Do Long-Wear Lipsticks Really Last? We Put 4 to the Test

Find out how the four brands we tested stood up to a normal day's activities.
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Nora Crotty
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Find out how the four brands we tested stood up to a normal day's activities.
Photo: Jennifer Polixenni Brankin/Getty Images

Photo: Jennifer Polixenni Brankin/Getty Images

These days, it seems like every lipstick ad is shouting about its product's "long-lasting" abilities. Well, hate to break it to you, but... ADS LIE. (Sometimes.) So I -- someone who generally prides herself on being honest -- have gone ahead and tested several of those so-called long-wear lip colors in a valiant effort to bring you the truth: Which ones are worth your hard-earned dólares, and which ones will leave you searching through around the bottom of your bag all day long for touch-ups.

Because if there's one thing that's sexier than reapplying your lipstick at the dinner table... it's NOT reapplying your lipstick at the dinner table. Find out how the four brands I tested stood up to a normal day's activities -- and get ready to see a lot of close-ups of my mouth.

Make Up For Ever Aqua Rouge Lip Color, $24

Pre-gloss, post-gloss, six hours, eight hours.

Pre-gloss, post-gloss, six hours, eight hours.

Initial reaction: I applied this two-sided lip color -- which is pretty much legendary in the long-wear category -- right when I woke up. The pigmented side, which you apply with a fuzzy wand, goes on first. It went on smoothly and evenly, and I only needed one coat. 

After maybe three minutes, my lips felt dry enough to apply the topcoat -- which I'm pretty sure is just regular gloss. And if there's one thing you should know about me... it's that I really don't like lip gloss. But whatever -- for the sake of this experiment, I was willing to use it. 

Thankfully, it wasn't too long before the gloss's goopiness calmed down -- especially after I ate a yogurt. My lips still felt a little tacky post snacking (read: not dry)... but I probably won't apply the gloss again.  

About six hours after applying the color (plus a beer, some meatballs and a small piece of left-over cake), I noticed that my lips had lost all their moisture. I wouldn't really say they were uncomfortable, though -- and the color, which was now totally matte, still looked great.

Eight hours post application: My lips were officially dry-dry -- no mistaking it. The color seems to have faded around the outsides, and was now concentrated more towards the insides, where my lips are kind of chapped. Overall, it wasn't awful-looking -- but another application probably would've been the right move. Still, impressive longevity.

Maybelline Super Stay 24 2-Step Color, $7

Post-balm, six hours, eight hours.

Post-balm, six hours, eight hours.

Initial reaction: This is another two-sided color -- but instead of putting gloss on the other side, it's balm! Which I like. 

I applied the color -- which was much more '90s on my lips than I'd anticipated -- and then waited for it to dry, as instructed by the packaging. That took a little while, and I could feel it tightening a bit on my lips which was kind of weird so I kept stretching out my mouth. After maybe a minute, I felt my lips with my finger and decided it was time. The balm went on smoothly and I was in shock that NONE of the color transferred onto the white balm stick from my lips. So far, so good. 

After eating leftovers for breakfast, kissing my gerbils "good morning," singing Amy Winehouse unnecessarily loudly (sorry, neighbors) and -- are you ready for this? -- SHOWERING, my lips were still lookin' good. I didn't even feel the need to reapply after toweling off. Needless to say: This stuff really holds up.

Eight hours passed: which included doing a bunch of errands, eating salty chips (read: lip licking) and drinking apple cider -- and my color began to fade towards the center of my lips. It still didn't look bad; but under normal circumstances, I'd probably be ready to reapply it at that point.

Compared to Make Up For Ever, Maybelline performed very similarly -- but I actually preferred Maybelline's balm to MUFE's glossy topcoat. 

MAC Pro Longwear Lipcreme, $18

At application, glass residue, two hours, four hours.

At application, glass residue, two hours, four hours.

Initial reaction: I've always found other MAC lipstick formulas to be extremely long-lasting in general, so I had pretty high hopes for this one, which the company claims lasts for 12 hours. Unlike the other brands I'd tried, this one was in the form of a regular tube of lipstick. The formula went on creamy and smelled a bit sweet. It never completely dried out on my lips, and instead, stayed pretty moisturizing. Though that obviously made the lipcolor feel better to wear, it worried me: Could a lipcolor with that much moisture really last all day long?

The short answer? No. I went out for breakfast an hour after applying the lipstick, and it didn't pass the glass test. While there still seemed to be quite a bit on my lips, I checked myself in the mirror a few hours later and found that the color on my mouth was looking all blotchy and was in definite need of another application. Bummer.  Although maybe you could call it a stain? Maybe.

While I liked the lipstick in the scope of traditional, non-long-lasting lip colors... it didn't live up to its promise for me. 

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick, $22

At application, one hour, three hours, five hours.

At application, one hour, three hours, five hours.

Initial reaction: This formula, like Make Up For Ever and Maybelline, is liquid and goes on with a felt wand. Unlike those others, it does not include a top coat. 

The color I chose to try is a bright red called "Fiery" and went on extremely opaque. With this formula, I felt like I had less control while applying it (the tip of the wand is a bit bigger than the others I'd tried), and I had to touch up around my lips afterwards with some makeup remover and q-tips. 

While I noticed the color wasn't as drying as some of the others were, that also meant it wasn't as secure on my lips. It also took longer to dry in general. About 45 minutes after application, I took a drink of water and saw the slightest bit of residue on the glass. A half hour after that, I touched my lips lightly with my finger and saw that they turned a bit pinkish from the lip color. While the overall color on my mouth remained vibrant, the inner parts looked worn away. 

Throughout the day, I noticed the lip color rubbing off ever so slightly onto various things: My turtleneck, my beer, my gerbil. (Yes, more gerbil kisses.) For a second I was convinced that I'd practiced "Shake It Off" so hard on the ukulele that my fingers had started bleeding. Nope, just the lipstick. 

By hour five, the color had worn off so much in the middle of my lips that it was no longer wearable. Bummer, because the color was really gorgeous in the beginning.

And the winner IS... 

Maybelline Super Stay 24 2-Step Color! Not only did the lip color resist fading better than any of the other products I tried, but it's also WAY cheaper -- making it more bang for your buck in every sense. This is one instance where a drugstore find totally trumps the beauty counter. Way to go, Maybs!