What is Clear Lip Liner?

B. Miller

Clear lip liner is a type of cosmetic that is applied around the lips to prevent lipstick from smudging or feathering outside the lips. Traditionally, lip liner is colored, and applied in a slightly darker shade than one's lipstick in order to create a more dramatic look. Clear lip liner, however, allows one to keep a more natural look while still keeping the lipstick in place.

Lip liner keeps lipstick from smudging.
Lip liner keeps lipstick from smudging.

Clear lip liner is not shiny, and dries to a matte finish. There is no reason to make the lips appear as if the edges are shiny. It will help to keep the lip color in place; people who have tiny wrinkles around the mouth, for instance, often find that lipstick will feather into those lines, which can be unattractive. Lip liner will prevent this feathering from occurring.

Clear lip liner typically has a matte, non-shiny finish.
Clear lip liner typically has a matte, non-shiny finish.

To apply this product, it is best to do so before applying the lipstick. Usually a lip liner comes in a pencil form, but if it doesn't, use a small angled brush or wand to trace the edges of the lips. Be sure to stay within the borders of the lips; do not draw the lip liner larger than the natural lips. Even if it is clear, that will look unnatural. Once the edges of the entire mouth are traced with lip liner, give it a few moments to dry, then apply lipstick as normal.

Lip liner or long-wearing lipstick may be removed at the end of the day with makeup remover. It is unlikely that lip liner will need to be reapplied throughout the day. Though clear lip liner is an excellent choice for creating a more defined line of lipstick, colored lip liner can be a good choice as well if one is looking for a more dramatic look.

Colored lip liner is applied the same way as the clear type; simply choose a color that is no more than one shade darker than the lipstick. Then apply the lip liner in a line around the lips, again being especially certain to stay inside the lips. Lining slightly further within the edges can make very full lips look thinner, whereas concentrating on the outer edges of the lips can make a thin mouth look wider. Experiment with lip liner to see what looks best; if it turns out to be too dark, choose a clear lip liner or one that is the same shade of the lipstick instead.

Lip liner helps prevent lipstick from smudging or feathering outside the lips.
Lip liner helps prevent lipstick from smudging or feathering outside the lips.

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Discussion Comments


@anamur, @turkay1-- Your comments are really helpful. I've been wanting to get a nice lip pencil for a long time but I had no idea what to get. I want something that I can use with more than one lipstick and which will keep my lips nice and clean throughout the day. I had never heard of clear lip pencil before, but I'm glad that I've found about it.

I just have one question, since it's clear, is it hard to know if you drew the line on?

I feel like it might be hard. When I use colored lip liner, I can see where I've lined which makes it easy to work with. I wouldn't want my lips to look funny and disproportionate.


@anamur-- You're right, I discovered that too! Clear lip liner actually prevents lipsticks from fading, not just bleeding!

I do recommend everyone to read reviews before getting a clear lip liner though, especially if it's a more expensive one. I'm on my fourth clear lip liner and this is the only one which actually works. The first three I tried which were from different brands and at different costs, did not work at all.

I've tried drugstore brands like Revlon and high end brands like Shiseido lip liner and it made no difference. The one I have now is from Avon and it has worked the best even though it didn't cost much.

The only minus I've found with clear lip liner is that you have to reapply it when you're reapplying your lipstick. Or else, it can start to bleed. But that's a small factor when you think about the plus side.


I use a clear lip liner when I'm wearing colored lip gloss. Lip gloss smudges much more easily than lipstick does because it's so fluid. I have a couple of lip glosses that have really pigmented dramatic colors like hot pink and red. If I don't apply a lip liner, it always goes outside of my lips and I end up looking like a clown.

I think clear lip liner is a lot better than colored ones because you will have to buy a different color lip liner for each lipstick or lip gloss you have. It's also hard to find a lip liner that matches perfectly.

But when it's clear, you can use it with anything. Sometimes, I apply the clear liner all over my lips before putting on lip gloss. It works kind of like a primer and keeps my lip gloss in place.

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