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Even if you’re the most minimal makeup-wearer of all time, we’re willing to bet there are at least a few lipsticks kicking around your bathroom somewhere. A good lipstick is one of those makeup staples that truly has transformative powers; a quick swipe is the easiest way to look polished and put together. But finding the right lipstick (or lipsticks, as it were) can be tough.
Of course, there’s the color to consider. (When in doubt, a nude, red, and pink can make for a well-rounded lipstick wardrobe.) Then there’s the formula—do you want sheer and shiny or pigmented and matte? And do you prefer a traditional bullet or perhaps a liquid lacquer? You have to consider the price tag, too, since these days there are plenty of incredible options for every budget.
So to make the lipstick shopping process less stressful and more fun—it is lipstick, after all—we rounded up the best lipsticks out there.
Best Overall: Charlotte Tilbury K.i.s.s.i.n.g. Lipstick
This standout checks all of our lipstick boxes, and then some. Lusciously creamy, it feels weightless on lips, though still packs plenty of rich color (credit a unique blend of waxes). The formula also has a special complex that protects your pout from UV damage, and light-diffusing particles that create a gorgeous, satin-like finish. Plus, it layers beautifully too, whether you top it with gloss for extra sheen or layer it over a balm for even more hydration.
Best Drugstore: L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lipcolor
Wallet-friendly price aside, this is just an all-around foolproof, traditional lipstick. The formula is made with 75% nourishing and hydrating ingredients (think argan and sesame seed oils), and the colors are rich and saturated and totally stay put, without ever bleeding or feathering. Speaking of, there are 52 shades to choose from, helpfully divided across four color families. Given that wallet-friendly price tag, you can easily try out a whole bunch.
Runner-Up, Best Drugstore: Revlon Colorburst Balm Stain
While not your classic lipstick bullet, these chubby crayons are one of our favorites. A trio of shea, mango, and coconut butter make the formula lusciously moisturizing, and the color has the staying power of a stain, yet is still buildable and supernatural. Plus, a retractable tip means you never have to worry about finding a sharpener.
Best Long-Lasting: Maybelline New York SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick
We’ve sung the praises of this stand-out time and time again, and will continue to do so because it is just that freaking good. It promises up to 16 hours of wear, and, in our experience, it does indeed live up to that impressive claim. Once it sets—about 15 seconds after application—it is set, and won’t budge no matter what you eat or drink (or who you smooch). Despite the matte finish, it doesn’t feel drying and comes in a wide array of over 40 hues. But FYI, you will definitely need a dedicated makeup remover when it does come time to take it off.
Runner-Up, Best Long-Lasting: Beauty Bakerie Matte Lip Whip
This is the product that put this once under-the-radar brand on the map. Do a quick search on social media and prepare to be astounded by the countless viral videos showcasing its staying power, even under full-on running water. It’s waterproof, smudge-proof, and seriously long-lasting, but never looks (or feels) dry or cakey, no matter how long you wear it.
Best Liquid: NARS Cosmetics Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer
Liquid lipsticks are choice when you want a more powerful punch of color, and we’re especially partial to this one because it doesn’t have the typical matte finish of most other liquid formulas. Instead, it features a patent-like shine, indicative of the gloss-meets-lipstick hybrid formula. We also like the dual-sided applicator; use the plush side first, to pack on product, followed by the smooth side to distribute it evenly and intensify the shine. While it only comes in five shades, they’re all gorgeous and wearable, particularly the iconic Orgasm hue, a peachy-pink with a touch of gold shimmer.
Best Matte: Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick
Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue reaches for this lippie time and time again. Unlike the other Charlotte Tilbury option on this list, this one boasts a matte finish. Still, because the formula contains unique 3D glow pigments, the colors still have plenty of dimension and actually make lips appear fuller and plumper. Speaking of, there are 12 wearable colors in the line-up, though you can’t go wrong with Pillow Talk, a best-selling, universally-flattering nude pink. Bonus points for the uniquely shaped bullet, which features an angled tip that mimics the shape of a lip brush for perfectly precise application.
