Your Guide to Lip Tints & Stains--Plus 5 Natural Lip Products to Love

December 30, 2016

Your Guide to Lip Tints & Stains--Plus 5 Natural Lip Products to Love

Here’s the thing: I don’t wear much makeup.

For me, a “beauty” regimen when it comes to makeup consists of a few swipes of concealer here and there and some natural lip balm. I don’t how to apply the perfect cat eye, how to use bronzer properly, or what the deal with blush is. I can’t tell you what the best lip liners are, recommend the perfect eye shadow palette, or comment on the most effective foundations. I’m more of a no-makeup kind of gal, choosing to focus on skin care rather than makeup. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried a thing or two and stuck with it. In particular, I’m talking about lip stains and tints.

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My first experience using a lip stain was a year ago when I purchased one from our local drugstore. It was a self-proclaimed, “natural” nude color that was meant, I’m sure, to enhance my natural lip color but which actually stained my lips this random pink hue that was quite difficult to remove–and didn’t feel good going on. I gave it a week before I chucked the lip stain and vowed to give up my colored pout for good. “I’ll stick with my clear lip balm!” I told myself. But then I stumbled upon natural lip stains, and it only got better from there.

See, most common lip stains and tints available to us in drugstores or makeup counters are laden with chemicals, preservatives, artificial colors and additives which make the product stain or tint your lips–artificially. Various ingredients are used to make the stain or tint “last all day” whilst promoting a specific color that certainly isn’t found “in nature.” And some stains are really tough to remove. I can distinctly recall a friend and I laughing in the bathroom of a bar one night after discovering that she literally couldn’t remove her lip stain from her lips without soap and water. Gross, right? You know there’s something not entirely awesome lurking in your lip stain when you have trouble taking it off, with soap.

Having been turned off by own experience with a lip stain, I decided to look into natural alternatives for stains and tints that would be both safe for my skin as well as effective in lending a subtle pop of color to my pout without permanently staining it. I was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of natural tints and stains which not only moisturize my lips and keep them hydrated and soft but that also utilize natural coloring to give a subtle hint of a hue to my lips.

To tint or stain? 

If you’re wondering whether there is a difference between a tint and a stain, well, there is. Lip tints act more like lip balms and are not highly pigmented; that means their color will not be as dramatic on your lips but, rather, will look more subtle. Lip tints can be layered to enhance their color but, generally, they behave like a mildly tinted balm as opposed to a stain. They can be used as a moisturizing and hydrating base for lip stains or can be layered to give their own color more depth, which makes them quite versatile. Stains, on the other hand, will contain richer pigmentation for deeper, more dramatic color. I’ve found that most natural lip stains and tints are lumped together as “tints” regardless of whether some act more like a stain, so it’s important to read the description of any lip stain/tint to figure out how effective they are in lending color. In my experience, the more richly pigmented a lip tint is, the more it tends to “stain” my lips.

The source of color & moisturization 

The natural lip stains I’ve come across and personally use are typically colored using natural ingredients like mica (a naturally occurring mineral), botanical extracts, or iron oxides. You may find, for instance, that many lip stains/tints are colored using beetroot or tomato extract, as well as red iron oxide. Generally, these natural colorants are safe for use and wear, but if you have any allergies, it may be best to consult the brand and/or a doctor before you use a stain/tint with these colorants. Regarding the moisturization and hydration properties, natural stains and tints are made, in my experience, with one of four main moisturizing ingredients: beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter and/or candelilla wax. Candelilla wax is often used as a substitute for beeswax to make lip stains and tints completely vegan; it is a wax derived from the leaves of the Candelilla shrub. I find that tints and stains made with shea butter or coconut oil tend to give off a light sheen and melt more quickly upon contact with the skin. Typically, additional oils such as Jojoba or Vitamin E will be added to lip stains and tints for extra hydration.

My favorite lip tints and stains:I’ve included below a list of my favorite lip tints and stains with a brief comment on each to help you better discern whether one (or any!) of these lip products could suit your needs. Most brands offer a variety of options in terms of the color of their lip stains and tints, but the ones I’ve recommended below are particularly perfect for the winter season.

