Lip liners: do you need them?

Several lip liners

People who sell makeup are very gung-ho about lip liner. According to them, you always need it, with every lip product application. But of course, they’re trying to sell the stuff. Do you really need lip liner, and if so, when?

What lip liner is for

There are some people who need lip liner all the time, and some situations where anyone might benefit from lip liner. Basically, here’s what lip liner is good for:

  • To define lips. Most people’s lips are pretty well-defined, and further definition can look strange. But if you feel like your lips are shaped unevenly, or just not very defined, a lip liner is what you need. Don’t try to “define” your lips with a lipstick or gloss.
  • Preventing feathering. Some people experience feathering most of the time. Others never experience it. Others experience it only with certain lip products. If you anticipate feathering, a good lip liner can help. And by “good”, I don’t mean expensive – I’ve always had great luck with Wet ‘N’ Wild’s lip liners, and so have many women I know.
  • Leaving color for when your lip product wears off. Lip liner doesn’t budge easily, so if you fill your lips in completely with a liner pencil in a similar color to the lipstick or gloss you’re going to wear, then when the lipstick or gloss wears off, you still have some color underneath.
  • Making a strong shade look good against your skin tone. A lip liner that’s close to the color of your natural lips or skin tone can provide a tiny color barrier between your skin and a bright or funky shade of lipstick that clashes with your skin tone. It’s like adding a flattering scarf to the neckline of a top that clashes with your skin tone.
  • For wearing as lipstick. You can definitely wear lip liner as lipstick, with or without some clear gloss or color over it. Lip liners can be drying alone, but some people find a line that works for them for this purpose, and the results can be pretty cool.

My application tips

  • Kevyn Aucoin recommends only ever using a shade of lip liner that’s close to your natural lip/skin tones, even with bright red, and I second that – otherwise, when your gloss or lipstick wears off, you have a bright or dark ring around your lips that looks strange. (And this advice means you only really need one lip liner in your collection!)
  • Never line outside your lips (yes, I recently learned some people are still doing this!). It was thought to make lips look fuller back in the 80s, but it really just looked clownish. If you want to make your lips look fuller, try a gloss or lipstick that’s designed to plump them.
  • Try applying your lipstick both all over your lips, including over top of your liner, and just up to the edge of your liner (be sure to blend so you don’t have a stark line). Both looks can be great, depending on the shades you’re using and what look you’re going for.


  1. Veronique Von Virtuoso says

    Thanks Jenn for the great advice and tips on lip liner. I am one of those who doesn’t know how to use one or what they really can do. I have a few shades of lipsticks that I never liked on me but maybe adding a lip liner might do the trick. Thanks again.

  2. mo says

    Avon has a lip liner that is clear. It works well, is the only liner you need and also conditions your lips instead of drying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>