What Our Testers Say
"The formula glides easily over the lips, and you can wear a lip liner if you want, yet the shape of the lipstick bullet helps to define the lips and accentuate contour just like lipliners do." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester
Runner-Up, Best Matte: Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance Lipstick
Here’s another go-to for Xue, also a great matte pick. It achieves that often-impossible balance in a matte formula, offering both hydration and a creamy feeling with legitimately matte, opaque color. Credit a blend of polymers that ensure the formula stays comfortable and flexible, plus a powder film that encapsulates the pigments for complete matte coverage. And we’d be remiss not to mention the ridiculously cool packaging.
Best Shiny: Fenty Beauty Slip Shine Sheer Shiny Lipstick
For those who like the reflective finish you get from a gloss, but don’t love the tacky texture, this lipstick is choice. It offers the prettiest wash of subtle color with a shiny finish that looks totally natural, never garish. A pomegranate butter base locks in plenty of moisture, and we also appreciate that there’s a great line-up of shades to flatter a wide range of skin tones.
Best Metallic: UOMA Beauty Black Magic Metallic Shine Lipstick
There are plenty of matte and shimmer options out there, but finding a great metallic lipstick can be tough. Happily, this one fits the bill. The six shades pack both tons of color and serious glimmer with full-on metallic flecks (that look especially great in photos, FYI). They’re a great choice for anyone who wants more of a bold and impactful look, or just those who want to have some fun with their lipstick.
Best Pigmented: Kevyn Aucoin Beauty Unforgettable Lipstick
“I have yet to find a lipstick that's more pigmented, luxuriously packaged, or long-lasting,” says Byrdie Associate Editor Holly Rhue, who is just one of many fans of this formula. “It's creamy, doesn't budge, and comes in matte or shiny iterations,” she adds. (There are also cream shades that fall somewhere in the middle.) No matter which of the 13 hues you choose, all of the colors are super saturated, offering complete color pay-off with just one coat.
Best Sheer: W3ll People Nudist Lip Butter
Though you could make the case that this is more of a tinted balm than a lipstick, we think it delivers enough color to fall into the latter category. That being said, it is indeed a sheer flush of color, enough to pop but still subtle enough that you can swipe it on without having to look in a mirror. And per its balm-like qualities, it’s also next-level hydrating, full of natural oils and butter, and even SPF 15, too.
Best Natural: Kosas Weightless Lip Color Lipstick
The fact of the matter is that you inevitably end up ingesting any type of products that you put on your lips, making this one category where opting for clean formulas may feel even more important. Enter this option, free of a litany of questionable chemicals, and instead full of botanical oils and butter that both pack plenty of moisture and offer antioxidant protection for your pout. It’s one of Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus’ faves, available in a comprehensive (though not overwhelming) line-up of eight shades.
Best Shade Range: NYX Professional Makeup Soft Matte Lip Cream
Yes, a great nude, pink, and red can make for a totally complete lipstick wardrobe. That being said, if you want to stock up on multiple options of each (and then some), you won’t be disappointed by the extensive amount of colors—nearly 40— that this formula comes in. There are plenty of options among those three color families, as well as deep berry tones plus more out-of-the-box hues like purple and beige. The formula is great too, creamy and cushiony but with a legit matte finish.
Best Budget: e.l.f. SRSLY Satin Lipstick
Despite the fact that this rings in at just three dollars (yes, you read that correctly), you’d never know that this wasn’t some super fancy designer lipstick. It packs plenty of rich color in every swipe, with both a silky-smooth look and feel. Also nice: It’s vegan and cruelty-free, too.
Best with Benefits: Sulwahsoo Essential Lip Serum Stick
If you’re searching for a lipstick that pulls double-duty as a lip balm, try this, a go-to for Byrdie Email Editor Karli Bendlin. As the name suggests, it’s a serum-based formula, packed with a ton of hydrating ingredients that offer tons of moisture and also smooth out lines and plump up lips. The sheer wash of pretty color is just an added bonus.
Best Splurge: Guerlain Rouge G Customizable Lipstick
If anything, this lipstick list should make it clear that you really don’t have to spend lots of money on a great lipstick. But if you do want to invest in or treat yourself to an especially luxe option, this is the way to go. Choose your color first (there’s a long list of shades to pick from, in both matte and satin finishes), then choose your case. That’s right, this comes in a refillable metal case that even has a built-in mirror that’s perfect for on-the-go application. Fancy with a capital F.