The best lip liners for a fuller, more defined pout without feathering

From luxury labels to bargain buys, we've tested the best lip liners for every need

best lip liners collage of Charlotte Tilbury, Smashbox, and other brands
(Image credit: Future)

The best lip liners will do two things well: prevent lipstick from bleeding and define the natural shape of your pout. 

Add one to your makeup bag and your go-to soft glam makeup looks will become even more effortless—and a good deal more long lasting. Why? because the best lip liners are to lipstick what primers are to the best foundations. They act as a base that boosts the pigment and longevity of even the most long-lasting lipstick, preventing it from bleeding, fading and feathering. The right lip liner also means your lippy won't crease or settle into lines, and if you like, it'll create the illusion of fuller pout too. 

The hard part? Picking the perfect product—which is why we've created this guide to the best lip liners that have all been tried and tested by us. From the iconic Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Liner, which boasts a creamy, long-lasting formula and beautiful shade range, to brilliant drug store buys that cost mere pocket change. 

How to select the best lip liners for you

There are four main considerations worth making when shopping for lip liners:

  • Formula: Opt for creamy, velvety textures that glide on easily, stay put, and don’t feel overly drying. Consider ingredients: beyond making lips look supple and pigmented, today’s top players are hydrating, featuring ingredients like glycerin and coconut oil.
  • Color range: You don't have to match it exactly to your lipstick, a nude liner will work under any number of lippies in your collection. Obviously, nude is not one standard shade. Seek out brands with large color ranges to suit every skin tone. The right match will help your lips look fuller.
  • Versatility: The best lip liners can do it all. Our favorites can be worn individually as saturated lipstick or as an outline or layer underneath lipstick or gloss to boost the pigment. Several include practical features, like built-in sharpeners and brushes for blending color. 
  • Applicator: Precision is key, so choose an ultra-fine tip that’s easy to maneuver and won’t drag on the delicate skin around your lips. This also means you won’t smudge outside the lines. Both twist-up and sharpenable options are available, with twist-ups offering speed and convenience but slightly less precision than traditional pencils. 

The best lip liners, as chosen by our beauty team

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner

(Image credit: Charlotte Tilbury)

1. Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner

Best overall lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $22/£17
Shades: 17
Texture: Creamy
Extras: 100% vegan

Reasons to buy

+
Glide-on formula
+
Sleek and durable gold exterior
+
Not drying
+
Vast shade palette
+
Vegan

Reasons to avoid

-
Product runs out quickly

Charlotte Tilbury's eponymous makeup line has attained cult status. As has the best-seller Lip Cheat Liner, a luxurious formula that's easy to layer and maneuver with a narrow but creamy tip. The liner's texture is akin to plush silk that's dense yet breathable—ideal, as it won't dehydrate lips. 

Moreover, its formula is waterproof and will stay put for up to eight hours, much like Tilbury's best mascara, Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes. Trust us, you don't need to worry about smudging, product transfer, or constant reapplication with this liner. Without question, this will survive anything—humidity, heat waves, or just a night on the hibiscus margaritas. 

Above all, Tilbury understands the power of a versatile neutral and, as such, offers an expansive color range of 17 hues. From rosy nudes and suedes to warm reds and plums, Lip Cheat imparts buildable and long-lasting color payoff for every skin tone. We daresay it could actually replace your favorite lipstick or stain for good.

NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Slim Lip Pencil

(Image credit: NYX Cosmetics)

2. NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil

Best budget lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $4/£3.50
Shades: 39
Texture: Creamy
Extras: Coconut oil

Reasons to buy

+
Hydrating
+
Tiny tip
+
No product transfer
+
Cruelty-free, PETA certified

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as long-lasting

NYX Slim Lip Pencil boasts a slender profile, along with a veritable number of industry awards under its belt. It also comes in a wide spectrum of shades—with traditional fuchsias and non-traditional options like orange and auburn. All this for the same price as your daily coffee? There's simply no better spend.

Economics aside, the pencil features a buttery-soft formula that glides on easily and stays put. It resists bleeding well, which happens when lipstick creeps its way outside of the natural lip line. It also has a fine tip that's super easy to sharpen, making it's easy to accentuate the appearance of your pout too. 

The Slim Lip Pencil is also enriched with hydrating coconut oil to condition lips, intensify color and increase the lifespan of your liner. Tick, tick, tick!

