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We like a flirty tube of lip gloss and the classic appeal of a creamy lipstick, but there’s something about a lip stain that we just adore. Lip stains deposit the perfect amount of natural-looking, ultra-pigmented color and stay put throughout the day.
Byrdie Researched & Approved
Keep reading for the very best drugstore lip stains for every pout without breaking the bank.
Best Overall: Revlon Balm Stain
Retractable and no need for sharpening
Staying power isn’t as great as some of the other formulas
This buttery crayon-stain hybrid from Revlon is such a great everyday makeup buy. Available in eight easy-to-wear shades, it delivers a double hit of nourishment (thanks to the inclusion of lipid-rich shea butter) and sheer pigment. It’s light, buildable, and never requires sharpening—a win!
Form: Crayon | Shades: 8 | Size: 0.095 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Matte: L'Oréal Paris Rouge Signature Matte Lip Stain
Long-lasting but light
Could dry out sensitive lips
A matte lip never goes out of style. The only drawback? Most matte formulas, be they stains or lipsticks, tend to be innately drying. Not the case here. Despite the gorgeous matte texture and intense color, it feels so light and undetectable on lips that you’ll quickly forget you’re wearing it. That is until you look in the mirror and realize that, indeed, the color is still there and looks just as good as it did when you applied it.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 20 | Size: 0.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Shine: L'Oréal Paris Colour Caresse Wet Shine Stain
Has staying power
Very natural look
Has unpleasant perfume smell to some
As a general rule of thumb, lip stains tend to fall on the matte end of the spectrum. So if you prefer your lips to have a bit more luster, reach for this formula (yes, the same brand does both finishes extremely well.) It has the staying power of a stain, for sure, but is packed with oils that not only hydrate but also impart a gorgeous sheen. We also appreciate the perfectly tapered doe-foot brush that makes precise application a total breeze.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 12 | Size: 0.21 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Pigmented: Peripera Ink Airy Velvet Lip Tint
Comfortable but matte
Great color payoff
Could dry out on some people
This magic formula packs a serious punch when it comes to pigment. The light, almost-whipped consistency glides over the lips, imparting an opaque, matte veil of color that lasts and lasts. Because of the consistency, it might be a tad drying to some, so add lip balm underneath to mitigate any cracks. It’s also very long-lasting, so perfect if you want to forget about touch-ups.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 14 | Size: 0.14 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Long Lasting: Maybelline New York SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick
Long-lasting matte finish
Smudge- and transfer-proof
Great color payoff
Hard to remove
“I love this on clients who have a long day ahead, as it lasts and lasts without transferring onto teeth or the chin,” celebrity makeup artist Michael Brown tells us. There’s also a broad range of colors, and because the price is reasonable, I don’t feel so bad handing them out!”
While we get this is technically called a lipstick, the expert tick of approval and long-lasting finish means we couldn’t share this roundup without it.
Form: Crayon-lipstick | Shades: 30 | Size: 0.17 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Hydrating: Versed Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil
Sheer color payoff
Not as long lasting
If you have dry, chapped lips, this oil-rich tint will deliver a light wash of color alongside serious nourishment. Formulated with jojoba, camellia, and sesame oils, it has a silky finish that’s quickly absorbed. And while there are only three tints, the shades are super sheer and universally flattering. Once the sheen is gone, there’s a little residual color there, too.
Form: Oil | Shades: 3 | Size: 0.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Glaze: Wet n Wild Mega Last Stained Glass Lip Gloss
Light but glossy
Vegan and cruelty-free
Want the glamor of a gloss but the longevity of a stain? Wet n Wild’s Stained Glass Lip Gloss truly delivers the best of both. Immediately on application, it has a mirror-like shine but slowly dries off to reveal a natural but noticeable tint. Voila! The perfect glazed look.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 6 | Size: 0.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Sheer Finish: Etude Dear Darling Water Tint
Strong fruity fragrance
It’s no secret Korean beauty brands know their way around a natural-looking lip stain, and the Dear Darling Water Tint from Etude House might just be one of our favorites. Enriched with fruit juice, it comes in three shades to create a natural lip effect, making it look like you've just eaten a popsicle.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 3 | Size: 0.34 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Multi-Purpose: ULTA Too Cheeky Lip & Cheek Color Stick
Cream doesn’t last as long as a liquid
The creamy, multi-purpose pick is quick, easy, and very wallet-friendly! Swipe it across cheeks, lips, and eyes for a monochrome look, or simply press it into lips with fingers for a natural stained finish.
