The humble lip liner pencil, exiled for many years to the bottom of the makeup bag, is having quite a renaissance. What we once chalked up as a bad mistake in our collective cosmetic memories is now once again the product of the moment - only this time, we’re doing it right.
With expert advice from two of our favourite MUAs, Tabby Casto and Khandiz of Novel Beings, we’ve got the lowdown on all of the versatility and possibilities of lip liner, as well as tips on how to keep the harsh, mismatched look of yore firmly in the past. Don’t get us wrong, we love our 90’s girl groups but we’re very happy to be leaving their brown liner and glossy lip combo behind…
It’s all in the preparation Before applying any lip product, it’s important that your lips are squeaky clean and soft to the touch: “Make sure your lips are well scrubbed and free of dry, flaky skin because liner and lipstick never look great over dry lips,” says Khandiz. We’d recommend a simple sugar scrub for this job (simply dip a finger in some sugar, rub it over your lips to smoothen them, and lick clean!) or if you’re after something more intensive, Sans [Ceuticals] Bio Active Body Exfoliant, which contains nourishing shea butter, also works well, and can be used all over the body.
Once you’ve scrubbed up nicely, it’s important to prime the lips so that your look is long-wearing. This happens to be one of the many uses of lip liner - it can be used as a primer for your lipstick to effectively stick to, so that you don’t have to constantly reapply. “You’ll find the lipstick stays on a lot longer and you won’t be left with the “Aunt Sally” look when your lipstick wears off a little but the lip pencil is still glaring obtrusively around the lip,” Tabby advises.
Colour me beautiful
Whatever your preferred lip colour, liner will almost always enhance its final appearance. Liner can be particularly useful if you’re going for a bright, bold shade, as it tends to prevent lipstick from bleeding into any creases around your mouth; however it’s also great for manipulating light and shade, giving the illusion of bigger, fuller lips when using more muted tones.
This more deceptively natural look is easier than you might think - as long as you pick the right colours (for example, we think a great, universally flattering shade for lots of different skin tones is Jane Iredale Lip Definer in Peach). “Choose a lipstick colour a shade darker than your natural lip, and a liner no more than two shades darker,” Khandiz suggests. “While this look is taking inspiration from the 90’s, it’s important to modernise it and keep it fresh because, let’s face it, if your liner is too dark it just looks like you mistook it for your eyeliner!” Consider yourself warned…
Application, application, application Though lip liner seems like it might require an intimidatingly steady hand, there are a number of application tricks to make the whole process (and the end result) a lot smoother. First of all, Tabby recommends warming the liner up on the back of your hand before using it on the lips, to help it glide on more easily. If you’re worried about any shakiness, take your time: “Rest your hand on your chin and your elbow on a table or dressing table surface,” she advises. “Starting from the cupid’s bow, draw halfway down the top of the lip line. Then take the pencil off and start drawing from the inner corner of the lip until you meet in the middle.”
After all that, even if you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world - you can simply take a cotton bud, dip it into an oil free makeup remover, and roll the cotton bud into the lip. “This way,” says Tabby, “you won’t smudge colour all over the skin around your lip and you can easily start again until you get the shape just right.” If you’re still not entirely sold on liner but are after the precision it affords, we like the Ilia Beauty Lipstick Crayon as a good mid-point - it has all the sharpness of a pencil with the sheerness and smoothness of a lightweight lipstick.
However you choose to use it, we think lip liner has outgrown its origins as a make-up mishap of the past, to become an essential part of any self-respecting make-up kit.
Cover image: ffffound.com
Words: Lauren O’Neill