No matte lip product has yet been invented that looks attractive on untended lips. Prep step one – you can gently and yet very effectively exfoliate with micellar water on a reusable cotton round, making small circular motions over your lips to buff away irritating flakes. Then – prep step two – pop on some lip balm, and let that sink in while you attend to the rest of your makeup. Once that’s done, remove the balm with the same cotton round and apply your lip colour.
You either love or hate liquid lipstick – there is simply no in-between. Despite testing what feels like every version in existence, I remain firmly in the latter camp. (To me, it simply lacks the old-school gla-more, dahling of a traditional bullet. Plus, a liquid lipstick’s thin doe-foot applicator requires more precision than I seem to be capable of, in order to get the perfect lip line that a matte lip demands.)
That’s not to say I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by the infamous Kylie Beauty Matte Lip Kits. While a fancy Beverly Hills injector is, sadly, not included with the purchase price, it did remind me of the usefulness of adding in a shade-specific lip pencil to your matte application process, more of which later. The creamy formula of this liquid version means lips don’t look or feel dry, though the quid pro quo is that the staying power is only good, not great, even with the addition of the matching pencil. Try shade 808 Kylie to emulate its namesake’s light-brown-leaning-soft-pink signature look (surprisingly pretty even on my pale skin tone, though better the deeper your tone) or for something quite unusual and dramatic, 403 Bite Me is a rich, blood red with a hint of raspberry.
If it’s proper pigment you’re after in a liquid option, you cannot go past NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment. The intensity of the colour is fantastic, as is its lasting power. This does mean you need to be super duper careful applying it, as the tiniest deviation from your lip line will be starkly obvious. (Rest your elbow on a table to steady your hand, and keep concealer and a small flat brush nearby to correct any mishaps.) While the range includes some soft tans and browns, to my mind, you’d be mad not to pick a striking colour in such an excellent formula. To that end, Get Up Stand Up is an incredibly vivid pink with flattering coral undertones; this shade truly works on any skin tone, from palest to deepest.
All the way up the other end of the ‘easy vs difficult to apply’ spectrum are lip crayons, and Lük Beautifood makes a great version that is creamy to wear and fades evenly, giving a flattering, light flush to the lips. If you want a ‘90s, brown-leaning nude, these shades are for you. Fig Brûlée is a chocolatey caramel which will suit medium to deep skin tones, while Lychee Sorbet is a soft brown with a hint of pink, which will work with paler tones. Taking the form of a fat wooden pencil, it’s very happily reminiscent of school supplies and both fun and simple to apply.
I am on much happier ground with a matte lipstick in a standard bullet form!
A brilliant, budget-friendly option is NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Suede Matte Lipstick, which is housed in a black case with a cute heart that denotes the shade inside. It has a thinner texture than some, which means you cam see the texture of your lips underneath it more readily, but it isn’t uncomfortable or drying, and it lasts well. A fun shade option is Life’s A Beach, which is a bright candy pink with warm undertones – much easier to wear for most skin tones than a cooler-leaning Barbie pink.
I was very taken with M.A.C Cosmetics Powder Kiss Velvet Blur Slim Stick. Well-named, it goes on as smooth as velvet and with, yes, a somewhat powdery texture, but this isn’t drying. Rather, it gives lips a flattering, soft focus effect. The matte black and gold packaging feels quite premium, and the bullet’s angled tip and thin edge helps with emphasising or even cheating the natural shape of your lips. The shade range leans very warm, largely featuring tones of terracotta and brick, which will particularly pop on deeper skin tones.
If you’re after drama, Anastasia Beverly Hills is a brand that always delivers it, and that is certainly the case with their lipsticks. From the high-shine rose gold casing to the intensely pigmented, classic bullet within, this is a glamorous option. The last is excellent, and while that comes with a tiny bit of dryness over time, it’s well worth it. Do not sleep on the shade Cherry, a gorgeously glowing ruby red that will come into its own during the festive season.
Fenty’s Icon Semi-Matte Refillable Lipstick is a good option for everyday wear, in twelve nude shades running the gamut of all skin tones, as we have come to expect and love from this brand. (I liked shade 04 Mutha Lova, which had enough pink and peach undertones to not look too flat on my pale skin.) a semi-matte, it gives an attractive, very slight shine rather than a flat matte finish, but has the lasting power (and yes, some dryness) of a classic matte. A word of caution: I did find the mechanism of this lipstick needlessly tricky – there’s pushing and twisting and sliding involved, and the bullet always seemed to come out the opposite end than I expected it to – so hopefully we’ll see that simplified in future.
Similarly comfortable and easy to wear day to day is Rare Beauty’s Kind Words Matte Lipstick and Matte Lip Liner. The lipstick’s blush case with a champagne metal push top contains a creamy, visually-perfecting formula with, frankly, incredible lasting power. Lips only start to feel dry right at the end of the day, which is a relatively small price to pay. Each of the ten nude shades – my pick was Lively, which works on all skin tones, though probably works best for those without as much red in their lips as mine have – has a matching pencil, complete with a self-winding/sharpening mechanism. The pencils glide on very smoothly and boost the lasting power of the lipstick, as well as the overall ‘elevated everyday’ effect.
The inclusion of lip pencils in the Kylie Beauty and Rare Beauty matte lip ranges both got me to thinking about what help a pencil can really bring to a matte lipstick. Because mattes inherently have much better staying power than their satin finish cousins, I have never really bothered with a liner underneath them. However, I am now convinced lip liners are just as useful with mattes as they are with satins, to ensure even better longevity, as well as to amplify (or slightly alter) their tone.
For the price of a fancy coffee, Designer Brand’s Lip Pencils notably improved the last of all the matte lipsticks I tried them over, and their colours stay true underneath. They’re not as creamy or forgiving as some higher-end options, but they’re absolutely still a win. I particularly like 416 Shocking Pink, a bright blue pink I use to heighten the impact of any lipsticks worn over the top, as well as 548 Carousel, a medium pink that works well as a slightly-more-interesting-than-neutral base under other pinks, corals and oranges.
I have written about it before, so won’t include it in detail in this round up, but as Gucci’s Rouge Á Lévres Mat in Three Wise Girls is in serious contention for the title of my favourite matte lipstick of all time, so I just couldn’t leave it out altogether. Come for the vintage-inspired ribbed gold case, stay for the teeth whitening, complexion-enhancing shocking-pink-tinged-with-scarlet colour waiting for you inside.