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In addition to preventing lipstick from feathering, lip liners also help provide the perfect pout and come in a variety of shades, formulas, textures, and packaging. From subtle nudes to bold red, there's lip liner for every occasion. Lip contouring, subtly lining and over-lining lips have become popular trends in recent years, and a good lip liner can give you the look you want.
To choose the correct lip liner, opt for a shade that’s a tiny bit deeper than the shade of your lips. This will help give the appearance of fuller, more defined lips. “With the right lip liner, you can cheat and redefine the look of your lips for a youthful, perfected looking pout,” says Sofia Schwarzkopf-Tilbury, Celebrity MUA and Creative Executive at Charlotte Tilbury Beauty.
Read on for the best lip liners.
Best Overall: Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment - Precision Lip Crayon
From being a celebrity makeup artist to having an iconic makeup brand, Patrick Ta is nothing short of #lifegoals. Our favorite lip liner from his line is the Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Crayon, a creamy lip crayon that glides on effortlessly and wears for hours on end with zero smudges. Plus, it comes in a range of wearable neutral shades for a natural look.
Best Budget: L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner
Consider this a lip plumper minus the tingles or stinging. Easily add definition, give a plump appearance, or find your favorite matte lip liner. The range of bold to neutral hues leaves room to acquire the perfect shade and, at a great budget price, it’s definitely worth a try.
Best Versatility : Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner
Don’t worry, this lip liner’s shade range is truly made for every single skin tone. Its 17 versatile shades range from subtle nudes to bright berry. And, the shade Supersize Me, is a favorite of Schwarzkopf-Tilbury for its "perfect rosy-pink shade."
Best Drugstore: REVLON ColorStay Lip Liner
Trust us, this lip liner will feel way more expensive than it actually is. The pointed tip of the pencil makes it easy to apply precisely and impeccably. Plus, the SoftFlex technology allows the formula to stay on for all-day wear. If that wasn’t enough, it’s quite a steal.
Best Matte Finish: Marc Jacobs Poutliner Longwear Lip Pencil
Let’s be honest, what we love most about lip liners is that they’re matte—and this one is unparalleled. Collagen-infused and composed of barely-there hues, we love how these complement every lip color—regardless of how bright or subtle. And, the gel formula glides on flawlessly for seamless all-day wear.
Best Long-Wearing: Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil
Leave fading lip liner behind with Pat McGrath’s revolutionary formula. Made with the exclusive Permagel Technology, this formula prevents feathering, is waterproof, and easily sculpts, shades, and defines. Super smooth, it’s also made for smudging, filling, and diffusing to achieve your desired look.
Best for Fair Skin: Buxom PlumpLine Lip Liner in White Russian
Plumper looking lips are just a simple swipe away, thanks to this liner’s built-in brush. The wide range of versatile shades could work on all skin tones, but we love White Russian, a pale-pink nude, for a pop against lighter skin tones. Creamy and pigmented enough to wear alone, it can also provide the best base for glosses or lipsticks due to its unique peptide and hyaluronic acid booster formula.
Best for Medium Skin: Chanel Le Crayon Levres Precision Lip Definer in Mordore-Nude
Composed with a soft, delicate glide on-tip, this liner stuns with its taupey-mauve color, a tone that's especially ideal for medium skin tones. The creamy formula glides on comfortably due to the addition of cotton seeds, jojoba seeds, and vitamin E. It makes it simple to keep your lips super hydrated and incredibly contoured.
Best for Darker Skin Tones: Juvia’s Place The Reds and Berries Luxe Lip Liner in Wine
Wine—a red-wine colored shade—is an ultra-flattering shade for darker complexions. The super rich-pigment blends well and goes a long way with only a little bit of product.
Best Splurge: Victoria Beckham Beauty Lip Definer
Dubbed Victoria’s go-to for creating a fuller-looking pout, this lip liner gets us one step closer to becoming Posh Spice. Smooth and creamy, the formula allows for impeccable application with zero feathering, skipping, or smudging. Plus, it contains vitamin E to condition lips while you wear it. Trust us, it’s worth the splurge.
Best for Red Lipstick: Armani Beauty Smooth Silk Lip Pencil in Shade 5
If you’re all about wearing the boldest red lip, you’ll want to add this lip liner to your makeup bag ASAP. Suited for basically every skin tone, this subtle red can enhance any red lip with its silky texture and precise definition. We recommend fully lining your lips and then topping off with a bright or bold lip color to fully reap its benefits.
Best Nude: KKW Matte Smoke Lip Liner
Hands down, KKW’s lip liner is the best nude you will find. Established by Kim Kardashian herself, it's three subtle shades —90’s Icon, 90’s Supermodel, and 90’s Runway — is exactly what you need to achieve that overdrawn, but not over-embellished, look that she’s known for. And, the intense pigmentation is a huge draw—just one swipe is all you need.
Best for all Skin Tones: Beauty Bakerie Sugar Sticks
Infused with castor-oil, this lip liner will keep your lips super soft with zero feathering in sight. It’s also highly pigmented, water-resistant, and long-lasting. Bonus: the retractable tip requires zero sharpening for on the go usage.
Best Natural: Lime Crime Velvetines Lip Liner
Leave smudging, budging, and transferring behind with this waterproof lip liner. Cruelty-free and vegan, this product is made without any questionable ingredients. Plus, it glides on with a creamy texture and dries down matte.
Known for its ability to help define, line, and plump your pout, lip liners can instantly upgrade your pout (no injectables necessary). Created by Celebrity makeup artist Patrick Ta, the Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Liner is our overall favorite. It comes in essential neutral shades, wears for hours on end with zero smudging, and glides on effortlessly. If you’re looking to spend a little less on lip liner, try L'oreal Paris’s Color Riche Matte Lip Liner or Revlon’s ColorStay Lip Liner. Both are super affordable, wear impeccably, and live up to the hype. And, if you’re looking for versatile shades that look fabulous on everyone, try Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Cheat Liner.
"A texture that slides on super smoothly and that doesn’t smudge is a must,” says Schwartzkopf-Tilbury. Creamy textures make the application simple and can be adjusted easily to achieve your desired look.
Choosing a shade that is a bit deeper than your regular lip color will help give the appearance of fuller more defined lips. You don’t want a color that will blend exactly, but you don’t want it to be too dark either.
What does lip liner do?
Lip liners help create fuller, wider-looking lips and prevent lipstick from feathering out of place. “As we age, our lips tend to lose their fullness and can even start to fade in color, so lip liner is essential,” says Schwarzkopf-Tilbury.
How do you apply lip liner?
Schwarzkopf-Tilbury recommends tracing the line of your lips and then focus on creating a defined Cupid’s Bow to enhance the natural shape. She says, “I recommend overdrawing just the top of the Cupid’s Bow and having it gradually match the actual line of your lips for a natural look.” Overdrawing your lips can help them appear fuller and plumper, which is exactly what we want.
Can you use lip liner as eyeliner?
While you can do this, you probably shouldn’t. While the formula for lip liner and eyeliner is similar, it can cause irritation and other issues due to the pigment and color additives in them.
Why Trust Us?
Byrdie contributor Rachel Dube has written for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there and has tested hundreds of beauty products. Along with writing about beauty, she also covers wellness and lifestyle. After realizing the importance of lip liner, she is always looking for the next best ones to help contour and define her pout.
How We Test Lip Liners
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain products; you can read more about our product review methodology here