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How to Apply Lipstick: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques to Try

Nail your statement lip every time.
  • Clare Holden
March 22, 2024

On the surface, lipstick application seems like one of the easier steps in your makeup routine—just swipe it on, maybe blot your lips a little, and go. While you can do it that way, it’s not necessarily going to yield the best results. Like anything else with makeup, knowing how to apply lipstick the right way is key to nailing a lip look that lasts. (And, yes—there is a right way to apply lipstick).

Here, we’ll teach you how to put on lipstick and clue you in on some of the biggest lip makeup mistakes that can mess with your look. Whether you’re a makeup newbie or a diehard fan looking to level up your current technique, our lipstick tutorial will teach you what you need to know about lipstick application. Plus, we’ll share a few lipsticks worth adding to your makeup bag—because as far as we’re concerned, one can never have too much lip makeup.

How To Prep Your Lips for Lipstick

You’re likely aware of the importance of skin prep for makeup, but may not know that “prep” should extend to your pout, too. Typically, lip prep entails two steps: exfoliating and moisturizing.

A few times a week, exfoliate your lips to help remove dead skin and create a smooth, soft canvas for your makeup application. We recommend using a lip scrub for this, but if you don’t have one on hand, simply use a damp washcloth to scrub your lips. Remember to be gentle—the skin on your lips is pretty delicate.

As for moisturizing, that’s something you should aim to do every day (and night). We suggest keeping a rich lip balm or oil on your nightstand so you remember to slather it on before hitting the sheets. During the day, you can use the same lip balm or oil, but if you want a more colorful finish, reach for the L’Oréal Paris Glow Paradise Balm-in-Lipstick with Pomegranate Extract. The lightweight formula instantly hydrates and nurtures lips, leaving them feeling soft with a luminous wash of color.

How To Put On Lipstick

When it’s time to put on your lipstick, there are a few things you’ll want to have on hand. Your lipstick of choice, of course, is a must—but we also recommend grabbing a lip liner in a shade similar to your lipstick as well as a cotton swab (which you can use to clean up any mistakes if needed). Once you’re ready, follow these steps for a perfect lipstick application:

Define your cupid’s bow

Start by identifying the highest point of your upper lip. Put the point of your lip liner at this peak and draw a short line down toward the center of your top lip. Repeat the same process on the other side. Once done, there should be a small “X” shape defining your cupid’s bow.

Trace your upper lip

Next, trace the remainder of your upper lip, starting at the peak of the “X” and extending it toward your outer corner on both sides. If you’d like to make your lips appear bigger, you can overline slightly—just be careful not to overdo it, as doing so can look unnatural.

Define your bottom lip

Lining your bottom lip is pretty straightforward—just use the tip of your lip liner pencil to trace along the natural border of your lip. Again, feel free to overline just a touch if you’d like a plumper lip look.

Blur your liner

This is a step that a lot of people skip, but one that we think is important to a natural-looking lipstick application. Use a clean fingertip to smudge your lip liner ever so slightly to soften the harshness of the line. If you’d rather not use your fingers, a clean makeup brush will also do the trick—just be sure to blend inward (toward the center of your mouth) rather than outward.

Fill in your lips

Uncap your lipstick of choice and lightly swipe the color onto your lips. We recommend starting at the center of your lips and working your way out—this helps avoid the clownish effect that can occur when too much lipstick accumulates at the corners of your mouth. As for which lipstick to use, that’s completely up to you. However, we love L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Intense Volume Matte Lipstick for bold matte lip looks, while the classic L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick is ideal for a more natural finish.

Clean up

If needed, use a clean cotton swab to clean up any errant smudges or smears before they have a chance to set.

5 Lipstick Application Tips and Tricks

While the above tutorial is a great guide on how to properly apply lipstick, there are a few other things worth keeping in mind. Keep reading to learn how to ensure your lipstick looks as great in real life as it does in your head.

Choose a complementary lip liner

Unless a ‘90s-inspired look is what you’re going for, you’ll typically want to choose a lip liner that closely matches your lipstick. Fortunately, many of our liners are made to pair with our lipsticks. If you’ve opted for the matte lipstick, pair it with the coordinating L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lip Liner; for the satin lipstick, use the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lip Liner. If your lipstick of choice doesn’t have a matching liner, that’s okay—just choose a shade and finish that closely matches your lipstick for a seamless, natural-looking finish.

Pick the right shade for your skin tone

Lipstick isn’t one-size-fits-all: some shades simply flatter certain skin tones better than others. When you’re deciding which shade to use, it’s important to keep your skin tone and undertone in mind. Those with warmer skin tend to look best in warmer-toned lipsticks, while cooler-toned lipsticks complement cool skin beautifully. If you have a neutral undertone, you’ll look great in both warm and cool shades—just make sure the lipstick isn’t too light or too dark for your complexion.

Editor tip: If you need more guidance on finding the perfect lipstick for you, check out our article The Ultimate L’Oréal Paris Lipstick Guide.

Take the rest of your look into account

Another thing to consider when choosing a lipstick shade is how you plan to wear the rest of your makeup. For example, if you’re going for a sultry smoky eye, you may want to keep the rest of your makeup—lipstick included—more understated. On the other hand, if you want your lips to be the center of attention, consider opting for a brighter, more vivid shade like crimson or electric pink.

Gently exfoliate before applying lipstick

As we mentioned earlier, regular exfoliation can help keep your lips soft and smooth—a must for a seamless-looking lipstick application. Incorporate exfoliation into your weekly routine, and consider giving your lips a light once-over before applying lipstick for an extra-smooth finish. Just be sure to allow plenty of time for any product to absorb before applying your lip liner and lipstick.

Don’t skip cleanup

Failing to clean up around the edge of your lips after applying your lip color can result in a final look that appears messy and unfinished. For a clean finish that really makes your lips pop, grab some concealer and outline your lips with a brush after applying your lipstick. Try the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer up to 24H Full Coverage, which provides full coverage with a transfer-proof matte finish.

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