I have been obsessed with lip stains since I came across Benefit's Benetint as a teenager. My experience with the product category subsequently, however, did not live up to my hopes. The colors were not visible on my darker purplish-brown lips, or the formula was so painfully drying, as to cause chapped lips. One of the few I find myself buying repeatedly, and in several shades though, is YSL's Vernis à Lèvres Water Lip Stain.
I have spent a lifetime testing lip stains — they've always promised some elusive and specific allure. In my head, the perfect one makes me look like I wandered off during the Picnic at Hanging Rock or like I walked out of the Garden of Earthly Delights. I want the color to seep into my lips and make me look vivacious without trying. Basically, just like I'm supremely healthy and effervescent.
There is not another lip product in my arsenal that is $38. Most of my products peak at $22-$24, but this is a singularly unique product that, to my knowledge, doesn't have a more affordable dupe. The only way to describe the texture of this YSL's Water Lip Stain is, uh, as watery. It's highly pigmented, so a little goes a very long way. It goes on easily and has no noticeable texture once it's been absorbed by your lips.
Shop now: $38, nordstrom.com
There are a number of things that have made this a repeated buy for me. First, there is buildability — you can really control how vibrant or demure the effect of the tint is. When I want the subtlest hint of color I dab a little on the center of my lips and spread with my ring finger. Otherwise, I go full throttle with the applicator. I have come across dozens of lip stains that are theoretically desirable, but don't really show up on my brown-purple lips. This is not the case with this YSL product.
Second, and most importantly, it does not budge. Since the pandemic, I have been reaching for this tube even more. Even after my stained lips are under a face mask for a couple of hours, they are still vibrant and unsmudged when the mask comes off. I have gone through entire workdays where I have only had to apply the product twice.
Lastly, I use it as a cheek tint on the go. I dab a little of the water stain on my index and middle fingers, and then gently tap the apples of my cheeks for a healthy wash of color. I haven't gotten my hands on every existing shade of the product just yet, but so far, I've been smitten with Rosewood Flow, Rouge Deluge, and Bain De Corail. You can buy the $38 lip stain at Nordstrom.