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What is Matte Lipstick?

By Jessica Hobby
Updated May 21, 2024
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Matte lipstick is a type of cosmetic application for lips which is known for its ability to last all day and its lack of shine. Matte lipstick has gone through periods of popularity since it became common for women to wear lipstick in the early 1900s. Although there hasn’t been a hard rule, matte lipstick is usually preferred by younger women. The long-lasting nature of matte lipstick creates a drying effect which isn’t usually preferred by older women who tend to have dry skin. Additionally, it does not work well on the chapped lips of women of any age because it doesn’t contain any emollients, which are responsible for moisturizing the skin.

The first molded lip color in a stick form was developed around 900 A.D. by Abu al-Quasim al-Zahrwai, who was a Muslim from the Andalusia area of Spain. Modern day lipsticks are tubes of wax that have been molded and have oils and color added to them. Other additives differ based on the type of lipstick. Although beeswax is the most popular wax used in making lipstick, paraffin wax and carnauba wax is also used. Olive oil, castor oil, lanolin oil, cocoa butter and fat extracted from the brain of a cow are the most common types of oils and fats used to manufacture lipstick.

The low ratio of oil to wax in matte lipstick gives it its dull finish. Those who choose to wear matte lipstick will typically only find it available in rich and dark hues. Pigmentation for lipstick comes from a variety of natural and synthetic substances, which can include things such as the crushed shells of beetles, plant material and minerals such as lead and iron.

In addition to matte lipstick, there are three other types of lipstick that are made with different combinations of wax, oil, pigment and other additives. Lipsticks which contain a lot of oil and are very shiny are called gloss or glossy lipsticks. Because they come in lighter colors, gloss lipsticks are sometimes used in conjunction with matte lipsticks so the person wearing them can have rich color that is shiny too.

Crème lipsticks have more oil that matte lipsticks and less oil than gloss. They also contain more wax than matte lipsticks, so they tend to protect lips better. Many women prefer crèmes because they fall in the middle of mattes and glosses and come in both light and dark colors. Shimmer lipsticks are crème or shiny lipsticks that contain particles that reflect light, such as synthetic pearls, mica or fish scales.

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Discussion Comments

By indemnifyme — On May 05, 2012

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I pretty much hate matte lipstick. I don't think I've ever really seen someone wearing matte lipstick and thought it looked really good. In fact, one of my good friends swears by Revlon matte lipstick nude, and I think it just looks plain awful.

Since matte lipstick is so drying, I feel like most people who wear it end up with dry, cracked lips. Yes, their lips have some color, but they still look weird and cracked. I will take a regular, non-drying lipstick any day over matte!

By Azuza — On May 04, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I think this an age-old problem for women: be healthy, or look good? Sometimes it seems like you can't have both! I know a lot of makeup in the Victorian Era had lead in it, and women used to actually get seriously ill and even die from it.

Anyway, I am surprised that the idea of lipstick originated so long ago! For some reason, I thought lipstick was a more modern invention. But beeswax has been around pretty much forever (and so has vanity), so I guess there's no reason why someone wouldn't have thought of lipstick in 900 A.D.

By JessicaLynn — On May 04, 2012

Wow, I had no idea so many of the ingredients in lipstick were so gross. Fish scales? Crushed up bugs? Lead?! I really only wear matte finish lipstick for work these days (I'm a bartender, and the better I look, the more tips I get) but seriously, whenever I quit bar-tending, I think I'm going to quit lipstick too.

In the meantime, I think I might look into one of those lipsticks with all-natural ingredients. Crushed up bugs are gross, but I would prefer that over lead any day. At least crushed up bugs probably won't poison and eventually kill me!

By shell4life — On May 03, 2012

I spend a lot of time at the beach in the summer, and I like to have a bit of color on my lips. I also want to protect them from the sun, and regular lipstick can't do this.

I rely on tinted lip balms with sunscreen in them. They look like matte lipsticks when I put them on, because the color is flat and not shiny at all.

I use one with an SPF of 15 or higher. The colors are understated, like nudes and subtle pinks, but you can definitely tell I'm wearing some sort of lipstick. They are most akin to matte lipsticks, and this is really the only time I wear the matte style.

By StarJo — On May 02, 2012

I think that matte lipsticks look best with items in my autumn wardrobe. As plants lose their glossiness in fall and turn to flat colors, my matte lips fit in more with the environment, too.

I wear a lot of oranges, browns, and dark purples in the fall, and these look so good with matte shades. I have a really intense shade of brick red, a deep burgundy, and a mahogany lipstick that I love for autumn.

As winter progresses, I usually go with shiny reds and shimmery pinks, and in the summer, I sometimes wear only gloss. I reserve my most dramatic lipstick for that one season where it just seems right.

By kylee07drg — On May 01, 2012

@julies – I apply lip gloss over my matte lipstick, too, but I don't do it for the shine. I do it so I can stand to wear the stuff. If I wore it by itself, my lips would be starved for moisture.

I do love several shades of matte lipstick, and I'm not into the shimmery stuff. When I put some gloss on top of the lipstick, it adds just enough moisture to make my lips look healthy and feel good. It doesn't develop a glaring shimmer.

Anytime I'm wearing matte lipstick, I will take the tube with me in my purse, along with a tube of gloss. After I eat, I reapply the lipstick first, and then I put the gloss on top.