Your Guide to Lip Tints & Stains--Plus 5 Natural Lip Products to Love

1. Dusk Lip Paint – Fat and the Moon

I’ve tried both this lip paint as well as the lip + cheek stain from Fat and the Moon, and I have to say that the paint has considerable staying power over their stain. I found the lip + cheek stain to be more of a lightly tinted lip balm whose color tends to fade fast, versus the Dusk Lip Paint, which lends a nice pinkish hue and lasts for a few hours at a time. Both are quite moisturizing, and their tins make them great for travel and keeping with you during busier days when you may need to reapply while on the go.

Your Guide to Lip Tints & Stains--Plus 5 Natural Lip Products to Love Your Guide to Lip Tints & Stains--Plus 5 Natural Lip Products to Love

Lip & Cheek Tint – Fig & Moss

My personal favorite of all the lip stains/tints I’ve tried has got to be the Hibiscus Petal Lip Tint from Fig & Moss. It gives my lips this beautifully subtle, natural hue that’s more a nice flush than an obvious stain. It’s incredibly moisturizing and whenever I wear it, people tend to compliment me on my lips. It’s also quite matte, giving it an understated appearance that looks like you woke up with a naturally pretty, perfectly pigmented pout.

Your Guide to Lip Tints & Stains--Plus 5 Natural Lip Products to Love

Cheeks + Lip Tint – Urb Apothecary 

This lip tint is perfect if you’re looking for a deeply hydrating lip balm with a touch of color. As the brand instructs, you can layer this tint to build a richer color on the lips, or simply apply a swipe or two for a natural looking hue. I like to use this more as a lip balm during the day when I’m out running errands or seeing friends, but I don’t find the color dramatic. If you’re interested in a longer-lasting, more obvious stain, I’d keep this one on hand as a lip balm only. The neat thing about this tint is that it is available in both a regular and vegan version!

Beet Tinted Lip Balm – Urban Oreganics 

Similar to Urb Apothecary’s lip and cheek tint, the Beet Tinted Lip Balm from Urban Oreganics gives your lips a soft, subtle pink hue without going overboard. It is, for all intents and purposes, a lip balm, so don’t expect too much of a drastic color change; however, it’s extremely moisturizing and smells lovely. If you’re new to lip stains/tints and want a subtle solution to lipsticks, this could just be the one.

Cocoa Rose Lip Tint – Herbivore Botanicals 

I’m not typically a fan of Herbivore Botanicals products, but this lip tint is one of the few exceptions. It’s quite hydrating and provides a nice, light sheen for the lips, making it an awesome product for summertime. The color is not as drastic as you may think and is more of a coral tone than rose, but I found this lip tint definitely enhanced the natural color of my lips and it keeps them feeling soft and smooth. Typically, I keep this tint on hand for sunnier, summer days and think their other colors would compliment most complexions well, but lately, I’ve been using it during the colder months. This tint, to me, seems like a cross between a tint and a stain: richer color than your typical tint but lesser staying power than a stain.

What’s Your Favorite Lip Stain/Tint?

Also by Jacalyn: Why Your Skin Is Begging for Natural Soap & 5 Things to Look For

Related: These Fuss-Free Makeup Tips Are Lifesavers on Busy Mornings

Vegan Dupes for Cult Classic Lipsticks

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Photos: Pexels, Respective Brands

After several years spent traveling the world, Jacalyn settled back in her native home of Toronto, Canada to earn her Degree in Classical Studies. A dedicated wildlife advocate, she has for the past three years written on the issues and conflicts threatening the world’s wildlife and advocates for the conservation of Africa’s lions. Jacalyn’s dedication to and involvement in wildlife activism inspired her to join the global movement of conserving wildlife and living an ethically conscious, eco-friendly lifestyle. As a writer, she has had many opportunities to report on wildlife conflict and, through her writing, raise awareness and become a voice for conservation. In 2014, Jacalyn founded the social media community called PACH, through which she works with global NGOs and NPOs whose efforts are helping to save Africa’s lion. Read Jacalyn's work on


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