Why & How To Reconsider Lip Liner

Lip liner often gets a bad rap, but the latest formulas have made it much easier to work with. Whether it’s improving your application technique, or knowing when to opt for lipstick instead, make-up pros Ruby Hammer and Trish McEvoy are here to help…

Anyone Can & Should Use Lip Liners 

“They're often given a bad rap but liners are a great tool for creating the illusion of fuller lips,” explains make-up artist, Ruby Hammer MBE. “Those with thinner lips can benefit too, as they give a crisper and more defined look, just like when you use a bold shade of red. They also help to define your cupid’s bow, and are great for adding back the volume you tend lose on around your lips as you get older. Use them to enhance a bold lip shade, too, for extra definition.” 

Soft Textures Are Key 

“Textures for lip liners have come on leaps and bounds, which is what makes them such a great option,” adds make-up artist Trish McEvoy. “Look for ones that are soft and creamy – these will allow you to build colour more seamlessly, but also, the pigment will glide on better for a smooth finish that never looks harsh or stern.” Ruby agrees: “Too hard a texture is what will give you that outdated look so many people fear. Now, most formulations are soft to medium in texture, so you can sculpt, without ever over lining.” 

Application Requires Patience 

“You can apply lip liner straight from the pencil, but take a light-handed approach,” says Ruby. “Move it around the natural line of your lips in feathery strokes, before blending it out with a lip brush so it doesn’t look too harsh – this sounds simple, but it works every time. I like to use my Ruby Hammer Magnetic Brush Set for a seamless blend.” Trish adds: “If you want to establish symmetry, start at your cupid’s bow. That way you can gradually define the rest of your lips, using the side of your liner to shape and trace your natural line.” 

Liner Can Be Used Solo 

“We often assume liner should be used to sculpt, when actually, it can be used without any lipstick and just a touch of gloss to enhance shine, too,” explains Trish. “Blending your liner across your entire lip can produce a more natural finish, while also allowing you to use it as your lip colour, too. If you do choose to apply colour on top, when your lipstick wears off, the colour of the liner underneath – instead of your actual lip – will come through.” Ruby adds: “Just make sure your lips are thoroughly moisturised beforehand, as lip liners can be drying.” 

Shade Matching Is Simple 

“When going for a nude, no make-up look, always use a liner that matches your natural lip tone as much as possible,” advises Trish. “For something a bit more dramatic, use a shade close to the lipstick you plan on using – this will ensure a seamless blend every single time. Ruby agrees: “Finding tones that suit is quite simple. Everyone should have their own version of a nude lip pencil. My favourites include Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk liners, which now come in Medium and Intense. Darker skin tones need darker shades – MAC have brilliant ones for that – try Chestnut or Cork. It’s also worth investing in a colourless one, too. Christian Dior’s Universal Contour 001 is great to use before gloss and will smooth and line any shade of colour that’s applied afterwards.” 

Finally, There Are No Rules

“Aside from priming the lips (try something like Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm) there are no set rules with liner,” says Ruby. “Apply lip liner before any lipstick or gloss, or even afterwards – the choice is yours. Adding it gently after your lipstick can sometimes be more beneficial, as it helps to diffuse hard lines around the edges, but also ensures the colour lasts longer. Using it after lipstick also allows you to alter the shape without it looking too obvious. Either way, the choice is yours, but don’t be afraid. It’s much easier than you think.” 


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