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Matte lipstick: is this the beginning of the end?

Matte lipstick products on a white background

Matte lipstick has been a resident feature of the makeup scene for years, its velvety finish and range of bold to neutral colours offering a statement-making look. But over the past year, whispers of a matte demise have coincided with the strong re-emergence of lip gloss as a makeup staple. Could this be the end of an era, or are matte lipsticks simply evolving?

Lip toppers, including oils, alongside a trend for glowy looks, signal a definite shift. Meanwhile, soft, hydrating products with a shimmery finish are nudging their way into the popularity stakes. Glitter, satin and pearlescent lipsticks are also finding their way onto product pages. What does this mean for the mattes in your cosmetics bag? Could they be redundant without the addition of a swipe of sheen?

The rise and reign of matte lipstick

The modern-day matte lipstick boom can be traced back to the mid 2010s, fuelled by the rise of social media and bold beauty trends. Kylie Jenner's lip kits, with their ultra-matte liquid lipsticks, became a cultural phenomenon at a time when other brands were releasing similar products. 

The advantages of matte lipstick were stark. They deliver long-lasting wear, are transfer-proof and have a sophisticated, airbrushed appearance. What wasn’t to love?

Matte lip products quickly diversified, offering a spectrum of colours and finishes, from velvety nudes to vibrant reds and daring purples. Even black trended for a while. They became a go-to for special occasions, everyday wear and even the red carpet. For years, it seemed cosmetics had reverted to the days of flappers and the first ever commercially successful matte lip product launched by Max Factor in the 1950s.

Over the past decade, the finish has been presented as the main lip wear option. Everything appeared to be matte! Of course, if you weren’t a fan, lip toppers like a traditional gloss were the way to go. Now that, in itself, has become popular. Many fashion observers, myself included, wonder if this is the consumers’ way of telling the industry that a flat, muted finish just isn’t for them and, possibly, never was.

Matte liquid and cream lipsticks
Very... matte! Liquid and cream lip products with swatches.

A shift in the beauty landscape

In recent years, there can be no denying that the beauty landscape has shifted. The focus has moved towards a more natural, effortless look, with dewy skin, soft contouring and manicured, bushy brows. This trend has coincided with the rise of alternative lipstick finishes, such as satin, cream and gloss. These formulas offer a more comfortable wear, a subtler look and can even be hydrating for the lips.

Some might say that after the re-emergence of blush, it was only a matter of time before lip gloss worked its way back into the popularity stakes. While the switch-back to the 80s hasn’t entirely manifested its way from magazine covers to the streets, elements of the era have. And blinging lips is one of them.

In addition, the impact of the cost of living crisis can’t be ignored. Why buy two products, a lipstick and a gloss, if you can buy a single item for much less? Enter budget online marketplaces and plethora of new and exciting lip products and you can see how the matte lipstick has slipped by the wayside. 

Pretty glosses and oils with a hint of colour are popular. Not all of them are necessarily hydrating but they give the impression that they are. With seasonal switches, you can see the gradual move towards multidimensional lip finishes. It’s not just that non-mattes feel moist and look glowy, they simply give the impression that they are doing your lips some good. Comfort is now a major buzzword in cosmetics.

Glossy lip products
Bossing the gloss. A lip oil from P.Louise's Stay Shining Crown range and a deep gloss from Bobbi Brown

Challenges for matte

Matte lipsticks are not without their drawbacks. They can be drying, especially on already chapped lips. The high pigmentation can be unforgiving, highlighting lip lines and imperfections. And the transfer-proofness, while initially appealing, can become inconvenient when it comes to application mishaps and cleansing. They are also not automatically associated with plumping properties.

If you have ever applied a liquid matte and initially felt a soothing sensation, it probably wasn’t long-lived. This type of lipstick can dry down to a tight, heavy-feeling finish. And if you haven’t used a lip pencil, well let’s hope you’ve got a steady hand. One slip and your look can be ruined.

Yes, I’m making the case against mattes here. I’ve never been a fan and I’d like to know who, outside of the beauty industry, actually is. Let me know your thoughts. 

Which one do you prefer?

  • Matte Lipstick

  • Satin Lipstick

The evolution of matte

Despite challenges and the many who aren’t fans, it's unlikely that matte lipstick will disappear entirely. Instead, we will probably see an evolution of the formula and trend.


Here are some ways matte lipstick might adapt to current consumer trends:

  • Hydrating formulas: Brands are already developing matte lipsticks with nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and shea butter to combat dryness.

  • Lighter textures: Thinner, more whipped matte formulas will offer a more comfortable, breathable wear.

  • Subtle shades: The focus will shift away from bold brights and towards softer, more wearable nudes and mauves, especially now that peach and soft glam looks are in vogue.

  • Multi-finish lips: Layering a glossy balm over a matte lipstick can create a custom, dimensional look. Those with plenty of mattes will use them up this way before deciding what type of lip product to invest in next.

The future of matte lipstick

Ultimately, the future of matte lipstick is not about its demise but about its adaptation. By addressing its drawbacks and embracing new trends, matte lipstick can remain a relevant and versatile makeup staple. It's all about finding the right formula and finish to suit individual styles and preferences.

So, is this the beginning of the end for matte lipstick? Not necessarily. It's more like a new chapter, one where matte takes a backseat to comfort, versatility and a touch of natural shine.

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