Lipstick finishes

Summer To Do List

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It seems that lipstick is one of the most intimidating makeup products to use for makeup newbies. Maybe that and creating a cat eye with liquid eyeliner? I’ve had a couple friends ask me recently to help them find an everyday lipstick, and a date night/fun lipstick. As I begin to think through which direction to aim them in, I thought it may be helpful to share a few common lipstick finishes, and share some favorites from each kind!


For reference, here I am trying to do a closed mouth smile, which I’m terrible at, so you can see the base color of my lips.


  1. Sheer lip balm is the lightest, creamiest, balmiest of the bunch. It’s generally transparent enough to see through to your natural lip color, but it can create a nice bit of soft color to punch your lips up a bit. This is where I would start if I was really apprehensive about wearing lipstick. It’s the safest and most forgiving type of lip “color” to wear. My favorite sheer lip balms are Fresh Sugar in Rose and Honey, and also Dior Addict Lip Glow.

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2. Next up would be a sheer lipstick that offers a bit more color payoff than just a lip balm. These tend to wear really nicely, avoid settling into lines, and fade off evenly. I don’t have a huge variety in this range, personally, because I like a bit more color in general but my favorite is YSL Rouge Volupte in #13. This pairs well with a full face of makeup, or just a light day!

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3. For an opaque and easy to wear formula, find a lipstick with a glossy, or non-matte, finish. There is a huge range from brand to brand, but in general lipstick with a glossier finish feels a little softer on the lips and is easy to wear. My longest and most worn lipstick is this easy slightly warm pink from Anthropologie but I’ve also found some from Revlon and Maybelline that wear really nicely too! Pair this with a bit more makeup than just a bare face!

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4. For more intensity in the lipstick realm, find a matte lipstick. This will give great color payoff and look intense on the lips. I’ve been loving Maybelline Matte lipstick in Blushing Pout. Initially it’s quite intense, but it wears to a really pretty purple-based shade. Matte lipsticks are perfect for risk-takers in the makeup department and also those who like a really saturated, full finish.


5. A long-wearing formula that won’t look too full is a lip stain! Typically these go on with a precise applicator and sink into the lips almost immediately. They “stain” your lips the color of the product. You may notice dryness, or lack of vibrancy, but there will certainly be color on your lips until the stain wears off completely. There is usually a nice shine at the start, but the shine wears away as the stain settles in.

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6. Finally, the most intense + longest wearing would be a long-wear lipstick. Look for those exact words on the packaging to know you are getting the hardest working of the bunch! These often, but not always, are creamy formulas applied with an applicator brush so you can have complete control over where the product goes. This usually requires a steady hand and even application on the lips so the finish looks even and clean. It will give you full lipstick color payoff, and either matte or glossy depending on what you like! It pairs really well with a full/complete face of makeup! Baja Bound from the Smashbox Be Legendary collection is a bold coral pink.


I thought it may help to swatch them all next to each other so you can really see how the transparency changes from left to right.


Most importantly, and the one thing I hope you take from this post, is that you TRY some version of lipstick if you are interested and haven’t braved those waters yet. It helps to talk to someone at a makeup counter to get color matched, or go shopping with a friend who loves lipstick but also knows what you are most likely to wear on a daily basis.

Of the bunch, I find myself wearing more lipsticks that fall on the balm side versus full color long-wear, but I always like to have a bold color in my purse too to kick my makeup up a notch!

Read about tips for a long-wear lip here, two great bold lipstick shades here, and three of my favorite MAC shades here!


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Abigail says · 06.28.16

I definitely prefer lip balms. Though I have really enjoyed those Burts Bees lip colors you recommended!

Elle says · 06.28.16

Yes, I’m surprised she didn’t mention them here! Burts Bees is the only lip colour I wear, otherwise it’s just regular old lip balm.

Candice says · 06.28.16

I love lip stains I am too lazy to reapply lipstick so want something that lasts

Beauty Candy Loves

Susanna says · 06.28.16

It’s funny – I constantly apply lipbalm, but if I decide to “splash out” and put some lipstick on, I never get round to reapplying! So the days of a nude lip are abundant in my life!

The fair few times I do wear lipstick, I tend to pick out a chubby stick/pencil. For some reason having a non-traditional lipstick type seems to be mentally less of a stepping stone for me. I can have it sitting on my desk and remember to apply every now and then

AND I can apply it blind – aka without the need of a mirror. So there’s always that option if you’re a tad cautious about the bullet type lipsticks!

