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How to Apply Lipstick Like a Pro

Updated on July 29, 2016
Jayne Lancer profile image

A beauty consultant by profession, Jayne has been advising on correct skin and hair care, makeup, and other cosmetics for almost 20 years.

How to apply lipstick like a professional makeup artist in five easy steps, plus all the tips and tricks you'd expect a pro to know: how to make lips look fuller—how to turn a wrong color into a right color, how to make lipstick stay on longer and more!

Apply Lipstick Like a Pro

A pro applies lipstick in five basic steps, but putting on lipstick is the very least of it.

Step 1: Prepare Your Lips

Gently go over your lips with a soft toothbrush to remove any rough or loose skin.

When you apply moisturizer to your face, massage a little into your lips as well. Don't, however, use lip balm, since this would impair the indelibility of your lip makeup.

Step 2: Lip Primer

The best base for lipstick is foundation. It's full of moisturizing agents, it evens out lip color, helps lipstick stay on longer, and prevents color changes during hot weather—when lipstick gets warm, its base substances separate from its pigment, causing its color to change while you're wearing it.

Products sold specifically as "lip primer" are only useful if you're not wearing foundation.

Step 3: Lip Liner

Apart from defining the shape of your lips, lip liner also keeps your lipstick from feathering or "bleeding".

If you look closely, you'll see that your lips have a natural white contour. Use this as a guide when you apply lip liner. It doesn’t matter how you apply—whether from left to right, right to left or corner to center—as long as you apply accurately.

Your lip liner should be the exact same color as your lipstick. You may find it difficult to find one that matches peach, apricot or coral toned lipsticks, but an eyebrow pencil in a light, warm brown also does the job.

For sanitary reasons, and to ensure that it draws a defined, long lasting outline, make sure your lip liner pencil is always sharpened.

Step 4: Powder Your Lip Liner

A light dusting of powder gives lip liner extra staying power.

Pick up a tiny amount of loose translucent powder with a cotton pad, curl it around your middle finger and press it against the back of your hand to remove excess, then carefully roll it over your lip liner. It's important that you don’t apply too much powder, or your lip liner will appear blurred.

You may find it difficult to find a lip liner that matches peach, apricot or coral toned lipsticks, but an eyebrow pencil in a light, warm brown also does the job.
You may find it difficult to find a lip liner that matches peach, apricot or coral toned lipsticks, but an eyebrow pencil in a light, warm brown also does the job.

Step 5: Apply Lipstick

Your lipstick should cover your lip liner exactly. For accuracy, apply with a lip brush. This gives a more even and precise application than directly from the tube, and helps your lipstick stay on longer.

Once you've applied a first coat, blot with a cosmetic tissue, then add a second coat and blot again. Layering lipstick in this way makes it last longer.

Always be sure to blot your lips before adding lip gloss, too.

Tips and Tricks Only a Pro Knows

Make Your Lips Look Fuller

  • Dark lipstick makes lips look thinner.
  • Light lipstick makes lips look fuller.
  • If your lips are thinner than you'd like, apply lip liner in the usual way, then use the same lip liner to fill out your lips to a quarter of the way to the center from each corner. Fill in the remaining area with a satin or gloss lipstick one nuance lighter than your lip liner. This will make your lips look fuller. You may use a matte lipstick in place of lip liner.

It Doesn't Have to Be Lip Liner

  • Because matte lipsticks are more densely pigmented than regular lipsticks, you can use them as lip liner. Apply using a pointed rather than rounded lip brush.
  • If you don’t want to wear lipstick, but would like more definition, line your lips with a blonde eyebrow pencil.
  • Although the effect is dramatic, lip liner darker than lipstick makes lips look thinner. To get around this, use an auburn eyebrow pencil instead.

What Else Can You Do with Lip Liner

  • If you need a matte lipstick but haven’t got one, use lip liner instead. An added bonus is that it holds its color longer than lipstick.
  • You can change the shape of your lips with lip liner—i.e. for symmetry—but cover your natural lip contour with concealer first.
  • If your top lip is thinner, don't apply lip liner to your lower lip. This balances size.

Not Quite the Color and Texture You're Looking For?

  • If you want a shimmery lipstick but don’t like the usual classic mother of pearl effect, try one with a golden sheen.
  • If a lip color seems too bright for the occasion, just press a cosmetic tissue over your lips and leave for 30 seconds. When you remove it, the color will have lost its intensity.
  • If you want your lipstick to look less obvious, blot it ten minutes after applying, then add a little translucent powder with a cotton pad.
  • To give regular lipstick a matte effect, place a cosmetic tissue over your lips and dab with translucent powder using a blunt brush—the tissue acts as a sieve, allowing only the finest powder particles through to make your lips look matte rather than powdery.

Lipstick and your teeth.
Lipstick and your teeth.

Be Careful with Lip Gloss

  • Use lip gloss only if your lips are in perfect condition—it highlights every flaw and wrinkle.

Lipstick and Your Teeth

  • Blot the inside of your lips to prevent lipstick catching on your teeth.
  • Make white teeth seem whiter with a blue based lip color.
  • If your teeth have a gray or yellow cast, make them seem whiter with a yellow based lip color.

Photo Credits

Title image by Stux found on pixabay.com (CC0 Public Domain) http://pixabay.com/en/lips-mouth-kiss-lipstick-face-327493/

Second image by Aleksandra85foto found on pixabay.com (https://pixabay.com/de/lippenstift-kosmetik-gesicht-1137535/)

Third image by Weglet (originally posted to Flickr as t a l k) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

© 2014 Jayne Lancer

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    • Jayne Lancer profile image
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      Jayne Lancer 3 years ago from West London, UK

      She's probably also taking the stage lighting into account.

      She's absolutely right when she says lips get thinner as we age. There are various ways of making them look plumper, but most are not suitable when we get older. I explain more about that here: https://bellatory.com/makeup/Makeup-for-Mature-Ski...

      Of course, you need more definition on stage, so lip liner is a good idea. If you line your lips beyond your natural lip line, however, don't over-do it, and cover your natural lip contour with concealer before you begin.

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 3 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      The woman in charge of makeup for the chorus always wants us to make our lips look fuller because she says "Our lips get thinner as we get older." That's why she wants the liner.

      She also has us put on a march darker foundation and blush because of being on the stage and so far from the audience.

    • Jayne Lancer profile image
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      Jayne Lancer 3 years ago from West London, UK

      Thank you for coming by, Judy. Lip liner is actually very easy to apply, but it's one of those things many women are too lazy to do. Having said that, I think lipstick also looks good enough applied straight from the tube without liner for a more casual look. So glad I could be of help.

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 3 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Thanks for the great tips. I sing in a chorus and we always have to wear quite a bit of makeup. This year they are insisting on a lip liner, too. I've never been one to wear makeup on a regular basis so everything you said really helps.