We Asked a Pro How to Apply Lipstick Perfectly Every Time

Katie Berohn
·5 mins read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

Even if you've found the perfect longwear lipstick or liquid lipstick in the most gorgeous shade, applying lipstick perfectly can seem downright impossible (particularly if you're attempting a bold shade like red or trying a new lip color for fall). One side might go on thicker than the other, making lips appear lopsided, or you could over-line your lips too much, making them appear unnatural.

But it is possible to always apply lipstick like a pro. We reached out to Joy Fennell, makeup artist and founder of the Joy in Beauty and the All Black Everything Summit, for her best tips and tricks for applying lipstick. These insider secrets will leave you with a perfect pout, every single time:

1. Exfoliate and hydrate lips

Never put lipstick on without properly prepping beforehand, or your lips may end up looking uneven, flakey, or patchy. "Exfoliate your lips first and then moisturize them" with lip balm or lip primer, says Fennell, who suggests letting the balm sit for a few minutes to soak in. These steps ensure that your lips don't have any dry spots that may flake off, and create the perfect canvas for lipstick with all-day staying power.

2. Color correct as needed

It may seem impossible for colors to come through on dark lips, but Fennel has a simple solution. "For dark lips, start with adding a lighter foundation powder to mute out the color of your lips," she says. "Once the color is muted, you can then apply any lipstick shade" in a much more true-to-color way.

3. Trace and fill lips with liner

Fennell says you can apply lip liner around your lips before you apply lipstick, and if you put lip liner all over your lips before lipstick (not just around the edges!) you can turn virtually any lipstick into a "longwear" formula. You can also finish with lip liner after lipstick to clean up the edges at the end and make the finish even more precise.

If you want a more muted lip (or just don't have the time to draw precise lines), you can skip liner and "apply the color using your finger and then perfect it with concealer and a brush," says Fennel.

4. Work with your lip shape

  • If you have thin lips, "Overdraw your lips with a lip liner that comes close to matching your lip color," says Fennel. Instead of lining around your natural lip line, you'll go a bit higher. With this technique, you just want to overdraw on the cupid's bow and the fullest part of your bottom lips (but never overdraw the corners — you'll end up looking more clown-like than chic). Fennel says to finish with a lip color that's similar or a bit lighter than your natural lip.

  • If you have fuller lips, "use a medium to dark lip liner and a lipstick that is a tad deeper" than your natural color, says Fennel. You'll draw the liner to match your natural lip line, instead of overdrawing. Opt for a darker color, which can aid in making your lips appear smaller, while lighter colors can make them look larger.

5. Layer on lipstick from the center outward

When putting on lipstick, "place the lipstick in the middle of your lips and work outward," Fennell explains. By concentrating your lipstick to the fullest part of your lips, you'll be able to control your application better and mitigate any mess-ups. "Sometimes I give a small smile to make sure that I'm getting in there," she says.

If you have trouble making your lipstick look even, try drawing an "X" on the cupid's bow with your lip liner. This will help you get a well-defined cupid's bow, and also works as a guide to ensure that neither side ends up lopsided.

6. Use a lip brush for a precise line

All you really need for flawless application is a sharp lip pencil and pointed lipstick. Some people, however, may feel more comfortable applying lipstick with a lip brush, as it gives you a more precise and even application. "Also, you could have your concealer and a flat brush on hand to clean up the line if you make a small mistake," says Fennell.

7. Blot and set your color

Once your lips are perfectly coated and the formula is set, "blot your lips at the end," says Fennell. Do this by gently squeezing lips together over a tissue or napkin to remove excess product and prevent slippage. Don't forget the corners! Then,"use a translucent powder to set your lipstick," she says. "That prevents your lipstick from moving around all day."

What about liquid lipstick?

Liquid lipstick can be a bit tricker than regular lipstick since it takes a bit longer to set, but there's no need to be scared of it! "First, exfoliate and moisturize your lips but take off any excess moisture," says Fennel. Moisturizing is important as many liquid lipstick formulas can be drying, but leaving too much on can lead to your liquid lipstick running or not adhering fully to your pout.

For a crisp line, use the doe-foot applicator to map a guide around your lips, says Fennel, and then fill in the center. Be sure to apply liquid lipstick in a thin, even coat — and don't apply too many layers, since no one wants flaking.

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