How to Achieve A Perfect Lip Stain

Aly Walansky
A lip stain on Karlie Kloss

A lip stain on the runway at Isabel Marant’s Fall 2014 show. (Photo: Imaxtree)

We love our lip glosses and lipsticks, but when we want to make a bold impression on date night, only a sexy stain will do. That said, a stain can be intimidating — both in name (it sounds so permanent!) and in reality (it lasts a lot longer than lipstick). But have no fear! With the right preparation and execution, you may be ditching your cream-based lipsticks for all your evening affairs.


When it comes to prepping your pout for a lip stain, it’s all about clean lines, says Los Angeles Makeup Artist and Founder of SkinOwl, Annie Tevelin.  Stains are high color, long-wearing, and unlike lipstick and lip gloss, aren’t always the easiest snafus to correct.

“We recommend prepping the lips with a soft scrub and exfoliate with a soft-bristled toothbrush,” says Tevelin. Whatever method you use to exfoliate, rub softly in circular motions. Then, add moisture by dabbing on some of your favorite lip balm or ointment.

A word of caution: Avoid lip stains completely if your lips are dry and chapped. This is a beauty product that doesn’t really provide coverage for dry lips, says Trotter, meaning unsightly flakes will almost assuredly show — and won’t look good.

Line your lips:
Once lips are exfoliated and hydrated, the next step is to line your lips – do this before applying the lip stain, says Colleen Sparks, make-up artist and esthetician at Suede Salon Spa and Body in Marlton, New Jersey.

Design Inside-out:
Now that the lips are lined and smooth, start applying the stain from the middle of the lip outward. This will allow the concentration to be on the larger part of the lips vs. bleeding towards the end of the lip line, says Tevelin.

Unless you are confident they work for your skin tone, avoid using a very dark lip stain or very light shades, says Jennifer Trotter of Lip Service Makeup. Lip stains don’t have same opacity as lipsticks, so sometimes the lipstick color that you like best doesn’t exactly translate well to a lips stain.

Perfect your pout:
Dab lips with a tissue and apply a second coat, says Tevelin. Clean around the lips with a pigmented concealer, using a small concealer brush, and get rid of any stray color.

As a final touch, try adding a bit more lip balm or a coat of gloss on top of the stain for added hydration. Any dryness is the enemy of a good-looking lip stain.

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