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How To Get a '90s-Inspired Ombré Lip Look in 5 Steps

Embrace your nostalgic side with this throwback lip look.
  • Clare Holden
March 25, 2024

If you remember life in the ‘90s (or have an affinity for the decade), we’ll bet that you’re familiar with the ombré lip. Alongside skinny brows and grungy makeup, this beauty trend practically defined the decade. Today, thanks in large part to TikTok, the gradient lip look is back—but with a slight twist that gives it a fresher, more modern feel.

Whether you remember this trend from the first time around or are totally new to the look, keep reading. Here, we’re sharing a simple ombré lip tutorial anyone can follow, plus a look at our favorite products for nailing the nostalgic look.

What Are Ombré Lips?

The ombré lip look made popular in the ‘90s typically featured a matte nude lipstick paired with dark, visible lip liner. The lip liner was usually blended very softly to create a subtle ombré gradient effect. While this makeup technique can be done with any lipstick shades, brown, beige, and nudes shades were usually the go-to.

Today, with the influx of ‘90s and Y2K trends making a resurgence, brown lip liner is still just as popular. But you can also flaunt an ombré lip look with more vibrant shades like red or pink—the look isn’t defined by the colors used, but rather, the technique.

How To Do an Ombré Lip Look

You can create a nostalgic and eye-catching ombré lip look in just five simple steps using products you probably already have in your makeup bag. Here’s how:

1. Exfoliate your lips

Starting with smooth lips can help ensure your lip products apply evenly一which is especially important when you’re creating a lip-focused makeup look. With a lip scrub or a damp washcloth, gently exfoliate your lips to buff away any dead skin or dry flakes.

If your lips feel dry after, tap on some lip balm. Just make sure to give it plenty of time to absorb before moving on to the next step.

2. Line your lips

Next, line your lips. To achieve a ‘90s-esque feel, reach for a medium-toned brown lip liner like the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lip Liner in Nudes for Life or L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lip Liner in Toffee to Be.

Using the tip of the pencil, trace the outline of your lips. If you’d like to overline your lips to enhance your lip shape and create the illusion of bigger lips, you can—just try not to overline too much, as the result can be unflattering.

3. Diffuse the lip liner

Next, use a small lip brush to gently soften the harsh line of the lip liner. Blend the color towards the center of your lip so it’s darkest at the lip line and fades slightly towards the center.

4. Apply a pale lipstick shade

To create the gradient lip effect, you’ll want to pick a lipstick that’s in the same color family as your liner, but noticeably lighter. If you’re looking to channel the original ‘90s look, create contrast with a pale nude shade, such as the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Intense Volume Matte Lipstick in Le Nude Resilient. For those who’d prefer a more subtle ombré lip look, we suggest choosing a lipstick that’s only two to three shades lighter than the liner, such as the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Intense Volume Matte Lipstick in Worth It.

Apply the lipstick to the center of the lips, taking care not to cover the lip liner. With your finger or a clean lip brush, blend the edges of the lipstick ever so slightly into the darker lip liner to create a diffused, gradient effect.

5. Top off the look with gloss

While the classic ‘90s lip wasw usually as matte as it gets, today’s version of ombré lips gets a high-shine upgrade courtesy of lip gloss. We suggest opting for a clear gloss that won’t interfere with the colors you’ve already applied. L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro Gloss Plump in Mirror will give it the perfect finishing touch.

3 Tips for Achieving Ombré Lips

Now that you know how to do ombré lips, read on for three ways to level up the look.

1. Play with finishes

While the classic ‘90s ombré lip is usually as matte as they come, there’s no rulebook saying you can’t experiment with satin or even high-shine lipsticks. Play around with different formulas (and combinations) to find a look that showcases your unique sense of style.

2. Sharpen the look

Getting that perfectly sharp lip liner look can take practice, so don’t worry if your lines aren’t perfect. You can clean up any smudges around the lip line with concealer (use a concealer brush for an ultra-precise finish). As for which concealer to use, we’re partial to L'Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer up to 24H Full Coverage. It provides full coverage with a flawless-looking matte finish that lasts all day.

3. Add some highlight

To further accentuate your lips, apply a touch of highlighter to your cupid's bow. This simple trick adds a subtle yet eye-catching dimension to your ombré lip look (and can help your pout appear bigger, to boot).

How To Touch Up Ombré Lips

Keeping your ombré lip look intact while sipping coffee, grabbing food, and chatting with friends is possible, so long as you use the right products.

For lip liner, you’ll want to look for something with bold color that won’t feather, like the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lip Liner. This will help cut down on the amount of touch-ups you need to do. Your ombré lipstick, meanwhile, should be something long-wearing and smudge-proof, like the aforementioned L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Intense Volume Matte Lipstick, which offers up to 16 hours of wear. (If you prefer liquid lipsticks, L’Oréal Paris Infallible Matte Resistance Liquid Lipstick is also a great option). If you do need to reapply your lipstick, focus the color at the center of your lips and press your lips together to help blend the pigment without covering or disrupting your liner.

3 Ombré Lip Looks To Try Now

While a brown ombré lip is a retro favorite, it’s not the only way to wear a gradient lip. The ombré lip tutorial above can be used with any lipstick and liner combination. If you need inspiration on how to make an ombré lip your own, we’re sharing a few ideas below.

Modern nude ombré lips

For a softer take on the classic ombré lip, try swapping your brown lip liner for a more subtle nude shade. We love L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lip Liner in Au Naturale, as it boasts a subtle rosy undertone that can flatter both cooler and warmer skin tones. Pair it with the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Satin Lipstick in Worth It for a gradient lip look that only takes minutes to achieve.

Red ombré lips

While we love a timeless red lip for evening wear or special occasions, updating it with an ombré effect gives this classic look a modern (and slightly edgy) feel. We recommend combining a reddish-brown lip liner such as the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lip Liner in Truly Burgundy, with the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Matte Resistance Liquid Lipstick in Le Rouge Paris to create an eye-catching statement lip look.

Dark brown ombré lips

Combine two of the best ‘90s beauty trends with a grungy dark brown ombré lip look. Start by lining your lips with an ultra-dark brown liner, such as the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lip Liner in More Chocolate. Then, apply L’Oréal Paris Infallible Matte Resistance Liquid Lipstick in Lazy Sunday to the center of your pout and blend for the perfect ‘90s lip look.

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