Lip Stain vs Lipstick: Which One Is Right For You?

lip stain vs lipstickIt used to be that the only color we had for our lips was lipstick.

Over the years, they were offered in new beautiful colors, wonderful packaging and slightly different textures but there was no real innovation. We never heard of any other kind of color for the lips.

Then along came colored glosses which were nice and shiny but lacking in staying power and finally we have lip stains, designed to stick around as much as 24 hours or more – a definite change on the old formula.

But what is the difference between a lipstick and a lip stain? And which one is right for you?


The main ingredients in lipstick along with the pigment are waxes and oils along with lip softening emollients. This means the lipstick has a waxy texture which is soft on the lips and helps to condition them.

A lip stain is either liquid in nature or a water based gel and can have a drying effect as a result.

Format and Application

A lipstick comes as a solid usually in the familiar lipstick case although it may be in a solid waxy block of color in a palette. The product can be applied straight from the stick by running it over the lips or you can use a lip brush to apply it.

A lip stain comes in a bottle, tube or jar and will normally come with an inbuilt means of application. A lip stain may be applied using a roll on mechanism, or the tube may have a felt tip which soaks up color like a marker pen or it may have an applicator wand with a sponge tip. A cream or gel lip stain may be applied with a brush which may or may not be included.

With a lip stain you need to paint a very precise line on your lips as there will be an obvious edge where you have and haven’t applied it. Lipsticks are a bit more forgiving if you are not great at applying them.

Pros and Cons



Lipstick comes in all kinds of finishes from metallic, through matte, glossy and sheer.

It is available in a huge range of colors and is easy to apply and reapply through the day with the help of a mirror.

With its waxy texture a good lipstick will have a moisturizing effect on your lips.


On the downside, lipstick will rub off as the day progresses and you will have to reapply it if you want to keep color on your lips.

Plus, there’s the problem of leaving lipstick marks everywhere. You’ll find it on the cheeks of your friends and on your coffee cup and glass and, if you’re not careful with your lipstick application, on your teeth.

Lip Stain


Once you apply a lip stain, your color can last up to 24 hours with no touching up required. The color will stay where you put it on your lips and not transfer itself to your cup or glass.

Lip stain won’t travel into any feathery lines around your lips so you will have a precise edge all day.


On the downside, lip stains often contain alcohol and other ingredients which have a drying effect on your lips. To counteract that many come with a moisturizing balm. Unfortunately you have to reapply that to keep up the moisturizing effect throughout the day, though you won’t need a mirror so it is quickly done.

Lip stains are available in a more limited range of colors (usually at the natural end of the spectrum) so you have fewer choices.

They are also a bit more difficult to apply as you have to paint carefully and quickly before they set. Yet you need patience to wait for each coat to set before adding the top coat of gloss or another layer to get a more intense color. They are not for you if you need to rush out of the door every day.

If a lip stain does happen to wear off (it shouldn’t if you don’t bite or pick at it) you have to remove it all and start again because touch ups don’t give an even finish to the lips.

And So Which Is Best?

On balance lip stains are worth it if you are prepared to take your time getting the application right and to keep your lips moisturized throughout the day. If you love lip color but hate leaving lipstick stains on everything they are well worth the effort. Choose a quality lip stain that doesn’t wear off, apply it right and you’ll fall in love with these products.

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