Lip Balm, Gloss, or Lipstick? How to Choose
Written by: Brianna Peters
Published on: October 13, 2022
A really good lip color can transform your entire look, brightening up your whole face even when worn simply on its own. This season, anything goes in terms of what kind of lip color. Whether you’re minimal or maximal, and whether you love strong colors or the sheerest sheers, there’s a chic, ultraflattering clean option that’s calling your name (if you’re like us, you’ll find several options at the very least).
Favorite colors this fall
GOOPGENES Clean Nourishing
Lip Balm Trio
Glisten Up Double
Weightless Lip Color
Because we ingest much of what we put on our lips, clean ingredients are essential (note that all the options below have been tried and tested by the beauty team and obsessed-over, and they abide by our strictest clean ingredient standards). Beyond that, we always look for formulas that are as nourishing and lip-loving as possible. All that’s left is to choose: Balm, gloss, or lipstick?
Why we love it: Impossible to mess up (you can absolutely apply them without a mirror) and supremely nourishing, balms are essentially skin care, whether or not they come with a tint.
Patron saint: Gwyneth Paltrow.
Wear it with: Truly anything. “This is the only makeup I wear most days,” says Gwyneth, but a great balm also looks incredible when the rest of your makeup is more intense. It’s as brilliant with a French-girl smoky eye and a douppioni silk ball gown as it is with jeans, a T-shirt, and a bare face.
Tip: Keep your favorite balm wherever you’ll reapply most often—we keep one right next to the computer, one in the glove compartment, one on the nightstand, and one in the makeup bag—to keep your lips in their best shape.
Three gleamy, moisturizing balms
(two are tinted)
GOOPGENES Clean Nourishing Lip Balm Trio
Rich pigment that really lasts
Elixir Tinted Lip Oil Balm
Intense but translucent colors
Baby Love Balm Lip + Cheek Tint
Sheer colors in a nourishing,
Why we love it: The juicy, shiny, ultrahydrated effect you get from gloss is sexy—plain and simple. Gloss also layers beautifully with lipstick, adding dimension along with shine.
Patron saint: Rihanna.
Wear it with: Think of gloss as the star—if you’ve got a lot of color or texture going on your face already, it’s generally not the time for a gloss moment (though if you’re Rihanna, go for it, because it’s going to look amazing). Great skin, defined brows, and inky lashes are the perfect accompaniments.
Tip: Makeup artists everywhere use a dab of gloss on the bottom lip to make anyone’s lips look fuller.
Two chic new gloss shades in the coolest refillable compact
Glisten Up Double Down Gloss
Feels like butter—with a subtle minty finish
Kiss My Liquid Lip Balm
sheer rose-taupe It-girl tint
Lip Treatment Oil
Opaque with a
ShineOn Milky Lip Jelly
Tons of shine, with gorgeous texture and opacity
Squeaky Clean Liquid Lip Balm
Why we love it: Significantly longer lasting and typically more intensely pigmented and opaque than balms or glosses, lipstick is your best option if you’re looking for full-on drama. It’s also the easiest texture to blend or layer.
Patron saint: Morticia Addams for deep shades, Jenna Lyons for reds, and Shiv Roy for neutrals.
Wear it with: The confidence we get wearing a great lipstick reminds us of the way we feel in a perfectly fitted jacket: ready to take on the world. So while you can wear it with anything, pull out your favorite lipstick when you’re feeling bold—with the widest wide-leg pants and a crop top or your sharpest suit—or when you feel like your outfit needs a chicness boost.
Tip: Dab a bit of the lipstick you’ve put on your lips onto your cheeks and buff it out for a chic monochromatic look.
The ultimate classic, in shades from your-lips-but-better to drop-dead bold
Weightless Lip Color
Lip Liner for Fullness
Hotliner Hyaluronic Acid
Contouring Lip Liner
Ultimate palette to mix a custom lip
Lip Suede – Les Nudes
Creamy multipurpose matte crayon
BONUS: Get Your Lips in Shape (before You Tint Them)
Any balm, gloss, or lipstick lasts longer and looks better once your lips are smooth, moisturized, and soft.
Lip Wrap Overnight
Antioxidant-rich and hydrating
Exfoliating and moisturizing
Willow & Sweet Agave
Plumping Lip Mask
How Our Editors Chose These Lip Essentials
First, a safety team screened them against a long list of ingredients with the potential to harm human health. (goop standards for clean are among the strictest in the industry.) Only then did the balms, glosses, and lipsticks make it to our bathroom counters and makeup bags (we try every product we write about).
We looked for active levels of ingredients known to deliver results.
We tested the color payoff of each product—some of us love sheer colors, while others prefer something deeper and more pigmented.
We compared textures among products.