Help A Reader Out: How Do You Keep Matte Lipstick From Looking Gross & Dry?

Even those who love the appearance of matte lipstick can absolutely hate how dried and cracked it can look.

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers! Each week on Help A Reader Out, we’ll be taking your fashion and beauty troubles to turn them into informative guides.

I love that matte lipsticks are long-lasting, but I hate it when my lips start to crack or flake, especially during the winter. Do you have any helpful prep tips, recommendations for non-drying matte lipsticks, and tips on keeping them soft throughout the day?

One of the most fun things about lipstick is the sheer number of textures you can play with. You can go satin, glossy, shimmery, frosty, sheer, creamy, and my personal favorite, matte. But you are right, dear reader: it’s tough to wear matte lipsticks without drying your lips out or highlighting every wrinkle or bump, particularly when the weather is cold and dry. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this and instead simply wind up with bold matte lips.

Step 1: Exfoliate

I think people underestimate just how important this step is. Even if your lips seem smooth when you look at them, there’s often dead skin just hanging out that needs to be gently sloughed off. We recently compiled 11 ways to exfoliate your lips, so feel free to check out that list and see if any tickle for fancy. Personally, I usually go with either LUSH Mint Julips Lip Scrub or Fresh Sugar Lip Polish to remove dead skin.

Step 2: Moisturize.

I know it sounds counterintuitive to the whole “matte” thing to add something creamy on first, but this is what keeps the lipstick looking smooth and matte rather than dry and cracked. There are so many wonderful lip balms out there, so definitely try out a few different ones and see which make the most sense for you. If you tend to spend a lot of time outdoors, finding a creamy formula with SPF might be the right choice. If you prefer a lightweight product that helps fill in lip wrinkles, you can actually use eye cream. Whichever you choose, just allow a few minutes for it to be absorbed into your lips. Similarly to dry shampoo, moisturizer needs a chance to sink in to be effective.

Step 3: Primer

Use either a lip primer directly on your lips or a regular face primer along the edges of your lips to reduce bleeding from your lip color. Matte lipsticks by nature tend to bleed less than creamy or glossy formulas, but when they do bleed, it’s really annoying to fix.

Step 4: Concealer

Apply a bit of concealer or foundation along the edges of your lips to ensure that the lip color you’re using will really pop. If you have a very defined lip line, you can typically just skip this step, but for folks like me with a bit more “blurriness,” it’s good to have a stark contrast between your lipstick and complexion. Another easy way to achieve this is by using a more precise tool specifically for this purpose, like Paul & Joe Lip Concealer Duo.

Step 5: Lip Liner

Line exactly along your lip line–not inside, not outside, otherwise you’ll get an unnatural look. You can use a lip liner in the exact shade of your lipstick or in a flesh tone. This allows you to create a smooth base for your matte color to sit on while also ensuring that it stays on through dinner, drinks, and whatever else you’re doing that day.

Step 6: Color!

Finally, at long last, you get to apply your lip color. Choosing the right matte lipstick for you takes a bit of experimentation; you might prefer a sponge-tip applicator, you may feel loyalty to the traditional bullet, you might feel more comfortable using a palette with a brush. My personal favorite: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick, more specifically in the shade Fiery. It’s a deep blue-red shade that goes on liquid and dries matte, then proceeds to last for approximately the rest of your life. I am obsessed, my friends, and am in fact wearing it right at this very moment.

I swear, I’m not nearly as grumpy as I look here, I just was trying to snap a photo at the coffee shop down my street without anybody noticing and thinking I’m a complete tool. (“I swear, it’s for work!” probably won’t fly as an actual argument here.) But hey, here it is! And this morning, I actually did all of the above steps before applying it.

If you have a favorite matte lipstick, share it or show it off in the comments!

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