Main content


Adding a swipe of colour to your lips is the perfect way to step out into your day (or night) with confidence. Lip colour is an essential addition to every outing and can take your look to a whole new level. Even better, recent advances in lip colour formulations have seen them enriched with caring and nourishing ingredients, as well as the usual powerful pigment.

However, when it comes to finding the perfect pigment for your pout, it can be tricky to decide what kind of lip colour will suit you best.

Between lipsticks, lip stains and lip glosses, there’s a whole suite of varied textures, formulas, pigment strengths and shine levels to explore. Our complete guide to lip formulas break down the differences between each type and their unique benefits, to help you choose your perfect match.

Discover the unique benefits of lipstick, lip stain and lip gloss

Choosing your perfect lip colour formula is an inherently personal experience, as it depends on your own individual preferences, needs and lifestyle. You might be looking for a long wearing colour that will last all the way from the office to after work drinks. Or perhaps it’s the opposite – an easy to wear colour that’s simple to remove at the end of the day.

Whether you’re looking for a deeply pigmented formula or something more shimmery, there’s something in the world of lip colour for everyone. Each type of lip colour has its own set of differences and benefits.

Lipstick has the widest range of textures and finishes of all and is renowned for its lasting power, while lip stain will give you deep, lasting pigment like nothing else. Lip gloss provides the most eye-catching shine out of the trio and is definitely the easiest to apply.

Characteristics of lipstick

Lipsticks are the classic longwearing lip colour option, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that means they’re old fashioned. Advances in cosmetic science have transformed the lipstick game over the years, with new innovations leading to an impressive array of different lipstick colours, textures and looks to choose from.

The key differences between the three types of lip products all come down to the formula. The two key ingredients of any lipstick are waxes and oils – that’s what gives lipstick its smooth and creamy texture. Alongside those main ingredients, lipstick formulas also include emollients to help hydrate the lips and, of course, a punch of pigment. Lipstick benefits allow the wearer to have a choice of finishes and textures and balance between staying power and hydration.

Liquid lipstick

Liquid lipstick is like the fun, free younger sister of the lipstick family. While the liquid texture is similar to a gloss, liquid formulas like our Vernis À Lèvres Vinyl Cream Liquid Lipstick are much more highly pigmented for a bold, solid colour.

Sheer finish

This type of lipstick finish offers a sheer tint rather than a solid colour. However, you can build up a few layers to customise your preferred shade. Our Rouge Pur Couture Slim Matte range allows you to build a custom pigment level.

Cream finish

Perhaps the most common finish, cream lipstick formulas are as smooth and sumptuous as they are versatile. Cream lipsticks like our collection provide a solid colour and a light shine, in a texture that’s easy to apply.

Matte finish

Something different, something bold – that’s the look a matte finish lipstick will provide. Matte lipsticks like our Tatouage Couture Matte Stain have zero shine, tapping into the latest fashion.

Natural finish

Perfect for a laid-back day look, natural finish lipsticks aim for a subtle look that mimics a bare lip, albeit slightly more polished.

Characteristics of lip stain

What is lip stain? It’s the most intense and perhaps least common type of lip colour, but it has strong benefits for those looking for long lasting intense pigment. You’ll encounter lip stains with a variety of different applicators such as roll-ons, sponge tip wands, or even tubes.

Unlike lipstick which wax is a main ingredient, lip stain is formulated with water or gel as the main component. Some formulas also contain oils. Lip stains get their name from the inclusion of strong natural or synthetic dyes, which can stain the lips for 18 hours or more. In terms of benefits, lip stain’s intense pigment and extreme staying power can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. You’ll never have to worry about fading, smearing, stickiness or bleeding. One application will definitely last you all day. However, this does mean that you’ll need to spend some extra time removing your makeup at night and perhaps invest in a good makeup remover to ease the process.

Lip stains tend to have a matte finish, such as our Vernis À Lèvres Vinyl Cream stain. If that’s not your style or you suffer from dry lips, you can add a little moisture by layering with a balm.  Pro tip: because many lip stains contain quick-drying alcohol, you’ll need to work quickly during application.

