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Growing up in the 90s, I naturally used a lip liner as if my life depended on it. I’m talking a full-blown, heavy-handed, dark brown look that I then finished off with clear gloss. Yep—I was that devoted to the trend. Which is why I’m happy to report that lip liner is just as popular as it was then. The trends now are different—we’ve replaced that dark marker-esque line with more subtle shading and contouring—but the sticks themselves are still considered to be prized possessions. From classic neutrals (yes, even the 90s dark brown) to peachy pinks to modern nudes, lip liners come in a variety of colors, textures, formulas, and even packaging. I guess it begs the question: Why have one when you can have 12?
Below, discover our absolute favorite lip liners.
Best Overall: Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner
Velvety soft and ultra-smooth, this rich formula glides over the contours of your lips like a total pro. Available in 15 shades—like nudes, berries, and reds—there’s a liner for every look. What we love about the formula is how versatile it is. Wear alone for a fuller, matte finish or underneath your favorite gloss or lipstick to really make ‘em stick.
Best for Red Lipstick: MAC Lip Pencil in Ruby Woo
No red is more classic than MAC’s Ruby Woo. Pretty much suited for every skin tone, this bold red means business. It’s equal parts retro and modern, making the rich, matte texture a timeless choice—which makes total sense considering it’s a MAC top seller. We recommend fully penciling in your lips and then topping off with the lipstick in the same shade for that “wow” factor.
Need more red options? See more reviews of our favorite MAC lipsticks available for purchase.
Best Drugstore: NYX Professional Makeup Suede Matte Lip Liner
Hands down, one of the best things about this lip liner is the fact that it’s available in 45 colors. So whether you want a major pop of color (like Little Denim Dress, a bright aqua) or a muted, matte look (like Soft-Spoken, a light brown), there’s a shade for you. Because the formula is so rich, this liner can be worn all by itself—no gloss or lipstick needed.
See our guide to the best drugstore lipsticks.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Lip Liner & Blending Brush
For just a few bucks, you get a twist-up liner and a brush that allows you to enhance the shape of your lips by drawing around the contours and then blending the color inwards. The formula is smooth and glides right on, depositing even, consistent color that holds up all day.
Best for Pale Skin: Tarte Tarteist Lip Crayon
Fuller looking lips is just a few swipes away, thanks to this handy vegan twist-up stick. This liner doubles up as a crayon, so you can choose to outline your pout or completely fill it in. The shades really pop against lighter skin tones—we love the color “Squad”, a burgundy, for a fun night out.
Best for Deep Skin: Huda Beauty Lip Contour Matte Pencil
From being a beauty YouTube star to having a coveted beauty brand, Huda Kattan is not only #goals, but our ultimate girl crush. One of our favorite products of hers is the Lip Contour, a silky-feeling pencil that has intense color and provides a plumped-up finish.
Best for Olive Skin: Revlon ColorStay Lip Liner
The pointed tip of this pencil gives you a precise, polished application. Line along the natural contours of your lips, or go just a bit further out to widen your mouth. The SoftFlex technology really helps the formula stick, so all-day wear is a non-issue.
Best Nude: Milani Color Statement Lipliner in Nude
If you’re all about the nude lip lifestyle, you’ll want to add this lip liner to your beauty repertoire. Its three neutral shades—Nude, All Natural, and Spice—are exactly what you need to achieve that flawless overdrawn, but not overdone, look that Kim Kardashian would approve of.
Best Matte: L’Oreal Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner
What we love most about lip liners is that they’re matte—and this one, we have to say, is the matte-est. There’s a reason beauty gurus and their followers love this pencil: It’s affordable, high-quality, and has great staying power. One reviewer notes that the nude shade looks natural and believable.
Want to see some other matte options? Take a peek at some of the other best matte lipsticks you can buy.
Best Waterproof: It Cosmetics Your Lips But Better Waterproof Lip Liner Stain
Infused with anti-aging collagen and antioxidant vitamins A and E, this game-changing formula does pretty much everything. The stain formula is waterproof (for up to 8 hours of wear) and thanks to shea butter and aloe, it is extremely hydrating. Plus, reviewers rave that the pencil prevents feathering and smudging.
Best Long-Wearing: Make Up For Ever Aqua Lip Waterproof Lipliner
Leave fading and feathering behind. Made with vitamin E and jojoba, this creamy formula smooths right on and doesn’t go anywhere. The highly pigmented colors are completely waterproof—seriously, go apply this and then take a dip in the pool. You won’t be disappointed. And it’s available in a variety of shades, including my favorite called Medium Natural Beige.
Check out reviews of the best long-lasting lipsticks available for purchase.
Best Luxury: Tom Ford Lip Sculptor
Consider this a contouring tool for your lips. Easily add dimension and fullness by overdrawing your lips or even out your natural color by lightly shading all over and blending. Reviewers love the sleek packaging, selection of colors, and how enhanced their lips look after application.