Lip liner is the underdog of the cosmetic world. Forever ignored, forgotten and pushed to the side, this little miracle in a stick is ready for its time in the spotlight.
Lip liner got a bad rap during the 90s. People started wearing these dark shades of liner around bizarre frosty, pale lipsticks. It was truly a horrible look and had no place on anyone’s mouth.
Those days are behind us. Lip liner can be incredibly flattering when applied properly. Not only does it define your mouth, it makes a MAJOR difference in your lipstick’s staying power.
Ready to get started with the wonderful world of lip liner? Here is everything that you need to know about to how to apply lip liner the right way!
The first step to getting the perfect pout is prepping your lips. While balm is great, sometimes you need a little bit more. Applying balm day after day will just lead to a build-up and, in the meantime, your dead skin cells are just sitting there and waiting to mess up your lipstick.
If you want killer lips, you need a good palette. Enter exfoliation. If exfoliating your lips isn’t part of your regular beauty routine, there is no better time than now to start.
There are tons of different ways that you can exfoliate your lips. Grab a ready-made exfoliating lip scrub if you want something quick and easy. Lush makes a great one (and it’s all natural so it’s not a big deal if you end up eating a little bit of it). You can also get great scrubs from Bliss, Philosophy or pretty much any other brand they sell at Sephora.
Lip scrubs are incredibly straightforward. It’s pretty hard for any cosmetics company to mess it up, so just grab whatever smells good or is on sale.
If you are more of a DIY gal, this is a very easy project for you. Lip scrubs are easy to make and you can use tons of different ingredients. Grab some sugar and a little olive oil to make a 50/50 blend to rub on. If you don’t like the smell or taste of olive oil, you can supplement coconut oil and get the same results.
Way too busy for all of that? The fast and easy way to exfoliate your lips is with a toothbrush. Grab a little lip balm or Vaseline and coat your lips then take a dry toothbrush and gently rub it over your lips. It probably goes without saying, but you will want a special toothbrush that you only use for your lips. You don’t want your normal toothbrush coated in goo and it’s just not good to ask a toothbrush to multi-task.
While exfoliating is important for most of us, it definitely shouldn’t be a daily thing and it’s not for everyone. It all depends on your climate and skin type. If you never get dry, flakey lips, then just leave them alone. If your lips are looking parched, exfoliate them. There are no hard and fast rules so just pay attention to your skin.
Once you have exfoliated (or not), you are ready for some hydration. It’s good to get in the habit of putting on your lip balm first during your beauty routine. Even if you only spend five minutes doing your makeup, that’s still a good amount of time to let the balm sink in before you apply your lip liner and lipstick.
Find your shade
There are probably professional makeup artists out there who have a matching lip liner for every shade of lipstick that they’ve got, but that’s just not how most of us roll. The only thing that is really important is that the color of your lip liner is lighter than your lipstick. Having matching lipstick and liner is handy because it’ll save you on lipstick, but having a perfect match is not important.
If you’re totally new to lip liner, the best thing that you can do is go out and find three or four very versatile shades of lip liner. The colors that you chose will totally depend on your style and lipstick preferences, but there are a few nearly universal shades that are handy for everybody to have around.
When you are first building your lip liner collection, look for a red, a wine and a nude. The red will work with vibrant berry shades as well as orange-based colors. The wine lip liner is critical anytime that you want a bold wine, plum or raspberry look. The nude shade is perfect for all of your lighter pink tones.
When you’re trying to figure out your color pairings, don’t get stuck in the mindset of matching. Do some experimenting and create new signature shades. Use your wine liner under a vibrant pink to get it a deeper tone. Go with a nude liner underneath a red stain to make it look more subdued. The shades that you choose really just depend on the look that you’re going for.
The rule of using a lip liner that is lighter than your lipstick is preventing a muddy lip color. For the most part, experimenting is very much a good thing. Makeup is easy to wipe off, so don’t be afraid of playing around a little. Try different color combinations and see what works for you.
Learn to color within the lines
The biggest mistake that most lip liner newbies make is outlining their lips then applying lipstick. While you do want to outline your lips, you can’t just stop there. Outline your pucker then FILL IN your lips. Your end goal is to have lips that are totally covered in lip liner.
While outlining your lips is important when you want to prevent feathering, it’s not going to do anything to make your lipstick last longer. If you want a ruby red lip that will stick around for a few hours, you absolutely must cover your lips in lip liner first. That’s all there is to it. Simply grab a pencil and cover your lips with it.
DOs & DON’Ts
Feeling a little uncertain about your lip lining skills? Here are a few important DOs and DON’T for lip liner virgins.
