Product Smackdown: Lip Stains

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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‘Tis the season for bright, bold lips. That means that many of us are reaching for festive lip shades on the regular, whether it’s for a holiday party, hot date, or just to spice up our regular office look. The only bummer about many of our go-to lippies: they can be more high-maintenance than a Real Housewife, and we find ourselves reapplying to keep the color going for hours. 

Enter: lip stains! Thinner than a traditional lipstick and longer-lasting than tinted balms, they promise to eliminate our pout problems with bright pigments that — supposedly — last all day. To see if they measured up, we selected three of our staffers (yes, our coworkers really are this gorgeous!) to test three very different stain formulas over a six-hour period and report back on their experiences. Read through to find out which stains made (and kept!) their mark and which, sadly, had kissed our testers goodbye by the afternoon.


Who: Alex McGinn, sales coordinator 
The Contender: Hourglass Aura Sheer Lip Stain in Flush 

“At first sight, I really loved the packaging of the Hourglass Aura stain, and I felt like I had a lot of control as I was applying. The applicator is long and the blotter is small, so it was easy to not get it everywhere. 

“Fridays at R29 mean one thing: bagels. Once the color was on, I decided it was time to chow down and grab my first cup of coffee — and ended up with lip stain in my cream cheese. Sad face. When I went to take a bathroom break, I took a peek in the mirror and noticed that a significant amount of the color had worn off. 

“Around noon, nearly all of the stain had worn off, and it was forming a ring around my mouth. By mid-afternoon, my lips were starting to feel really dry. I tend to have dry skin, but I was definitely sensing that my lips were even drier than usual. By the time we took the ‘after’ picture at 3 pm, the color was almost completely gone.” 

The Result: “After giving Hourglass Aura a test run, I think I’m still more of a lipstick than lip stain kind of gal. I love how the stain went on so smoothly and how, at first, it felt very moisturizing. I find that my lipstick can sometimes go rogue since the tip is on the wider side (and because I’m lazy and don’t use lipliner). However, this applicator was long and thin and made it easy to control exactly where the color went. Unfortunately, the sheerness of the product required a few coats before I felt satisfied with the evenness and concentration of the color. I also didn’t like that the product faded unevenly throughout the day, and how my lips felt drier than usual. 

“It’s funny, because I was never conscious of this habit before, but I lick my lips a lot! I’m sure this didn’t help with how long the stain stayed (or rather didn’t stay) put. By 1:30 pm, the majority of the color had worn off, and in such a way that it appeared as though I was wearing only lipliner — not ideal. 

“Despite the negatives, I will say that the color was perfectly subtle in that I’m trying, but not really trying sort of way. As someone who’s recently re-entered the dating scene, I’ve noticed that boys tend to have an aversion to really done-up-looking lips. Maybe this stain’s the answer to rocking a pinker pout and securing a goodnight kiss!”


Hourglass Aura Sheer Lip Stain in Flush, $26, available at Sephora.


Who: Lauren Blake, sales manager 
The Contender: Giorgio Armani Lip Maestro in Code 

“Since I never wear bright lipstick or lip stains, I made sure to apply some lip balm before I left home and headed to the office. Upon arriving at work, I chose a bright, rich lip stain, and since this was my first experience with a product like this, I was very hesitant and careful while applying. I was pretty shocked, as it was fairly easy to apply and quite smooth (although I needed some guidance from a friend). Overall, I would recommend a lipliner as I felt like it was running off my lips a bit at first. 

“I was prepared for the comments from my coworkers that inevitably followed, since my lips were a bright, bold, shiny pink hue. I only needed about one coat of the product, and could not believe how rich the color the was! It felt very moisturizing, which pleased me. 

“At about 10:45 a.m., I had my first coffee and half of a bagel. I could see the color on my coffee and thought the stain would be gone, but to my surprise, it looked exactly the same. Same thing on my water bottle all day: color was definitely coming off of my lips, but not showing signs of actually fading. After a sushi-and-soup lunch, the color was still looking better than ever. (I even dabbed my lips with a napkin a few times, forgetting I had the lip stain on.) Around 2 p.m., my lips felt a bit dry, and the color turned to more of a matte pink rather than the original shiny color, but it was still strong and showed no signs of fading.” 

The Result: “Throughout the day, the product shifted from a shiny lacquer to a rich matte, but I was still super-impressed. I would definitely buy this product; I even had a faint tint until about midnight!”


Giorgio Armani Lip Maestro in Code, $32, available at Nordstrom.


Who: Ida Hariri, assistant photo editor 
The Contender: Laura Mercier Lip Stain in Scarlet 

“I was pleasantly surprised when this bright stain went on relatively smooth; the only tricky area was the inside of my lower lip. It was actually a bit difficult to apply around the lip line evenly (I ended up needing to snag some makeup-removing wipes from the beauty closet to keep things neat), so I think it’s best to use a Q-tip or brush next time. Thankfully, one coat of the product was sufficient, and I was left with a nice color payoff.” 

“I usually only wear matte lipsticks, so comparatively, this product felt very moisturizing. Shortly after applying the product, I drank a can of soda water with a straw and saw that a lot of the color came off — more so than lipsticks I have worn in the past. Since I was (unfortunately) too busy to eat lunch until after the ‘after’ picture was taken at 3 p.m., I can’t vouch for how the color wears through a meal, but there was no issue with color on my fork while I was eating the fruit salad that I had for breakfast. 

“As the day went on, the stain got a bit dry, and it started to wear off on the inside of my lower lip. For the most part, though, the color stayed on.” 

The Result: “I liked the shade of red, but it rubbed off much too easily, especially on my teeth — just by talking! I also prefer matte lip colors, so I won’t be purchasing this particular product.”


Laura Mercier Lip Stain in Scarlet, $20, available at Laura Mercier.

By Us,

Photographed by Jacqueline Harriet

Click HERE to read more from Refinery29.

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