Last weekend, during one of the first truly hot days we've had this spring, I met a friend for lunch at a restaurant with an outdoor patio. After spending the majority of the meal in direct sunlight, my lipstick had almost completely melted off, leaving a less-than-ideal outline around the rim, but my friend's was just as berry-tinted as when we'd sat down. The difference? She'd opted for a lip stain.
Lip stains are designed to look natural, like you've just finished a popsicle or eaten a bowl of berries, and true to their name, they're built to last. Unlike lipsticks, which add pigment on top of your lips, they stain the actual skin on your lips so you don't have to worry an hour into your lunch if it's still there. Inspired to find my go-to, I put some popular stains to the test (including Alina's all-time favorite) to pick the prettiest one for summer.
Application: It feels like an oversized crayon - which is oddly appealing - and glides on easily. The subtle peppermint smell is a nice touch, too.
Feel: Dewy, without being overly glossy
Color: Extremely pigmented and almost too neon-fuschia
How long it lasted: The neon came off as soon as I ate something, but a light pink tint remained well into the evening.
General thoughts: This color isn't subtle, so after applying it, I blotted it with a tissue to make it look a tiny bit more natural and less fuschia-y (see the side-by-side below). I would be comfortable going out to a picnic with this color knowing the longer I wore it, worst-case scenario, the more toned down it would look.
Application: The angled sponge brush isn't immediately intuitive and takes time to master.
Feel: Goes on very liquid-y, then becomes sticky and glossy once it sets, which doesn't take well to blotting
Color: While the first layer is almost translucent, it's extremely buildable so you can personalize your color preference. It took about 5 layers to get the opaque, bright-orange color shown in the photo below.
How long it lasted: This stain has staying power. The gloss remained on my lips through lunch, as did the color even after I scrubbed it with soap and water at the end of the day.
General thoughts: Alina, who moonlights as my personal beauty advisor, swears by this lip stain so I expected to love it as much as she does, but couldn't quite get on board with it. While the color is beautiful and bright, the teeny sparkles in it give it a more artificial look than I prefer in my lip color.
Application: The gloss glides on nicely, and the brush makes it easy to be precise. I painted it on from the outside of my lip in, then smoothed out the excess with my finger. I also liked the barely-there cherry scent.
Feel: Dries almost instantly, making it a great primer for gloss
Color: Very natural, like I'd just eaten a bowl of cherries or had a glass of red wine, especially once I blotted it slightly
How long it lasted: I reapplied after four hours, but it actually looked more natural the longer I wore it, so I could have gone without reapplying all day.
General thoughts: This felt the most "lip stainiest" to me—it was the most convincing as a "natural" lip color and stayed on nicely.
Application: Because the paintbrush applicator is roughly two inches from where you hold it, it doesn't allow for much control.
Feel: While it's extremely liquid-y at first, it dries completely matte. I especially loved that it felt I wasn't wearing anything on my lips.
Color: There's a lot of dimension to this color; it starts out light pink, but transforms into a more neon-berry pop as it dries.
How long it lasted: This stain lasts for hours, but because it's a lighter pink shade, I reapplied it every three hours, or so to help it pop.
General thoughts: I use this stain all the time since I'm partial to bright lip colors (hence the partially-missing label in the top photo). It's great for daily wear to the office, or even to a daytime summer event like a baseball game.
5. Tarte Lipsurgence Stain in 'Moody' ($20)
Application: Glides on nicely and has a clean eucalyptus scent
Feel: Very hydrating, like a lip balm
Color: From the first layer, I liked the subtlety of this stain. It's a lovely in-between color that isn't too pink or red, despite the dramatic title.
How long it lasted: This didn't last as long as I'd like for a stain - it was almost completely gone after an hour.
General thoughts: Since it's so easy to apply, this is a stain I would keep in my purse for quick, on-the-go swipes when I'm running errands and don't want to look too done-up. Because it's fairly matte, I might add a cheek highlighter to keep looking dewy.
6. Glossier Lip Stain in 'Jam' ($18 )
Application: While it looks like a lipstick, it feels like a gloss and glides on really nicely.
Feel: It's very hydrating and reminded me of a tinted lip balm.
Color: The most purple-berry of the stains I tried. For day-to-day makeup, I might tone it down with a tiny drop of concealer or apply it over lip gloss.
How long it lasted: Similar to Stila, this stain lasted for hours, but only looked more natural as it faded to a subtle barely-berry color.
General thoughts: Because this stain is so buildable, it transitions well from day to night. I might wear it with a touch of bronzer and a smudge of eyeliner on my top lid for a more dramatic look.
Overall favorites: Stila Lip and Cheek Stain in 'Cherry Crush' and Benefit's Posietint Lip and Cheek Stain. I loved that each look so natural, dry matte, and have a staying power to last through summer activities.
P.S. See my previous Beauty Trials for best bronzer and mascara.