Makeup 101: Lip Gloss vs Lipstick

Makeup 101: Lip Gloss vs Lipstick

Lip cosmetics are deemed a consistent mainstay when it comes to makeup products and you can probably guess why. At a relatively low price point, lip products instantly perk up your complexion and many devotees claim they affect your mood too. There is a large variety of lip cosmetics to choose from, the majority of which can be divided into one of two categories: lipsticks and lip glosses. As a company that focuses on high quality makeup for women of color, we know the pros and cons of both of these lip products. Below we take a deep dive into the differences between lipstick and lip gloss. Whether you are a makeup maven or cosmetic novice, this tutorial on lip gloss vs. lipstick will deepen your appreciation for these lip products and when it is best to use them.

Lip Gloss vs Lipstick at a Glance:

  1. Finishes: Lip glosses have a glossier finish and thicker texture than lipsticks.
  2. Pigmentation: Lipsticks generally have more pigmentation than lip glosses. At Mented, we know the importance of strong pigmentation in each, which inspired our collection of lipstick and lip gloss for women of color
  3. The Look: Lipsticks can help create just about any look you please, while lip glosses are more specifically used to offer that characteristic shine. 
  4. Application: Lip glosses, and certain low-pigmentation lipsticks, require less application maintenance than highly-pigmented lipsticks like mattes.
  5. Staying-on Power: Lip glosses tend to come off faster than lipsticks do.
  6. Where to Wear It: Go with lipstick if you want a refined look, and reach for a lip gloss anytime you want some shine, from the subtle to the eye-catching.

The Finish

The finish of a lip product refers to how it feels on your lips and how it reflects light. For instance, the finish may feel silky, creamy, moisturizing or dry. Its weight is a factor too, feeling light, thick or somewhere in between. Lip glosses and certain types of lipstick add sheen to the lips, thereby reflecting a lot of light. At the other extreme, matte lipsticks reflect little to no light, creating a shineless effect.


There are a multitude of lipstick types, including satin, sheer, frosted, creamy, semi-matte and matte lipsticks to name a few - all with different finishes. Fortunately, you can usually figure out the finish of a lipstick type by its name. Satin, sheer and frosted lipsticks are usually lightweight and highly reflective. They also contain a considerable amount of moisture. Conversely, creamy, semi-matte and matte lipsticks tend to be heavier, less moisturizing and reflect less light. 

Lip Gloss

The finish on a lip gloss is defined, as you might have guessed, by the glossy effect it creates. Glosses are also heavier than lipsticks. Some lip glosses are so thick as to be gooey and rather sticky, while others are light and silky. Some have a highly-reflective sparkle, while others contain a subtle shine. So, while lip gloss doesn’t have as defined sub-categories as lipstick does, there is a considerable difference in the finish from gloss to gloss.


The pigmentation of a lip cosmetic describes the intensity of its color. The color of a lip product low in pigmentation will go on faintly, while one rich in pigmentation will appear vibrant. This is irrespective of the color or its tone. For example, a lipstick in powder pink will appear more vibrant than a burgundy lipstick, if the powder pink lipstick is high in pigmentation and the burgundy lipstick is low in pigmentation. 

Understanding the pigmentation level in lip cosmetics, or any type of makeup, is important to finding shades that work with your complexion. For women with lighter skin, a highly pigmented lip product can look too stark. On the other hand, as many women of color know all too well, makeup with little pigmentation will appear faint on a deeper complexion. 

Historically, makeup was designed for lighter complexions, making it extremely difficult for darker-skinned women to find cosmetics that worked with their skin tones. That’s the main reason we started Mented Cosmetics. As women of color, we were all too familiar with the struggle to find makeup that is richly pigmented and color-tuned to highlight the beauty of tan, brown and deeper skin tones. As a result, we’ve created collections of lipstick and lip gloss for women of color, with shades that are designed to match all skin tones.


The levels of pigmentation in lipsticks run the gamut but generally speaking, the lipstick types that are light in pigmentation are satin, sheer and frosted. Lipsticks with richer pigmentation include creamy, semi-matte and matte lipsticks, with the latter boasting the richest pigmentation.

Lip Gloss

Lip glosses typically have less pigmentation than lipsticks. In fact, many lip glosses are sheer, and simply bring a glean to your pout, rather than adding a tint. Having said that, most lip glosses do have some color. In fact, some are so rich in pigmentation, they are opaque. 

Most women will opt for a lip gloss that contains a subtle amount of pigmentation to add color and dimension to their lips. A quality lip gloss formula, like Mented’s, will also be buildable, so you can layer on the product to your desired look without appearing overdone.

The Look

This category is pretty self-explanatory: what look does the lip product create?  The finish and pigmentation of the cosmetic are the two key factors contributing to the look the lip product produces. The look may be flirty and breezy, or head-turning and high-fashion. Hint: when choosing your lip cosmetic, consider how it will complement, contrast or clash with your overall look that day.


