Lip Lacquer vs. Lip Gloss: What's the Difference?

Makeup artists explain how and when to use each lip product.

Getty Images
Getty Images

For those who want minimal effort in their makeup application, the easiest way to change up your look is to use a lip product. In one swipe, you can instantly elevate any outfit. But when it comes to choosing the right formula, two lip products, in particular, are very similar. We're talking, of course, about lip lacquer vs. lip gloss.

Both give a shiny finish. Both are applied similarly. So what gives? What's the difference between the two? Are they both used differently? How do you choose between the two? To get a better idea of the lip lacquer vs. lip gloss debate, we turned to the experts. See what they had to say below.

What Is Lip Lacquer?

According to celebrity makeup artist Sarah Tanno, each product has its own benefits. Lip lacquer delivers the shine of a gloss but with the long wear of a liquid lipstick. It's transfer-proof and lasts all day or night. Celebrity makeup artist Carolina Dali agrees and adds that lip lacquer is more pigmented to give you a true color payoff.

What Is Lip Gloss?

Dali says that lip gloss is all about the shine. With a lip gloss, she says you get that glossy finish and added dimension so that lips look fuller and juicier. Plus, it provides a subtle hint of color.

Tanno adds that in recent years, lip glosses have shifted into lip oil territory. Gloss products today have more conditioning properties and less tackiness in their formulations.

Pros and Cons of Lip Lacquer

The biggest benefit to lip lacquer, says Tanno, is its long-lasting power. "A lip lacquer is specifically for those longer days or nights when you don't want to worry about the transfer but want to keep the aesthetic of high shine with an opaque color," she says. Her personal pick is the Haus Labs Atomic Shape Lip Lacquer, which has flexible film-forming polymers that are lightweight while providing color. It also contains marine algae extract to smooth and nourish lips.

Tanno notes that because lip lacquers are usually oil-based, they are easily removed by any oils — including oil from foods. "If you put oils around it while wearing it, like eating French fries or a salad, it will break down and not last," she says. "Stay away from oil while you're wearing it, and use an oil-based remover when taking it off."

Related:6 Fool-Proof Ways to Get Smooth Lipstick Every Time

Pros and Cons of Lip Gloss

Dali says that lip gloss adds a lot of shine to get you that glossy finish. She also says that the shine attracts light, making your lips look fuller. Her current pick is Trinny London’s Lip Glow Lip Gloss, which is super hydrating, buildable, not sticky, and long-lasting.

If you really want gloss to last, you'll need smooth lips. Dali recommends exfoliating your lips if they are dry or flaking and moisturizing with a good lip balm.

How to Use Lip Lacquer

Tanno suggests shaking the product for 10 to 15 seconds, so the color mixes well. Then, she says to blot your lips to ensure they are completely dry before applying one coat to the entire lip area in one direction. Let it dry without pressing your lips for 30 seconds, so it sets.

Dali adds that every lip product works best when your lips are hydrated. So be sure to exfoliate lips and use a good lip balm. We like something like Biossance's Squalane+ Rose Vegan Lip Balm or the Laneige Lip Glowy Balm to keep lips smooth and moisturized.

How to Use Lip Gloss?

Tanno says to prep lips for gloss by moisturizing and conditioning them first. Dali adds that using lip gloss will be similar to lip lacquer in that you'll want to make sure lips are smooth and free of dry flakes. She also adds that she likes to use her ring finger to tap in the product and blend. Add more to the center of the lips for fuller-looking lips.

How to Choose the Right Formula

It all comes down to personal preference. "Each product gives you two very different aesthetics: one is hydrating, and the other is strictly for its color performance," says Tanno. "Lip Lacquer is for performance when you want a high shine, long wear color. With lip oil, you'll get mega hydration and smooth lips with a glossy shine. It’s a high shine without tackiness and provides moisture, [which] is more of a skincare benefit that looks beautiful versus a high-performance high shine high color."

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