One of my favourite ways to get a bold shot of colour on the lips is with balm stains. These crayon format lip products come in a ton of colours and finishes, and the best part is that it seems to be a popular product for drugstore brands — there are so many affordable options.
Here I’ll share some mini reviews, including lip swatches, of crayons according to three different categories: matte, shine, and cream formulas.
Of all the formulas I’ve tried, matte balm stains deliver the most colour payoff, but they’re also the most finicky with application. Though they feel smooth, the ones I’ve tried require some finessing to work out patchiness. They also cling to every crease and flake on your lips.
Once the creamy texture fades, you’re left with a stain that I honestly think would last forever if you didn’t try to scrub it off with a microfibre cloth doused in mineral oil. Seriously, these stains are hard to remove. Keep in mind that the lasting stain often doesn’t resemble the original colour too closely; to maintain the colour of your original application, make sure you carry the crayon with you throughout the day for easy touchups.
Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balm Stain can be purchased pretty much wherever Revlon is sold: Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, Well.ca., etc. Each crayon costs about $12 CAD — definitely pricier than some other options. This matte formula is superior to Hard Candy’s matte, though it has a strong peppermint scent that I dislike.
I found the Hard Candy All Matte Up Hydrating Lip Stain at Walmart (for some reason only the glossy version of the crayon is listed online). I was disappointed by the patchy formula, but with a little extra effort they’re definitely workable. These are completely unscented and cost $6 CAD each.
Venom is a gorgeous, vampy, deep purple but looks uneven on the lips. Venom leaves behind a reddish stain, so don’t expect to maintain this colour without retouching.
In the mattes category I prefer Revlon, even though it’s double the price and has an unpleasant scent (if you like the tingly peppermint feel, this won’t bother you). Revlon also offers way more colour selection; you’re sure to find a shade that works for you.
In my opinion, the shines outdo the mattes by every measure. They all look great, they deliver great colour and stain (even the least expensive ones), and they’re all ultra moisturizing on the lips. I find these are far more forgivable in terms of application — you could probably get them onto your lips easily without a mirror.
For shines, my favourites are the deeper tones from Wet N Wild. These Megaslicks Moisturizing Lip Colours are just $4 CAD and seem to come in more shades than are offered at Well.ca. Lady and the Vamp is a deep blue-toned berry; perfect for fall. You can see that the colour payoff is quite nice, and though there is definite shine, it’s not especially glossy. These really do feel like a balm on the lips.
Lady and the Vamp is a dead ringer for Revlon’s Balm Stain in Crush. Again, the shine range from Revlon has a strong peppermint scent and is three times more expensive than the Wet N Wild balm stain. In my opinion they perform identically.
If you prefer a nude lip, balm stains are probably not the best product for you. Wet N Wild has some lighter shades, like Nudist Colony and Pinky Promise. Both shades are too light for my lips and don’t offer much in the way of a stain; I would definitely steer towards the deeper, bolder shades with lip crayons.
There are still a few great options if you’re looking for a nude crayon. My favourites are the Burt’s Bees Lip Crayons. I have the shades Niagara Overlook and Sedona Sands, and I use both frequently when I’m looking for an easy, natural nude that is comfortable to wear.
These crayons don’t stain the way the others do, but their format makes them super easy to use. They retail for $10 at Well.ca; I believe they’re a dollar or two more at Shoppers Drug Mart if you prefer to see the shades in person. The line has a number of deeper shades as well (if you’re looking for a red, look no further than Napa Vineyard).
Here’s are swatches of everything mentioned above, including some additional shade options from Wet N Wild, Revlon, and Hard Candy:
Balm stains are incredibly user friendly and unfussy; there are endless options at the drugstore. Over the years I’ve gravitated toward the Revlon balm stains since they have so many fabulous colours, but there are so many other options, many of which are cheaper! You can find more by Annabelle, NYX, Cover Girl, elf, and NYC, to name but a few.
For Canadian shoppers, stay away from insane exchange and shipping rates to acquire items not typically available in Canada. It just isn’t worth it. There are amazing balms right at home, either at your local drugstore, Walmart, or through online vendors like Well.ca.