The 13 Best Lip Stains Stay Put the Entire Day

Say goodbye to reapplication.

Lady wearing lipstick
(Image credit: Jeremy Moeller? Getty Images)

As someone who wears some sort of lip color daily, I'm always on a mission to find the best lipsticks. Smudging, feathering, and fading have become enemy number one. As a result, sometimes the best everyday lipstick for me isn't lipstick at all. Instead, I've found myself reaching for the best lip stains.

"A lip stain is more liquidy in texture and consistency," explains professional makeup artist Allison Kaye, adding that lip stains can have many finishes—from matte to high-shine—but always dye one's lips like "a coat of paint." While most pigmented lip products differ from the texture of one's natural lips, lip stains blend in with them, often lending lips a flush of long-lasting color that stays put after hours of eating, drinking, and talking.

"Reach for a lip stain when you won’t have time to re-apply throughout the day," agrees Erica Marie Gatt, a professional esthetician and makeup artist. "A typical lipstick or lip gloss wears off after you eat, drink, and talk. Lip stains are specifically formulated so that the color is absorbed by your lips, therefore providing a longer lasting color."

Ahead, picks from Kaye, Gatt, and our editors (including yours truly) for long-lasting, smudge-free color.

The Best Lip Stains

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How Long Do Lip Stains Take to Dry?

When buying a lip stain, consider how much time you need to apply it. If you have trouble coloring within the lines of your lips, it's best to choose lip stains that stay wet a little longer. This way, you have plenty of time to blot, spread, and wipe away any mistakes.

Kaye says that 10 minutes is the perfect drying time for beginners and aficionados alike. "That doesn't sound like a long time, but it should be enough to be able to apply, mix it around, or do whatever you need to do," says Keyes.

What's the Opacity of a Lip Stain?

If you want your lip stain to mimic the look of lipstick by giving lips a high-intensity color, your best bet is to go with a thicker, more opaque formula. If you're more of a gloss fan, Kaye recommends more subtle, sheer finishes that are buildable.

How to Apply a Lip Stain

For optimal application, Gatt recommends, "Make sure to grab your favorite lip exfoliator to remove dead skin and provide a clean surface prior to applying any lip products." She also advises outlining the lips with liner before applying the stain for maximum longevity.

Once it's time for the stain itself, Kaye says precision is key. "Apply [the lip stain] in the middle of your lips, and then rub your lips together to move it towards the outside," she advises. This way, you won't have to worry about lining the outline of your lips perfectly on the first try.

The next steps are totally up to you. I tend to leave my lip stain alone for a smooth, matte finish, but Kaye says she likes to layer a gloss or a sheer lipstick over her lip stains for a shinier finish.

"It also gives you a second emergency layer for your lip, especially if you know that your lips will need a touch-up," she says. "The stain underneath is a nice way to ensure that if your top product comes off, you'll still have some color underneath."

How to Remove a Lip Stain

One of the advantages of lip stains is that the best ones never come off, no matter how much friction they're faced with. However, this doesn't feel like such an advantage hours later, when you're scrubbing your lips raw in an effort to get the pigment off. If your go-to makeup removers and micellar waters won't get your favorite stains off, it's time to break out an oil-based cleansing balm.

In my experience, Korean cleansing oils also do an incredible job of getting even the most stubborn makeup off in just a few seconds.

If you're still struggling, Gatt recommends using a product called the Lip Luffa, which she says "removes the stain, exfoliates, and hydrates all in one."

Meet the Experts

Allison Kaye
Allison Kaye

Allison Kaye is a makeup artist specializing in celebrity and influencer services, best known for styling NFL and MLB players' wives and girlfriends. She also offers classes on makeup application. She is currently based in Florida.

Erica Marie Gatt
Erica Marie Gatt

Erica Marie Gatt is a esthetician and makeup artist specializing in developing easy, minimalist beauty regimens. She has worked with the likes of Vanessa Hudgens, Paula Abdul, Sofia Vergara, and more, and has a beauty retreat in Hermosa Beach, California.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at