I Tried $212 Worth Of Lip Gloss — & This Is My Top Pick

As the story goes, lip gloss was invented by iconic makeup artist Max Factor in 1928. But it wasn't a "gloss" back then, it was called a "pomade" and primarily used for Factor's starlet clients who needed their lips to stand out on camera back when movies were still filmed in black and white. Nearly a century later, and the product has graduated from Hollywood secret to lightweight lacquer worn just about everywhere, from work to weddings.

Over the course of its evolution, formulas have gotten less gooey, more pigmented, and, frankly, more expensive. With an endless supply of options out there — Sephora carries over 100 while Ulta Beauty stocks nearly double that — how do you know which tube is the right one for you?


This is the question I set out to answer months ago when an influx of lip gloss launch announcements hit my email inbox. So, I decided to try the most anticipated, the most popular, and the most underrated formulas out there — and $212 later, I found the best.

Ahead, the lip glosses worth your consideration.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

NARS Lip Gloss

The Claims: A simple and sexy gloss that's packed with nourishing ingredients to keep lips soft and supple for hours.
NARS Lip Gloss, $24.00 Buy
The Verdict: My biggest issue with this lip gloss is the applicator. The doe-foot tip is tiny, stiff, and doesn't pick up enough product in the tube to cover my lips in a satisfying amount of gloss. With that said, this gloss brought my dehydrated lips back to life with the most subtle wash of pigmented shimmer — and I liked it. I may not be its biggest fan, but it would be the first no-fuss gloss I'd recommend to a category amateur.

Dior Addict Lip Maximizer Plumping Gloss

The Claims: Packed with hyaluronic acid, this gloss isn't only meant to hydrate, but to plump — fast.
Dior Dior Addict Lip Maximizer Plumping Gloss, $34.00 Buy
The Verdict: I can't really explain why, but wearing this lip gloss made me feel like a Plastics wannabe in Mean Girls — in the best way possible. I never thought I could properly apply lip gloss with attitude, like Cady Heron, but this stuff got me as close as I imagined I'd ever get. Even better, those plumping claims are true — minus all the painful tingling that comes with most volumizing formulas.

Kylie Cosmetics High Gloss

The Claims: An ultra-shiny formula that can be worn alone or layered over lipstick.
Kylie Cosmetics High Gloss, $16.00 Buy
The verdict: This popular lip gloss is what inspired my hunt for the perfect formula in the first place. The vanilla scent reminded me of the halcyon days of mall rats and Claire's shopping sprees, while the sheer, but buildable, pigment made my lips look plump and, admittedly, very kissable — which is saying a lot for often-sticky gloss. Of course, in true Kylie Jenner fashion, it plumps the lips, too. Although, considering how much I loved everything else about this gloss, that side effect was a tiny bonus.

ColourPop Ultra Glossy Lip

The Claims: The lightweight gloss that's packed with light-reflecting shimmer.
ColourPop Champagne Mami, $7.00 Buy
The verdict: Despite how moisturizing the formula was, the gloss faded quickly. I had to think about reapplication a lot — and not just because I was wearing it during a Nets game where I ate three hot dogs. Luckily, the brush applicator made it easy to swipe on another layer of product faster than I could reach for another plate of food.

Laura Mercier Lip Glacé

The Claims: A sheer, shiny gloss that can be worn alone or layered.
Laura Mercier Lip Glacé, $27.00 Buy
The Verdict: When someone says to believe the hype, they're probably talking about this lip gloss. Even my friend — who never wears lip gloss — recommended it to me... and then subsequently tried to steal a couple extra tubes from my desk. The sentiments towards this lip gloss aren't unfounded. The formula is good; it's never so goopy your lips smack together, leaving behind that gross, stringy residue. Still, the applicator — a curved doe-foot that hugs your lips — is easily the biggest selling point.

Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer

The Claims: A conditioning lip gloss that packs on the glitter in three universal shades.
Fenty Beauty By Rihanna Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer, $18.00 Buy
The Verdict: Shocker — this lip gloss rocks. I've since used all three shades and my favorite is the Fenty Glow, a rosy nude that looks a bit intimidating in the bottle, but flatters the lips just as it promises. The glitter looks intense, but again, everything works out when smoothed onto your lips. I dare you not to take 20 selfies in a sliver of natural light when wearing this stuff.

Glossier Lip Gloss

The Claims: A clear lip gloss that creates a smooth and juicy finish on the lips without everything you hate about lip gloss.
Glossier Lip Gloss, $14.00 Buy
The Verdict: I've seen other women wear this clear lip gloss and look like total smokeshows, but unfortunately, I didn't feel the same way about myself in this fan-favorite. Yes, it's juicy. No, it doesn't feel like glue on your lips. Yes, you feel really cool for pulling this out of your tote on the subway and sweeping it onto the lips, because let's be honest, these tubes are status symbols. Still, I'm more likely to reach for the newly-launched tinted formulas over the original clear option. Botton line: This girl needs some color on her lips to look alive.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Gloss

The Claims: A lip lacquer that delivers intense shine and pigment with precise application.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Gloss, $16.00 Buy
The Verdict: If I could, I'd give this lip gloss an Olympic medal. It offers the coverage and color of liquid lipstick, but without the dehydrating side effects. Unlike most glosses that utilize a curved applicator, ABH uses a flat, rounded surface so the perfect amount of product is dispensed onto the center of the applicator every single time it's pulled out of the tube. It's so foolproof, you could reapply with your eyes closed.

Marc Jacobs Beauty Enamored Hi-Shine Lip Lacquer Lipgloss

The Claims: A lightweight, but intensely-pigmented lip gloss.
Marc Jacobs Beauty Enamored Hi-Shine Lip Lacquer Lipgloss, $28.00 Buy
The Verdict: With pigments you'd only expect from a lipstick, this lip gloss is surprisingly lightweight. (My go-to shade is French Tickler, the same exact color Selena Gomez wore for her "Fetish" music video.) It's soft, makes my lips look like two giant cushions, and looks great in afternoon selfies. It doesn't last quite as long as some other formulas, but it never dries out the lips, so adding another layer never seems like a bad idea.

Nudestix Nude Plumping Lip Glace

The Claims: A lip gloss so moisturizing and creamy, you'll question if it's a gloss at all.
NudeStix Nude Plumping Lip Glace, $28.00 Buy
The verdict: On the days I wasn't testing yet another lip gloss, I was wearing this. It's the tube that's consistently lived in my bag for at least four months; the gloss I grab for quick touch-ups, for dates, for dinners, for work, for everything. It's also the only lip product I can use when my lips are so dry they practically molt, thanks to lip-conditioning ingredients, like cocoa, shea, avocado, and murumuru butter.

Suffice it to say, all of that makes it the winner in my book.
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