Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Do you ever find yourself in that frustrating situation when you crave more than a lip balm (because pigment) and less than a lipstick (because maintenance)? Same. Call us demanding, but we firmly believe there's a time and place for our go-to balm, while there are certain occasions when nothing short of a creamy, long-wearing lipstick will do.
Luckily, there's a wonderfully handy solve: the lip stain, a pout-perfecting antidote to that aforementioned gray area and a sweet middle ground for those times when you're feeling a tad indecisive. To keep stress to the minimum (and your lips to the maximum), we've rounded up a list of the very best lips stains. Not only will you look like you just ate a popsicle, but your lips will also stay plump and hydrated. Which is really the name of the game, yes?
Pucker up, and keep scrolling: These are the best lip stains on the market.
Best Overall: Yves Saint Laurent Vinyl Cream Lip Stain
Lasts all day
Brush makes precise application easy
A little expensive
For a heavy hit of color, hydration, and staying powder (10 hours, to be exact), this glossy cult favorite is the ultimate wingwoman. For a lip stain, it boasts impressive coverage, so if you're looking for something sheerer, tread carefully. The slanted tip and short, soft bristles of the applicator make for flawless precision every time. Plus, the impressive shade range spans everything from soft nudes to brights like fuchsia.
Coverage Level: Full | Finish: Glossy | Shades: 7 | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Radiant Gel Lip Stain
Feels cooling on lips
Can be worn on cheeks
Could be longer-lasting
There are lip stains about 20 times the price of this one, but this affordable pick really deserves its time in the spotlight. It's a weightless gel tint that gives off sheer color with a cooling and hydrating effect. The formula comes in three sultry shades and helps the lips appear hydrated and plump.
Coverage Level: Sheer | Finish: Satin | Shades: 1 | Size: 0.6 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Matte: Tarte Lippie Lingerie Matte Tint
Matte finish doesn't look dry
Smooth, moisturizing formula
No bold shades available
If you’re searching for a lip tint with the perfect matte finish, you can stop looking: Tarte’s Lippie Lingerie Matte Lip Tint is it. It comes in six neutral nude shades that deliver that "my lips but better" look. It smooths right onto your pucker—just like a balm—for buildable, full-coverage color. It contains a blend of mango seed, cupuacu, and murumuru butter and helps keep your pout moisturized and protected.
Coverage Level: Full | Finish: Matte | Shades: 3 | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Drugstore: Revlon Balm Stain
Pretty range of shades
Tingling sensation may not be for all
As one of the original lip stains to hit the market, it's telling that Revlon's iconic formula is still a beauty-editor favorite. Yes, the price is delectable, but so is the punch of lasting lightweight color that's surprisingly fun to apply (and reapply, though you won't have to do that often). The gel formula is lightweight and deeply moisturizing, and it comes in eight pretty shades. Plus, the chubby crayon is retractable, so you never have to worry about finding a sharpener.
Coverage Level: Sheer | Finish: Satin | Shades: 8 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Classic: Benefit Cosmetics Benetint Cheek & Lip Stain
Can be worn on cheeks
A little goes a long way
No list of lip stains would be complete without the OG of the category, Benefit’s Benetint Cheek & Lip Stain. The game-changing rose-tinted stain delivers a smudge-proof, sexy flush with a glow. Also nice: The formula doubles as a cheek color.
Coverage Level: Sheer | Finish: Satin | Shades: 1 | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Natural: Rituel de Fille Enchanted Lip Sheer
Only 3 shades available
Confession: Rituel de Fille's lush line of cosmetics has created pandemonium within the Byrdie offices. And this sheer, semi-matte lip stain from the brand is right at the forefront. It is hands down the best one of our editors has ever tried. Given that the formula is 99% natural and packed with botanicals, your lips are sure to thank you.
Coverage Level: Sheer | Finish: Semi-matte | Shades: 3 | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Hydrating: Buxom Serial Kisser Plumping Lip Stain
Plumps and hydrates
Flattering shade range
Infused with humectant all-star hyaluronic acid, this lip stain-gloss hybrid delivers a gorgeous wash of color while leaving the lips oh-so supple. Hyaluronic acid is famed for its moisture-retaining abilities, so your pout is guaranteed to stay hydrated and soft all day long. It comes in eight flattering shades, ranging from nudes to berries and reds.
Coverage Level: Medium | Finish: Glossy | Shades: 8 | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Rollerball: Milk Makeup Glow Oil
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin and oil often found in anti-oxidant blend topicals or moisturizers. It also helps soothe the skin and protects the lipid barrier.
A "long-wearing gloss" sounds like an oxymoron, but this oil-infused lip stain proves it can be done. In short, the shades are gorgeous, the rollerball applicator makes us feel 10 years younger, and the nutrient-rich formula (thanks, vitamin E!) delivers a rush of hydration.
Best Double-Duty: RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek
Can be worn on cheeks
Doesn't include an applicator
Nothing is more satisfying than a two-for-one product that actually delivers on both fronts. There are nine mineral-based shades to choose from (for each day of the week and then some), and they look equally pretty from cheek to lip. Truth be told, this best-of lip stain will help your pout live its best life.
Coverage Level: Medium | Finish: Radiant | Shades: 7 | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What to Look For in a Lip Stain
The first thing Urban Decay Global Makeup Artist Steve Kassajikian recommends looking for when shopping for a lip stain is the finish. While you don’t have as many choices as you would with traditional bullet lipsticks, most stains either have a matte or glossy finish. However, it’s worth noting that stains with a gloss finish will eventually wear off (much like a regular lip gloss), and the actual stain they leave behind will be matte.
Like full-coverage liquid lipsticks, lip stains also have the potential to leave the lips feeling dry. Kassajikian recommends seeking out formulas that contain hydrating ingredients in order to avoid this issue. Alternatively, another great way to avoid dryness and also help lock the color in? Apply a thin layer of balm once the stain dries down.
The whole point of wearing a lip stain is to, well, stain your lips, providing you with long-lasting color that doesn’t need to be constantly reapplied. While most formulas tend to have longer wear than traditional lipsticks and glosses, Kassajikian recommends reaching for a waterproof formula to ensure your color will last through just about anything.
Meet the Expert
Steve Kassajikian is Urban Decay’s Global Makeup Artist.