What Does Lip Oil Do
Hybrid makeup is a new beauty category that has emerged from the “clean” makeup movement, and it’s taking the beauty world by storm. I’ve written some about this trend relative to foundations and the no-makeup makeup look. The category strives to offer both cosmetic and skincare benefits from a single product.
Lip products are front and center in this hybrid trend. A newer type of product, lip oil, has emerged, touted as both makeup and lip care. In fact, many makeup brands now routinely integrate a lip oil line with their regular lineup of OG standbys: lipsticks and lip glosses.
It makes sense. Hydrated plump lips imbued with a bit of color represent energy, femininity, and confident age-transcendent beauty. Who doesn’t want some of that?
To be clear, lip oils have been around for many years. I purchased my first (and arguably best) about 15 years ago. With that said, the past 2-3 years have seen a dramatic uptick in lip oil ubiquity.
It would be wonderful if lip oils were all that. However, pervasiveness does not always equate to greatness.
Let’s do an honest examination of lip oils. Our discussion will center around what they are supposed to do, what they are, and what they are not. And, in the final analysis, are they truly a worthy permanent addition to your makeup bag?
You can be the judge.
What Are Lip Oils
Lip oils are defined very loosely by the makeup industry. From my vantage point, in order to be called a lip oil, they must provide and do the following:
- Color that is either opaque or sheer
- A sheen to the lips that is either satin or a lower level of glossy compared to a lip gloss
- Moisturization, nourishment, and protection of the lips
Lip oils are typically formulated with a blend of oils. The type of oils varies from product to product and brand to brand. The end goal, however, is for the lip oil to heal or at least improve dry and chapped lips while also coloring lips slightly or more than slightly.
Additionally, lip oils may have a glossy or semi-glossy finish similar to lip glosses although without the stickiness and oftentimes high shine of a lip gloss.
They are packaged in all types of forms: rollerballs, squeeze tubes, wand applicators (i.e. doe feet), etc.
Lip Oil vs Lip Gloss
The main difference between lip oil and lip gloss lies in the chemical formulation and their primary functions. With that said, though, there are many crossover ingredients and functions in both product types.
When compared to the more nurturing lower-sheen lip oil, lip glosses provide a glossy and shiny finish to the lips and as such create a more lustrous and visually plumping effect.
Most lip oils consist primarily of nourishing oils along with Vitamin E and shea butter. In contrast, lip glosses are typically (but not always) made with fewer oils, more alcohol, and more waxes.
Chemical polymers in the form of polybutene and polyisobutene are often added to both lip glosses and oils for shine and viscosity.
The Truth About Lip Oils-1 Lie and 8 Truths
So do lip oils actually live up to their lip-nourishing hype? After testing about 15 lip oils, my answer is, sometimes yes. And when they do, they add value.
Below is a general summary of what I found after testing.
A majority of my lip oil testers did not live up to their promise. My lips dried out after only a couple of hours.
The formulation was just off. As I discussed in the post on face oils here, oils alone are not enough to nurture skin or lips. Oils tend to simply remain on the skin’s surface. In order to hydrate and nourish, they must be combined with other ingredients whose primary function is to hydrate.
- A few lip oils felt very lip-nourishing on their own
- A few lip oils looked fantastic and natural on the lips just as lip tints (see pic below)
- Layering a product like Aquaphor with the lip oils helped achieve a more lip-nourishing result overall
- Applying lip oil underneath lipstick vs on top of lipstick resulted in a nourishing feel to the lips
- Texture and viscosity varied fairly dramatically from product to product and are a personal preference
- Some lip oils looked and behaved on the lips very similarly to lip glosses
- The intensity of color varied from brand to brand from a tint to more full coverage
- There is no one way to put on lip oils. They can be applied underneath or on top of lipstick or alone. With the right products, it all can look and feel good!
My Best Recommended Lip Oils
As someone who has dry lips year round, I was and continue to be hopeful for this category. I believe that new and better formulations will appear on the market.
While many lip oils were duds, there were a few true product standouts I would like to share with you.
ilia balmy gloss tinted lip oil
This product felt like a luxurious cushion on my lips. The texture probably has much to do with the fact that the polymer typically attributed to lip glosses, polyisobutene, is the first ingredient on its ingredient list. However, it does not feel like a gloss at all.
Very hydrating ingredients in the formulation include Hyaluronic Acid, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, and Salicornia Herbacea extract. Other ingredients to note are Shea Butter, Sunflower Seed Oil, and Jojoba Oil.
This product looked great on its own (6 colors) or layered on top or under lipstick. It has an elegant sheen vs. a gloss.
dior addict lip glow oil
This lip oil is considered the G.O.A.T of lip oils. And, it’s very good albeit the most expensive of the bunch at $40. Unlike the Ilia product, it is more of a tint that intensifies the natural lip color. The texture leans more towards a gloss (although isn’t).
The claim to fame in this oil is its sweet cherry oil known for its moisturizing and soothing properties along with its skin barrier support. The lips feel absolutely moisturized.
It can be worn beautifully alone on top of the lips or layered with lipstick. Available in multiple tint colors.
Bobbi brown crushed oil-infused gloss
I’ve been using this product for over 10 years. Like Ilia, it gives a cushiony nourishing feel to the lips on its own. It provides more color than most other lip oils and is like a cross between liquid lipstick and a lip gloss.
It contains multiple oils: olive, avocado, coffee seed, kukui along with the polymer, polybutene that gives it a lovely texture. Infused with Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamins C and E.
la girl lip oil
For the money, this is truly a solid lip oil that feels a lot like a gloss but is more nourishing to the lips. Available in 5 sheer colors including clear. This will not provide much color and can be worn underneath or on top of lipstick.
My lips stayed moisturized for a number of hours.
This article discussed the merits of lip oils, an emerging and growing hybrid product category. As I discovered, not all lip oils are created equal, and a majority do not live up to their marketed benefits. With that said, a select few do offer real lip care benefits and even offer a beautiful sheen and color to the lips.
Over the longer term, I believe we will see lip oils mature and evolve. In the short term, I will selectively choose a few for my makeup bag. Permanently.
What about you?
Thank you for reading!