To Line or Not to Line: The Golden Rules of Lip Liner

Please also check out our 2014 update on The Golden Rules of Lip Liners


Next to mascara, lip liner is the one product when applied incorrectly makes it obvious that you are wearing makeup. Overdrawn liner looks cheap and harsh; subtle liner plays up your pout in assorted, gorgeous ways where lips appear fuller, younger, and more defined.

Most importantly, lip liner gives lip gloss and lipstick something to adhere to, therefore increasing staying power and preventing color from bleeding into fine lines. Lips are meant to be soft and kissable, so there’s no excuse for rigid lip lines.

Here are Beauty News NYC’s golden rules of lip liner, which aim to debunk myths and improve the product’s reputation!



GOLDEN RULE #1: Liner should never be darker than your lipstick. NEVER EVER!

One of the ugliest make up trends is the black liner/frosted pink lipstick look. The contrast is hideous. Liner should always be one shade darker than your natural lip color, or a shade darker or lighter than your gloss or stick of choice.

Your safest bet, however, is a neutral, natural liner with creamy consistency. DuWop Lip Tones are divine, with their rosey, nude range of colors and retractable tips. Apply, then buff with fingers for a matte lip or use as a base for gloss.

Youngblood also offers a vast array of neutrals like Malt and Mocha with soft tips, and the color palette is vast enough to match several shades of lipstick. These mineral formulas are gentle to sensitive lips and surrounding lip skin.


GOLDEN RULE #2: Lip lines should be softly defined by soft-tipped pencils.

Moist, rounded tips, rather than freshly sharpened points, offer the prettiest definition. We suggest sharpening your lip pencil, then running it back and forth over your hand to dull or blunt the point.

Softies like Red Earth’s Lip Wonder Plumping pencils (the reddish Sweet Port and beige Creamy Caramel are shiny, universal shades) help prevent bleeding and give subtle shape to lips.


GOLDEN RULE #3: Do not overdraw your lip lines.

We all desire that Angelina-style pillow pout, but leave that to designated lip plumpers! Nothing says “trout pout” like overdrawn lines. In order to enhance, but not excessively exaggerate your pucker, trace your natural lip line, or draw ever so slightly above it for a little extra oomph! Philosophy’s Supernatural Lips (offered in 4 shades, but we prefer Natural, for obvious reasons) is a high-pigment, smooth-textured pencil that achieves this affect.



GOLDEN RULE #4: Embrace the anti-liners!

Perhaps in response to lip liner’s somewhat shaky reputation, cosmetics companies have responded with ‘anti-liners’; these are essentially clear lip liners for those of who prefer a non-defined shape to our lips.

Too Faced’s Borderline South Of The Border pencil is a colorless chubby pencil that you can use to give lip products something to adhere to without enhancing them with a base color.

DuWop Reverse Lip Liner is quite similar; if you want a not-so-perfect lip look -that is, you wanna gloss and go- then this liner is your nirvana. Both of these anti-liners prevent feathering and bleeding into fine lines and keep your look super soft.

Benefit D’finer D’Liner completes the trifecta of primo clear liners that stop your gloss or lip color from migrating and helps the color adhere longer. Viva la clear liner!


GOLDEN RULE #5: Play up your Cupid’s Bow.

The Cupid’s Bow is that sexy little peak in the middle of your top lip. Benefit has developed a Cupid’s Bow Maker set designed expressly for that bit of skin. The 2-piece kit -a dual-ended chubby pencil and a dual-ended brush– seems complicated at first, especially since it comes with an instruction pamphlet, but is quite simple to use once you get the hang of it.

The “Bow Maker” end of the pencil is a pearl pink highlighter that shapes your Cupid’s Bow, concentrating on the ‘V’ in the middle. The hard tip of the brush is for blending.

The “Pout Shaper” end of the pencil is a rosy liner for shaping your lipline and coloring in your lips. The sponge tip of the brush is for blending. It’s not as much work as it sounds! We promise.


GOLDEN RULE #6: Liner can be used as color.

Lip liner can multi-task as both a definer and a matte color for your lips. Vincent Longo offers a cruelty-free assortment of soft, neutral tones like Naked, Red, Chocolate, and Bombay Spice that are richly pigmented with crayon-like tips and they are good enough to serve as your only lip product for the night out. The matte texture is “right now” and longer lasting than your average gloss.

And for the final word, a few exclusive tips from make up artists:

“Some women think you always need lip liner when you wear lipstick and you don’t,” offers NYC make up artist Samantha Lennon. “I always use a lipstick brush to apply lipstick as a lip liner. The result is so soft and beautiful. When I do use lip liner, I prefer to use a lighter one. I use a universal nude lip liner for underneath all shades and colors of lipstick.” You can check out Lennon’s work at

Make up artist and Youngblood Cosmetics founder Pauline Youngblood warns against “ring around the mouth” and has a crafty method for avoid that dreaded look, saying, “The biggest mistake women commit when applying lip liner is not blending it. To avoid the ‘ring around the mouth’ look, you must blend after application. After outlining the natural lip line only (do not extend past the natural lip line), softly fill in the rest of the lips with the lip liner pencil, smudging and blending the color on the rest of the lip so that when the lipstick wears off, you are left with a natural color on the lips and not just an outline. ‘Ring around the mouth’ is thus avoided, and you don’t have to frantically reapply your lipstick in fear of appearing like you’re only wearing lip liner.”


Please also check out our 2014 update on The Golden Rules of Lip Liners


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