Our Lips Aren’t All the Same: Why Some Lipsticks Work Better On You

Aly Walansky
Pink lipstick


Ever notice how the same lipstick can look and feel very different on you and your friends? We did as well and we began to wonder: Are lip textures like finger prints, and is their unique makeup responsible for how we wear our lipstick? Maybe! We asked the experts to get to the bottom of the lip mystery.

In terms of lip textures, there are different variations of dry and nourished. For example, your lips may be dry, chapped and flaking or nourished and moist but not smooth. “As a rule, sheer [product] formulas are far more moist, so they condition dry lips well. Matte formulas are more dry[ing], so matte formulas are better for nourished lips that are smooth. Cream formulas work well on everyone as they’re not too dry and not too moist. Lipsticks with shimmer are long-wearing but can make dry lips look even drier,” says Ramy Gafni, Celebrity Makeup Artist and Brow Expert, and Founder of Ramy Beauty Therapy.

MORE: Lipstick Layering 101: How to Combine Lip Colors Like a Pro

 There are several things that could affect the perfect application of your favorite lip color. “Many folks have different levels of moisturization on their lips and it is translated in different ways when applying lipstick. For some, it could allow less lipstick to stay on, while many folks are able to go without lipstick for periods of time due to the extra moisture,” says dermatologist Dr. Joel Schlessinger.

Whether you prefer a lipstick, stain, gloss or another formula, your lips won’t hold the color if they’re too dry. People with dry skin often have dry lips, as well. “Patients who are on Accutane or other drying medications also have trouble with dry lips. Without moisture, any lip color you apply will wear off quickly,” says Dr. Schlessinger. Like with your hair and skin, the texture of  your lips may change  as you get older. If you feel your lips have lost color, try a lipstick with good coloration instead of a sheer or gloss type. If you feel like it’s lost moisture, then go the opposite route.

To avoid having to re-apply lipstick all day, there are several tricks:

1. Fill entire lip with a nude or lip-toned lip pencil. This gives the lipstick something to adhere to. Apply lipstick on top of the lip pencil.

2. Separate a two-ply tissue and apply your lipstick. Hold one ply tissue up to your lips and apply pressed powder directly onto your lips through the tissue. Remove tissue and reapply lipstick. “It will last twice as long as usual!” says Gafni.

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Lipsticks are made with many different textures and finishes. Both ingredient selection and concentration will alter the texture and longevity of a lipstick. Of course, there is variation on the part of the user as well. “Slightly different  moisture content of the lips and body temperature which may also alter the way lipstick wears from individual to individual,” says Dr. Fayne L Frey, founder of FryFace and a dermatologist and dermatological surgeon.

Sheer, glossy formulas are a great way to wear a bold poppy lip color without it overwhelming your features. This also happens to work well on both dry and nourished lips, says Gafni. If lips are dry and you have a lipstick you love to wear, add gloss on top to moisturize and condition.

The general rule is the shinier the lipsticks the less they stay on, that is why gloss does not stay on very long. Some lipsticks may stay on longer if they have a higher concentration of pigment. Most conventional makeup is about 30% to 40% pigment and the rest of the ingredients are fillers, says Annie Mayo, makeup artist and Founder of Advanced Mineral Makeup. Matte lipsticks usually stay on longer because they are flat colors and have a higher concentration of pigment.

A good trick to keep lipstick or gloss on longer is to layer. Apply lipstick and pat with a pressed powder then reapply lipstick, with gloss. Or, use a cream blush on the lips then apply gloss – the blush will form a base for the gloss and keep it lasting longer. You can also use concealer as a lip primer, just make sure it is not too white as this will impact the color of the lip gloss or lipstick, says Mayo.

If your favorite lip color feels dry upon application, try applying a quick swipe of lip balm under your lipstick. Additionally, try to avoid licking or chewing on your lips throughout the day as this will both ruin your lip color and lead to chapped, cracked skin.

If you have dry lips and you’re looking to fake well-hydrated lips: Exfoliate first, by either brushing your lips with a wet toothbrush or applying a lip balm or oil, then wiping off the lip balm or oil after five minutes. This will remove the dry, surface layer. Add another coat of balm or oil (like Ramy Lip Oils) to your lips after wiping the first coat off. Then outline lips in a lip-toned or nude lip pencil. Stay on your lip line, emphasizing your cupid’s bow and the bottom of your lower lip, with the line gradually getting thinner as it goes toward your outer lips. Add a colorless or white highlighter to the center of the lower lip, blending back and forth, as well as in the center of cupid’s bow and under the center of lower lip. Blend the highlighter out so that it’s a colorless light reflector. Fill lip with sheer lip gloss in light or clear shade. If the gloss is shimmery it will further make your pout look plumper.