Reader question: Difference between lipsticks, lip butter, tinted balm, and stains

What is the difference between lip sticks, lip butter and lip tint? Do they actually have distinctive characteristics or is it a matter of labels? - Kris

Hi Kris! Thank you for your question. :) Ten years ago, it wouldn't have even existed! All women had were lipsticks and glosses. However, thanks to technological innovations and new ingredients we now have more formulas to play our lips up with. They may look or even swatch the same but other than a few "confused" lip products I can say that there is a difference in the formula.

Here's the dish on what makes lipsticks, butters, tints, and stains unique!

Lipstick. Mostly wax-based and saturated with pigment, lipsticks can offer you maximum opacity and good staying power. They come in all sorts of finishes from matte, creme, satin, high-shine, to frost. Lipstick colors and finishes are the most complex among all the lip formulas.

Lipsticks are for days when you really want to stand out, when you need something that will best complement your look!

Lip butter. Butters are also wax-based but they are much more emollient due to the addition of (what may be) essential oils. They are more moisturizing on the lips with a burst of color, although the staying power suffers due to the higher amount of oil and possibly less pigment (depends on the color).

Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter

Some butters can look like lipsticks - they are usually medium to heavy coverage - but it's the wetter, creamier formula that gives them away. I would recommend them for girls with dry lips!

Tinted lip balm. Tints are closer to lip balm, with the typical balmy base infused with a bit of color. They are usually sheer and are more for moisturizing the lips than anything else! Color is just an after-thought, for women who want something low-maintenance but not completely naked.

Clinique Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip Color Balm


Lip stain or tint. Stains/tints have a base of water and alcohol. They come in liquid or gel form. They have a high concentration of pigment that is absorbed deeper into the lips, which means the staying power is better. Coverage is usually sheer to medium. Stains tend to be drying, so it's wise to place a layer of balm of top once the stain has dried. 

Benefit Cha Cha Tint

So there you go. :) Hope that helps!