DO: Invest in a good lip brush. When you are first perfecting your lip lining skills, you’ll probably end up with more than a few wonky looking lines. A good lip brush can smudge those lines ever so slightly to create a more natural, even look.
DON’T: Use straight lines. On your first try, you will probably be tempted to just draw one straight line around your lip. Resist the urge! Use a series of short lines. It is so much easier that way and it’ll create a much more natural effect. You don’t want it looking like you literally just drew a circle around your mouth. The goal is to have your lip liner simply be invisible.
DO: Pay attention to your cupid’s bow. It can be tricky to properly line it (that little dip in the middle of your top lip). Some women just skirt the whole issue by drawing a little straight line over it, but that’s definitely not the most flattering route.
Rather than attempting to follow the lines of your cupid’s bow exactly, just draw an X. The X-shape will create the illusion of a strong cupid’s bow without looking overdone. If your X looks too sharp, grab your lip brush and blend.
DON’T: Overdraw your lips. I know this is a trend right now and I know that I just told you to overdraw around your cupid’s bow, but trust me here. You DON’T want to overdraw your lips. If you must overdraw your lips, wait until you’ve got a little more experience under your belt. Master the basic lining skills before you jump into anything more advanced.
DO: Experiment with bright lip liners. Layer a cherry color lip liner underneath your dusty rose lipstick to add fresh life to it. Try a bubble gum pink shade of lip liner then cover it with some gloss for a vibrant glow.
DON’T: Go too dark. If you can’t decide between two different shades of lip liner, always go for the lighter one. Dark colors are just too hard to work with and they look downright dreary on a lot of different skin colors.
DO: Remember to line the corners of your lips. For a natural look, it’s important to cover every little spec of space on your lips. If you leave the corners of your mouth unlined, you’ll end up with unnatural looking coverage or feathered lipsticks.
Don’t: Forget about the corners of your mouth. Doing so causes a break in the natural flow and line in your lip.
How to overdraw your lips
Alright, this is generally a beauty faux pas but if you absolutely must do it, do it right. It’s easier for people with professional makeup artists and Photoshop to pull this off, so don’t expect a perfect result on the first try. And, remember to keep it neutral. It’s too easy to look like a kid who got into mom’s makeup if you go for a candy red overdrawn lip.
You will need a few more supplies than usual. Grab a concealer, powder (loose or pressed) and some not-too-sticky lip gloss. Only when you’ve got that stock ready to go, you’ll want to find a lip liner and matte lipstick that match your natural lip color.
Step one: Use the concealer to draw around the perimeter of your lips. Don’t worry about creating a sharp line. In fact, it’s better to have a blurred line so that it’ll blend in better. You can continue on with the concealer and actually put it on your lips. There’s some tradeoff there. Doing that will make your lipstick last a lot longer but it’ll definitely have a cakey feel, so your call.
Step two: Dust your pressed or loose powder over the concealer. Use a thin brush if you want to keep it just around the perimeter or go crazy with it for maximum staying power.
Step three: Here is where your lip liner comes into play. Before you start drawing, make sure that you have a well sharpened pencil. Start drawing ever so slightly outside of your lips. It’s definitely best to start on the subtle side then work your way out. The more often you do this, the more that you will get a sense of what looks good on you.
Don’t forget to stick with small, light strokes. No matter how stellar your drawing skills are, don’t aim for a straight line. Your lips aren’t straight and neither are anyone else’s. Using small strokes will prevent unrealistically straight lines as well as shaky circles.
Step four: Once you have lined the perimeter of your lips, start working your way inward. Remember, lip liner is supposed to cover your entire mouth. This is doubly important when you are overdrawing because you want to avoid any obvious gaps in color.
Step five: After you cover your lips in liner, add some lipstick. Typically a satin finish will be the most flattering. Anything too glossy or matted can draw a little too much attention to the overdrawing.
Step six: Now that you have spent all this time doing your lips, you’ll definitely want your look to last. Grab a one-ply tissue (or just pull some two-ply toilet paper in half) and hold it over your lips. Pick up your translucent powder again and lightly dust it over the tissue. That will really seal in your lipstick.
This is a good trick even if you’re not overdrawing your lips. BUT, don’t do it when you’re wearing ultra-glossy lipstick. It’ll just make a gooey mess.
Step seven: To make your lips look just a little bit bigger, add a dot of gloss to the center of both your top and bottom lip. By attracting light to the center of your mouth, you’ll create the illusion of added fullness.
Your lips are now full, lined and beautiful, so go flaunt them!
Don’t forget to check out the eyeliner Infographic we’ve made for you: How to Apply Eyeliner for Every Eye Shape.