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Which lasts longer lipstick or lip stain?

Lip color is an essential part of many makeup routines. Choosing the right lip product can make a big difference in how long it lasts throughout the day. Lipstick and lip stain are two popular options, each with their own pros and cons. So which actually lasts longer – lipstick or lip stain?

What is Lipstick?

Lipstick is a classic lip color product that comes in a wide range of finishes and shades. Traditional lipsticks are formulated with waxes, oils, and pigments to provide full coverage color and a creamy texture. They are applied directly from a tube and can be blotted or left full. While incredibly versatile, lipsticks do require more frequent reapplication than long lasting lip stains.

What is Lip Stain?

Lip stains are liquid lip colors designed to provide a wash of sheer, buildable color that lasts. They are made with high levels of pigments suspended in alcohol or water, allowing the color to soak into lips and stain them. Lip stains are known for being transfer-proof and extremely long lasting compared to traditional lipsticks. They dry down to a matte finish and won’t budge until removed with makeup remover.

Lipstick Pros

Here are some of the pros of using lipstick:

  • Creamy, moisturizing texture
  • Wide range of finishes – matte, cream, sheer, etc.
  • Thousands of shades and colors to choose from
  • Can complement any makeup look
  • Easy to apply and touch up
  • Versatile – can be blotted, layered, or worn full coverage
  • Gives the lips a slick, glossy look

Lipstick Cons

Some of the cons of lipstick include:

  • Requires frequent reapplication after eating, drinking, etc.
  • Can transfer easily onto cups, napkins, etc.
  • Colors may fade after a few hours of wear
  • May feather or bleed outside the lip line

Lip Stain Pros

Here are some benefits of using lip stains:

  • Provide extremely long lasting color, up to 8 hours
  • Stain lips so color stays put and fades gradually
  • Matte, transfer-proof finish wears without smudging or feathering
  • Light, thin texture is weightless on lips
  • Buildable sheer coverage – layer for more intensity
  • Do not require frequent touch ups

Lip Stain Cons

Some downsides of lip stains include:

  • Can be drying on lips without balm underneath
  • Limited shade options compared to traditional lipsticks
  • Thin, watery texture may feel less conditioning
  • Difficult to get crisp lines – lip brush helps
  • Not as shiny or glossy as a lipstick

Comparing Wear Time

When it comes to wear time, lip stains generally outlast lipsticks. Here is a comparison:

Product Average Wear Time
Lipstick 2-4 hours
Lip Stain 4-8+ hours

As the table shows, lip stains can last anywhere from 4-8 hours, while lipsticks usually start fading after 2-4 hours of wear. Lip stains are formulated to be longer lasting.

However, there are long wearing lipstick formulas that can extend wear time. Matte liquid lipsticks and lip tints that dry down last longer than traditional lipsticks. But they still don’t have quite the staying power of a true lip stain.

Test Methods

To evaluate and compare the wear time of lipsticks and stains, you can conduct some simple tests.

Wear Test

Apply each lip product on either side of the lips and wear them for test periods of 1 hour, 3 hours, 5 hours, etc. Observe how the color fades over time for each product. Take photos at specified intervals for documentation. This real-world test mimics daily conditions.

Food & Drink Test

Apply lip products, allow to dry, then eat and drink as normal throughout the day. Periodically blot lips with a tissue to absorb excess grease or moisture and observe if the color transfers and how it wears off over time. Testing with oily or staining foods/drinks like coffee, red wine or curry is ideal.

Water Test

Swipe each lip product onto a clean glass slide or plate. Submerge a corner of the slide into a bowl of room temperature water for 30 seconds while avoiding wetting the rest of the product. Remove and compare the wetted versus untouched product sections to see if the color diluted or shifted at all from water contact. Repeat wetting for longer periods to simulate wear.

Kiss Test

Apply lip products and allow them to dry fully. Firmly press lips to a sheet of white paper for 10 seconds to transfer color, then inspect the paper. A lipstick will show more transfer than a stain. You can also actually wear the products and kiss a paper or your hand to see how much color is left behind.

Choosing Between Lipstick and Lip Stain

When deciding between lipstick and lip stain, consider these factors:

  • Occasion – Lipstick works well for short wear events, while stains are better for all-day wear.
  • Texture – Lipstick offers a smooth, conditioning feel while stains feel lighter.
  • Effects – Lipsticks come in creamy, sheer, matte and glittery finishes unlike stains.
  • Convenience – Lipsticks require more touch ups than stains.
  • Shade Range – Lipsticks come in way more shades than stains.

If you want long wear with low maintenance, a lip stain is the way to go. But for flexibility and nourishing feel, traditional and liquid lipsticks can be a great choice. You can also layer a lipstick under a stain to combine benefits!

Tips for Making Lipstick Last

If you prefer the look and feel of lipstick, here are tips to make it last longer:

  • Exfoliate and moisturize lips first – smooth lips hold color better.
  • Use lip liner to define edges and prevent feathering.
  • Apply a lipstick primer before color for a base.
  • Blot lipstick after applying to remove excess.
  • Set lipstick with translucent powder to fix color.
  • Apply a layer of gloss on top of lipstick to seal it.
  • Carry lipstick for touch ups after eating and drinking.
  • Avoid oily foods that may break down lipstick.


When comparing wear time between traditional lipsticks and long wearing lip stains, stains generally come out on top. Lip stains are formulated to resist transfer and fading for hours. But lipsticks have their benefits too in terms of shade range, finish and moisturizing properties. With smart tips and tricks, lipstick can have extended wear as well. At the end of the day, choose the lip product that gives you the finish, feel and longevity you want!