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Lip liners are having a bit of a renaissance these days. Once associated with the retro (not in a good way) looks of the 1980s, lined lips are back in a big—and modern—way. At their core, lip liners provide a sharp border to your lip color, preventing the edges from bleeding and smudging, says celebrity makeup artist Bryan Cantor.
Byrdie Reviewed & Approved
Our best overall pick is Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Crayon, which is super-creamy and long-wearing and comes in a range of chic and wearable shades. For something more affordable, consider the drugstore favorite L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner, which has a long-wearing formula and glides on smooth.
Forget what you might know; there are plenty of fun and modern ways to use lip liners. “Create the illusion of a fuller lip by choosing a color that is one to two shades darker than the lip product you will use to fill your lip and line your lips with it,” suggests Cantor. You can also do the same by overlining your lip shape by the width of the tip of the liner, he adds. Lip liners also don’t have to be relegated to the edges of your pout. Fill in your entire lip with a liner that matches your lipstick to instantly up the staying power of said lipstick, Cantor suggests.
We conducted hours of research on the best lip liners, evaluating each on texture, longevity, shades, and any extra features. Our team then combined these results with our research of fan favorites plus makeup artist-recommended picks. Are you ready to walk the line?
Ahead, find the best lip liners for a defined pout.
Best Overall: Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Crayon
Creamy texture that goes on beautifully
Only comes in four shades
Who else recommends it? Vogue and Glamour both picked the Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment - Precision Lip Crayon.
Celebrity makeup artist Patrick Ta’s eponymous brand is full of great products, and this liner is one of the standouts. Rather than a traditional pencil, it’s a creamy crayon with a slanted, precision tip that makes application a breeze. It glides on super-smoothly and stays put for hours without smudging.
Number of Shades: 4 | Size: .014 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Overall, Runner-Up: Makeup by Mario Ultra Suede Sculpting Lip Pencil
Great shade range
Ingredients not listed online
This is one of Cantor’s top picks: “I love it because it’s dual-ended with a brush on one side for either blending your liner or applying lipstick,” he says, adding that it never feathers. And while it is a matte formula, it is rich in emollient ingredients, so it won’t pull or tug. It comes in an impressive array of 18 wearable hues.
Number of Shades: 18 | Size: .049 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: N/A
Best Budget: L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner
Great shade range
Not clean or cruelty-free
From bold to neutral, this lip liner comes in all kinds of colors, all with a beautiful, natural matte finish, and at this price, you can easily afford to try them all. Just FYI, you do need to purchase a sharpener separately.
Number of Shades: 8 | Size: .04 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Drugstore: REVLON ColorStay Lip Liner
Great shade range
Not clean or cruelty-free
There are several great lip liners you can find at the drugstore, this being one of our favorites. It touts a SoftFlex technology to ensure that it stays put for up to eight hours. The pointed tip is great for precise lining, and it comes with a built-in sharpener, too.
Number of Shades: 16 | Size: .32 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Versatility: Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner
Great shade range
Doesn’t pull on skin
A true fan favorite among consumers and makeup pros alike, this has shades that work for pretty much all skin tones. Cantor is a big fan: “They have a waterproof, transfer-resistant formula that lasts up to six hours without smudging, while the creamy formula applies seamlessly over even the most textured skin,” he says.
Number of Shades: 15 | Size: .04 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Long-Wearing: Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil
Comes in matte and pearl finishes
Lip liner touch-ups will be a thing of the past, thanks to this liner. It is waterproof, so the unique texture doesn’t budge, though it still offers plenty of playtime so that you can blend it in post-application. The namesake PermaGel technology prevents feathering, and we also like that it comes in both matte and pearl finishes.
Number of Shades: 13 | Size: .042 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Color Range: KVD Beauty Everlasting Lip Liner
Dry down very quickly, which can make them hard to blend
“I like these not only because they are extremely long-wearing and weightless, but also because the color range includes everything from natural tones to unconventional shades like black, green, blue, and neon purple,” says Cantor of another one of his picks. The colors are also incredibly pigmented, so you get true payoff with just one stroke.
