Give the color just a minute or so to dry and it will be completely set, claiming to last up to 12 hours without any bleeding or transferring. Also nice: The natural matte finish and a barely-there feel.
Form: Crayon | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.08 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Long Lasting: Maybelline New York SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick
Extensive shade options
Highly saturated pigment
Feels sticky to some
Okay, we feel strongly that this merits inclusion on this list. While this is technically considered more of a lipstick, the initially wet texture quickly dries down to a stain-like finish. Regardless of what category you want to put it in, the staying power is undoubtedly the best of any lip product we’ve ever used. One application will last not only all day, but also all night, through dinner, drinks, and even a makeout sesh (we know this based on personal experience).
As we said, it initially looks more akin to a lipstick, but quickly transforms into a stain-like color, and comes in a wide range of different shades.
Form: Crayon-lipstick | Shades: 30 | Size: 0.17 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Gloss Lovers: Wet n Wild Mega Last Stained Glass Lip Gloss
Applicator wand could be more durable
Fans of that extra-shiny lip look will appreciate the mirror-like sheen of this guy. Never sticky or tacky, it’s instead featherweight with buildable (though very long-lasting) color along with the glossy finish. It’s vegan and cruelty-free, too.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 6 | Size: 0.8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Hydrating: Versed Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil
Gives a subtle, healthy sheen
Replenishes dry, chapped lips
Rich in antioxidants
Applies in a slippery way to some
Even though this isn’t called a stain, we think it’s well-deserving of a spot on this list. As the name suggests, the oil base uses a combo of rich jojoba, camellia, and sesame oils. They absorb fairly quickly, though the hydration they leave behind—and the sheer stain of color—remains.
Form: Oil | Shades: 1 | Size: 0.3 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What to Look for in a Drugstore Lip Stain
A lip stain should last you the entire day, which means that selecting one that is long-wearing is crucial. Aside from avoiding reapplication, a long-wearing formula is typically able to withstand mask-wearing, drinking, and other activities. It's one of the main reasons why people love lip stains.
Lip stain formulas should be hydrating, long-wearing, and look great on you. With that said, stay away from sticky or tacky formulas if you opt to select a lip gloss stain (like the one above) or a lip oil.
Some lip stains can be dehydrating, so make sure to choose a formula that won't make your lips feel super dry. Opt to choose one with ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and other hydrating ingredients to ensure your lips look and feel their best. They may even be able to replace your chapstick.
How long does a lip stain last for?
It should last at least eight to 12 hours; however, if you do a lot of eating or drinking, it may fade slightly or need a little bit of reapplication.
Is a lip stain bad for your lips?
No, lip stains are not bad for your lips. They add a subtle flush of color and may even add hydration if your lip stain includes hydrating ingredients. Plus, lip stains last all day yet still remove seamlessly without the harsh rubbing or tugging.
What is the difference between a lip stain and lip tint?
They both are similar in regard to their qualities, which is why they can be confused and compared. However, lip stains "stain" the lips (leaving behind temporary, long-lasting color) whereas lip tints tend to deposit color that is more easily removed.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any drugstore lip stains from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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