Lip Stain Vs. Tint: The Real Difference Between The Beauty Staples

Whether you gravitate towards makeup products that work to subtly highlight your natural beauty or make you feel like your best, most glamorous self after a full-coverage application, the power of a great lip product should not be overlooked — and choosing the right one can elevate your makeup game and pull your whole look together.

When you don't want to commit to the precise application and required maintenance of your favorite matte lipstick but want to spice up your pout in a way your go-to sheer gloss simply can't, there's a lip tint or a lip stain for that. Some of the most viral lip products recently have been either lip stains or tints — and for good reason. Whether you are looking for bold longwear or a natural, radiant hint of color, having both a lip tint and a lip stain in your makeup arsenal can ensure you have the perfect, kissable finish — no matter the occasion.

While people often mistakenly use the terms interchangeably, there are some major differences between the two beauty staples. Understanding when and how to apply each can help you master your makeup game and perfect your pucker.

What's the verdict?

While lip stains and lip tints are both great options for those who want some color added to their lips but dread the maintenance demanded by traditional lipsticks, the two offer some definite differences when it comes to finish and durability. "The big difference between tints and stains is in the wearability," makeup artist Hillary Clark told InStyle. "A lip tint will easily wipe away with a tissue or wear away and require reapplication while a stain temporarily 'stains' the lip and has much longer staying power."

As such, lip stains offer excellent longwear and are able to hold up to eating and drinking. "The liquid color from a lip stain is absorbed by the skin rather than sitting on top of the lip like a cream lipstick or gloss," said Clark. "This allows it to temporarily stain the epidermis and remain in place until you are ready to take it off."

Lip tints, on the other hand, provide a natural hint of color without the commitment of a stain (or the noticeable fading and smudging that comes with a lipstick). While lip tints need to be reapplied if you want the look to last all day, the color and finish is subtle and natural enough to fade and wear naturally — allowing you to apply it and forget about it if you want to or effortlessly reapply it like you would a balm.

How to wear a lip stain

Lip stains provide all the saturated color of a lipstick without leaving you at the mercy of the bathroom mirror all night as you reapply and fix the smudges. When it comes to application, celebrity makeup artist Moani Lee told InStyle the following: first exfoliate your lips and then apply a lip balm to keep them moisturized and to prevent the color from settling into any cracks and texture. "Dab off any excess [lip balm] and then tap your favorite lip stain in very small taps starting from the center of your lip," she explains. "Remember less is more and you can always add more for added intensity. Blend outwards by rubbing your lips together or blending out with clean fingers." If you want a bolder, more saturated hue, stains are easily buildable. Use the same application method to apply more product, layer by layer until you are satisfied with the depth of color.

On the other hand, if you want more subtly-stained lips, being strategic about the way you apply the product can make it look like your irresistible scarlet pout is oh-so natural and completely happenstance– like you just finished a glass of wine and the color on your smirk gives it away. (Go ahead with your main character moment. We see you.) "If you like the 'I just ate a popsicle' look, press the stain into the lip's center, leaving the outer edges bare," professional makeup artist Michelle Shakeshaft recommended to Byrdie.

How to wear a lip tint

Just like with lip stains, Lee recommends gently exfoliating the lips and swiping on a moisturizing lip balm prior to applying your lip tint for an even finish. This will help your lips look not only naturally rosy but also kissably soft and smooth. For additional prep, Clark adds that you can also use a neutral-toned eyeshadow on the lips if you want to help the tint last longer and don't want to reapply as often, as this gives the tint something to adhere to. "I like to prep lips with a colorless eyeshadow base to extend their wear," Clark says, adding that using eyeshadow as a base will also keep the tint from settling into fine lines.

"Lip tints can be swiped across the lip if you want a bit more shine, or again, pressed in for a softer, hydrated look," adds Shakeshaft. She also notes that you can easily reap the benefits of both a stain and a tint by wearing them together. "You can layer a lip tint over a lip stain if you are looking for a longer-wearing, natural look but feel like the lip needs a bit more moisture or if you prefer a little shine on the lips." This is a great option for those who crave color with a more radiant finish than matte but don't like the stickiness of gloss.