When we were asked not long ago to name one of the recent trends in makeup, we said Gloss Gone Wild, and may it rest in peace. Have you, too, had enough goopy, gooey, tacky, supershiny lip gloss fun? Are you just a little tired of the mouthy, pouty, look-at-my-glistening-lips-before-they-explode phenomenon that seems to have devoured the makeup world? Join the club.
We think it's time to revise our game plan to include a more sophisticated, refined, glamorous-looking mouth—and evidently, the people who bring us lipcolor have been thinking along the same lines. Because there's a new generation of lipsticks entering the playing field; the formulas are lighter, the finishes are matte, creamy, shiny (but not too shiny), and there's even a matte-satin hybrid (MAC Mattene). In some cases, the color is as sheer as any gloss. Beauty companies describe these lipsticks with terms such as "butter-like" and "gel-soufflé." But what makes them so delicious and how do you find the one for you?
Step 1: Choose a Color
"Pigments now are richer and look more vibrant because they've been formulated to reflect light better," says Wilson. There are no hard-and-fast rules for finding the best shade for you—especially because some of the new, more transparent formulas are flattering to almost everyone. But there are a few guidelines worth noting:
If you want to play it safe, don't go more than a couple of shades lighter or darker than your natural lip color.
Typically, fair skin is most flattered by colors with blue undertones, especially roses and pinks; olive skin looks great in warm plums and can pull off beiges without looking washed out; dark skin can carry deep, deep crimsons.
Your hair counts, too: The lighter it is, the brighter your lipcolor will look.
Consider your teeth: If they have a slight yellowish cast, lipsticks with blue undertones (including plums, wines, and pinks) may brighten them. (Or try Benefit California Kissin' Lip Shine; it has a slight blue sheen and can be applied over any lipstick.) Coral and orange lipcolors (not to mention that second glass of red wine) will make the problem worse.
Step 2: The 5 Secrets of Perfect Application
One of the little challenges of lipstick is keeping it where you want it and away from where you don't (your straw, your collar, those annoying little lines around your mouth). Here are the pros' tricks:
1. Do border control. Before you apply, use a sponge to dab a powder foundation around the outside of the lips. It'll help keep the color from seeping outside your lip line and also create a subtle contrast that makes lips appear a bit fuller, says New York City makeup artist Maria Verel (who makes sure Diane Sawyer's lipstick looks great—in high-definition—by 7 o'clock every morning).
2. Forget the brush. "The color is more intense if you apply it directly from the tube, and the more pigment that winds up on your lips, the longer it will last," says New York City makeup artist Matthew Nigara.
3. Pencil it in. Once the color is in place, "tidy up around the edges with a pencil," says Verel. "It's drier and waxier than the lipstick, so it will create another barrier against bleeding." Choose a neutral shade that closely matches your natural lip color and is no darker than your lipstick (try one of these makeup artist favorites: Chanel Precision Lip Definer in Nude, Nars Lipliner Pencil in Borneo, or MAC Lip Pencil in Spice); for a line that looks natural, not harsh, use short strokes with the side (not the point) of the pencil.
4. Blot a bit. After you've applied the color, put a tissue between your lips and gently press down. "It lifts away the excess emollients that cause lipstick to smear," says Verel.
5. Protect your teeth. Red-carpet regulars and beauty queens may smear Vaseline on their teeth to keep lipstick from rubbing off on them; if you do it, though, you'll probably look as if you have Vaseline smeared on your teeth. Instead, after you apply lipstick, put your index finger in your mouth and slowly pull it out. (Feel free to Purell liberally first.) "It's the best way to remove any color that has migrated to the inside of your lips, which rubs against your teeth as you talk," says Nigara. Another preventive measure: Don't pucker up when you apply lipstick—it'll increase the likelihood of getting color on that area.
Step 3: Take Good Care of Your Lips
The surface of your lips is much thinner than the rest of your skin, which is why, if you're fair, you can see the blood vessels underneath, says Marsha Gordon, MD, vice chairperson of the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. This delicate constitution means your lips are particularly prone to dryness—and your tongue doesn't help the situation. "We're constantly licking our lips, and as that saliva evaporates, they get even drier," Gordon explains. Protect against moisture loss with a lip balm that contains petrolatum or mineral oil, which won't rub (or lick) off easily. Apply a light coat over your lipstick.
You know that myth about becoming "addicted" to balm? Doctors say there's no truth to the theory that, in a bid to guarantee repeat business, manufacturers spike their products with ingredients that make lips drier. Chronically chapped lips could be a sign of an allergy, though. If you face constant cracking and flaking, go cold turkey on everything you put on your lips and apply petroleum jelly as often as you can, says Gordon. Then add products back one by one until you pinpoint the culprit (which is often lanolin).
The muscles in your lips see a lot of action (especially if you're lucky enough to lead a life that includes frequent kissing, sipping, and bubble blowing), so that area is prone to developing fine lines. To prevent them, apply sunscreen between your upper lip and nose, and use a topical retinoid (like Retin-A, Renova, Avage, or Tazorac) at night to build collagen and thicken the skin. Ablative lasers can resurface the skin, and hyaluronic acid fillers (branded as Hylaform, Restylane, Juvéderm, and Perlane) can temporarily plump up the lines. Botox helps smooth lines by relaxing some of the muscles around the mouth—but it must be used very carefully, in very small amounts. (Because lip lines will be the least of your worries if you're drooling on yourself.)