The best long-lasting lipsticks make it effortless to wear your signature color, whether it’s the rosy nude you swipe on for work or the bold crimson you want to last through your whole wedding. Their rich pigments coat your lips for hours yet also feel soft and flexible, not drying, which is a tricky balance to strike. They usually set within minutes so they won’t rub off onto your face, teeth, hands, clothing or loved ones. They fade slowly and evenly over time. And they’re ideally designed to make it easy to fill in your lips without getting a trace on your skin or leaving excess behind. Phew! That’s a lot to ask from a little tube.
I tested 16 long-lasting lipsticks to find the most wearable, comfortable ones on the market. Cadmium Medium Red
After testing for these factors as well as considering the range of available shades, I found Pat McGrath Labs LiquiLust Legendary Wear Matte Lipstick to be the best long-lasting lipstick overall because it sets within minutes, doesn’t smudge or feel dry, lasts for 6 to 8 hours and fades in a flattering way. The L’Oréal Paris Rouge Signature Matte Lip Stain (which is a hybrid of a stain and liquid lipstick) is my top value pick because of its pleasant although less creamy texture, even fade and expensive-feeling doe foot applicator.
The following is a list of all the winners from my testing process:
I’m a veteran lifestyle journalist who’s been covering makeup and beauty among other topics for more than a decade for outlets such as Elle; O, The Oprah Magazine; Martha Stewart Living and Allure. I love a mostly bare face with a bold, fresh lip—think J.Crew in Jenna Lyons’ heyday, with its (sadly discontinued) line of lipsticks by makeup artist Troi Ollivierre—and I’ve been testing this category for years in search of a new holy-grail tube.
According to my rigorous testing, these tubes from Dior, Chanel, Pat McGrath Labs, and L'Oreal Paris ... [+] are the best long-lasting lipsticks on the market today.
To report this story, I scoured the websites of major beauty retailers including Ulta, Sephora, CVS and Walgreens for their bestsellers and read hundreds of real users’ reviews, noting pros and cons, particularly about texture, which is where many long-lasting formulas fall short. Then I consulted makeup gurus who know lipstick like the (color-swatched) back of their hand. I spoke with Emily Dougherty, the longtime beauty editor who is beloved by her 66,000-and-counting Instagram followers for her lipstick smashing and mixing videos. I interviewed cosmetic chemist Patricia Alvarez, who in her role as chief chemist for Gemdo Cosmetics has been developing formulations for beauty brands for more than 30 years. I also ran my questions by Cara Lovello, a makeup artist based in New York and New Jersey who specializes in celebrity and bridal makeup, and Katya Bychkova, a New York–based beauty blogger and self-professed lipstick obsessive.
For starters, I swatched four or five contenders at a time on the back of my hand and left them there all day. Dougherty suggested this method because it’s simple yet more effective than the old coffee cup or wineglass test: A full day on the back of your hand puts a lipstick through its paces. This allowed me to quickly eliminate any that smudged or feathered, too.
Lipsticks that set on the back of my hand within a minute or two and didn't smudge, feather or flake ... [+] off passed my first round of tests.
Next, I tested the remaining contenders by wearing them on my lips through the course of a normal day. I noted how long it took each to set and what it felt and looked like when it did. Then I went about my business, drinking coffee, eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, etc., monitoring for fading the whole time. I noted how evenly the color faded and whether its texture deteriorated.
Finally, I documented any little details that made the experience of putting on and wearing the lipstick convenient and pleasurable. A case that closes with a satisfying click prevents spills and makes me want to pick up a product again. A thoughtfully designed brush or doe foot makes application easy and—for me, at least—a joy. I noted a light, beautiful fragrance, too.
Type: Liquid | Finish: Matte | Shades: 15 | Steps: 1
Pat McGrath Labs’ long-lasting liquid-lipstick formula strikes the ideal balance between endurance and comfort. It dries to a no-smudge matte finish in minutes. I touched my hands to my lips to see if the lipstick had set at the 2-minute mark, and nothing came off on my fingers. Hours later, the pigment was still evenly in place. For me, it lasted (meaning the color was noticeable and consistent across both entire lips) for 6 to 8 hours. That’s shorter than some of its competitors, but the even fade-out is worth the trade-off. I never looked as if I were wearing a bright lip liner only. The pigment recedes subtly without flaking or leaving an awkward outline.
