How Lipstick Works

Types of Lipstick, from Matte to Shimmer

If you were visiting the cosmetics area of a drugstore for the first time, you might be overwhelmed by the variety of lipstick available. Choosing one is about more than just figuring out which color looks best on you. Most women have experienced the disappointment of buying a lipstick that they end up not using, so choosing the right type is just as important. There are essentially five basic types:

  • Matte - The strongest, darkest colors of lipstick are often mattes, because they contain a lot of pigment. Rather than being shiny, they deflect the light. Mattes can often be longer-wearing than shinier types of lipstick as well. Sometimes they aren't as flattering on thinner or wrinkled lips, because they don't contain as many moisturizing ingredients.
  • Creme - This type of lipstick usually falls somewhere between mattes and glosses. Cremes contain more wax than mattes, so creme lipsticks protect the lips better than other types. However, they can also result in dry lips.
  • Shimmer - Also known as pearly or frost, shimmer lipsticks contain light-reflecting particles that may be mica, silica, synthetic pearl or even fish scales. Today, shimmers are more often used for special occasions and come in lighter colors.
  • Long-wearing - The problem with all lipsticks is that they need to be reapplied at some point because they wear off, so this type of lipstick attempts to solve that issue. Some long-wearing lipsticks are very drying. The most long-lasting lipsticks are usually a two-part system consisting of a base and a gloss. The base may contain silicone oil, which seals in its color. Once it dries, you apply the colorless gloss for the shine. The gloss may be reapplied but the colored base stays put until you remove it, usually with a makeup remover.

You now know about some of the stranger ingredients in lipstick, but what about the basics? We'll look at that next.