Whether it's bold or neutral, there's no denying a nice lip color can complete a makeup look. In fact, it can be the centerpiece of your whole look if you don't want to get dramatic with your eye makeup. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: When I'm not feeling a full face of products, my go-to makeup look is a bold lip with a few dabs of concealer and a swipe of mascara. It's my easy out for days when I feel lazy or have zero time to get ready. And I think it's just as flattering as a full face of makeup.
From lipsticks to tinted balms to glosses, I've amassed quite a collection of lip products because of this makeup habit. One product I've really gotten into lately is lip stains. I love that they melt into my skin and leave a sheer color that looks 100% effortless.
Criteria: High-Quality Products With Affordable Prices
The good news is that my favorite lip stain, Revlon's Kiss Cushion Lip Tint in Wine Lit, is a drugstore find that costs just $5. I love a good bargain and a wine-hued lip color.
I swear I get compliments every time I wear it. More often than not, people would tell me, "I love your lipstick. Where is it from?" Or they'd say, "That lip color is super flattering. I want it!" I'd get a little thrill each time I told inquiring minds it was a $5 find. Now, I like to wear it during Zoom meetings at work or while FaceTiming with friends to make up for the fact that I'm most likely wearing leggings or pajama bottoms.
As for the product itself, the applicator is a sponge-like soft tip that lets you build on color exactly how you want it. You can do a few quick dabs for a sheer hint of color or more for a saturated hue. It sinks in and leaves a blotted finish without drying out my lips. It's so lightweight that it doesn't feel like you're wearing anything.
Even though I'm partial to the Revlon one, I've realized there are quite a few lip stain options in the drugstore aisle. So if you want to try one out without spending a lot of cash, here are some affordable ones.
Editor-Approved Drugstore Lip Stains
Beauty and fashion editor Aniyah Morinia is a big fan of this ultra-glossy and pigmented lip stain by E.l.f. Cosmetics (she's wearing it in the pic above). It's a high-quality product at an affordable price point. If you love Fenty Beauty's Poutsicle Hydrating Lip Stain in Berry Banger, you should give this one a try.
Customer review: "This goes on smooth and silky, dries quick and easy, doesn't smear easily, and isn't heavy or goopy like some lipsticks that I've tried are. It also smells nice and isn't expensive, which is always a huge plus! I would definitely recommend this product."
Pro: Highly pigmented
Con: Not transfer-proof
Similar to Buxom's Serial Kisser Plumping Lip Stain, you'll get saturated color but won't feel weighed down by the product. And with so many colors to choose from, you'll find one that suits you perfectly.
Customer review: "This lipstick makes me want to throw all my other lipsticks away. It's that good. It blends into the lips so naturally and smooth. The applicator is genius an unique and make applying it a breeze."
Pro: Long wearing
Con: Color transfer
Are you a fan of Rare Beauty's new Stay Vulnerable Glossy Lip Balm but not of its price? This lip stain applies with a gel-like texture but dries like a regular stain. The water-based formula will provide your lips with all-day hydration.
Customer review: "It goes on so smoothly. My lips feel hydrated even after it absorbs! I love that you can apply multiple layers for your desired intensity. And it stays put - no traces on my coffee cup! Definitely adding to my necessity list!"
Con: Potentially drying
Revlon is killing it with the stain options. This one has all the moisturizing properties of a balm and gives just a hint of color that's buildable. It's infused with shea, mango, and coconut butter. In other words, it's like Bobbi Brown's Extra Lip Tint for over half the price.
Customer review: "I absolutely love this lip stain. I bought one once just to try and see if it was good, and it blew my mind. The color is very rich, and it feels very soft when I apply it and afterward as well. It also has a nice minty smell (not like some lipsticks that smell and taste like plastic). I definitely recommend it."
Pro: Smooth application
Con: Not moisturizing
Although this is technically a liquid lipstick, I think this one has a similar splash of saturated color that doesn't budge like a lip stain. It goes on super smoothly and lasts for 16 hours. KVD's Everlasting Hyperlight Vegan Transfer-Proof Liquid Lipstick has some major competition.
Customer review: "This lipstick literally lasts all day long through eating, drinking, kissing, everything. That means that I never have to reapply, and I never have to be without color on my lips throughout the day. This stuff doesn't budge until I scrub it off at the end of my day."
Con: Difficult to remove
Rimmel's lip stain is a two-step product: First, apply the lip color and keep your lips apart for 60 seconds. Next, add the topcoat, which will set the color and moisturize your lips. You'll get up to 16 hours of wear with this one. We're replacing our Haus Labs Atomic Shake Long Lasting Liquid Lipstick with this one in our makeup bags.
Customer review: "This is the best lipstick I have ever found, and I hope they never stop making it! The colors are beautiful and rich, and the staying power is terrific. I literally do not use my old lipsticks anymore!"
Con: Topcoat runs out before color
You don't have to worry about dried-out lips here. This gel tint is formulated with plenty of nourishing ingredients to hydrate your lips, like purified water, rose water, and vitamin E. It's also a great alternative for Ilia's Color Haze Multi-Use Pigment.