Characteristics of lip gloss

Of all the types of lip colour, gloss is perhaps the most fun and simple.  Common in all lip gloss is an amped up shine, but it may surprise you there’s a lot of variation between lip glosses when talking pigmentation levels and finishes. Lip glosses can come in a liquid form, in a tube or cylinder with applicator, or as an easily applied solid. In terms of formulation, lip glosses get their slippery texture from a higher percentage of natural or synthetic oils.

Lip gloss finishes

By definition, all lip glosses are going to have a glossy look. The difference comes in the detail. From sheer to metallic, opalescent to glittery, no two lip glosses are quite the same. Usually, solid lip glosses provide a more sheer finish, whereas liquid lip glosses form a thicker, more pigmented layer.

The biggest advantage of lip gloss is the ease and simplicity of application – simply swipe it on and you’re ready to go. It’s also very easy to reapply on the go, which you might need to do often. Unfortunately, gloss has the least staying power out of all the types of lip colour. It can also be quite sticky and transfers easily to coffee cups, wine glasses, and anything else your lips might touch. However, if shine is your priority, you can’t beat a gloss.

How to apply lipstick and lip stain properly?

Applying lip gloss is an incredibly simple process, but for lipstick and lip stain there is some skill required. Follow our expert guidance for a standout sexy pout.

First, know your undertones

Before applying your lipstick or lip stain, it pays to know your skin undertones to help select the perfect shade. Take look at the veins in your wrist to find out whether your complexion is warm, neutral or cool. If your veins look green-ish, you have warm undertones, while blue or purple looking veins mean cool undertones.

If you have warm undertones, that means your skin is enriched with hues of peach and gold. Try our new Rouge Volupté Shine Nude Transparent shade to suit your undertones.

Those with cool undertones tend towards blues, pinks and reds. Try our Rouge Volupté Shine Rouge Studio shade for a vibrant red suited to cool undertones.

If you have neutral undertones, you’ll see a mix of warm and cool tones. With these tones you have your pick of shades, from Beige Satin to Carmine Retro within our Rouge Volupté Shine range.

Lipstick application with the Rouge Volupté Shine range

Our Rouge Volupté Shine collection provides the ultimate high shine lipstick to give your lips the attention they deserve. Infused with pomegranate grown from our own sustainable Ourika Gardens, this formulation combines vibrant colour with the unique sensorial experience of soft comfort. Our cult lipstick is now available in a new suite of burning chili shades.

Here’s the ideal lipstick application process for our Rouge Volupté Shine range.

·       Prep your lips by gently exfoliating with our

·       Layer on your lipstick from the centre outwards, either directly or using a lip brush for extra precision.

·      When it’s time to take off your lipstick, be sure to use a makeup remover to easily swipe away all traces of pigment.

Lip stain application

The application process for lip stains is a little different due to their unique texture. Lip stains like our Vernis à Lèvres Water Stain,   and Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain will wear best if you follow these steps:

·       Exfoliation using our Top Secrets Lip Perfector is a non-negotiable. Even more so than with lipstick, the matte texture of lip stains means smooth lips are a must.

·       Layer on a creamy lip balm to hydrate your lips.

·       Apply the lip stain as swiftly as possible to ensure an even pigment before the quick drying formula settles.

·      Stick to one layer to last several hours or add another for an extreme long wear finish.

Use virtual try on to find your perfect lip colour match

It’s easy to be drawn in by the thought of trying a new lip colour, but it’s much more difficult to envision how it will look on you. Our virtual try on feature enables you to try on any YSL shade without even looking up from your screen. Upload a photo or enable your camera to get a picture-perfect view of which shades will suit you best – it’s the perfect solution to find your perfect match.

Now that you’re across the differences between lipstick, lip balm and lip gloss, explore our matte and liquid lipsticks for a cutting edge take on a striking pout.


Build your ultimate makeup wardrobe with YSL Beauty



Makeup Guides

Virtual Try On Tool

Orientation message
For the best experience, please turn your device