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Makeup Memo - lip liner is your frienemy

September 21, 2011 Reviewed by admin 18 Comments

Truth #4

Lip liner is your “frienemy.”

Frienemy is a word that combines the two words “friend” and “enemy” suggesting that something could actually be both at once, which is so true of lip liner. Use it correctly and you can take years away from your appearance, but using wrong could make you look ancient.

Our society associates a youthful and beautiful mouth with plump, balanced lips that are a flushed pink color and have a smooth sheen.  As we age, however, the mouth begins to lose color, feathery lines begin to appear, withering skin and muscles assisted by our foe “gravity”, pull the mouth slightly inward, outward and downward. Yikes!

Lip liner is easily your enemy when you have thinner lips and choose a color that is much too dark, purple and/or brown. Unfortunately I often see women making this very mistake, walking around with a mouth that is way too dark, making their small lips recede into little, horizontal stripes on their face.

If you’ve ever studied any kind of art you know that using dark causes objects to appear to recede.  So if your lip liner is dark, it’s making your lips look thinner than they really are, which is not a very flattering or youthful effect.

Additionally the colors you chose can be needlessly piling on years to your face. Bobbi Brown made natural tones all the rage in the 90s and her matte brown mouth defined a decade.  A bit later, in the late 90s, purple and icy lilacs became a huge trend. Ladies, that was 20 years ago! It’s OK to put them away now. Purple and brown look dated and have a dulling effect to the face. Remember, bluish purple is the color people’s lips turn when they are freezing or dead.

Go for a shade that you like but has something lively in it to pick up on your natural flush. Don’t pick a color that is “dead” or you will look like you are headed there faster than need be.  Colors I like using on the majority of my clients are beigey pink, coral and bright red (for those who dare).

Natural Lip Liners I Love:



Let’s talk about how lip liner can be your new best friend.  It’s a great way to define the lip area, to keep lipstick from feathering and/or slipping off quickly.  After the age of 37 your face changes drastically, as discussed in my previous article, and it’s around this time that you must start paying more attention to your technique.

One of my favorite “age-defying” makeup techniques is adding fullness to the mouth by emphasizing the Cupid’s bow and rounding out the center of the bottom lip.  Start by placing small dots with your lip liner on the peaks of the upper lip, and one in the valley. Then draw a dash at the lowest point of the bottom lip.  Now, connect the dots with liner, with smooth, rounded edges.  Hard lines will make the mouth look too severe and that equals older, so think in terms of semi-circles rather than definite lines.

If your lips are thin and seem to be moving outward and downward, then don’t line or put lip color all the way to the very corners of the mouth.  Cheat the edges by creating a new corner slightly inside of your natural shape and fooling the eye to believe your mouth is higher rather than wider.

For lip color staying power, fill in the lips using the side of the pencil rather than the point to keep things soft looking and then place lipstick or gloss over the top.

As usual, I look forward to hearing your comments and if these tips are working for you.

  • February 26, 2012

    by Susan Robinson

    Hello Kristen,
    Thanks for all of your expert advice and teaching!
    When wearing clothing that is a true red or slightly 'bluish-red' what color lip liner and lip shade do you recommend?

  • September 30, 2011

    by Penny

    I have used a couple of shades of Aveda lip liners and lipsticks; but, alas, they've discontinued the colors I loved! I like the Aveda line because of the natural ingredients. The one problem is that they don't have much "staying" power. I'm digging the remaining bits of lipstick out of the tube and can't sharpen the liner any longer. So reading about the Youngblood line is exciting and I would love to sample the lip liner pencil. Hoping this will be my go to product line for lips! Thanks, Penny

  • September 29, 2011

    by Patti

    I really like Burt's Bees lip liners. They have a great set of nude and natural blush shades. I use them to color in the whole lip, and then I use Sugar Rose lip treatment on top (by fresh, has spf 15 too). Burt's bees products taste nice - though I admit I haven't read the ingredients! I haven't heard of Youngblood before. Would be curious to compare/see color options.

  • September 29, 2011

    by Megan

    I would love to try the youngblood lip liners!