I only use a tiny bit, though, because using too much could cause the lipstick to come off. Also, I never blot after applying the gloss. I just press my lips together so that it soaks in well.

By Oceana — On Apr 30, 2012

@fify – I think the best option when it comes to matte lipsticks is to go with one that is designed to remain on all day but comes in two parts. The color goes on first, and then, a moisturizing balm goes on top. The look is still matte, because the balm isn't shiny.

These lipsticks come in long tubes. One end is full of liquid lipstick, and the other has the brush-on balm inside.

You paint the color on with the brush applicator first. You allow one minute for it to dry, and then you paint on the moisturizer.

You can reapply the moisturizer as you need it throughout the day. I always do touch-ups whenever my lips start to feel dry or look cracked.

By LisaLou — On Apr 30, 2012

I often use a combination of lipsticks to get the look and feel that I want. I find in the winter I tend to use more matte lipsticks because I like the deep, dark hues that are available.

I have used a lot of Revlon lipstick and they have a dark red that is one of my favorite colors to wear in the winter. I feel like this is too dark to wear in the summer time.

In the warmer months, I like something that is lighter that doesn't look as heavy, and will usually wear a glossy lipstick.

I have the same complaint as many others - that the matte lipstick is drying when you wear it day after day. I like a glossy feel to my lips, so will apply a thin layer of lip balm before applying the matte lipstick.

The color doesn't stay on as long, but my lips feel much better and it is better than no color at all on my lips.

By golf07 — On Apr 30, 2012

My husband and I raise honeybees so I have access to all the beeswax I could ever need. I have used this to make many skin care products, including lipstick.

I simply melt the beeswax with some olive oil and add some essential oils for scent and taste. To color this product, I will use some lipstick from old tubes of lipstick that are almost gone, and melt them in with the beeswax and oil.

I will often combine colors and have ended up with some great color combinations by doing this.

This lipstick is not as dark or dry as most matte finish lipsticks, but I like it because it keeps my lips feeling soft and still gives me some color.

I have seen a lot of young girls wearing shimmer lipstick and I think it looks pretty and appropriate for them. I wonder how many of them would continue wearing it if they realized they used fish scales for the shimmery look!

By julies — On Apr 29, 2012

@John57 - I haven't found a lipstick that stays on all day either. If I can make it through the morning, I figure 4 hours is as good as I am going to get.

When they advertise that, they must be talking about someone who doesn't eat any lunch or snacks during the day.

For an everyday look, I prefer to use a creme lipstick as I feel you get the best of both kinds of lipstick.

When I am dressing up in the evening I like a matte lipstick for more of a dramatic look. Many times I will apply a matte lipstick and follow up with a little bit of gloss for some shine.

This way my lipstick color will stay on most of the evening, but I also have some shine on my lips too.

By John57 — On Apr 28, 2012

I have tubes of every kind of lipstick mentioned in this article - all in different shades and colors.

If I could choose just one makeup product to wear, it would have to be lipstick. I think a little pop of color on my lips does more than anything else. It also completes a look if I take the time to make up my whole face.

I probably have more colors of Revlon matte lipstick than any other brand. They seem to have a lot of different color choices.

Of all the brands of matte lipstick I have used though, I have never found one that stays on all day. Some definitely stay on longer than others, but I never make it through a day without applying more lipstick.

Usually I apply it several times because when I eat and drink, my lipstick always wears off.

Has anybody else found a brand that really does last all day long?

By fify — On Apr 28, 2012

I haven't been wearing matte lipsticks for years! I want to but it's just too drying. I have chapped lips most of the year and if I wear anything drying on my lips, my lips flake off and hurt badly!

I know many people wear balms underneath matte lipsticks to avoid the drying but I'm not sure how they do it. I've tried it. It made the lipstick run and the color came off too quickly. I guess the oil from the balm makes the lipstick slide off.

Does anyone have any good tips on wearing matte lipsticks? Especially for drying and running?

Maybe I should try using them again. I see women with gorgeous matte lip colors sometimes and wish I could wear them too.

Oh and any recommendations for good brands? What is the best matte lipstick in your opinion?

By discographer — On Apr 27, 2012

@ysmina-- Yes, matte lipsticks tend to be drying, but they last much longer than glossy or shimmery lipsticks do. And I think that the dryness is something I can bear for the look and lasting effect it has. And I agree with you that wearing a lip balm or lip treatment solves the issue most of the time.

I think the first lipsticks that were made in the US were all dark matte colors. But now matte lipsticks come in all different colors. I use light pink and beige color matte lipsticks regularly.

Shimmery lipsticks are nice too but I think those are better for younger women and for casual outfits. I like to wear matte lipsticks for work because I don't want to grab attention with shimmery glosses. Neutral matte colors look more professional in my view. But this is a preference, lots of people make glosses look good too.

By ysmina — On Apr 27, 2012

I use both glossy and matte finish lipsticks but I love matte lipsticks when I'm going for a more sophisticated look. I also think that dark matte colors are better when I use little eye makeup. It balances out my look and brings more attention to my lips.

The drying effect of matte lipsticks are a problem. But some formulas are better than others. It's partly an issue of trying different brands to find a formula that you like. I do have a couple of really drying matte lipsticks. But I still use them by applying lip balm to my lips first. That works pretty well because it keeps my lips moisturized without changing the color of the lipstick.

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