I Tested the 7 Best Drugstore Liquid Lipsticks, and This Was the Winner

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Is it just me, or is the hunt for the perfect liquid lipstick a never-ending quest of frustrations? I mean, is it really so difficult to make a perfectly pigmented, super-hydrating, and totally matte liquid lipstick? Apparently yes, because season after season, I find myself disappointed by brands that falsely promise vibrant, 24-hour color, and then their lipsticks barely make it through my morning cup of coffee. And sure, there are a few expensive-as-hell, luxury formulas I could spend all of my earthly dollars on (I really couldn’t, but shhh), but I refuse to believe that there isn’t one, just one, drugstore formula that works just as well. So I made it my mission to find out.

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In an effort to find a knight-in-shining liquid lipstick for a cool $15 or less, I gathered seven of the top-rated drugstore formulas from Maybelline, NYX, Revlon, L’Oréal Paris, Wet n Wild, Milani, and Rimmel, all in (almost) universally flattering mauve, berry, and pink hues, and diligently tested them for opacity, wearability, and ease of application. After wearing each lipstick for a solid two days (sorry, no pictures of my face, but I did round up some photos of beauty bloggers testing the shades on themselves), it was clear that I had some winners and some, well, total losers. And, best of all, I came out of this experiment with a new $9 liquid lipstick that defies odds by being both moisturizing and long-lasting. Look! Dreams do come true! Read on to see how the competition played out, and get ready to officially end your liquid-lipstick quest.

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Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid
Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid

First thoughts: The applicator is somewhat fuzzy and plush, so it made it difficult to get a crisp, clean edge without coloring outside my lip lines a bit. And although I was obsessed with the the dusty-nude hue and the moisturizing finish (a rarity in matte formulas), it felt as if it never fully dried on my lips. After two hours, the color had almost fully faded off my lips onto my coffee cup, and it needed a hardcore touch-up.

 

Photo: Maybelline
Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid
Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid

Final verdict: I felt like Maybelline’s formula might have missed the mark on a matte, since I had to apply three thick coats just to get an opaque color. As a lightweight gloss, though, the Color Sensational Liquid was honestly awesome—just not what I was looking for.

Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid in Nude Flush, $7.99; at Maybelline

Photo: instagram / @lovelise26
NYX Lip Lingerie
NYX Lip Lingerie

First thoughts: OK, so the weirdest thing about this formula is that it has a slightly chunky, paint-like consistency. Yes, the chunks are easily smoothed away after a few strokes, but, still, it was kind of alarming at first. I also loved that it was so thick and pigmented that one swipe completely covered my lips, which was a major plus, seeing as a gray-toned mauve would have totally washed out my fair skin and given me a corpse-like look had it been sheer.

 

Photo: NYX
NYX Lip Lingerie
NYX Lip Lingerie

Final verdict: Despite loving the color, the lipstick started looking noticeably flaky and patchy after just two-and-a-half hours, and pretty much disappeared from my lips whenever I ate or drank anything (which is honestly an all-day activity for me).

NYX Lip Lingerie in French Maid, $7; at NYX

Photo: instagram / @harriethall98
Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick
Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick

First thoughts: I had to apply two thick coats of lipstick to get the same shimmer-flecked burgundy that appeared in the tube, and once it was on, it was pretty wet and tacky, like a gloss. Thankfully, after a few minutes, it dried semi-matte and still felt surprisingly soft and hydrating.

 

Photo: Revlon
Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick
Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick

Final verdict: Though the color was incredibly flattering (the shimmer gives your lips a fuller look), I was kind of disappointed by how quickly it faded. After three hours, the lipstick started wearing off of the middle of my lips, so I had to reapply by lunch. But I honestly didn't mind, because though it lacked staying power, it made up for it with moisture—my lips didn’t feel even slightly dry or tight while wearing this.

Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick in Miracle Mauve, $6.99; at Target

Photo: Madeausynot.blogspot.com
L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Lipcolor
L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Lipcolor

First thoughts: This dual-ended liquid lipstick (there's a sheer, vanilla-scented balm on the other side) is so insanely pigmented and long-lasting that it’s borderline permanent (no, seriously—I swatched it on my hand in the morning and, despite multiple hand washings and scrubbings, it didn't come off for a full day). All of which is to say you need to apply this bad boy precisely before it dries, or you’ll be stuck with uneven color for a solid five hours.

