A Guide to Every Type of Lipstick, From Matte to Gloss

lipstick and perfume on a vanity

 Honey and Silk

In This Article

Every girl has her favorite signature lipstick hue, whether it’s a high-glamour red or understated nude. Navigating the various types of lipstick, however, goes well beyond finding your ideal shade. Getting a handle on the various textures and types of lipstick—and how they perform—is essential to wearing your chosen color with confidence. To nail your look perfectly, here’s a quick guide to the five major types of lipstick, how they work, and when to wear them.


One of the most classic lipstick formulas, sheer lipstick is a great choice for everyday wear. Since this style tends to be higher in oil content than other types, it’s less likely to dry out, and certain brands even offer especially moisturizing versions of sheer lipstick. However, this formulation also means you may have to apply it more often. When done well, sheer lipstick goes with everything—both daytime and nighttime looks—and offers a touch of color with subtle shine.


A cousin of sheer lipstick, cream lipstick glides on easily and provides a perfect balance of texture with a hint of gloss. While sheer lipstick is higher in oil, cream lipstick is higher in wax, giving it a greater degree of staying power. This type of lipstick is often nourishing (look for ingredients like vitamin E and aloe), and goes great with professional wear or weekend outings.


No type of lipstick is more eye-catching than gloss. While this style is often associated with throwback trends, high-shine glosses are always in season during warm months where classic lipstick finishes may be too heavily pigmented. Lighter shades of gloss can add a youthful glow to fresh-faced daytime looks, but their true calling is at parties, after-hours events, and occasions where you don’t mind attracting a bit of well-deserved attention.


At the opposite end of the spectrum from gloss, matte lipstick is one of the most essential types of lipstick—and the least understood. So what is matte lipstick? Matte is a shine-free alternative to glossy lipsticks, conveying pure color and smooth, even texture. This is the lipstick to reach for when you’re headed to an art opening or a see-and-be-seen brunch.


Adjacent to matte in lipstick formulations, stains are all about color with minimal shine. They’re also long-lasting, making them an excellent choice for days when you’re heading to work and then straight to dinner or drinks afterward. In general, lip stains are high-impact and low-maintenance, and create vibrant color that can be easily layered, either by itself for a deeper hue or your favorite nude gloss for a softer look.

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