How to Apply Lipstick on Dry Lips

Drier lips need a little extra attention–TLC, if you will–and prep to get the best lipstick application.  Lipstick simply goes on more smoothly and sits better on hydrated, more supple lips.  In order to apply lipstick to dry lips, the key is proper preparation and ongoing maintenance of your lips to keep them from getting painfully dry, and it is followed by choosing more hydrating formulations that sit better on drier lips.

Proper Prep is Key!

Good prep always helps, but if you have drier lips that suffer from flakiness or feel cracked, proper preparation will go a long way to keeping your color on longer, make it appear more even, and help treat the actual underlying dryness.

Keep lips hydrated, especially at night. I will opt for a heavier, often tackier, lip balm in the evening and while I’m sleeping, as I find they’re more nourishing and do a better job at locking in moisture.  These are really critical for me to replenish any moisture loss during the day, especially as I frequently test matte and liquid lipsticks that are often more drying (or, at the least, less hydrating).

Recommended Lip Balms: Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask, $26 (hydrating, tacky, long-wearing); Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25, $7.50 (hydrating, long-wearing, less tacky); Hourglass No. 28 Lip Treatment Oil, $44 (ultra-hydrating, smoothing, less tacky); Sara Happ The Lip Slip, $24 (hydrating, smoothing, long-wearing, tacky).

Exfoliate your lips regularly.  This works well for someone who has lightly to moderately dry lips that feel dry and mildly uncomfortable but aren’t painful.  If your lips are bleeding, heavily cracked, and feel worse for the wear, exfoliation may not be your best friend.

I’d work on finding more hydrating products and minimizing the dryness before going heavily into applying lip color!  For a gentle, absolutely free exfoliation, I like to gently rub my lips after a five to ten minute shower, either with my fingertip or my towel as I dry off.

Recommended Lip Scrubs:  sugar and jojoba oil; Fresh Sugar Lip Scrub, $24; Sara Happ The Lip Scrub, $22

MAC Love Me Lipstick

Keep Your Lips Happy & Hydrated

Apply lip balm prior to applying lipstick.  The first step is to apply a thin layer of your favorite lip balm (see above for recommendations) all over the lips.  Ideally, you’ll want to do this step in the beginning of your makeup routine so that the lip balm can sit on the lips and nourish them while you’re getting the rest of yourself ready.

You can always leave the lip balm on, but lip balm usually shortens the wear of anything put on top of it, so if you’re hoping for iron-clad lipstick application, you’ll want to gently remove (I like to kiss the back of my hand or blot my lips against a microfiber towel).

Avoid drying formulas.  In some ways, it may seem obvious to avoid using formulas that dry out your lips, but sometimes brands spend a lot of time coming out with ultra long-wearing formulas that aren’t adding any hydration (and may, in fact, be drying with extended use).  Check out the most hydrating lipstick formulas here.

There are more hydrating and, at the very least, less-drying formulas available, at all price points, so if you feel like your lips are painfully raw after wearing a formula all day, you might want to back off.  (You can pat on some lip balm or lip gloss to help soothe lips as a fix.)

You might have to sacrifice a bit of longevity for the health of your lips.  Most drying formulas tend to be ones that are more matte in finish, so consider a satin or semi-matte finish formula and blotting before you leave, which will take down a good amount of the shine.

Pat McGrath LUST Lip Gloss

Apply lip balm or a nourishing gloss on top throughout the day.  A little pat of lip balm and go a long way to refreshing application and helping the lipstick look more smooth and flattering on the lips.  A little lip balm won’t make your lip color slide everywhere.  Gloss will add more shine but may be easier to apply throughout the day.

Alternate the type of lipsticks you wear.  This is particularly key if you’re someone who finds they prefer more drying formulas in spite of the drying aspect of them.  For example, some liquid lipsticks dry out my lips more than others, but I don’t feel the consequences too much if I just wear it on Monday, but I would if I wore it for two or three days over and over again.

For more in-depth tips on how to apply lipstick, read this guide! Plus, check out our top formulas for lipsticks and lipglosses!

Lipsticks We Recommend