A Step-By-Step, Foolproof Way to Apply Lip Liner

(Photo: Rafael Saes)

(Photo: Rafael Saes)

Lip liner was something I didn’t really use in my makeup routine for years, and the main reason was because I found it super intimidating — a half a millimeter too far and you are suddenly evoking serious Joker vibes. But with the rise of the big lip trend (Thanks, Kylie), I learned the benefits of lip liner. It’s great for keeping your lipstick from bleeding, which is key when you’re wearing a bright hue like red. It also has has the added benefit of helping your lip color stay on so much longer, even if you eat off all your lipstick.

I figured I’d break down the steps for everyone, and throw in a couple of tips that I’ve learned along the way for always achieving the perfect line. If you’re interested in overlining, there are a few additional steps to take to achieve the poutiest and least obvious look. I can detail that in a separate post, but this is a pretty straightforward piece on how to line for folks who want a more natural lip line.

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

Step one: Slough off the dead skin

This step is particularly important if you plan on using a bright red or a darker hue. Chapped lips are just flagrantly obvious when you go with a bolder lip. There are a variety of ways to exfoliate your lips: a toothbrush, a Q-tip dipped in Vaseline, a damp paper towel, a homemade scrub.

I used Sara Happ The Lip Scrub ($24). She has a variety of flavors on her site, and I say flavors because these scrubs are made with sugar and you might want to eat it, but try to resist.

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

Step two: Apply a lip balm

Use a lip balm of your choice to help lock in the moisture. A word of caution is you’ll want to use the balm pretty sparingly or blot off the excess, since too much balm will cause your lip color to slide right off.

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

Step three: Start with you Cupid’s bow

Make sure you sharpen your pencil beforehand. The sharper the pencil, the better your precision. In case you’re wondering, I’m using MAC Lip Pencil in Cherry ($18) here. Use short, feathery strokes to just outline your Cupid’s bow. In my opinion, this is the trickiest part of the lip to get right, so I like to start here so it’s set. If your hands shake, you can try applying your line in a tiny circular motion lightly to create the line. If you want to cheat your lip line for a fuller look, the Cupid’s bow is the best place to do it, but only by a millimeter or so.

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

Step four: Complete your template

After you finish the Cupid’s bow, line the top and bottom corners of your mouth. Make sure they line up, and do not exaggerate this part or you will end up looking a little clownish.

Same goes for the bottom lip. You don't want to cheat the bottom lip line either. I recommend doing a closed mouth smile to help make lining your bottom lip easier.

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

Step five: Connect the lines

Now that your template is in place, continue using light, short strokes to connect all the dots. While you want the line to be pretty perfect, don’t worry if there are minor mistakes. You can clean it up later.

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

Step six: Fill in with pencil

Don’t skip this step! First, it makes your lip line look much more natural, and secondly, it makes your lip color last way longer. Fill in your lips with pencil. Personally, I prefer a light hand with this step, since there’s still lipstick to come.

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

Step seven: Apply lipstick

I like to dab mine on directly from the bullet, since I think a thick application looks really unnatural on me. You can also apply it with a lip brush if you want more control. I definitely recommend blotting after this step for longer-lasting color. Also, make sure you do the finger trick to ensure you don’t get lipstick on your teeth. I’m using MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo ($19) here.

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

(Photo: Kimberly Wang)

A couple of extra steps is you could apply some highlighter on your Cupid’s bow to make your lips really pop. Also, if you wanted to clean up, take a small, pointed makeup brush dabbed in liquid foundation to help clean up anywhere you drew outside of the lines. A lot of tutorials recommend using concealer, but Lisa Eldrige advises using foundation for a lighter hand during clean up, and I’m inclined to agree.