The Best Budget Lip Stains


In the cost-per-wear economy, nothing fares better than a drugstore lip stain. Think of the cold, hard math: one $8 product that yields 100 uses (a conservative estimate, because when was the last time you finished a lip stain?), and each use lasts all day. Cut that in half because most lip stains are actually covert blushes—two for the price of one—and that nets out to... 4 cents a wear. Hm. That actually sounds kind of dystopian, doesn't it? Nevermind, scratch that, back to facts—drugstore lip stain is cheap and it works. Any cosmetic product that sounds like you'll need white wine vinegar to take it off is bound to give you your money's worth—and then some. Low cost plus high efficiency equals yes nice great. See? Math.

Nyx Whipped Lip and Cheek Souffle in Dark Cloud

Once, at an editor's preview catered by clean food goddess Lily Kunin, Bobbi Brown smudged a little beet dip on her cheeks and blended it in in lieu of blush. It was a shade that could hardly be described as anything other than "beet dip," and yet it was the most perfect shade of pink-purple blush. The beet- and dip-adverse hoping to recreate need look no further than NYX's Lip and Cheek in Dark Cloud, a deep red-violet that toes the line between stain and liquid lip. It sheers out to the perfect shade of trending taproot, but builds up to a vibrant purple, too.

The Balm Stainiac

A classic, buildable pink stain, and Benetint's much less expensive and more compulsive sister. Fine, it's a little more expensive than most other drugstore products, but it's a lot more economic from forking over three Hamiltons, or one Jackson and one Hamilton, or six Lincolns, for essentially the same product.

Pixi Beach Geltint

Ignore the orangey glossy side of this lip duo and pay attention to the tawny beach tint. See how seamlessly it applies? See how the brown is balanced out with a slight orange tone to make it pop? This is what a perfect lip stain looks like: natural, but enhanced.

Kiko Lip Marker in Beige

By contrast, Kiko's Lip Marker is as true a brown as there is—think of Naomi Campbell's natural shade, and then up the intensity a little bit. The calligraphic applicator also lends itself to precision lip-lining, for fullness. Then you just color in the rest like a good little 1st grader who also looks like Naomi Campbell.

L'Oréal Infallible Paints in Navy

If Instagram has had any influence on the beauty market, it's with the proliferation of the liquid matte lip, which is why you can thank Kylie Jenner and Huda Beauty more or less for L'Oréal's Infallible Paints. Sure, a liquid lip is not a stain in the traditional sense, but try dabbing a microdollop on the back of your hand and pressing it into your lips. Woah—is that Rihanna? Oh, no, it's just you. You look good, though. Nice lip stain.

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Next up: the best drugstore matte lips, eyeliners, concealers, and more.