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

Updated 04/27/18
types of lipstick
Honey & Silk

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.

Sheer

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.

Almost Lipstick Pink Honey 0.07 oz/ 1.98 g
Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey $18 $17
Shop

Clinique’s cult favorite provides buildable color that comes off considerably more sheer than how it appears in the tube.

Lip Color Sheer Bambou
Tom Ford Lip Color Sheer in Sweet Spot $54
Shop

Tom Ford’s gorgeous sheer lipsticks lend subtle shimmer without being overpowering.

Cream

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.

Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Bahama Beige $5
Shop

Milani’s long-lasting lipsticks are perfect for everyday wear.

Be Legendary Lipstick Legendary
Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Cognac $21
Shop

This gorgeous mauve shade by Smashbox comes in a smooth satin finish.

Gloss

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.

Lip Gloss
Glossier Lip Gloss $14
Shop

Make a classic, clear lip gloss part of your everyday look this summer.

Lip Gloss
Kjaer Weis Lip Gloss in Treasure $38
Shop

Kjaer Weis’s lip glosses are lightweight, highly pigmented, and never overly sticky.

Matte

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.

E.l.f. Velvet Matte Lipstick in Blushing Brown $4
Shop

E.l.f.’s gorgeous range of matte lipsticks has plenty of rave reviews on Target’s site, including this one from Desi, who says, “The texture and vibrancy of this lipstick is awesome! I’ve paid a lot more for lipstick that feels awful or doesn’t apply well, but this lipstick is like butter. I want to buy it in every shade.”

Matte Lipstick
Make Beauty Matte Lipstick in Jakarta $25
Shop

If you haven’t added a classic red matte to your collection yet, look no further than Make’s gorgeous Jakarta shade.

Stain

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.

Rimmel Provocolips Lip Color in Wish Upon a Berry $7
Shop

Rimmel’s Provocolips liquid lip stain provides up to 16 hours of color.

Oil Lip Stain Vibes 0.355 oz/ 10.4 mL
Milk Makeup Oil Lip Stain in Vibes $18
Shop

Milk Makeup’s lightweight lip stain is great to keep stashed in your bag for on-the-go color.

Now that you know every type of lipstick out there, read on to see what exactly lipstick is made of.

Related Stories