Customer review: "Love this buildable lip product. [I] bought it for all of my friends as stocking stuffers! I keep this in my purse at all times for a quick lip and cheek brightener, or [you] can let it dry in between applications and build it up to be a bold lip stain that doesn't transfer onto clothes/cups/etc."
Pro: Weightless feel
Con: Sticky texture
This Amazon buy provides saturated color that goes on super smoothly. It leaves a lightweight, silky finish that will last you the whole day. It also happens to be an A+ replacement for Kaja's Love Swipe Lightweight Cushiony Lip Mousse.
Customer review: "Got this on a whim and was so pleasantly surprised! This formula is so lightweight and has the perfect satiny application. It smells like strawberries too. It doubles as a successful stain by simply letting it sit and then wiping off excess product. I need all the colors!"
Con: Reapplication needed
Just like Stila's Calligraphy Lip Pen, Kiko Cosmetics' water-based lip stain leaves a natural-looking flush of color. It has a pen-like applicator to help you define your lips without making a big mess.
Customer review: I will definitely buy other shades [because] this marker is a spectacular discovery for me. Weightless on lips and not sticky. Acts as a lip pencil itself, which is fantastic. Intensity can be adjusted by applying an extra layer. Lasts all day [when] drinking and eating. Love it
Con: Potentially drying
This one is more of a crayon and a balm (like Laura Mercier's Petal Soft Lipstick Crayon), but the matte finish gives you a similar look to what you get with a stain. The creamy product is enriched with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, jojoba oil, and kendi oil.
Customer review: "This is a great product! I wasn't sure what to expect since most crayon-type lip products I have tried in the past have dried out my lips. But I found this to be very moisturizing. Glides on easily, and I love the color!"
Pro: Highly moisturizing
Con: Not long-lasting
Are you looking for a dupe of Haus Labs' Le Monster Lip Crayon Vegan Lipstick and Lip Liner? Found on Amazon, Golden Rose's lip stain has a chisel-tip applicator to make it easy for you to apply color evenly. The water-based formula is completely buildable, so you can do one swipe for just a hint of color or a couple more for a saturated look.
Customer review: "This lip stain is extremely long-lasting. I like it as a base with lipstick over the top. This product gives you a lot of options to wear alone or under lipstick for a constant look of color on your lips."
Con: Limited shade selection
Nars's Velvet Matte Pencil is great, but have you tried this Palladio product? Another Amazon buy, this lip stain has a matte finish but is formulated with panthenol, a provitamin, to prevent dryness.
Customer review: "It's the perfect long-lasting stain that doesn't dry and crack my lips. I let it soak in for a few minutes, then dab some balm on top, and I'm good to go. This is the first stain I've used that isn't drying."
Pro: Natural-looking finish
Con: Dries out quickly
Yes, this is technically a lip oil, but if you're looking for that hint of effortless color that a stain provides, this one gets the job done. The long-lasting color is also packed with ingredients that will keep your lips extra soft: vitamin E and jojoba, camellia, and sesame oils. It's so good. It rivals Dior's viral Lip Glow Oil.
Customer review: "My new favorite lip tint oil. [I] love the color. [I] love the texture. It stays put and moisturizes as well. Will continue to purchase this amazing product."
Pro: Applies smoothly
Con: Not long-lasting
If you love YSL Beauty's Vinyl Cream Lip Stain, you'll want to get your hands on this one by Ardell. You don't have to worry about smudging, budging, or transferring after this lip stain is set. It's designed for 12-hour lightweight wear. How low-maintenance is that?
Customer review: "Absolutely love this product! I can put it on in the morning, and the stain last all day. I usually end up having to take a makeup wipe to my lips at the end of the day. It is a bit drying, so I use a colored moisturizing lip gloss on top. Create the perfect color, the perfect shine, and moisturize my lips at the same time."
Pro: Even coverage
Con: Fades to a less flattering shade
Ready to give up your Benefit Cosmetics Benetint Liquid Lip Blush & Cheek Tint? This water-based tint is absorbed quickly and lasts a long time. It's enriched with pomegranate and grapefruit extracts to keep your lips soft and happy.
Customer review: "The color is beautiful. I apply it before ChapStick, and it looks so cute. Some tints get smelly or chap my lips but not this one. I'm so happy there's so much product inside. It's going to last me a long time. Will definitely buy again."
Pro: Natural finish
Con: Uneven stain on dry lips
Hi, everyone. I’m Sarah! I was born and raised in Los Angeles, spent 12 years going to school and working in New York City (got my BA in journalism from NYU), and made the move back to L.A. to work at THE/THIRTY. I’ve had 10 years of experience covering lifestyle and wellness, with editor roles at Apartment Therapy, Real Simple, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Veranda, and The Bump (sister site of The Knot). Most of my days are spent writing and editing stories about eating healthy, the latest wellness and self-care trends, the newest (and coolest) workouts, and the best fitness gear that will actually make you want to exercise. I love all the topics we cover at THE/THIRTY, but I especially love writing about mental health—I think that’s one of the most important topics right now and something I am passionate about (and also continuously working on myself!). As for self-care, I stick to these five things: a good workout, “me” time on the regular, a good book/podcast/playlist to unwind after a long day, naps, and decorating my apartment. When I’m not working, I love trying new restaurants with friends, listening to history and true crime podcasts, and enjoying an occasional Netflix binge.
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