How to apply lipstick (the right way) in 7 steps

The rule of thumb with lipstick: It’s all in the application. For guaranteed flawless lipstick no matter how much time you have on the clock or how bold the color, follow these basic steps. 

Step 1: Make your lips plush and smooth

Peeling, cracking, flaking, and scabbing: Nothing chips away at your lipstick faster than an irritated, imperfect base. 

Nail your lipstick look by creating a flawless canvas with a hydrating lip care routine. Think a twice-weekly lip scrub (go easy on the hot water!), an overnight lip mask, and lip balm underneath matte liquid lipstick and lip gloss.

(For a complete lip exfoliation routine, read our six-step lip care routine!) 

Step 2: Apply a conditioning lip primer 

The last thing you want is to constantly touch up your lipstick, especially if you’re spending a special night out with bae or wearing a mask. Dark, rich colors, highly creamy lipsticks, and reds are quick to wear away if you apply them in a hurry. 

The best solution? Start your makeup routine with a highly nourishing lip primer. Lip primer makes it simple to evenly apply your favorite lip liner and lip color duo, especially if you love matte products. Look for primers with moisturizing ingredients like jojoba oil and avocado oil (two of our faves!). 

Step 3: Dab on a drop of concealer or foundation 

The lighter and sheerer your lipstick, the tougher it may be to cover up the natural color of your lips. Disguise your natural lip shade with a drop of concealer. If you don’t have any lip primer on hand, a non-drying liquid foundation will work in a pinch! 

Step 4: Fill in your pout with lip liner 

Red lipsticks and red nail polishes have one thing in common: Both are messy AF if you make too many mistakes. It’s not easy to spot correct a red, coral, or orange shade of lipstick that bleeds outside the lines, which is why lip liner is so important for any of these must-try shades. 

Keep it simple and fill in your entire pout with a creamy Lip Definer. For the best results, wear a Lip Definer within the same shade range as your lipstick. 

Lip liner is also a must for accentuating your natural lip shape or creating the illusion of fuller lips. To give your upper lip a boost, overdraw your lip liner around your Cupid’s Bow. (A word of caution: This trick requires makeup setting spray or powder!) 

Step 5: Use a brush for precision application  

Not all lip color products are created equal. If you’re struggling with liquid lipstick or a special lipstick look, like the ombre lip, try a lipstick brush. 

For liquid lipstick, dab a few drops of product on the end of your lipstick brush. Paint your lips from the center towards the outer corners. This prevents the product from building up and bleeding onto your skin (not cute). 

For creamy and traditional lipsticks, gently paint the end of your lipstick brush with the product and paint from the center of your lips to the outer corners.  Unlike liquid lipstick, you may need to repeat this process several times to build an even layer of product. To achieve a long-wear effect, apply a thin layer of makeup setting powder between each layer of color. 

Step 6: Blot away excess lip color 

Most of us have gotten lipstick on our teeth at least once. Using too much product is almost always to blame. 

Don’t forget to lightly blot your lips with a tissue (not toilet paper!) immediately after applying your final layer of product. Place a thin layer of tissue in between your lips and press your lips together. 

Step 7: Spritz on a makeup setting spray

A good makeup setting spray is a makeup bag must-have. Not only will your foundation or BB cream look flawless no matter how high temps rise, but your lipstick won’t smudge or fade as fast. 

Hold your makeup setting spray at arm’s length. Use a total of 2-3 spritzes, letting each layer of setting spray dry to the touch.