 

Photo: L'Oréal Paris
L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Lipcolor
L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Lipcolor

Final verdict: As the formula dried, it seemed to suck all of the moisture out of my lips, leaving them wrinkled and dehydrated. But apparently the balm is made of magic, because after swiping it on, my lips looked, well, awesome. Not only was the muted plum shade incredibly flattering, but the balm gave my lips a subtle, glossy finish that lasted throughout all my snacking and coffee breaks.

L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Lipcolor in Violet Parfait; $12.99 at L'Oréal Paris

Photo: instagram / @biarull
Wet n Wild Mega Last Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick
Wet n Wild Mega Last Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick

First thoughts: This matte lipstick is pretty clear-cut in its delivery: It’s got an angled applicator that hugs your lips for a precise line, it dries to a totally opaque finish, and it stays flake-free for a solid four hours. Plus, the color looks like a Kylie Lip Kit dupe, which I'm totally OK with.

Photo: Wet n Wild
Wet n Wild Mega Last Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick
Wet n Wild Mega Last Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick

Final verdict: The only downfall is that although the formula isn't drying, it also isn't super hydrating either. Basically, if your lips are chapped and flakey before swiping this on, your lips will still look chapped and flakey—if not a little worse—afterwards. But with a little exfoliation and pre-application lip balm, you've got a seriously good liquid lipstick.
Wet n Wild Mega Last Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick in Rebel Rose, $4.99; at Wet n Wild

Photo: instagram / @marie3louise
Rimmel Provocolips 16-Hour Kissproof Lip Color
Rimmel Provocolips 16-Hour Kissproof Lip Color

First thoughts: When I first swiped on this dual-ended lipstick, it felt sticky and thick, almost like a lip gloss. But after I waited three minutes (as per the instructions) and layered on the clear top coat on the other end, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the formula immediately dried into a soft, creamy matte that not only lasted through my lunch, but didn't leave my lips dry or cracked.

Photo: Rimmel
Rimmel Provocolips 16-Hour Kissproof Lip Color
Rimmel Provocolips 16-Hour Kissproof Lip Color

Final verdict: One coat of this no-frills liquid lipstick left me with a pretty, light-pink pigment that didn't fade for a solid four hours, and the protective gloss kept my lips shockingly hydrated. The only downside was the initial sticky feel, but as long as you're not planning to use your lips for three minutes, it really isn't an issue.

Rimmel Provocolips 16-Hour Kissproof Lip Color, $6.49; at Target

Photo: instagram / @crystalsunmee
Milani Amore Matte Lip Crème
Milani Amore Matte Lip Crème

First thoughts: OK, aside from the freshly baked cake scent (which was more delicious than cloying), this rosy mauve lipstick was shockingly creamy—like, to the point where the applicator basically slipped across my lips like butter. And despite being so smooth and hydrating, the formula managed to stay on my lips for a full five hours without needing any touchups. It felt a little magical, honestly.

Photo: Milani
Milani Amore Matte Lip Crème
Milani Amore Matte Lip Crème

Final verdict: I mean, this stuff is excellent. It started wearing off after hour five, which was to be expected, but my lips felt so moisturized that even layering on another coat didn't feel at all cakey or thick. Top-notch hydration, an (almost) universally flattering color, and a weirdly addictive scent leaves Milani's Lip Crème a clear winner.

Milani Amore Matte Lip Crème in Honey, $9; at Milani

Photo: instagram / @rockingstone

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  • Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid
  • Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid
  • NYX Lip Lingerie
  • NYX Lip Lingerie
  • Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick
  • Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick
  • L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Lipcolor
  • L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Lipcolor
  • Wet n Wild Mega Last Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick
  • Wet n Wild Mega Last Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick
  • Rimmel Provocolips 16-Hour Kissproof Lip Color
  • Rimmel Provocolips 16-Hour Kissproof Lip Color
  • Milani Amore Matte Lip Crème
  • Milani Amore Matte Lip Crème

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