Form: Cream | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.24 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Gloss: ColourPop Sonic Blooms Glossy Lip Stain
Could transfer initially
“I always keep these stains in my kit because they have an immediate plumping effect but also dry down to leave a nice wash of color,” explains Brown. Available in five modern shades, the non-drying liquids are glossy, to begin with, while imparting a natural-looking tint for hours to come. The texture is also unbelievably light.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Budget: Flower Beauty Bitten Lip Stain
Doesn’t bleed or transfer
Color range is limited
This water-based gel is so lightweight it virtually feels like wearing nothing. Cushiony and soft, it glides on with ease and deposits a healthy-looking amount of color—it’s also quite buildable if you prefer a bolder look. Because it dries, it affords great wear, too.
Form: Liquid gel | Shades: 6 | Size: 0.16 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Pen: Ardell Forever Kissable Lip Stain
Up to 12 hours of wear
Easy to apply
Shade range isn’t very versatile
“A pen lip stain is just so foolproof,” explains Brown. “Ardell’s Forever Kissable formula is light, buildable, and supplies evenly.” We also love the weightless matte finish and the fact it locks in place for mess-free, all-day wear.
Form: Pen format | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.08 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dry Lips: Holika Holika Heart Crush Glow Tint Air
Fun shade range
Immediate sloss could be sticky
These tints from Holika Holika not only look cute but are also amazing on the lips! The color payoff is excellent, and the glossy finish subsides to make way for a long-lasting tint. The texture is light but hydrating, too.
Form: Liquid | Shades: 7 | Size: 0.10 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Our best overall pick is Revlon Balm Stain, a low-maintenance, buttery soft stain that offers buildable pigmented coverage. For a matte finish that feels great and doesn’t budge, consider L'Oréal Paris Rouge Signature Matte Lip Stain, which comes in 20 long-lasting shades.
Meet the Expert
Michael Brown is one of Australia’s leading celebrity makeup artists and experts and has worked on countless photoshoots, campaigns, red carpet looks, and magazine covers over the course of his 20-year career. Michael has also held Australian ambassador roles for global brands, including St Tropez, Marc Jacobs, Moroccanoil, Ardell Lashes, and Olay.
What to Look For in a Drugstore Lip Stain
A lip stain should last you the entire day, which means selecting one that is long-wearing is crucial. Aside from avoiding reapplication, a long-wearing formula is typically able to withstand mask-wearing, drinking, and other activities. It's one of the main reasons why people love lip stains.
Lip stain formulas should be hydrating, long-wearing, and look great on you. With that said, stay away from sticky or tacky formulas if you opt to select a lip gloss stain (like the one above) or a lip oil.
Some lip stains can be dehydrating, so make sure to choose a formula that won't make your lips feel super dry. Opt to choose one with ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and other hydrating ingredients to ensure your lips look and feel their best. They may even be able to replace your chapstick.
How long does a lip stain last?
It should last at least eight to 12 hours; however, if you do a lot of eating or drinking, it may fade slightly or need a little bit of reapplication.
Is a lip stain bad for your lips?
No, lip stains are not bad for your lips. They add a subtle flush of color and may even add hydration if your lip stain includes hydrating ingredients. Plus, lip stains last all day yet still remove seamlessly without harsh rubbing or tugging.
What is the difference between a lip stain and lip tint?
They both are similar in regard to their qualities, which is why they can be confused and compared. However, lip stains "stain" the lips (leaving behind temporary, long-lasting color), whereas lip tints tend to deposit color that is more easily removed.
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Emily Algar has been a beauty journalist for over seven years—and is obsessed with natural-looking but long-wearing lip products. She considered dozens of products for this roundup, evaluating each on its form, texture, shades available, and lasting power. Additional input was provided by celebrity makeup artist, Michael Brown.
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