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Even if you’re a low-maintenance makeup-wearer, chances are, you still have a fair share of lipsticks in your arsenal. After all, a swipe or two of the right bullet can make you look pulled together and polished in a snap. For most, it’s essential to have three lipstick shades: nude, red, and a nice neutral, most often a pink. If that’s all you have, you’re off to a pretty good start. The challenging part is choosing the right formula and there are so many to choose from.
In addition to the traditional tube, you can choose the finish that you want: matte or shiny and from there, you have the option of liquid and/or long-lasting and finally there’s the price point you’re interested in. And even though having all of these choices can be overwhelming, once you get a handle on what’s available to you, you’ll be able to have fun and enjoy building your lipstick wardrobe. Below, our picks for the top lipsticks to buy.
Best Overall: Lipstick Charlotte Tilbury
There are a few boxes an “overall” lipstick has to check in order to suit varying tastes. Things like shade range, formula, and price are all important and Charlotte Tilbury’s lipstick range delivers in all areas. There are two formulas available: K.I.S.S.I.N.G., which is a bit creamier and Matte Revolution, which has more of a matte finish with 22 shades total between the two. You can expect a creamy texture that feels like you’re wearing nothing at all (never any tight, dry feeling!), along with rich pigments that are long-lasting, but easy to remove when you are ready to.
The formulas are also easy to layer, so if you’re aiming to make lips look fuller, you can use a neutral shade all over your pout like Super Cindy and then concentrate on the center of your lips with a lighter shade like Nude Kate. The ombré effect that’s created makes for fuller-looking lips.
Best Budget: Colourpop Crème Lux Lipstick
Just because the price tag doesn’t have a number that will break the bank, that doesn’t mean that the quality isn’t just as good as a more expensive version. The creamy formula resembles that of a hydrating balm thanks to jojoba and pomegranate seed butters, leaving lips looking and feeling better than before you applied it. Choose from eight rich shades that range from a pinky beige to a deep burgundy.
Best Matte: Physicians Formula Velvet Liquid Lip
The brand is known for its multitasking makeup products that offer skincare benefits, and these liquid lipsticks are the perfect example. The avocado oil, vitamins A and E, and hyaluronic-acid-spiked formula makes for an easy glide when you apply with the doe foot applicator. Although you will definitely feel the dry down as it sets, it will never feel uncomfortable.
In fact, unlike most liquid lipsticks that require you wipe off any remnants of the original coat before reapplying, you can easily add more over top as the day wears on and your color starts to fade — which, keep in mind, it fades evenly to a nice stain, so if you don’t have the lipstick with you to reapply, you won’t be left with completely bare lips. Before you apply any matte lipstick, though, it’s important to start with a clean slate. Use a lip scrub or an old toothbrush with Vaseline and rub on lips, follow with wiping any dead skin off using a wipe, ensuring that you’ll have a smooth finish.
Best Long-Lasting: Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink Lip Color
If you’re looking for a lip color that is truly budge and smudge-proof, this is the one for you. Once you put it on and it sets, it’s not going anywhere for hours. It will probably even take a little elbow grease to get it off when the time comes, but it’s worth it when you can enjoy yourself all day (and night) without worrying that your lipstick is looking patchy or has been completely wiped off. Offered in 20 shades with a smooth matte finish, it promises up to 16 hours of wear. The arrow tip applicator allows for crisp lines when you apply, but it dries quickly, so you have about only 15 seconds of play time.
Best Drugstore: e.l.f. Day to Night Lipstick Duo
These lipstick duos take the guesswork out of trying to get ready for the day and night. Each combo provides you with a lighter color for the office and a more punched up version for wherever your evening takes you. Of course, you can wear either color at any time, but if you find yourself stumped on what’s appropriate for different occasions, this will help. Plus, for a price this low, you’re getting two lipsticks for less than the standard cost of one.
There are four to choose from and they all keep it in the same color family, so you’re not making too drastic of a jump between the two—there’s Need it Nudes, The Best Berries, Red Hot Reds, and I Love Pinks. All are flattering hues and make it easy to get out of your comfort zone and try colors you might otherwise shy away from.
Best Liquid: NARS Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer
If you follow trends, you know that the 90s have been a major source of inspiration of late in the worlds of both fashion and beauty. That being said, there has been a spike in the popularity of glosses because they’re often less pigmented and universally easier to pull off. This hybrid from NARS is a gloss-meets-lipstick formula that offers a high-shine almost patent finish, but in colors that are a bit richer than the traditional glosses of the past. Available in six wearable shades, this one is a good choice if you’re hesitant about trying a full-on liquid lipstick with a matte finish.
Its applicator is also unique because it’s dual-sided: use the plush side to apply the first coat to pack on the perfect amount of product, then flip it over for the smooth side to distribute the formula on lips and intensify the shine even more. It’s offered in the brand’s iconic Orgasm shade, which is a peachy pink with golden shimmer that looks great on its own or applied on top of another lip product for higher intensity.
Our writers spent 3 hours researching the most popular lipstick on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 14 different lipsticks overall, screened options from 20 different brands and manufacturers, read over 5 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 6 of the lipsticks themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.