Kylie Jenner’s Lip Liner Explained by a MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist

Augusta Falletta
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kylie jenner lip liner

Photo by Brian Steffy/Getty Images

Kylie Jenner is to 2016 what Angelina Jolie was to the ’90s: Practically every girl’s aspiration when it comes to lipstick. Famous for her puckered lip selfies on Instagram (and for being the youngest member of the Kardashian-Jenner empire that’s all but taken over the world), Kylie Jenner’s lip liner has become her signature look—in fact, she even sells wildly popular Lip Kits with lip liner in case you want to re-create it—and over the past year her lips have become noticeably larger and more plump. While Kylie had stuck by her guns and tried to convince us all that her lips were simply just the magic of liner, she recently came out and admitted that she has had temporary lip fillers as well.

But, since we’re all curious about this look ourselves – and some want to get it without partaking in the #kyliejennerchallenge – we turned to John Stapleton, MAC Cosmetics senior artist to find out how to get it without the injections. Stapleton explained that it is possible to exaggerate your lips with just liner — plus how to get the look yourself (with Kylie’s exact lip liner shade)!

Do you think it’s possible that Kylie’s liner is the only reason her lips look so plump, or you think she’s had some injections as well?
John Stapleton: Tell you the truth, looking at pictures of her, I’d believe it. I just had a class that was a transformational class, like turning a man into a woman. It’s really possible. We started with a guy who had practically no lips and by the end of it he had this full pout. You know, contouring and highlighting the face has been popular, but it’s the same concept [for lips]. It’s a process for sure, but it can be done.

MORE: 10 Kylie Jenner Instagram Looks That Will Make You Want a Makeover

The truth is, I recently worked with an actress because she needed help reducing her lip size. It’s so difficult to do, because we have to work in reverse. We had to over conceal the top line of her lip. But she had been told that her lips were a distraction during auditions. You can achieve the look with makeup and then work your way back. Again, if anyone wants to do it [lip injections], all the power to them. But it’s been my thing that with permanent makeup, I see a lot of times like faded tattoos or it starts to change and drift and spread. It requires so much work to maintain and change every day. So, I think committing to something really strongly like that, it’s so much easier to apply makeup and get the look. Permanent solutions sometimes, you just want something different in the future.

In a recent interview, Kim Kardashian mentioned that Kylie only uses liner on her lips and fills in the space (she doesn’t use gloss or lipstick). Do you have any application tips when it comes to only using liner?
I’d suggest searching for a pencil that’s pretty pale. Start with a pencil that is just a little bit lighter than your skin tone, like our pencil Naked. I’ll start by drawing above the natural lip line, and creating the shape I’m looking for on the skin itself with the pencil. It’s almost like a concealer shade. Then use something that’s close to your natural lip color. For years, we’ve called Spice the $10 lip injection pencil. I think Kylie uses a color called Whirl because her tone is a bit more pink, but Spice is a little more brown. To take it further, people take something more taupe and under-draw the lip. I like to use our color Stone, it’s almost plummy. Go a shade deeper to make the bottom lip look fuller. Then, people will fill in with a lipstick and then if you really want to amp up, you can put gloss on top of that.

If someone really wants the lip to look full, fake a highlight on the lip by taking a white pencil and applying high point highlights: Into the bow, deliberately on the lower lip in the middle. Look to create the fuller lip, but draw in a little highlight with a white pencil and then put a gloss on top of it, it’ll make them look huge. It’s tricky, but blend it a little bit.

MORE: Pastel Hair Dye: The Truth Behind the Maintaining It

This is quite the process. How would you go about doing touch-ups during the day or after meals?
It’s a process. Probably when she’s out on the town, Kylie is taking straws with her. My experience doing shows at Fashion Week, backstage we have these girls wearing elaborate lips, like ombre lips, but we tell them to take mindful bites and use straws to protect the look.

Matte colors last longer, but I’d say you need to carry the whole armory with you. The inner portion of the lip is what needs reapplication, the liner should stay put, but just use the lipstick. Liners are more waxy and if you apply them with a soft hand, they’ll stay a little bit better. If people have problems with bleeding, they may want to take a lip primer and apply that first. The primer can fill in the ridges. Just like it takes work to make the lip, takes work to maintain it.

How can you find the perfect “your lips, but better” shade for yourself?
There’s so many. Really what you want to do is try to find something that’s the color of the center of your lip where you have the most color. The older we get, the more our lip lines fade, so towards the center of the lip has more tissue and vibrancy, find the color in there and match the outer liner to that.Finding the perfect nude is to sketch them into the middle section of your lip and if it matches well then sketch outward.

For girls who want to wear liner before red lipstick, go in first with the nude, then go in with your red or bold color. The lip line you’re drawing in will make it look a lot more realistic in the end.

MORE: 101 Beauty Tips Every Girl Should Know

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