12 Lip Liners Our Editors Swear By
Lip liners have had quite the journey. The concept first came about in the 1920s but really came into the limelight in the '90s. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Janet Jackson, Pamela Anderson, and Victoria Beckham (to name a few) all heavily influenced the overlined-lip trend during that decade. While the popularity of lip pencils faded slightly in the 2000s, they have since made a big — and we mean big — comeback this year. Now, you can once again spot '90s-supermodel-inspired lip liner on stars like Megan Thee Stallion, Kim Kardashian, Lizzo, and Storm Reid, among many more, on the red carpet.
Whether or not you line your lips every time you do your makeup is a personal preference, but even if you only save this technique for special occasions, you need a good lip-liner pencil (or three) in your makeup bag. There are a few different ways you can use them. The first and most subtle way is to outline the shape of your lips before lipstick application to keep any color from bleeding. Other people prefer to overline the area above and around the cupid's bow to give the illusion of fuller lips. Then, there are more nuanced techniques pioneered by different makeup artists. Mario Dedivanovic of Makeup by Mario, for example, went viral when he shared his "lip flip" method.
In terms of colors, a nude lip liner in a neutral hue close to the natural shade of your lips is good to have on hand, while a lip liner in brown gives you that nostalgic '90s look. If you're not a fan of all-over color, however, you can also go for a lip liner and lip gloss combo, which is a TikTok favorite.
Here at POPSUGAR, our editors have tried countless options, so you can trust they have the best lip-liner recommendations to offer. If you're in the market for a new one yourself, find a roundup of choices to consider ahead — starting as low as $5.
Lune+Aster PowerLips Lip Liner
"In my last 10-plus years as a beauty editor, I've tried something like 6,924 neutral lip colors (but, um, who's counting?), and I've yet to find a match as perfect as the Lune+Aster PowerLips Lip Liner ($20). I do not say this lightly: it made me love lip liner again. Not only do I dig every single shade (there are four in total, from a darker nude to a pinkish mauve) enough to wear it sans any gloss or lipstick on top, but the formula itself also does not budge after you apply it." — Kelsey Castañon, beauty director
Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner
"The Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner ($24) in Pillow Talk paired with the iconic Pillow Talk lipstick — now that's a duo. (Just ask Meghan Markle and Amal Clooney, who both wore it to their respective weddings.) It's the perfect neutral shade for me to overline my lips without it being too noticeable. I wear this lip liner with everything." — Jessica Harrington, beauty editor
ColourPop Lippie Pencil
"My favorite lip liner has to be the ColourPop in BFF 3 ($7). It is the perfect brown that isn't too dark to where it entirely takes over a lip look but it also isn't too light where it doesn't show up. It is literally my perfect shade. I have backups for my backups, so I definitely don't plan on running out soon, but if I do, for $7, it doesn't hurt to grab a few extra." — Ariel Baker, assistant beauty editor
Rare Beauty Kind Words Lip Liner
"I recently bought the Rare Beauty Kind Words Lip Liner ($15) for two reasons: 1) everything else I've tried from Rare Beauty I've loved and 2) it was only $15. Affordable and trustworthy? Nothing could go wrong. And nothing has, so far. With its surprisingly creamy texture, this liner feels more like a lipstick, which is perfect for my naturally dry lips." — Samantha Sasso, beauty editor, native content
MAC Lip Pencil Lip Liner
"The MAC Lip Pencil Lip Liner ($21) in Chestnut is a staple for a reason. It held Black women down when there weren't very many options for us on the market, and to this day, it is still one of the best brown lip liners I've ever used. I can achieve my super-deep '90s lip looks, as well as my everyday 'barely there' lip, with just this one pencil. If you're looking for a foolproof lip liner, try this one." — AB
Dibs Beauty No Pressure Lip Liner
"Given that my everyday makeup routine takes two-and-a-half minutes, lip liner isn't usually my thing. But when I'm doing a full-on look, I always line and fill my lips — and these days, I find myself reaching for the Dibs Beauty No Pressure Lip Liner ($16). It's super silky and balm-like, and it lasts all day even when I'm layering different glosses and lipsticks over it. The On the Rose shade is my ideal 'my lips but better' color, and if I want to overline, it works like a charm." — Dawn Davis, executive director, Beauty at Vox Media
NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil Creamy Long-Lasting Lip Liner
"For $5, you can't beat the NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil Creamy Long-Lasting Lip Liner ($5). It also comes in 31 shades, so you're bound to find your perfect match. The ultrathin point makes it easy to precisely line your mouth, and the rich pigment doesn't smudge or fade." — JH
The Lip Bar Straight Line Lip Liner
"I'm telling you right now: lip-liner formulas do not get creamier than the The Lip Bar Straight Line Lip Liner ($10). This is probably in part because it's loaded with all sorts of heavy-hitting hydrators like jojoba oil, aloe vera, and coconut oil, but the best part is you don't have to sacrifice pigment. It glides on easily, and the color is super saturated, without any of the usual drying effects." — KC
About-Face Matte Fix Lip Pencil
"If you're a gloss person, don't let the name of the About-Face Matte Fix Lip Pencil ($12) scare you away. This pencil is so creamy, I barely notice the matte finish. Vitamins C and E, in addition to hyaluronic acid, keep the formula hydrating even after eight-plus hours of wear. Another perk: it doesn't budge, so you don't have to worry about reapplying throughout the day. My favorite shade is Happy Endings because it goes with all of my favorite neutral lippies." — JH
Lawless Forget The Filler Definer Lip Liner
"If you're looking to overline your lips — and it is an art in illusion, I'll tell you that — do it with the Lawless Forget The Filler Definer Lip Liner ($21). The pencil goes on pigmented but has a soft, powder-like finish that blends into skin and looks completely natural. It also acts as a perfect canvas to a clear lip-gloss topper, but I also wear it without sometimes." — KC
Thrive Lip Filler Long-Wearing + Plumping Lip Liner
"The Thrive Lip Filler Long-Wearing + Plumping Lip Liner ($20) is just an all-around great lip liner. In fact, it might just be the first lip liner I ever really committed to using years ago before liners became super trendy again. The shade Jesse is one that I pop on when I don't feel like wearing a full lip. That pinky hue around my lips, plus my favorite lip gloss, and I'm out the door. Fast and easy." — JH
Make Up For Ever Artist Color Pencil: Eye, Lip & Brow Pencil
"I don't go anywhere without my Make Up For Ever Artist Color Pencil: Eye, Lip & Brow Pencil ($22) in Wherever Walnut. It's the perfect '90s brown that goes with every lipstick I own. Nothing beats it." — SS