Julie C says · 06.28.16

Would love a long wearing lipstick that does not dry out my lips; generally, Clinique has the only lipstick that does not instantly chap my lips. Using a chap-stick in advance and letting it soak in seems to make the color go away within an hour. Any other great tips? TIA!

Sarah D. says · 06.28.16

This is a very helpful post as I don’t often wear lipstick but would love to try it. My question – should I also wear a lip liner? When I have tried lipstick in the past it seem to look kind of messy, and I am wondering if a lip liner would help? But that just seems like one more thing I would have to figure out! Thanks!

Amy says · 06.28.16

Love this! I always have in my purse Fresh Sugar in Rose, Fresh lipgloss in Tulip, and Mac’s Syrup. Took forever to figure out what consistency I liked and colors looked best on me, but now I can’t go out without one of those on my lips 🙂

Tal's Beauty Opinion says · 06.28.16

Great post Kate! I prefer glosses or balms over lipstick myself. I’ve tried to become a lipstick kinda girl! Burt’s Bees lipsticks may be the closet “lipstick” that I’ve come to actually using on a regular basis and loving! Great post with many different options! Tal xo

Ciara Rose says · 06.28.16

Such a helpful post, thank you! I really love lip stains as they’re so easy for busy days as you don’t have to worry about re-applying most of the time! At the moment I’m really into very pigmented lip glosses though! I love the NARS gloss in ‘Dolce Vita’ and the Anastasia Beverly Hills ‘Vintage’ gloss – both are super pigmented and long lasting! xx

Ciara Rose |

Sarah says · 06.28.16

YES!!! Thank you, Kate! I am so intimidated by all the lip finishes and had no idea what to choose. I think I’ll try the Rouge Volupte.

Ari says · 06.28.16

Thanks for such a helpful post! I’ve always just been a lip balm/light gloss kind of girl, but I’ve recently been looking for a bolder lipstick so this helps a lot! Just one question, could you possibly do a post that tells you what kind of makeup goes with the different colors of lipstick? I have a “my lips but better” color that I use regularly but I just bought a coral lipstick that I feel is too overpowering for everyday life or with the color of clothes I wear, is there an easy formula that can help with that? Thanks!

Kelly says · 06.28.16

Would love to see a review of the Kylie Lip Kits if you ever feel so inclined, thanks for your amazing blog! I’ve never commented before, but have been following for several years! As a self-confessed make-up junkie, I’ve found some awesome tips and ideas!

Lauren says · 06.28.16

Look at that bicep, gurl! 🙂

Andrea says · 06.28.16

I love tinted lip balms like Fresh Sugar or super matte lipsticks since they are usually the most pigmented!

McCall J says · 06.28.16

OMG Everyone who posted above and Kate, have you tried LipSense Lipstick? It’s a long lasting liquid lipstick that lasts anywhere from 4-18 hours. Way better than a stain as it’s not as drying. I would love to hear if you’ve tried it yet!
I’m a distributor of it and can give you more info if you’d like.
Check out Life Proof Lips on facebook

If you’ve never tried it, you are missing out!!

Mel says · 06.28.16

You always look so pretty!! I love a good shiny gloss.

Mel |

chelsea says · 06.28.16

Cherry red is always my go-to lip color but I love all of these that you shared! So many pretty shades

xx Chelsea

Meg says · 06.28.16 Reply
Deb Saaranen says · 06.29.16

your lashes look great Kate! Are you doing something new with them?

Katie says · 06.29.16

Hey Kate – haven’t checked in for awhile but I’m loving our latest posts. BTW has anyone ever told you there ISN’T a lipstick color you can’t wear!?!?!?! Kinda hate you and jelly all at the same time 🙂 Have a great week!

Kate says · 06.29.16

hahaha well thank you!

Michele says · 06.29.16

I have Menace in the new UD Vice line, it’s what they call the comfort matte finish. It’s a super bright pink but I find it pretty wearable. It also doesn’t dry my lips out like most mattes and it lasts forever! I’m fair, blonde, green eyes and I love it with just mascara and a neutral blush for summer. It really packs a punch!

Tiffany says · 06.30.16

Loving all these shades! What a fun post!

xoxo tiffany

Pamela says · 06.30.16

What is the nail color that you are wearing? Thanks.