Lipsticks can create just about any look you please, and can be experimented with different makeup choices and fashion trends to find what matches your style. Given the variety of lipstick products, it’s best to approach your look creation on a scale. Lipsticks that are lightweight or lightly-pigmented will create a delicate or subtle look. Lipsticks that are heavier or highly-pigmented will create dramatic, statement-making lips.

Lip Gloss

Gloss is defined by its shine. The shimmer and thicker texture of a lip gloss make lips look more supple, and some say kissable. A touch of gloss on your lips, and you can instantly achieve this natural shine that looks both healthy and put-together. For a more fun, stand-out look, apply more for a glossy lip that really turns up the shine! 


When deciding which lip product to wear, the method of application is a bigger factor than you might think. Some lip products can be swiped on without a mirror and little worry that your pout looks less than fantastic. Other lip products are more high maintenance, requiring a steady hand, a number of application steps and specific application skills to pull off a flawless look.


Lipsticks always look better if you have done some prep work. Mainly, regularly exfoliating and moisturizing your lips so they are fresh and not dry or cracked is a key to smooth lipstick. Additionally, outlining your lips with a lip pencil can never hurt. A lip liner adds color, depth, and definition to your lips. Prepping and outlining your lips will also help your lipstick stay on longer.

Lipsticks high in moisture and low in pigmentation don’t require the same level of preparation as those low in moisture and high in pigmentation. The reason is that the moisture in lipstick can help conceal dry lips (in addition to helping overcome the dryness). A lighter color will also not highlight flakes and dry skin in the same way a rich color does, which tends to concentrate on rough patches. In other words, with cream, semi-matte, and especially matte lipsticks, we recommend you take care to prep and outline your lips with a lip liner before swiping on your lip color.

Lip Gloss

As with lipsticks, lip gloss will look better and last longer if you know how to apply lip gloss correctly. Prepping and outlining your lips are essential steps in the application process especially if you want lip gloss to last. Wearing lip liner with lip gloss will offer a defined application and bold, glossy finish. However, with a lot of lip glosses, especially ones that are light in color and texture, you can get away with quickly dabbing or swiping it on without much, if any, preparation.

Staying-On Power

Compared to other cosmetic products, lip products are more likely to fade throughout the day, especially after we’ve been eating or drinking. Some lipsticks are designed for improved staying-on power, a benefit to women who don’t want to worry about reapplying their lip color. 


If there’s a golden rule to lasting lipstick wear, this is it: the less moisture in the product, the longer the product will stay on. This means your satin and sheer lipsticks, which tend to have more moisture, will fade faster than lower moisture lipsticks like creams, semi-mattes, and mattes. The queen of lasting lipsticks, the matte lipstick, is your best bet against disappearing and migrating lip color.

Lip Gloss

Generally speaking, lip glosses don’t have the same staying stamina as lipsticks. You can, however, take certain steps to keep your lip gloss on longer - such as creating a color base or setting with setting powder. Read more tips on how to keep your lip gloss on all day in our helpful guide.

Where to Wear It

When do you rock lipstick and when do you swap it out for a lip gloss? The answer is you can wear either, or both, whenever the mood suits you. That said, there are certain situations where you are more likely to go with one over the other.


Lipstick delivers a polished look, appropriate for anytime you want your makeup to appear refined: the office, brunch, dates, a shopping trip. If you are ever unsure about what lip product to wear, you can’t go wrong with lipstick - in particular, a go-with-anything nude shade like our Mented #5 will add the perfect finishing touch to any look.

Lip Gloss

Lip gloss is well-paired with a dramatic eye. The sheen and hint of color in a lip gloss creates an attractive, subtle counter-balance to bold eye makeup. This is the reason lip gloss is a favorite among ladies when going out (think smokey eye, shiny lips). Lip gloss is also a great stand-in for lipstick during daylight hours too. A glossy, yet natural lip makes you appear put together even if you didn't have much time to get ready. With a touch of sheen on the lips in the workplace, or while out grabbing a coffee, you can look subtle and sophisticated, so long as you’re using a quality, silky gloss formula like Mented’s. 

Sometimes Two is Better Than One

Now that we’ve exhausted the differences between these two lip products, it bears pointing out that you can - and should - wear them together sometimes. A low-moisture lipstick serves as a fantastic base for your gloss, helping it to stay on longer. The layering of colors on your lips - between the lipstick and lip gloss -  lends to a sophisticated and polished look that is the go-to for many women whenever they really want to make an impression.

Mented Lipsticks & Lip Glosses

After reading this lipstick vs lip gloss tutorial, you should be able to confidently grab your lipstick, lip gloss -  or both - to create the exact look you want. Mented, a makeup company by and for women of color, makes quality lipsticks and lip glosses that feel as fantastic as they look. All of our lip and other cosmetic products are created with the right levels of pigmentation to perfectly match your unique skin tone and add the right touch to every beauty look.

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