How (And Why) You Should Apply Lip Liner

Makeup artist Alice Lane tells us why we need to get out our sharpeners.

By: Noah Lehava
Photography: Renée Rodenkirchen

Lets just get this out of the way: Lip liner has a bad rep. No, seriously. We’ll admit that the ’90s kind of scarred us, what with the influx of overly lined lips in dark, mahogany brown, and so we get the hesitation. But we’re pretty damn sure liner has come a long way (as have our, ahem, aesthetic proclivities), and so it makes sense we finally learn how to use it. We mean, how else are you supposed to get those perfectly rich, saturated lips and avoid that unsightly feathery edge without some precision tools?

Friends, don’t get overwhelmed just yet. The liner application theory is actually pretty simple, especially if you have the help of a pro makeup artist like Alice Lane, who’s had everyone from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Bella Hadid to Jennifer Lawrence sit in her chair. Herein, she lays down the ground rules for getting your lip liner game on point, and how to keep it within the lines (aka no color bleed).



The Application


Step 1

Always prep the lips beforehand with balm so they are hydrated. Blot with a tissue, and then begin.


Step 2

Start from the Cupid’s bow (top center of lips) and draw a shape that pleases you. You can exaggerate the lips or go for a natural shape.


Step 3

Use the tip pointing up, and push the side of the pencil down on the lip at the same time. That way you can draw the outline and fill in all at once.

You don’t have to press hard or draw a hard line. All makeup applied to your face should be done softly and with care.


Step 4

Apply lipstick.


Step 5

Clean up the edges (see below :point_down:).


Filling In the Lines

Okay, so you’re worried petrified that your lipstick will fade away, only to leave behind the tinted tracing of your lip line. Simply color in the lines for seamless pigment. If you’re looking for a not-so-heavy lip, Lane suggests just sticking to a soft line.


Matching Shades

This one’s important, friends. You must match your liner to stick just like you match it to your sunnies (read: Rihanna). “I like lip liner if it’s used subtly and gently. If you use the wrong color and you’re too heavy-handed, that’s when feathering can occur. The liner will bleed into the natural creases you have around your lips, and this is undesirable!”


The Right Color

Thinking about trying blue or green lipstick (Rihanna reference #2—we couldn’t help ourselves)? Yeah, think again. When it comes to finding the best color for your skin tone: “My rule of thumb is, if the color occurs in nature, it will always look good. As soon as you push into the realms of the unnatural, you are either brave and amazing, or will look like a crazy person,” says Lane.


The Cleanup

Once you’ve colored in your lips with the matching lipstick, “It’s a good idea to touch up lines with a lip liner. You can also clean up the edges with a moist Q-tip.”