Then there’s the way it feels: This Pat McGrath Labs tube delivers the most comfortable texture I tried. Dougherty says, “The rule is, the creamier and more moisturizing the lipstick, the less long-wearing it will be.” This one finds a middle ground. It goes on creamy and dries quickly to a matte, almost powdery finish. It feels like coloring your lips in with a creamy pencil, but it looks much more even—and it’s much easier to do.
With 15 shades, this Pat McGrath Labs lipstick has a smaller color range than some other brands, but you might say it’s just tightly curated. As Dougherty says, part of what you’re paying for is McGrath’s eye for color. These shades are designed to be chic and modern, and flattering across a wide range of skin tones. For many people, myself included, this simplifies the color-selection process and is a pro rather than a con. The one true red in the collection is also an instant classic: the blue-leaning Elson 4 spotted on the likes of Taylor Swift.
My pick for best long-lasting lipstick overall, the Pat McGrath LiquiLust Legendary Wear Matte ... [+] Lipstick feels lightweight, powdery and flexible—not dry.
Although it’s a professional-quality product, the flat, teardrop-shaped doe-foot wand makes putting it on simple for anyone to do. It’s pointy and not too fluffy, so you can get a crisp, tight edge. I also appreciated that it didn’t leave any residue behind that required an oil-based makeup remover to tackle; it faded effortlessly.
Overall, this is the lipstick I wish I had had for my wedding. I had been hesitant to choose a long-lasting formula because I didn’t want to risk my lips looking flaky and dry; I would rather grab the tube from my purse and reapply. This formula would have given me exactly what I wanted. Pink Desire is the vivid warm pink I didn’t know I needed.
Type: Liquid | Finish: Matte | Shades: 20 | Steps: 1
Don’t let the word “stain” in the name fool you: This L’Oréal lip color has more heft and plenty of staying power—roughly 6 hours in my tests. Like my best overall pick, it also faded evenly over time, which differentiated it from other drugstore contenders.
The pointy, diamond-shaped doe foot is great for getting a very precise application. It’s thoughtfully designed, more like what you’d expect to see on lipsticks from L’Oréal sister brands Lancôme or Armani Beauty, but not necessarily on a drugstore tube.
A hybrid formula, the affordable L'Oreal Matte Lip Stain is one of the most comfortable and durable ... [+] lipsticks I tested.
Color-wise, you have a range of about 20 options to choose from. Finding them in stock at your drugstore or online is a bit of a crapshoot, but it’s worth the hunt to find your forever shade.
Where it doesn’t perform as well as my best overall pick is in the texture category. I like how lightweight it feels, but it isn’t as creamy as the Pat McGrath Labs lipstick. Still, it doesn’t feel as dry or sticky as many of the other contenders that cost quite a bit more, and it doesn’t flake, peel or crumble.
Type: Liquid | Finish: Matte | Shades: 18 | Steps: 1
This pricey tube is a bit more of an investment than my best overall and value picks, but it sets within minutes to a transfer-proof matte finish that really lasts—in my testing, all day and well into the night. I tested Dior’s iconic 999 Forever Dior red and 100 Forever Nude, and they held on longer and felt more sophisticated than most competitors. Inexpensive long-lasting lipsticks can look a bit theatrical; this one makes a matte finish look polished, not painted on.
Where the Pat McGrath Labs lipstick has a unique powdery texture, this one feels more like a traditional lipstick—velvety with a slight sheen when you apply it and hours later. I didn’t feel a desire to apply balm the way I did with some of the other contenders. The film it forms on the lips is light, flexible and imperceptible. You forget you’re wearing lipstick until you see yourself in the mirror.
It also offers a rich range of shades—18, more than the Pat McGrath Labs LiquiLust Legendary Wear, including plenty of strong reds. If you prefer variations of a classic statement color like a tomato or brick red, you’ll find plenty of options here.
As with my other picks, this lipstick has a user-friendly diamond-shaped doe foot that makes it easy to avoid staining your skin. You simply fill in your lips and let them dry for 5 minutes before rubbing them together.
Type: Liquid | Finish: Matte or glossy | Shades: 26 | Steps: 1 or 2
Long-lasting lipsticks rarely feel—or look—as juicy as one you apply straight from the bullet. However, this two-step formula delivers the megawatt shine of a gloss that lasts a very long time—in my experience, all afternoon, through a multicourse dinner and even overnight.
The texture of the matte lipstick, the first step, alone feels quite drying, but it’s slick and comfortable after you brush on the included gloss. The gloss feels satisfyingly thick—you can tell it’s there—yet not tacky or heavy.
