Which Lip Product is Right for You?

Like any other cosmetics category, products designed for your lips come in a variety of formulations. From lipstick to creams to stains, there’s no shortage of options. But depending on your overall goals and comfort level, some lip products might be better suited or easier for you to use than others. If you don’t know the difference between a liquid lipstick, a stain, or a balm, keep reading for a crash course in lip products. 

Product Types Explained

Lipsticks come in a variety of formulations, making them a versatile product. And depending on your comfort level with applying lipstick, some are easier to use than others. 


Of all the lip products, this is the lowest color saturation that you’re likely to experience. Designed to hydrate, these products tend to focus more on moisture-loving ingredients like shea butter or aloe. While you can find color-free balms, you can also find plenty of options with a hint of color. 

Typically balms provide a sheer wash of color — making them a great choice for people who don’t want a bold lip but do want a hint of color. Balms are usually a satin finish, meaning you get some shine but it’s not overpowering. You can find balms in pots or sticks, the application method is whichever you feel is easiest or mess-free. 


For most beauty lovers, lipsticks are the first entrance into lip color. This is also the largest segment of lip color with a wide range of finishes — including liquid lipsticks. Usually available in tube form, liquid lipsticks now expanded this product category to include requiring an applicator. 

Regardless of the format, traditional lipstick is opaque in color with finishes that range from satin and glossy to matte and even ultra-matte. You can also find lipsticks that are infused with moisture-rich ingredients. This is especially important if you opt for matte and ultra-matte finishes which have a reputation for being particularly drying.


Glosses can range in color saturation from sheer to opaque. The bigger focus is on the finish and can range from a traditional gloss with some sheen to an ultra-gloss with a glass-like finish. Glosses are traditionally sold in tubes with an applicator but can also be found in pots. 


Stains tend to go in and out of favor depending on makeup trends of the time, but this is a popular long-wear solution for some people. Stains are essentially tints and come in a variety of application methods. 

Some are designed to be applied and then wiped off after a few minutes to create a rich hue. This is especially true of many stains sold by Korean beauty brands. Meanwhile, others are designed to look like marker pens where what you see is what you get with the first application swipe. 


Just as there are a variety of product configurations for lip colors, you’ll also find that finishes run the gamut. 


The largest and most historical finish is a satin finish. This classic finish has a hint of shine and is designed to be moisturizing. These lip colors tend to feature hydrating ingredients like shea butter. 

Matte/Ultra Matte

If you want a flat color — meaning no shine — then matte and ultra-matte are great options. A traditional matte shade might have a slight bit of shine but ultra-matte is truly flat. When ultra-mattes began to rise in popularity, a big issue many people had was that they were also incredibly drying because these colors tend to apply wet and then dry down to a matte finish. 

But as the finish continued to endure, more brands incorporated hydrating ingredients so that after the product dried, your lips weren’t left parched. Note that especially for trendy brands, lip creams also fall under the matte/ultra-matte category. 


Along with being a product type, gloss also refers to texture. And similar to product type, these can range from a subtle gloss to a high shine that looks like glass. 


Whether you’re prepping for a long day of beauty or just dislike lipstick that ends up on cups and silverware, long-wear or transfer-resistant lipstick is a great option. These are designed to last for hours before they fade and are often promoted as budge-proof. However, with these textures, it’s a good idea to prep your lips with a moisturizing primer to prevent dryness. 

The Perfect Lip for Any Occasion

No matter the formulation or color intensity, there’s a lip product designed for every occasion. Lip products range from budget-friendly to splurge-worthy luxury investments. With so many options, there’s no reason not to experiment and discover which looks, colors, and textures appeal to you.

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