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Find the Right Lip Product For You With Our Ultimate Guide to Balms, Tints, and More

Prefer a 'no-makeup' look, or a splash of bold color? We have all the answers you'll need.
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One can easily drown in the sea of lip products available nowadays. Balms, stains, sticks—it's hard to know when and how to use which product. So let’s demystify, shall we?

First let me explain the texture differences that can be found throughout the different products. Though some companies use special on-brand adjectives to describe the opacity of their colors, the majority of color products fall under these descriptions: sheer, tint, gloss, satin, velvet, or matte. Tint or sheer products will leave a hint of color on the lips, while glossy finishes give the lip high shine and color with varying opacities. Satin finishes give medium to full coverage and a little shine, and velvet or matte provides full coverage with a shine-free finish.


Sheer, lighter products include lip balms, tints, glosses, and plumpers.

Lip balms generally moisturize lips and contain little to no color.  Lip tints—packaged in pots, tubes, or markers—are lip colors that allow a bit of your natural lip tone to show through. They are meant to look like you’ve just bitten your lip or have been eating a lollipop. Most of them feel like there is very little product on your lips, which is great for women who prefer that clean, no-makeup feel.


1. Stila Lip & Cheek Stain / 2.  EOS Smooth Sphere Lip Balm / 3. Physician's Formula Plump Potion / 4. NYX Butter Gloss

Glosses and plumpers have similar textures: They're both fuller bodied than balms or tints and are meant to add lots of shine. Plumpers work by using ingredients that are slightly irritating to your delicate lip skin, thus causing your lips to swell a bit in reaction to the irritant.

Lately, makeup brands have been making glosses with more opaque color and some glosses are now so saturated with color that they look more like a liquid lipstick. If you’re looking for a pop of shine and a bit of volume, go for the gloss!


Matte, saturated, and slightly thicker products include lipsticks, classic or liquid, and lip pencils.

Any lip product that comes in the traditional twist-up, bullet shaped tube is a ‘classic lipstick,’ and there’s a color and texture out there for everyone. You can find any texture from super glossy to powdery matte.


1. MAC Lipstick / 2. Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil / 3. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar / 4. Tarte Lipsurgence Lip Tint

Hot this season, liquid lipstick (classic lipstick’s new baby sister) is a fully saturated lip color that you "paint" on with a wand. The texture is similar to melted lipstick and the packaging is like a lip gloss tube, but the product is closer to a satin or matte finish. These two formulations are great for those of us looking for a bit more color coverage on our lips.

Lastly, chubby lip pencils are everywhere and growing in popularity. Like their older cousin, traditional lip pencils, they can either be sharpened or twisted up from a tube shaped like a pencil. Chubby lip pencils come in various color opacities—satin and matte textures are the most popular. The best part about them is that they can be a bit more precise than traditional lipsticks—no need for a separate lip pencil—because of their sharpening feature. Plus, their large size means they take little time to apply.