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Best lip liner 2023: The easy way to create plump, full lips

The best lip liners will help you define and shape your lips with ease

Lip liners are one of the most underrated tools in the average makeup kit because most people don’t quite know how to choose the right one or what to do with them, but they can be incredibly versatile. One of the key features of the best lip liners is that they will help you define your lips. This means creating a sharper edge without any feathering, as well as filling in those hard-to-reach corners with ease. For thinner lips, you can also use them to make your lips look bigger by tracing the outer edges of your lips.

Lip liners have the added benefit of making it easier to apply lipstick, by stopping you from going over those tricky edges. The right formula will also help your lipstick stay on for longer, by acting as a base layer and giving your lipstick something to stick to. Some can even be used in place of lipstick.

Read on to find out how to choose the best colour and style for you.

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Best lip liner: At a glance

How to choose the best lip liner for you

Why your skin tone matters when it comes to lip liners

When you’re choosing the colour of your lipstick, your skin can play a big part in what shades suit you, so it’s not surprising that the same rule applies when choosing a lip liner.

For the uninitiated, your skin can have one of three undertones – cool, warm and in between – which will impact your overall hue. And depending on what colours are in your lipstick or lip liner, some will suit you better than others.

“To determine your undertone, look at the veins on the inside of your wrist,” says Saffron Hughes, makeup expert at “If they’re green, you have a warm undertone (the yellow in your skin acts as a filter and makes your blue veins look green), and if they look blue, you have a cool undertone. If you see a combination of both blue and green veins, you have a neutral undertone.”

If you have a cool undertone, the best lip colours are blue-based pinks, reds, and purples, according to Hughes. Those with a warm undertone should look for shades that contain oranges, reds, warm pinks and browns, or go for matte liners as they tend to be more flattering. Those in the middle can go either way, which means a lot of choice. In this case, look at the colour of your skin as a guide.

“If you are fair-skinned, subtle pinks will add a bit of colour to your complexion, whereas those with dark skin benefit from a deep berry,” says Hughes. “Or if you’re in the middle, mauves and nudes look best on you.”

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Should your lip liner be lighter or darker than your lipstick?

When it comes to matching up your lip liner with your lipstick, you can go one of two ways. “If you’re wanting something natural, make sure to pick a lip liner as close as possible to the colour of your lips,” says Hughes.

“Alternatively, if you want a show-stopping look, you should choose a lip liner at least two shades deeper than your lipstick. For this dramatic look, I’d also recommend purchasing a twist-up lip liner as these tend to have longer staying power.”

What type of lip liner should you buy?

There are lots of different styles of lip liners, but the pencil format is the easiest one to work with. If you’re new to using lip liners, Hughes suggests buying one with a crayon consistency as these create a softer look that is buildable. Those suffering from dry lips should always look for formulas that contain moisturising ingredients such as jojoba oil, coconut oil and hyaluronic acid.

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The best lip liners you can buy in 2023

1. e.l.f. Love Triangle Lip Filler Liner: Best lip liner for versatility

Price when reviewed: £4 | Check price at Boots

If you’re travelling light, the e.l.f. Love Triangle lip filler liner is a great option. The retractable liner has a unique teardrop triangle shape, which gives you an always-sharp pointy end to work with for when you need to create thin, well-defined lines. Rotate it a couple of degrees and you’ll also have a wider side that you can use to quickly and easily fill in your lips. It means that, in a pinch, you could use this instead of a lipstick.

We tested red, a bold shade with an intense, warm colour that really stays put. The shape is a little tricky to get used to at first – as it’s so easy to slide onto that flat edge during use – but once we did, we were very impressed by how it managed to stay sharp even after repeated use.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 7 colours

2. Illamasqua Colour Lip Pencil: Best lip liner for intense colour

Price when reviewed: £16 | Check price at LookFantastic

Unlike other lip liners we tried, this slimline version from Illamasqua features a very simple design – it looks and smells exactly like a colouring pencil. But don’t let the no-frills exterior fool you, because it’s actually incredibly effective as a liner. The highly pigmented pencil has a creamy formula that glides on with ease. But despite being so easy to apply, it stays put until you’re ready to smudge and blend it into your lips for a more natural look.

We love that there’s a decent selection of colours to choose from, including Feisty, a statement red, and Fantasy, a softer nude. The one downside is that you’ll always have to have a pencil sharpener ready.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 11 colours

3. Sculpted by Aimee Connolly Lip Duo: Best lipstick and liner combo

Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at Amazon

Those who prefer a trimmed-down makeup bag will love the Lip Duo from Irish brand Sculpted by Aimee Connolly. You have a lip liner on one end of the pen and lipstick on the other, which means you’ll never have to worry about forgetting either. Better still, both colours have been expertly selected to complement each other so you don’t need to go by trial and error.

The twist-up lip liner is always slightly darker than the lipstick to help make your lips look fuller, while the creamy lipstick glides on with ease and has a velvety finish. There are a few colour options to choose from, but we loved Double Trouble for that glamorous 50s look.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 11 colours

4. Florence by Mills Mark My Words: Best lip liner for bright shades

Price when reviewed: £10 | Check price at Beauty Bay

Relatively new to the beauty scene is Florence by Mills, the vegan makeup brand from actress Millie Bobby Brown. Compared to some of the more established brands, there’s a smaller range of colours to choose from. Case in point, there are only four shades of lip liners – two are on the nude side and two are pinker.

When we tested these, we found the slightly waxy, no-smudge formula really stayed put on our lips to help create definition. It’s also enriched with jojoba oil to help nourish your lips at the same time. The one downside is that all of the colours were better suited to lighter lipstick shades, rather than bolder reds or darker hues.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 4 colours

Check price at Beauty Bay

5. Project Lip Plump and Fill: Best lip liner for plumping

Price when reviewed: £15 | Check price at Look FantasticThe Project Lip Plump and Fill lip liner can be used as a lip liner, lipstick and lip plumper. The retractable pen has a rounded tip, unlike many of the alternatives we’ve tried, but by applying it gently, you’ll still be able to create definition. Press a little harder and it works just like a lip balm and fully coats your lips with a creamy colour. What’s more, due to a ginger complex in the formula, it has the added benefit of stimulating blood flow to your lips to make them look plumper.

It’s worth noting that the line created from this product just isn’t as thin as some of the alternatives, so it’s not one to get if you’re looking for a strong, lined look. If you’re after a liner to work seamlessly with your lipstick though, its creamy formula is super blendable.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Cruelty-free: Yes; Shade range: 6 colours

Check price at Look Fantastic

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