7 Best Lip Stains under $12 (2023)

As I’ve said before, I usually don’t wear heavy makeup. And, while I love French-girl red lipstick, sometimes you just want a little color that you can put on and forget about. That means a lip stain.

I’m not going to lie. The best lip stain I’ve ever tried is Fenty’s Poutsicle Hydrating Lip Stain. The color payoff is great. It lasts forever even through eating and drinking. And, it has a satiny sheen that’s not too sticky or too dry.

Poutsicle isn’t perfect, though. For one thing, there are only four shades. They’re also $27 each. I work from home, so it seems like a waste to wear a stain that costs more than $13.

I went in search of a lip stain that I would feel okay with wearing even if I don’t see another person all day. Price and longevity were my top considerations, but applicator, consistency, and transfer were also important. I tried to stick with similar shades when possible to make it easier to evaluate the wear time.

My Top Picks

Best Overall
Ulta Weightless Water Lip Stain ($10)

Best On-the-Go
Palladio Lip Stain ($7)

Best Finish
L’Oreal Brilliant Signature Shiny Lip Stain ($11.99)

Most Moisturizing
elf Glossy Lip Stain ($6)

Best Matte
Peripera Ink Velvet Lip Tint ($9.90)

Best “Your Lips But Better”
Flower Beauty Bitten Lip Stain ($11.99)

Best Bang for Your Buck
ColorPop Fresh Kiss Glossy Lip Stain ($9)

Ulta Weightless Water Lip Stain in Very Berry

My Ratings: Comfort 5/5 Pigment 4/5 Transfer Resistance 5/5 Wear 5/5

7 Best Lip Stains under $12 (1)

I’m a bit of a makeup snob, so I did not expect Ulta’s house brand to be the best overall stain I tried. But I’m happy to admit my snobbery was wrong.

This stain appears to be a dupe for Clarins Water Lip Stain. I haven’t tried the Clarins stain, so I don’t know how it compares. What I do know is that the Ulta Weightless Water Lip Stain is easily the longest-wearing stain of any of the products I tried. It lasted close to 10 hours, during which I ate two meals and drank several bottles of water.

As the name implies the formula is watery and applies with an unusually shaped doe foot. The color payoff is sheer but buildable with a natural finish. After it dries, it is completely weightless and there’s zero transfer.

Palladio Lip Stain in Berry

My Ratings: Comfort 5/5 Pigment 5/5 Transfer Resistance 4/5 Wear 3/5

7 Best Lip Stains under $12 (2)

This Palladio stain was another surprise. It looks like a marker, so I expected a sheer finish. Boy was I surprised. The color payoff was much more solid. It is buildable if you want more color, but I didn’t find that necessary for daily wear.

The marker tip made it very easy to line my lip. Then, once it dried, I couldn’t feel anything. There was some very faint transfer, but I was able to eat and drink without it looking patchy. It doesn’t have the same wear time as the Ulta stain, but I got a good five hours out of it. I think the marker applicator is very clever and can see throwing it in my bag.

L’Oreal Brilliant Signature Shiny Lip Stain in Be Successful

My Ratings: Comfort 4/5 Pigment 5/5 Transfer Resistance 3/5 Wear 4/5

7 Best Lip Stains under $12 (3)

The finish of this product from L’Oreal was simply beautiful. Plus, it was the only stain that came close to the Ulta Weightless Water Stain with a wear time of eight hours (including eating and drinking).

The Brilliant Signature Shiny Lip Stain is a little more like lipstick than some of the competitors. It’s creamy and comfortable to wear, but it has a slightly tacky texture…so not weightless. The color payoff is solid, and the doe-foot applicator has a pointed tip, which makes it easy to control the product.

elf Glossy Lip Stain in Berry Queen

My Ratings: Comfort 5/5 Pigment 3/5 Transfer Resistance 3/5 Wear 1/5

7 Best Lip Stains under $12 (4)

The elf Glossy Lip Stain was very buttery. When I initially swatched all of the stains, my lips were a little irritated with all the staining and wiping. When I applied this product, my lips immediately felt better.

The application was a little tricky. The doe foot was standard, but the formula went on streaky. It took a little work to get it evened out. When I did, it was a lovely semi-sheer plum that looked great with my natural lip color.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. I didn’t even get two hours out of it. But, at $6 it’s moisturizing and pretty enough that you might not mind reapplying…especially in colder weather.

Peripera Ink Velvet Lip Tint in Smoky Red

My Ratings: Comfort 4/5 Pigment 5/5 Transfer Resistance 3/5 Wear 2/5

7 Best Lip Stains under $12 (5)

Peripera is a Korean brand that has recently gone viral with its lip ink formulas. This lip tint had the most unusual texture of all the stains I tried. It’s very soft and velvety.

I expected it to wear a little longer since it was matte, but it was gone after only four hours. It was pretty, though. I find myself reaching for it more often than I expected.

I should note, it has a light fruity scent which is something you get with Korean products. It isn’t unpleasant or overpowering, though.

Flower Beauty Bitten Lip Stain in Play

My Ratings: Comfort 4/5 Pigment 5/5 Transfer Resistance 3/5 Wear 2/5

7 Best Lip Stains under $12 (6)

I’ve been a fan of the Flower Bitten Lip Stain for a few years now. It has a semi-glossy finish that’s only slightly tacky. There’s very little transfer. And, even though it only lasts a few hours, it fades evenly, so there are no weird patches.

It goes on wet but feels weightless after a few minutes. The color payoff is not too sheer and not too opaque. You can build it if you want more. The shade Play is a soft rose that matches my lips, making it almost like a “lip foundation.”

The biggest drawback is that this product has been hard to find lately. There are only six shades. I already had Play, but I wanted to pick up Tempt because I thought it would be closer to the other shades. I couldn’t find it except from third-party sellers wanting twice the price.

ColorPop Fresh Kiss Glossy Lip Stain in Berry Ripe

My Ratings: Comfort 2/5 Pigment 5/5 Transfer Resistance 2/5 Wear 1/5

7 Best Lip Stains under $12 (7)

I got excited when I first swiped this ColorPop stain on. The color and finish were absolutely beautiful. The only problem? It didn’t last at all. I’m not sure why they even call this a stain since it’s a perfectly lovely gloss.

There was some transfer, but that was probably because the formula stayed sticky until it wore off. Berry Ripe is such a nice color, though. I want to try a few of the others. The $9 price tag wasn’t too bad considering the size was larger than most of the other products I tried.

Final Verdict

While I liked many of the lip stains I tried, the one that really impressed me was the Ulta Weightless Water Lip Stain. It was the most expensive of the stains when you accounted for the size of the tubes, but at $10 it’s not going to wear out your debit card. With the watery consistency, it doesn’t take very much to coat your lips even if you go for more layers, so it’s going to last.

The Palladio Lip Stain was my runner-up. The marker-style container is very easy to use and take with me for rare touchups. That alone would have made it a fave, but the marker tip and great color payoff makes this product a go to.

Do you have a favorite lip stain? Share it in the comments!

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