Both applicators make it possible to get very crisp lines and an even color distribution. The end of the doe foot on the color side is rounded and tapered. I’d prefer a triangular one, but the brush for the gloss on the other end makes up for that because it’s so satisfying to use. It has soft bristles and a fine tip that feels luxurious.
The Chanel lineup is especially strong in its bold pinks and reds. With 26 shades to choose from, you’ll find great options for all skin tones and undertones.
I tested 16 products, and 12 didn’t make the cut. Here’s why.
NYX Professional Makeup Soft Matte Lip Cream: Reviewers rave about this $7 liquid lipstick’s creamy texture, sweet scent and durability, but it didn’t last as long as its competition. It faded for me in the center after about 90 minutes, leaving a lip-liner-only look behind.
Sephora Collection Cream Lip Stain Liquid Lipstick: This lipstick was promising because of its soft, moisturizing texture. It also comes in a whopping 74 shades, including really forward colors like teals, violets and dark browns. It didn’t last as long as others I tested, but it’s a great value choice, especially if you like to experiment with your look.
Haus Labs Atomic Shake Lip Lacquer: Lady Gaga’s brand offers a unique formula that dries to a lacquer-like finish. But it felt sticky, and the color looked uneven. It’s important to shake it for the full 5 seconds per the instructions, or the consistency will be very weird on your lips.
Urban Decay Vice Lip Bond Glossy Liquid Lipstick: This one fell in the middle of the pack. I had the common experience with this one of winding up looking like I’d run out of the house with only lip liner on by lunchtime. And I didn’t notice anything unusual—good or bad—about its texture. It was medium drying, like most of its competition.
Maybelline Super Stay 24 Two-Step Liquid Lipstick Makeup: This OG long-lasting lipstick lasts too long—you have to intentionally take it off. The bigger issue is that it doesn’t stay fully intact and starts to look patchy, though it is easy to touch up. If you want a wild color, I would recommend reaching for this lipstick.
Kjaer Weis Matte, Naturally Liquid Lipstick: Fans of this brand like that it uses certified organic ingredients and refillable packaging, but “natural” and “long-lasting” don’t seem to be compatible. This one smudged all over the place, although it had a beautiful texture and rich pigment.
Out of the 16 options I tested, 12 didn't make the cut because they felt too dry, faded unevenly, or ... [+] smudged and transferred easily onto my face or clothing.
Violette FR Petal Bouche Matte: This French company makes your life easy: It offers only two shades, and both promise to give you that Parisian je ne sais quoi. It smudged, felt drying and faded fast, but I loved how soft and blotted it looked. I found myself reaching for it just to go out, even though it didn’t last.
Armani Beauty Lip Maestro Velvet Liquid Lipstick: If you want beautiful, rich, bold color in a single swipe, this tube delivers. Unfortunately it didn’t set and got all over a cashmere sweater, plus it didn’t last as long as some others. But the textures and colors are worth it if you’re willing to reapply.
Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint Longwear Fluid Lip Color: This one was the only formula that had a feathering issue for me. The applicator is a unique shape, with a rounded area at the end. That caused more color to be deposited right when you touch it to your lips instead of when you glide it over them. At that spot where the color was more saturated, it bled and ran. I was impressed by the curated range of interesting nude shades, though.
Hermès Rouge Hermès Matte Lipstick: Two words: like butter. This über-chic lipstick feels so nice on my lips, and the colorblocked tube with its magnetic closure is so satisfying. It also has a heavenly floral scent. If you’re looking to treat yourself or give an incredible gift, it’s perfect. But it does budge, and it does fade. If you want something that truly stays put, it’s not the best choice.
Smashbox Always On Liquid Lipstick: This one was the stickiest formula I tested, and it still transferred after 6 hours of wear. It wasn’t even by that point, either.
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick: This one dried quickly to a smudge-proof finish, but it felt a bit drier than its competitors after that. I did really like that it comes in matte, sheer and shimmer variations, as well as in a travel-size mini tube.
Finding any lipstick you love can become a yearslong quest, since it’s such a personal choice. And formulas that are made to last present an unusual challenge because the texture can be so problematic and the color choices tend to be more limited. The best long-lasting lipsticks are ones you’d be happy to reach for daily, even if you don’t. To find the right one for you, consider the longevity, texture, ease of application and shade range.
