How to Apply Lipstick

Is there any better mood booster than a pretty pop of lip colour? It’s the answer to (just about) anything. Got the cloudy-day blues? Swipe on a red lipstick to brighten things up. Don’t feel like putting on a full face of makeup? Add a touch of pink gloss to look (and feel) put together in seconds.

Though we can fully attest to the life-changing power of a lipstick, we also know we could all use a little help with tricky areas like finding the right shades for our skin tone, making our lip look last all day, and applying colour to enhance our lip shape and create the most natural — or precisely bold — effect. For all the answers to our burning lip colour questions, we tapped makeup artist Lauren Lancaster who makes it her mission to help women discover easy-to-achieve looks that make them feel confident, beautiful and empowered. Here are her tips and tricks for creating lip looks you’ll love.

Watch our makeup artist and Mary Kay models test-drive these tips!
The Mary Kay Satin Lips Set is photographed in an African American model’s pink manicured hand in front of a two-toned pink background.

Tip #1: It’s All About the Prep.

The secret to smooth, seamless lip colour is starting with properly prepped lips. In other words, moisturize, soften and de-flake

First, gently exfoliate your lips to slough off any dead skin, then follow with a hydrating, softening lip balm. You might be thinking, “Is this really necessary?” Trust us, you don’t want colour looking cakey and clumping to your lip flakes. (How’s that for a powerful visual?). 

Something to note: If you regularly find your lips feeling dry and chapped, that could be a sign of dehydration so make sure you’re drinking enough water, especially if you’re a coffee or tea drinker.

Once your lips are fully scrubbed and smoothed, you’re ready for colour. If you’re applying lipstick right away, blot your lips with a tissue or blotter to remove any excess balm that could make your lip colour slick.   
A red Mary Kay lipstick is photographed with its cap off laying atop a pink background and alongside a smear of lip color.

Tip #2: Rock a Bold Lip Look.

Nothing says you mean business like a bold red lip. For the most precise, long-lasting look, start by outlining and filling your lips with a lip liner that matches your lipstick. This will give you definition and an added layer of colour to help avoid the dreaded lip ring that pops up after a day eating, drinking and chatting.

Start at your Cupid’s bow and work your way around your top lip, then line your bottom lip starting at the center and working your way out. And don’t feel pressure to “overdraw” your lips to make them look fuller. You can (and should!) feel confident enhancing your natural shape.

Next, apply your lipstick. If you prefer a matte look, choose a highly pigmented formula with comforting ingredients that will keep your lips from drying out. Apply straight from the tube, beginning at your Cupid’s bow and working your way around.

Ivory Skin Tones: If your skin is fair, look for complementary blue-based reds.
Beige to Bronze Skin Tones: If you’re medium or bronze, choose warmer reds with hints of orange.
Deep Bronze Skin Tones: If your tone is deep, brick reds and burgundy shades look stunning.

If you prefer a softer finish, dab your lips with your fingertips or a brush to smudge the colour a bit. This will give you a pretty, stain-like look.
An open tube of Mary Kay Perfecting Concealer is photographed alongside its doe foot applicator and a product smear in front of a two-toned pink background.

Tip #3: Make Your Lip Look Sharp and Long-Wearing.

For extra precision and to keep your lipstick colour in place, grab a skin tone-matching concealer, and apply it around your lip line. This will really sharpen your look and prevent any possible feathering.

To give your look some staying power, start by pulling apart a tissue so that it’s one-ply. Hold it over your lips and brush translucent powder on top. This easy extra step seals in the colour.
A pinkish nude Mary Kay lip liner is photographed with its cap off, atop a two-toned pink background and alongside a product smear.

Tip #4: Find Your Best Nude.

If you’d rather make a more subtle statement, reach for a nude. The key to achieving the perfect nude lip is, again, making sure your lips are hydrated – these shades can throw a spotlight on dry lips, creating a chalky effect – and finding the best shade for your complexion.