  • September 29, 2011

    by Gloria

    I would love to try Youngblood lip Liners. i am 52 and have never found one that I absolutely love so I end up forfeiting them all together. They are usually very drying but I would love to try for a winner.

  • September 29, 2011

    by Kitri

    I find lip crayons--the thick ones intended for use as lipsticks--to make better lip liners than pencils. They are creamier, softer looking, easier to work with, and more forgiving than thin, hard pencils.

  • September 28, 2011

    by Denise Miller

    I have a hard time finding a lip liner that I like that isn't too dark or too light and that keeps my lipstick where it's supposed to. I would love to try the Youngblood Lip Liner pencil and report back, especially since I'm 54 and have a few lines around my lips and would like to see how it worked.

  • September 28, 2011

    by Becky

    Prestige lipliners are often dupes for the ones Mac makes which is great for me when I lose the Mac ones. :)

  • September 25, 2011

    by Cathy Ross

    Revlon's Colorstay makes great lipliners: I use the "Natural" shade as it matches my lips.They have several other good lip toned shades as well.

  • September 25, 2011

    by Ann

    Kristin and Susanna- Thanks for you're replies...I guess I'll just have to keep playing! Yeah...
    Ps Krisitin, I'm so jealous you're in Italy, it's my favorite place I the world!

  • September 24, 2011

    by Oksana

    I went to a local healthfood store today, and ended up bying Mali lipstick. what a beautiful color! looks darker in the tube, but once applied looks very natural but much better, healthier. love a hint of vanilla. maybe you will come up with some nice creamy blushes as well? thank you for the great products, and local too ;)

  • September 23, 2011

    by Susanna

    What a great site this is, and fantastic that Kristen Arnett is contributing articles! Susanna here, of Primitive Makeup, chiming in. Oksana, so happy that you love Primitive Makeup (that means a lot to us) — for you and Ann, as Kristen said, everyone is so different — but I can suggest two great everyday colors — Corsica (which looks amazing on almost everyone — it has a cool undertone, yet works for those that are both cool and warm in their skin's undertone; and Mali, which is the warm 'sister' to Corsica. I'm olive, and can wear both. Feel free to get in touch with us (this is to all visitors of TIA), and even send a photo, and we can help you in your selection — (and reference this site). Just as fyi, Corsica and Mali come in both a lipstick and a lip liner. Hope this helps.

  • September 22, 2011

    by Kristen Arnett

    Hi there ladies! Marta is right, we are going to work on some videos soon and I'm really excited about that. Oksana and Ann, it's so difficult to suggest lip color without really seeing someone or trying it on. The reason is that we all have different skin chemistry that can affect the way a color looks once it has been on the lips from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Plus what you find beautiful is very subjective. Overly matte and overly glittery are no, no's. But we'll get into lipstick in another article...I have to save some secrets to keep you reading!
    Ciao from Milan, Italy (I'm at fashion week doing makeup here. Wish you could all join!)

  • September 22, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Pam, we are setting up videos with Kristen and should have them in a couple of weeks.

  • September 22, 2011

    by Oksana

    one more question - any recommendation of organic/natural eye liner w/good staying power? bronziish-brown? thank you!

  • September 21, 2011

    by Ann

    Great questions Oksana! I'd like to know the answer as I also have full lips and fair skin but brown eyes...

  • September 21, 2011

    by Pam

    Love your posts. When can you give us a video demo (close-up) of the techniques you describe? Please include demos on the lipliner and concealer instructions! Thanks

  • September 21, 2011

    by Oksana

    I love Primitive Makeup lipsticks and pencils! the lipsticks taste great w/just a hint of vanilla and stay on really well.
    Karen, can you give some info on how to choose the right color for the lipstick? I am having hell of a time choosing a nice, natural looking color for daytime. I have warm, very light skin tone w/strong yellowish undertones (Vapour Organics Atmosphere 115), blue eyes, and full lips.
    also, matte vs shimmer vs stain vs gloss - any one better than the other in terms of "youthfulness"?
    thank you so much!

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