Dior Lip Contour

(Image credit: Dior)

3. Dior Lip Contour

Best luxury lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $31/£22
Shades: 20
Texture: Creamy
Extras: Shea butter, peony, pomegranate flower extracts

Reasons to buy

+
Long-wearing formula
+
Features angled-bristle brush
+
Comfortable
+
Great shade range

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey

Available in 20 shades, Dior's luxury lip liner imparts saturated color and longer-lasting coverage compared to its competition. While most brands promise six hours of staying power, Dior Lip Contour provides a prolonged eight hours of wear. We tested the claims and can confirm you'll enjoy even, rich pigment all day long that won't feather or settle into fine lines. 

Thanks to shea butter, peony, and pomegranate flower extracts, Dior Lip Contour has a velvety and supple texture. Shea butter conditions and protects lips from the elements, while peony and pomegranate flower extracts moisturize and hydrate. In addition to its ideal fine tip, the liner features an angled-bristle brush, which cleans up color outside of lip lines and guarantees precise application.

KVD Everlasting Lip Liner

(Image credit: KVD)

4. KVD Everlasting Lip Liner

Best long-wearing lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $19/£14.50
Shades: 14
Texture: Matte
Extras: Vegan

Reasons to buy

+
Unique shades
+
Feels weightless
+
Great staying power
+
Cruelty-free
+
Vegan

Reasons to avoid

-
Applicator could be more durable

We can safely say that this lip liner from KVD lives up to its title (almost) The formula is water-resistant and lightweight, delivering a second-skin, budge-proof finish in seconds. Though the brand promises 24 hours of coverage without reapplication, we'd argue this claim is overinflated based on our tests. We found that the formula stayed put for up to nine hours. Regardless, this duration is considerably longer than most, which will certainly get you through the throes of your day-to-day routine.

Its ultra-thin tip outlines beautifully and means you can reshape your lip's contours if desired. Yes, it's matte, and we know many matte-based products are annoyingly dense and dehydrating, but luckily, this one is anything but—instead, it lends the lips a velvety soft finish. 

Nars Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil

(Image credit: NARS)

5. NARS Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil

Best matte lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $27/‎£22
Shades: 29
Texture: Matte
Extras: Vitamin E

Reasons to buy

+
Emollient-based formula
+
Versatile
+
Vast shade range
+
Applies smoothly

Reasons to avoid

-
Thick applicator may hinder precise application

NARS Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil takes on the silhouette of a retro crayon, and while this whimsical design is cute, its formula is the real champion.The lipstick-pencil hybrid is matte without looking matte—i.e. not at all patchy and scaly after long-term wear. The texture is impressively creamy, courtesy of hardworking Vitamin E and emollients. This acts as a hydrating, tinted base that sits nicely under stains or vinyl-shine lip products if you prefer glossy lips

What's more, it delivers the impact and color payoff you'd normally see in a rich lipstick. The wide tip reinforces this, allowing users to add extra pigment to specific areas of the lips. NARS sticks to a palette of versatile nudes and pinks. Shoppers, ourselves included, concede that this range makes for the perfect lipstick wardrobe, with enough variety to mix, match, and experiment. The liner also comes in two handy sizes: standard and mini. 

M.A.C. Cosmetics Lip Pencil in Oak

(Image credit: MAC Cosmetics)

6. M.A.C. Cosmetics Lip Pencil in Oak

Best lip liner for fair skin

Specifications

RRP: $19/£15.50
Shades: 28
Texture: Creamy
Extras: Mica

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth texture
+
Applies quickly
+
Complements a variety of lipstick shades
+
Convenient container included
+
Long-lasting formula

Reasons to avoid

-
May feel a little drying

M.A.C.'s lip pencil boasts a buttery, concentrated formula, applying and staying on like a dream. With this texture, you can outline lips and add impact with buildable pigment, fill in gaps, and even replace your favorite lipstick.

Fan-favorite shade Oak is one of our personal picks, a seductive brown that complements fair skin. It serves as a subtle base that's not too lackluster—particularly for those who do well in deeper shades from the nude, brown, and rose-pink families.

Whichever shade you choose, the finish won't budge, fade, or become speckled, and it can be easily topped off with a plumping gloss. Whether you team it with nude lipstick or something brighter, this is a liner to wear audaciously and with confidence.

