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In our humble opinion, lipstick just may be the most transformative makeup there is—one quick swipe can instantly take you from feeling blah to beautiful. Not to mention that even if the rest of your face is totally bare, a bold lip will make you look polished and put together. (File under: ‘a great makeup hack for busy mornings.’) The only problem? Eating, drinking, kissing your significant other, even generally going about your day—all of these things can make your lipstick come off. Enter lip primers.
Just like a primer you’d use on your face pre-foundation, these are meant to be layered underneath lip color, instantly upping their longevity and staying power. And it doesn’t stop there—lip primers can also do everything from adding hydration to preventing feathering to plumping your pout. So basically, no matter what your lips need, there’s a primer for that.
Take your pick from any of these stand-out options and get ready to pucker up.
Best Overall: MAC Prep + Prime Lip
One of the brand’s best-sellers, this clear base reduces feathering and smooths lips, creating the perfect base for any color to follow. It moisturizes, too—satisfied reviewers rave not only about how smoothly it goes on and how nice it leaves their lips feelings, but also the impressive staying power it provides.
Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Lip Primer
Not only will this prevent any lipstick you apply over it from feathering and migrating outside your lip lines, but it will also enhance the shade. Available in two different nude shades, it creates a neutral base that makes any color look extra rich and vibrant. And you get all of that without having to break the bank.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline New York Lip Studio Prime It Up Multi-Benefit Lip Primer
Once upon a time, not so long ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find a lip primer at the drugstore; it was a category reserved exclusively for high-end brands. Not anymore. Case in point: This simple and straightforward lip primer, the brand’s first. Swipe it on bare lips to create the perfect base for color that both lasts and pops.
Best Plumping: Sara Happ Plump & Prime
Those looking to plump their pucker will appreciate the lip-enhancing qualities of this cream. Using the brand’s proprietary blend of plumping ingredients, it makes lips look full and luscious—but without the irritating, sting-y feel that many lip plumpers can have. Not to mention that the velvety texture also makes lips look seemingly air-brushed, thanks to itty-bitty spheres that fill in fine lines. The perfect nude hue looks great on its own but also enhances the staying power of lipstick if you want to apply a bolder color on top.
Best Pencil: Bite Beauty Line & Define Lip Primer
For an ultra-precise application, a pencil can’t be beaten. This option is silky and weightless, using good-for-your lips resveratrol (an antioxidant), jojoba, and argan oils to condition and smooth, while silica prevents bleeding and locks in color. Also nice: A touch of minty flavor, and the clean formula.
Best for Dry Lips: Clé de Peau Lip Glorifier
This may look like a basic balm, but trust us, it’s anything but. A trifecta of hydrating shea butter, safflower oil, and argan tree oil quench even the most parched lips, but it doesn’t stop there. The formula also delivers a touch of color based on the moisture level of your lips. The results? A perfectly rosy glow that’s so pretty you may not even want a lipstick topper (though you do, this will help it last longer).
Best for Sensitive Lips: COVERGIRL Outlast Longwear Lipstick Clear Coat
Your lips are just as susceptible to sensitivities and irritation as the skin on the rest of your face, so if you’re constantly seeing unsightly little red bumps around your mouth, makeup may be to blame. That’s why we love that this is fragrance-free and safe for even the most sensitive skin; use the clear formula either under or over lipstick to lock in and set the color.
Best Scrub: Fenty Beauty Pro Kiss’r Lip-Loving Scrubstick
Okay, so this may not technically be a lip primer, but FYI, buffing the dead skin off your lips is one surefire way to make lipstick last longer…not to mention look better, too. This one, from Ri-Ri’s brand, just does that using apricot seed scrubbers, and best of all comes in a convenient and mess-free twist-up. Simply rub it into your lips and wipe off before applying lip color.
Best Under Matte Lipstick: Elizabeth Arden Advanced Fix Lip Cream
Matte lipsticks tend to be innately longer-lasting…the trade-off is that they can dry out your lips. That’s why we love pairing a hydrating prep product, like this one, with any matte lippies. All you need is a tiny dot of the conditioning formula to add necessary moisture to your lips, while also locking in color and keeping it inside lip lines. Just be sure to let it dry topping it with lipstick.
Best for Fast Fixes: Urban Decay Ultimate Ozone Multipurpose Primer Pencil
Lipstick smears happen to the best of us, which is why we love this option. Sure, you can use it underneath lipstick (the chunky pencil makes application super easy), but the clear, creamy formula also pulls double-duty to help quickly and efficiently clean up any mistakes or smudges. And it’s not just for use on your lips; it works equally well all over your face.
Best for Aging Skin: Mary Kay TimeWise Age-Fighting Lip Primer
Pesky fine lines don’t just show up around your eyes—they can crop up around your pucker, too. Swipe on this youth-booster to minimize wrinkles on and around the lips, help prevent lipstick or gloss from feathering, and increase wear time, too.