Long-lasting lipsticks are made of synthetic ingredients that “form a thin film of color that doesn’t move despite the lips moving,” says Alvarez. That’s why most of them have a matte finish—these formulas create that film best. “Matte lipsticks contain high percentages of powders,” she says. “Powder provides a solid structure where the film can be perfectly formed. It also helps the colors stick to the skin of the lips, because powders absorb large amounts of oil and water, which weaken the film.” Being free of those oils is what allows these formulas to last 8 to 10 hours or more.
However, cosmetics brands often tout how many hours these lipsticks last with a prominent asterisk. That’s because what you do while you’re wearing them affects their longevity in the real world. Remember: Water and oils weaken the color film. If you apply gloss or balm on top, eat oily foods or have a sip of water, the color will likely fade faster.
Many of the formulas I disqualified disappeared from the center of my lips within a few hours or less. Others smudged or bled into the surrounding skin—not the place where you want long-lasting color. Some versions can hang on for days on end, albeit only on some parts of your lips; you also might not like how they feel.
Most long-lasting lipsticks are liquids that feel heavier than a stain, with some of the creaminess of a traditional lipstick or gloss. Compared with a stain, “A typical cream or liquid lipstick formula will look more pigmented and intense and have more texture and color feedback,” says Bychkova. “I’ve never been a fan of stains—too thin,” says Lovello. “They don’t give the same full-coverage effect as lipsticks. A satin lipstick wears nice on the lips but isn’t quite as long-wearing as a matte liquid lipstick.”
The texture also changes over time. It’ll feel one way for the first minute or two, then can transform as it sets. The latter is where many contenders fall short: They feel moisturizing at first but then crack and flake off lips and look crusty and dehydrated, or they become sticky or gummy; others feel weirdly filmy and flexible, like a coat of oil paint.
That’s to be expected, to a point. Alvarez says, “A long-wearing lipstick might be a little uncomfortable. You can feel it on your lips as soon as you apply it, and you continue to feel it throughout the day, especially when you press your lips together.”
When they become really uncomfortable or sticky, it’s usually because of an effort to counteract the dryness that preserves the color film. “The sensation of more or less dry or sticky depends on the chemical union of the film that gives you the color with the rest of the ingredients,” says Alvarez. “Some brands add other ingredients to reduce dryness and only get stickiness. Sometimes not only does part of the ingredient evaporate, but it also absorbs the natural moisture of the skin of the lips and feels much drier and tighter.” The best long-lasting lipsticks go on creamy and hydrating, then set within a minute or two to a finish that feels soft and even plush or powdery in spite of being dry.
To get a sense of a lipstick’s texture when shopping, Dougherty recommends looking closely at the applicator tip. You can even do this when online shopping. “I still buy a lot of my makeup online, so I look to see how the product sits on top of the applicator tip,” she says. “I don’t want to see clumpiness. I want to see a uniform slip. If somebody is swatching it on their inner arm, I want to see that it’s completely uniform as it’s laying down.”
Our favorite long-lasting lipsticks have a triangular or teardrop-shaped doe foot applicator that ... [+] gives you the precision and control you need to create a sharp, bold outline.
When your lipstick is the last step of your makeup routine and it’s designed to last for 10 hours, you don’t want to color outside the lines. The applicator might sound like a small detail, but it’s “important that the applicator delivers the correct amount of product in each application,” says Alvarez. Look for a triangle shape that’s not too wide or fluffy, advises Dougherty. “It helps you lay down product almost as if you were using a lip brush. A doe foot that has a tailored shape is a joy because you can get that nice flat edge,” she says.
Shade selection is a matter of personal taste. You might prefer a brand that gives you dozens to choose from and experiment with, or you might want to go with one of a few colors carefully curated by a makeup artist who has spent decades honing their eye and who also knows what’s popular and fresh now. Either way, you want to choose a shade that enhances your skin tone and makes you feel your best because they’re not necessarily going to be easy to remove. You also can’t tone them like you might with other lipsticks, explains Dougherty. “Some of these formulas have very complex polymers,” she says. “If you add a lip gloss on top, you’re going to compromise that special polymer that made the long-wearing lipstick special to begin with.”
As for the finish, long-lasting lipsticks can be matte, satin or glossy; most are matte. However, two-step formulas like Chanel’s and Maybelline’s include a top coat that gives you shine without smudging or fading.
I am a staff writer at Forbes covering retail. I have been at Forbes since 2013, first on the markets and investing team and then on the billionaires team. In the course of my reporting, I have interviewed the father of Indian gambling, the first female billionaire to enter the space race and the immigrant founder of one of the nation’s most secretive financial upstarts. My work has also appeared in Money Magazine and CNNMoney.com. Tips or story ideas? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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