Is a Lip Top Coat Worth the Extra Layer? An Investigation

We gave it the ramen test.

There are certain products that have makeup artists split down the middle—like primer. Some will tell you it's a necessary preliminary step for keeping your face beat in tact, while others deem it unnecessary as long as you've moisturized. The notion of a "top coat" for your lips is equally divided. But when Know Cosmetics' No, My Lips Are Sealed Lipstick Topcoat landed on my desk, I was both amused by its moniker (remember that straight-to-VHS Olsen's gem?) and intrigued. And, as someone who lusts after bold lip colors but more often than not goes bare-lipped to be practical, I hoped it would make wearing them less of a feat.

The Test Drive

I first applied my favorite lip color of the moment, MAC's Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolor in "Feels So Grand," a deep true red. Full disclosure: In retrospect, I probably should have chosen a formula with a little more slip—this stuff stays on like a tattoo. Still, when I pressed my lips against a piece of paper, there was a noticeable transfer of color.

For my second test, I removed the lip color and reapplied it, this time sealing it in with a generous coat of the see-through gel top coat. I let it dry for a few minutes, without letting my upper and bottom lip touch, until there was zero shine. When I pressed my lips against the paper again, there was zero-to-no transfer.

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(Image credit: Archives)

In the hours that followed, I had a salad for lunch and sipped on an iced coffee, but neither really put my lip cocktail to the test, so I decided to bring out the big guns i.e. made a trip to my favorite ramen bar for dinner. An oil bath for the lips, I was floored that despite slurping down every last bit of burnt orange broth and noodles, my bright red lip was still in tact. Typically, it'd be an unintentional snogged lips situation.

My main concern when giving the top coat a go was that it would disrupt the wear on my lip color, perhaps making it look more wonky than normal by the end of the day. And I will say, that after 10+ hours my lips looked pretty dry and a little cracked with some tacky bits at the inner corners. However, the color didn't budge through the most trying and greasy of tests, so I was still impressed. It wasn't perfect, but it was solid.

The Verdict

If you're an obsessive lip color wearer, or even an occasional one prone to smudging and willing to take the extra step, it's a worthwhile investment—just not a *cheap* one given that there's only a small amount of product in each tube. If you're totally adverse to extra steps or don't want to spend the money, your best bet is finding the right long-wear formula and sticking to that.

Know Cosmetics No, My Lips Are Sealed Lipstick Topcoat, $25;

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Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.