L’Oréal Paris Color Riche Matte Lip Liner in Matte's It

(Image credit: L'Oreal)

7. L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner in Matte's It

Best lip liner for olive-medium skin

Specifications

RRP: $8.99/£4.99
Shades: 8
Texture: Matte
Extras: Methyl Trimethicone

Reasons to buy

+
Glide-on formula
+
Rich color
+
Boosts pigment of a lipstick
+
Can be easily sharpened 

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited shade range

This highly-pigmented liner offers plenty of coverage and crafts sculpted, but muted contoured lines. As for its build, the liner defines and plumps lips with a hefty tip, which evenly distributes the product without clumping and sharpens with ease. Its texture is velvety and comfortable to wear alone or with lipstick. Together, these elements elevate the overall look of naturally browner lips.

Shade-wise, this is a lush brown with soft pink undertones, ideal for those with tan and olive skin tones. Additionally, other colors complement fairer complexions, albeit the range is limited. It's also a bargain, meaning you'll probably spend more on a bottle of soda. 

Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil in the shade Ground Control

(Image credit: Pat McGrath)

8. Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil in the shade Ground Control

Best lip liner for dark skin

Specifications

RRP: $28/£25
Shades: 25
Texture: Matte and pearl
Extra: Mica

Reasons to buy

+
Long-wearing
+
Wide spectrum of colors
+
Soft texture
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not true to color

Meet Pat McGrath's Permagel Ultra Lip Pencil, a water-resistant option that sets down and doesn't budge. This lip liner fills in gaps with a smooth and satiny texture. However, the liner's unique selling point is permagel technology, which is exclusive to the brand. Essentially, this tech prevents the formula from feathering, transferring, or becoming dry and crumbly. 

For darker complexions, the shade Ground Control blends seamlessly and slathers lips in rich chocolate brown. Here, this pigmented hue won't look ashy, unlike lighter options from other brands. With clever shading, you could fool onlookers into thinking you've had lip tweakments

Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment - Precision Lip Crayon

(Image credit: Patrick Ta)

9. Patrick Ta Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Crayon

Best universal nude lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $26/£22
Shades: 4
Texture: Matte and creamy
Extras: Emollient blend, film formers

Reasons to buy

+
Vegan
+
Weightless feel
+
Long-wearing
+
Glide-on formula
+
Paraben- and sulfate-free

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited shade range
-
Sells out quickly

As we all know, there's more than one nude, in fact there are hundreds. But then again, there's also Patrick Ta's Monochrome Moment Precision Lip Crayon, which brings a fresh perspective. Available in four neutral-to-you hues across dusty browns and pinks, this lip crayon compliments all skin shades—without looking washed-out on darker complexions or lurid against lighter tones. 

It's a creamy-matte hybrid, so the texture is buttery with a hint of sheen and glides on easily. However, it's not overly oily or waxy, an attribute that lends greater staying power and fewer touch-ups throughout the day.

But how did this unique concoction come about? For that, we have a blend of emollients and film formers to thank. In cosmetic products, film formers help smooth and plump. With this lip liner specifically, they set the color in place and create a lightweight feel.

Smashbox Be Legendary Line & Prime Pencil

(Image credit: Smashbox)

10. Smashbox Be Legendary Line & Prime Pencil

Best lip liner against feathering

Specifications

RRP: $19/£16
Shades: 10
Texture: Matte
Extras: Primer Oil Complex

Reasons to buy

+
Cruelty-free
+
Paraben-, sulfate-, and phthalate-free
+
Easy to apply and blend
+
Buildable color
+
Great base

Reasons to avoid

-
Packaging a little tricky

The Be Legendary Line & Prime Pencil formulation starkly deviates from many of the best lip liner's glossy and waxy textures—two formula types that often fade and smear after a few sips. This is due to the brand's signature primer oil complex, a compound that magnifies its staying power and soft, non-chapped feel.

