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.
Our best overall pick is Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Crayon which is super creamy, 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. So, ready to walk the line?
Best Overall: 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.
Best Overall, Runner-Up: Makeup by Mario Ultra Suede Sculpting Lip Pencil
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. Not to mention that it comes in an impressive array of 18, wearable hues.
Best Budget: L’Oreal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner
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.
Best Drugstore: REVLON ColorStay Lip Liner
There are several great lip liners you can find at the drugstore, this being one of our favorites. It touts a SoftFlex technology that ensures it stays put (for up to eight hours, to be precise). The pointed tip is great for precise lining, and it comes with a built-in sharpener, too.
Best Versatility: Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner
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.
Best Long-Wearing: Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil
Lip liner touch-ups will be a thing of the past, thanks to this liner. Waterproof, the unique texture doesn’t budge, though 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.
Best Color Range: KVD Beauty Everlasting Lip Liner
“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, meaning you get true payoff with just one stroke.
Best Hydrating: Gucci Crayon Contour Des Lévres Lip Liner
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 feather-proof wear.
Best for Blending: Lancôme Le Lip Liner
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.
Best for Darker Skin: Juvia’s Place The Reds and Berries Luxe Lip Liner
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.
Best Finish: Chantecaille Lip Definer
“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.
Best Splurge: Victoria Beckham Beauty Lip Definer
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.
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, long-wearing, and 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.
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 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 pigment and color additives in them.