I Never Knew I Liked Lip Liner Until I Tried These Viral TikTok Techniques

A fine line indeed.

Madelaine Petsch


Thanks to its user-specific For You page, TikTok really can feel like a clubhouse with entertainment tailored…well, just for you. In the case of my feed, I’m most likely to come across videos about Bang energy drinks, Taylor Swift song mashups, bizarrely glitchy memes pulsating to pitched-up music, and—of course—endless beauty hacks.

The makeup and hair videos on TikTok roughly fall into two camps: “I’m pretty sure I can do that at home” and “How did we get from there to there?” The latter is usually reserved for special effects videos and ones with captions encouraging the watcher to trust the process, and those are so difficult to replicate that they’re rarely worth saving. But the other sorts of beauty hacks, typically uploaded by layperson users who stumbled across something share-worthy, can be an absolute gold mine. TikTok lip liner hacks seem to be particularly transformative, delivering everything from laser-precise cupid bows to entirely new lip shapes altogether. 

To suss out the best ones, I tried my hand at four styles of very popular TikTok lip liner videos—to decidedly mixed results. Along the way, I got a decent sense of where most people (read: I) would struggle, solid alternatives for the products used, and even a second, professional opinion from a top celebrity makeup artist. Scroll on to see four of TikTok's most popular lip liner techniques put to the test. 

Tight Line Hack

In this extremely user-friendly video, the uploader purses her lips to keep her natural lip outline taut for an easier liner application. Tucking the lips in, she simply uses the reduced volume to nail the line—easy enough, right? According to professional makeup artist Courtney Hart, who often works with Madelaine Petsch and Emma Chamberlain, maybe not.

“My initial reaction to this hack as an expert is that it feels counterproductive,” Hart tells Byrdie, explaining that the trick can obscure the actual shape of your lips. If lip liner is still relatively new for you, this could be one to skip. But if you’re looking for a bit of an overline moment or are very familiar with your own lip shape (or just have very voluminous lips), this could be one to try. Attempting the hack on my own, I found it simple enough to trace my outline, especially where my bottom lip line is obfuscated by shadows. 

Lip Liner

Amanda Ross/Unsplash

Juicy, Bratz Doll Lips

Using alternating darker and lighter lip liners and lipstick shades to simulate full, juicy lips is a hack Hart knows well and fully approves of. “Creating a darker outline and corner while keeping the center lighter draws attention to that area and makes them appear bigger,” she explains, endorsing it with a “Great hack!” Indeed, the contrasting shades were fun to play with and, to be honest, made me feel like a professional. While both users in the TikToks I referenced used a deep brown liner (one is even an eyebrow pencil!) before filling their lips in with a lighter color, Hart says it’s the technique that matters here, rather than the colors. “As long as the liner is a bit deeper than the lipstick shade, you will still get the same effect,” she adds. 

Lip Liner

Amanda Ross/Unsplash

To recreate the look, I tried to use an eyebrow pencil as well, but quickly got annoyed by its drag and lack of glide around my lips. The creaminess that you typically want in a lip product is never well-received in a brow pencil (it'd melt right off) and vice versa. Eventually, I used two Makeup By Mario Ultra Suede Lipsticks ($24) in shades Garth and Annie on a fine-tipped, angled lip brush to approximate the look. While the lip gloss used in the TikTok was clear, another fun option is to find a gloss shade that walks the line between the deeper color of the edges and the center, warmer shade. If you're playing with browns and orangey pinks like the video, the original Fenty Gloss Bomb ($20) is a great middle-ground with plenty of shine.

The other half of the hack, however, which requires loping off the cupid’s bow with liner to create one rounded arch for added fullness, was significantly trickier for me. Because my cupid’s bow protrudes quite far and creates pronounced peaks and ridges, trying to override its shape left me looking a bit like I went to town on a chocolate bar, face-first. Reassuringly, Hart says that’s just par for the course with beauty hacks. “Makeup trends never work perfectly on every person,” she says, “But playing around with your personal lip shape and style will help you fit them to your specific needs.”  

Lip Liner

Amanda Ross/Unsplash

If your lips do lay flatter against your face, this popular rounding hack is a great one to try and looks undeniably gorgeous.  

Concealer As Liner 

This is one of those TikToks that, at first glance, almost seems like a troll. In the video, a closeup of perfectly painted scarlet lips is suddenly streaked with heavy concealer, slashed along the top and bottom. Three seconds later, it all makes sense. This hack is the easier, more fun way to replicate that just-bitten, slightly faded ombré lip look made popular by K- and J-pop idols. For my own recreation, I used concealer on a brush (trust me, use a brush rather than your concealer’s applicator–this can get messy!) and streaked it across my top and bottom lips. Using another brush, I patted the blend together to fade my outer edges and add emphasis to the centers of my lips. Be forward: even pressing gingerly, this did get pretty smeared around my mouth but it was quickly fixed with a bit more foundation. 

Lip Liner

Amanda Ross/Unsplash

I loved how the ombré effect looked on its own and with a sparkly highlighter as depicted in the video, but I liked it even more with a coat of gloss (which was really just Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm ($23). Hart cosigns this look as a fun one and the hack as fully functional, too.

Vampy Peaks

To conclude the experiment, I scrolled over to the top lip liner hack on TikTok right now: a vampy, two-toned lip with deep shapes and a pointed cupid’s bow for added edge. I figured the witchy look was an appropriate one to test drive. What surprised me most, however, was how easy it was to recreate. 

Lip Liner

Amanda Ross/Unsplash

Using a dark berry lip liner, I drew sharp points on my cupid’s bow, filled them in, and then traced my upper and lower lips. I added a line down the center of both lips for added dimension, then pulled out my favorite violet-tinted red to fill in the gaps. To finish it off, I blended the two colors a bit more with the berry-toned liner, and topped it with a gloss. Instant Hex Girls vibes. 

The Bottom Line

When working with Internet makeup hacks of any kind, Hart says the most important things to remember are practice makes perfect (it's hard to nail a totally foreign concept the first time!) and that one size rarely fits all. Playing around with your own style and lip shape can help you find the right techniques that work for you.

Your tools are equally crucial to recreating a lip liner-centric look, as is prep work. Start with cleansed skin and bare lips, and first exfoliate (and plump) them with a lip scrub, old toothbrush head, gentle washcloth, or mix a bit of granulated sugar with vaseline. It's wild how much more voluminous lips look when the blood starts circulating, and you might find that affects what you want to do with your makeup. Finish up the process with a light, glide-on balm and assemble your pencils. Hart is partial to the Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Lip Liner ($24), a cult classic for very good reason: "It looks amazing on lots of different skin tones," she tells Byrdie. "I recently paired it with the super-viral lipstick Clinique Black Honey ($20) and it looked great. If you need a good red, my favorite is Cherry by MAC ($19)."

Overall, Hart's number one tip for lining lips, even when over-lining, is to "make sure you meet back to the natural lip line at the corners of your mouth." She says this is what will keep lips looking full but natural. And in any case, we'd never tell.

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