Additionally, the liner includes a fine tip for defining and reshaping lips to your liking. This design promises pinpointed and leveled application, which also prevents feathering. Still, it's wide enough to cover enough surface area, making it a great lipstick substitute if required. A factor to consider is its packaging. It's initially tricky to figure out, but you'll find a twistable end but also a tip that will need to be sharpened with continued use.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil

(Image credit: Urban Decay)

11. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil

Best waterproof lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $22/£16
Shades: 19
Texture: Creamy
Extras: Vitamin E, jojoba oil, cottonseed oil

Reasons to buy

+
Cruelty-free
+
Rich pigment
+
Holds color in place
+
Doesn't run, fade, or creep outside lip lines
+
Glide-on formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Difficult to remove

Urban Decay's 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil is stubborn—a quality that's not so great in relationships, but appreciated in makeup, especially in lip liner. When applied, its waterproof formula will not move. As a result, you'll enjoy fewer smears, better definition, and cleaner lines. 

Obviously, the budge-proof formula isn't its only redeeming attribute. This lip pencil has a silky, non-gritty texture and many vivid colors to choose from, from deep reds to beige nudes. Based on our tests, it won't dry out or look cakey over time, which is largely due to a moisturizing trio of Vitamin E, jojoba oil, and cottonseed oil. This threesome quickly soaks into lips, makes them soft, and packs in fatty acids.

Nevertheless, the liner may be tricky to wipe off. Thankfully, there are quick solutions that get the job done—like Vaseline, the best micellar waters, and baby oil.

Make Up For Ever Slim Lip Pencil

(Image credit: Makeup Forever)

12. Makeup Forever Artist Color Lip Pencil

Most versatile lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $20/£15
Shades: 39
Texture: Creamy
Extras: Mica

Reasons to buy

+
Multipurpose
+
Diffuses beautifully when blended out
+
Pointy tip
+
Smooth, even application

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as long-wearing

Reviewers dub Makeup Forever's Artist Color Lip Pencil as a do-it-all item that "pays the rent and does the taxes." Not only do we agree, but we'd go a step further and crown it as a hangover cure, adding a flush of color to complexions that have seen better days. 

Mainly, the Artist Color Lip Pencil serves as a tool for eyebrows, eyeliner, blush, and contouring—coming in 39 striking shades to be layered or worn individually. As an optimal streamliner, its formula offers saturated pigment, along with smooth and blendable coverage to ringfence lipstick and keep it in place. The formula also enables users to fill in sparse eyebrow hairs, accentuate eye color, and paint in cheekbones. True versatility. 

We do, however, argue that it isn't as long-wearing as some of the top options on our list. If you're on the hunt for a multipurpose beauty essential, though, consider your search over.

Bite Beauty Power Move Creamy Matte Lip Crayon

(Image credit: Bite Beauty)

13. Bite Beauty Power Move Creamy Matte Lip Crayon

Best cruelty-free lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $26/£24
Shades: 20
Texture: Matte
Extras: Pomegranate extract, wild African mango butter, orange peel wax

Reasons to buy

+
Vegan
+
Gluten-free
+
Precise design
+
Highly pigmented

Reasons to avoid

-
May transfer after long-term wear

Bite Beauty's Lip Crayon is an eco-activist's dream: cruelty-free and vegan, but with no compromise on the payoff. Its packaging means its compelling on the shelf and when applied, offers up to eight hours of smudge-free wear. It has a slender tip, built-in sharpener, and creamy, matte consistency. In other words, it's designed for precise, even application.

These perks stem from a powerhouse ingredient blend of pomegranate extract, mango butter, and orange peel wax. This trio is packed with antioxidants and essential fatty acids, sealing in moisture and keeping lips nourished. Saving animals has never felt or looked better.

NUDESTIX Intense Matte Lip and Cheek Pencil

(Image credit: NUDESTIX)

14. NUDESTIX Intense Matte Lip and Cheek Pencil

Best multi-tasking lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $26/£20
Shades: 13
Texture: Creamy matte
Extras: Shea butter and vitamin E

Reasons to buy

+
Designed for lips and cheeks
+
Creamy texture easy to blend
+
Sharpener included 

Reasons to avoid

-
Thick applicator may hinder precise application

A true multi-tasking wonder, this chubby lip pencil can be used as a lip liner, lipstick, and a blusher. For the latter, simply scribble your favorite color (there are 12 nude, pink, and red shades to choose from) onto the apples of your cheeks before blending with fingertips to instantly perk up your complexion.