Number of Shades: 14 | Size: .042 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Hydrating: Gucci Crayon Contour Des Lévres Lip Liner
Only comes in six shades
If you’ve always thought of lip liner pencils as drying, this is proof positive that you’re wrong. “They contain conditioning ingredients such as shea butter and jojoba oils to keep lips soft and supple,” says Cantor, who also likes that they offer featherproof wear.
Number of Shades: 6 | Size: .03 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Blending: Lancôme Le Lip Liner
Extensive shade range
If you prefer to use your lip liner across your entire lips, this creamy choice is a good move. Cantor likes that it comes with a built-in brush on one end for seamless blending, as well as the fact that the formula is waterproof.
Number of Shades: 18 | Size: .04 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Darker Skin: Juvia’s Place The Reds and Berries Luxe Lip Liner
Very flattering on deep skin tones
Only two colors
These two hues, Ruby and Wine, are particularly flattering on darker complexions, enhancing lips without disappearing. The rich pigment blends beautifully, and you only need a little bit to make an impact.
Number of Shades: 2 | Size: N/A | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Finish: Chantecaille Lip Definer
Semi-matte finish that isn’t too flat
Only three colors
“These pencils are wonderful because they have a semi-matte finish and long-wearing formula,” says Cantor. He adds that he also likes the texture, which is creamy yet firm enough to allow for precise application.
Number of Shades: 3 | Size: N/A | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Splurge: Victoria Beckham Beauty Lip Definer
Smooth and creamy
Nice line-up of shades
Word on the street is that this is Posh’s secret to creating a fuller-looking pout. The vitamin E in the formula not only helps condition your lips but also keeps the pencil from tugging, skipping, or pulling. It’s also waterproof, always a major win in our book.
Number of Shades: 7 | Size: .04 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Lip liners can help up the staying power of your lipstick, make your lips look fuller, and more. Our top two picks were created by makeup artists; the Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Crayon and Makeup by Mario Ultra Suede Sculpting Lip Pencil are both super-creamy and long-wearing, and they come in a beautiful array of wearable shades. For something more affordable, consider the drugstore favorite L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner, which has a long-wearing formula and glides on smooth.
Meet the Expert
- Bryan Cantor is a celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert based in New York City. He brings his impressive knowledge of makeup products, skin care, application techniques, and professional tips and secrets to clients in New York City and across the globe.
- Sofia Schwarzkopf-Tilbury is a celebrity MUA and Creative Executive at Charlotte Tilbury Beauty.
What to Look for in a Lip Liner
"A texture that slides on super smoothly and that doesn’t smudge is a must,” says Schwartzkopf-Tilbury. Creamy textures make the application simple and can be adjusted easily to achieve your desired look.
Choosing a shade that is a bit deeper than your regular lip color will help give the appearance of fuller and more defined lips. You don’t want a color that will blend exactly, but you don’t want it to be too dark, either.
What Does Lip Liner Do?
Lip liners help create fuller, wider-looking lips and prevent lipstick from feathering out of place. “As we age, our lips tend to lose their fullness and can even start to fade in color, so lip liner is essential,” says Schwarzkopf-Tilbury.
How Do You Apply Lip Liner?
Schwarzkopf-Tilbury recommends tracing the line of your lips and then focusing on creating a defined Cupid’s bow to enhance the natural shape. She says, “I recommend overdrawing just the top of the Cupid’s bow and having it gradually match the actual line of your lips for a natural look.”
Can You Use Lip Liner As Eyeliner?
Yes, but you probably shouldn’t. While the formula for lip liner and eyeliner is similar, it can cause irritation and other issues due to the pigments and color additives in them.
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 Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She recently started using lip liners to help raise the staying power of her lipstick; she even wore the Charlotte Tilbury one featured on this list on her wedding day.
6 Lip Liner Tricks for a Fuller, More Striking Pout. Vogue. https://www.vogue.com/article/lip-liner-guide
The 12 Best Lip Liners Ever, According to Glamour Editors. Glamour. https://www.glamour.com/gallery/best-lip-liners