Ivory Skin Tones: Nudes with a touch of pink wear especially well on fair skin. 
Beige to Bronze Skin Tones: If your skin tone is medium to bronze, try caramels.
Deep Bronze Skin Tones: Rich cocoas are flattering. 

Just like a bold lip look, you’ll want to start with a lipstick-matching lip liner again since it really anchors the colour. With nudes, a formula with a little luminosity is a great way to keep the colour looking fresh and helps keep your lips moisturized.
A berry colored Mary Kay lipstick is photographed with its cap off atop a two-toned pink background and alongside a product smear.

Tip #5: When in Doubt, Choose a Universally Flattering Shade.

If you want to take the guesswork out of finding the best shade for your skin tone, or if you’re buying lipstick for a friend or family member (oh hi, bridal party!), go for a rich berry. These delish shades work on just about everyone and bonus: Their blue base can make your teeth look whiter. Score!

You can pair it with a berry lip liner, or if you’re working with a bold shade and want to take it down a notch, a nude lip liner is a great alternative. This will soften the colour a bit while still delivering the added staying power and definition we crave.
An open tube of shimmery, pink Mary Kay lip gloss is photographed alongside its doe foot applicator and a product smear.

Tip #6: Make Your Lip Gloss Work Overtime.

Hey, gloss girls, we see you! And we get you – a pretty, non-sticky gloss not only makes lips look lush, it’s more forgiving than lipstick so you have a bit more flexibility on shades and technique. And you can apply without a mirror. [insert hair toss]

Aside from looking lustrous on its own, gloss is also a great partner for lipstick when you want to add a little dimension. Simply add a bit to the center of your lips and press them together for a perky pout, or swipe all over to give your lip colour some added shine.

Now tell us! What’s your go-to lip look, and what burning beauty questions do you have?
Pots of Mary Kay lip colour with overflowing product smears against purple background.

Determine whether your skin has a cool, neutral or warm undertone. Cool skin burns in the sun, warm skin deepens, and neutral skin does both.
Try on a few shades, and snap some selfies. Then compare the selfies so you can confirm if a shade is soft or statement-making. Reach for Mary Kay® Lip Liner before applying lipstick for a look that lasts, or after to give your pout precise definition. Last but not least, always, always prep your lips by exfoliating and moisturizing with the Satin Lips® Set.
Bronze Skin Tone: Try Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Shine Lipstick in Berry Famous for a deep berry, or opt for red with Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Matte Lipstick in Red Stiletto or Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Shine Lipstick in Red Smolder.

Beige Skin Tone: Use Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Matte Lipstick in Crushed Berry to achieve a deep, pinkish berry or Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Matte Lipstick in Red Stiletto for a true scarlet.

Ivory Skin Tone: Mary Kay Unlimited™ Lip Gloss in Berry Delight looks great on warm undertones, while a red like Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Matte Lipstick Poppy Please flatters both warm and cool, while Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Matte Lipstick Red Stiletto works wonders on neutral skin tones.
No matter your shade, you can count on the advanced Cushion Matrix Technology in Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Shine Lipstick and Mary Kay® Gel Semi-Matte Lipstick to deliver brilliant colour, while sunflower seed oil and jojoba butter help keep lips conditioned.


Looking for a more subtle lip look? Try these tips from Mary Kay Global Beauty Ambassador Luis Casco to soften your shade.

Three tubes of Mary Kay lipstick on top of their accompanying product rubs and Mary Kay Cream Color Brush.Instead of applying straight from the tube, use a clean brush or your fingertips for sheer lipstick application.

Mary Kay Unlimited Lip Gloss applicators on top of their accompanying product rubsLayer a lighter shade of Mary Kay Unlimited™ Lip Gloss over lipstick.

The Satin Lips Set from Mary Kay and its product smears against a light pink backgroundTop lipstick with Shea Butter Balm from Satin Lips® Set, then dab with a tissue.