If you’re anything like me, applying lipstick feels like it should be the easiest step in a makeup routine, but it ends up being one of my biggest struggles to achieve a stunning, even pout. And when it comes to matte lipstick, it can often feel even more difficult, as without proper prep the finish can show any and every crease, dry patch, and peeling spot on your lips.
This all goes to say that I’ve had a hard time applying matte lipstick, but a better experience is possible with the right method. We tapped four expert makeup artists to get the ins and outs of applying a matte lip, including how to prepare the lips, how to make sure the product goes on perfectly, and of course, how to make sure you’re choosing the right lip color.
Ahead, our experts share exactly how to apply matte lipstick like a pro.
What Makes Matte Lipstick Unique?
To state the (semi) obvious, matte lipstick is… well, matte. Lacking a glossed finish, “matte lipsticks are usually highly pigmented and shine-free,” says makeup artist and creator Dakota Alexandra. “Matte lipsticks come in different formulas such as liquid, pressed in a palette, or in a classic lipstick tube.”
Matte lipsticks do not reflect light the way a satin or glossed finish would, and as a result, they often have a more monotone, saturated, and uniform look on the lip. Makeup artist Alexa Persico notes, “All lipsticks have a combination of oil, wax, and pigmentation. A matte lipstick has less oil and moisture than other lipstick types and will not give off any ‘sheen’ on the lips like a satin or sheer would.”
Keeping the lips hydrated is an important preparation step if you’re reaching for a matte lipstick. “A sheer or satin lipstick may have a sheen and stay emollient,” notes celebrity makeup artist Judi Gabbay, “whereas a matte lipstick would feel drier on lips.”
And what makes matte different than a satin or sheer lip? Simply put, it’s a combination of all of the above.
“When it comes to a matte lipstick vs. a satin finish lipstick, satin tends to be a little creamer then matte and has some shine added to the formula,” makeup artist Jacqueline Fraioli explains. “Satin finish lipstick is not as drying as a matte formula. Sheer lipstick has much more luster and shine, almost giving a glossy wash of color. Sheer lipstick would pretty much be the exact opposite of a matte lippie.”
How To Apply Matte Lipstick
Prep The Lips
Lip preparation is important before any lipstick application, but it can be especially crucial with matte lips, as they leave no texture up to the imagination.
“Your best bet for a comfortable, long lasting matte lip would be to prep beforehand,” Gabbay advises. “That means sleeping with a lip mask on the night before, or hydrating while you do the rest of your glam to ensure your lips are plump and ready for application.”
On top of hydrating the lips, you’ll want to create a smooth base for your matte lipstick. Persico recommends regularly exfoliating your lips to make this possible: “Mix a little bit of sugar and coconut oil for an easy DIY lip scrub.”
Pick A Color
Choosing the right lip color is crucial in creating your dream matte lipstick moment. “Lips are the icing on the cake,” Fraioli says. “They complete and transform the whole look.”
“When working on a client, I will ask what shade they’re going for, if they have a reference photo, what finish they like, and more,” Alexandra adds. “It’s important to be mindful that lipsticks look different on different skin tones and to choose accordingly.”
Different colors complement different tones and undertones, and they also work differently based on the overall look you’re going for.
Persico goes further in-depth, noting what colors work for each undertone. “The very first step in choosing the right lipstick color on a client is determining what undertone their skin tone is,” she notes. “For cool undertones, soft mocha or nudes and ruby or wine shades look great. For warm undertones, the peachy nudes, copper, or bronze shades work well. Neutral undertones have a wide spectrum of colors—both cool and warm tones will work with their skin type.”
Apply Lip Liner
Once the lips are happy, hydrated, and smooth, it’s time to apply liner. While this step is optional, it helps create an ideal shape and shade for your lip application. It also helps reduce the chances of error during lipstick application.
“Most matte lipsticks don’t require lip liners, but you can use them if you want to,” Alexandra notes. “I usually do because I’m a fan of lip liners and usually like to use them a shade or two darker to create dimension.”
Prepare Lip Product
This step is completely optional, as all of the makeup artists note that applying directly from the tube is a great method. For those who want to paint their lips with a brush, the experts recommend the extra preparation step.
Whether you use a steel cosmetic palette or the back of your hand, take your desired color(s) and apply them to your desired surface. If you are mixing two shades on a cosmetic palette, a spatula will be your best friend. If you’re using the back of your hand, you’ll want to reach for a clean brush to mix and create one consistent formula.
Apply Matte Lip
If you’ve decided to use a brush, you’ll want to quite literally paint the product onto your lips. “I always like to use a lip brush to get those crispy lines because it’s usually more precise than the provided applicator or lipstick tube,” Alexandra says.
If you want to go straight from the tube but still are interested in using a makeup brush, Persico recommends dipping the brush carefully into the tube and applying the color on the lips. For a liquid matte lip, it’s important to work quickly, as the product can often dry quickly and make application difficult.
For a matte lip straight from the tube, Fraioli recommends direct application: “If you’re using a regular matte lipstick, you can apply straight from the applicator and blot your lips together.” Gabbay adds that she likes to set her matte lip with a little translucent setting powder to ensure a long lasting color.
“Regardless of the application method, one even coat is all you need,” Persico emphasizes. “Remember with matte lipsticks, a little goes a long way.”