For lips, we recommend using the pointed tip to outline your lip line and, if you want to fill in lips, use the slanted edge to saturate your pout. Pigment-rich with impressive staying power, this is a handbag essential for when you want to dial up your look on the go. As for shades, go for Entice, a muted pink, for day, and Raven, deep burgundy for night. The velvety matte finish looks ultra-chic.

Best lip liner from Surratt

(Image credit: Surratt )

15. Surratt La Baton Rouge

Best innovative lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $38/£36
Shades: 6
Texture: Cream and powder
Extras: Japanese pigment powders

Reasons to buy

+
Two formulas in one 
+
Long-lasting lip color
+
Seamless application 

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited shade range

Inspired by the softly saturated French girl lip, Le Baton Rouge has a dual-ended design that works twice as hard as your standard lip liner. On one end, you’ll find a creamy lightweight formula that lines and fills your lips with intense color. On the other, Japanese pigment powder blots on, like the best setting powder, to set the lip look for a velvet-matte finish. 

If you're concerned that powder will be too drying and result in cracked lips, do not fret. This ultra-fine formula simply diffuses lips with a light dusting of pigment that adds a smooth supple finish that feels creamy as opposed to dry. 

Available in six sultry shades, this savvy lip stylo can be used to create a variety of looks—from cream to matte—that will be sure to make a statement. We’re obsessed with rich red Galocher and neutral brown Diabolique. 

Best lip liner from UOMA Beauty

(Image credit: UOMA Beauty)

16. UOMA Badass Matte Filler Lip Liner

Best lip liner for color payoff

Specifications

RRP: $16/£14
Shades: 6
Texture: Matte
Extras: Cruelty-free

Reasons to buy

+
Highly pigmented
+
Long-wearing
+
Waterproof

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited shade range

UOMA Beauty lip liner does not budge. Seriously, this is one of the longest-wearing formulas around. Pigment rich with a matte finish, it’s a great all-rounder that will not disappoint. 

The pointed tip is the perfect shape to line and fill in your pout with minimal effort and the smooth, silky texture glides across the lip line seamlessly, without dragging. For an unrivaled pout, we recommend shaping your lips first before applying the matching UOMA Beauty lipstick. Oh, and it’s also waterproof, transfer-proof, and cruelty-free. 

Best lip liner from Estee Lauder

(Image credit: Estee Lauder)

17. Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Lip Pencil

Best demi-matte lip liner

Specifications

RRP: $21/£19
Shades: 10
Texture: Cream
Extras: Synthetic wax, sodium hyaluronate, silica

Reasons to buy

+
Includes integrated lip brush
+
Long-wearing
+
Lightweight, creamy colour

Reasons to avoid

-
May transfer after long-term wear

This creamy, dreamy lip liner is a total joy to apply. The formula contains sodium hyaluronate (a derivative of hyaluronic acid) which makes it super moisturizing and comfortable enough for all-day wear. What’s more, the formula creates the perfect base—extending the wear of lipstick without feathering or bleeding. 

Of course, the real hero here is the integrated lip brush. Featuring a pointed bristled tip, it’s designed to be used with your go-to lipstick or lip gloss to complete your lip look. Expect a perfectly defined, seamless pout that has a demi-matte finish that will stay put for hours. 


How to apply lip liner

Lip liner application is simple if you follow these four steps:

  • Prime your lips: Invest in a gentle lip scrub to buff away dead skin. Next, apply one of the best lip balms to protect your pout against the elements. Look out for hydrating ingredients such as Vitamin E and Shea butter.
  • Line the top center of your lips: Use short strokes to define the cupid’s bow before following the outside of your lip line. If you want to simultaneously outline and fill your lips, be sure to point the tip upwards at an angle.
  • Fill in your lips: Though optional, this will intensify your lip color and fill in any gaps.
  • Apply lipstick: Use a matching shade or a slightly darker one than your natural lip color. Ultimately, the latter will instantly define and plump your pout. 

Dominique worked as a shopping writer at Woman & Home and while with the brand she covered products, sales and deals, and market news across categories. Before joining the team, she penned stories as an editorial fellow at Insider Reviews, the affiliate commerce team at Insider Inc./Business Insider. The bespectacled NJ transplant specializes in commerce journalism, women’s lifestyle content, and hoarding makeup—much to her mother’s dismay.

 

With contributions from