There’s a time and place for a bold red lip, but a swipe of sheer lipstick doesn’t ever not make sense — even if you’re just lounging around the house. That’s because most of the best sheer lipsticks are infused with moisturizing and hydrating ingredients, like shea butter and vitamin E, so their benefits extend well beyond just the aesthetic. And sheer lipsticks come in many forms, so whether you prefer barely-there balms or something a bit more pigmented, you’ll have plenty of variety to choose from here.
Since sheer lipsticks (and tinted lip balms, which certainly fall under the sheer-lipstick umbrella) tend to be so moisturizing on their own, you won’t need to apply a base with any of these. That said, it’s always a good idea to exfoliate your lips a few times a week to keep them flake-free and soft (which, in turn, will ensure that your lipstick glides on a lot more smoothly). And here’s another sheer-lipstick tip: You can amp things up a bit while still keeping the overall look natural by pairing your sheer lipstick with a lipliner that’s just a few shades darker than your skin tone.
Now onto the fun part. Scroll on to shop seven of the best tinted lip balms, sheer lipsticks, and lip-and-cheek tints, starting at just $3 a pop.
1. Author’s Pick
I love these chubby little lip tints from Henné Organics just as much as I love the brand’s exfoliating lip scrub (hot tip: they complement each other wonderfully). These tinted balms drench your lips in a sheer, juicy wash of color, with shades ranging from the aptly-named Bare to the more-dramatic Intrigue (a rich wine red) to Muse (a berry-hued purple). Some are much bolder than others, but even the more pigmented shades retain a sheer, natural effect. They’re really nourishing, too, thanks to the four moisturizing oils that comprise the majority of the formula: coconut, castor seed, jojoba and avocado.
- Available shades: Azalea, Bare, Coral, Desire, Intrigue, Muse
2. Best Sheer Lip Crayons
Honest Beauty’s Lush Sheer lip crayons make it so easy to line and fill in your lips in one go. Made with nourishing coconut oil and two plant-derived butters — murumuru and shea — they glide on super smoothly and leave your lips feeling so hydrated and soft. The intensity of the pigment will depend on the shade you choose, but each one is creamy and sheer. It’s also worth shouting out Honest Beauty’s tinted lip balms, which don’t have the crayon-like shape but are even more sheer, if that’s what you’re after.
- Available shades: Blossom, Bordeaux, Chestnut, Coral, Petal, Raspberry, Rose, Sherbert
3. Best Sheer Lipstick With SPF
Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Lip Protectant Sticks are formulated with SPF 15 to give your lips some extra sun protection (though note that this won’t be enough if you plan on spending the day in the sun — in that case, reach for a tinted lip balm with SPF 30). For general, everyday wear, though, these will do just fine. Though they appear to be super pigmented, they actually leave behind a sheer, hydrated finish, and they help soften and condition your lips using the brand’s iconic Eight Hour Cream. Multiple Amazon reviewers hailed this lip-healing balm as “magical,” while others called it a “lip saver” and “life changing.”
4. Best Cheap Sheer Lipstick
Maybelline’s iconic Baby Lips lip balms cost just $3 a pop, or you can pick up a three-pack for just $10. The lighter shades leave behind a sheer, barely-there hint of color, while the bolder shades — like Cherry Me and Pink Pinch — provide a bit more intensity. These are balms, not lipsticks, so they’re inherently moisturizing, but you shouldn’t expect much coverage with these. That said, over 15,000 Amazon reviewers awarded Baby Lips a perfect five-star rating, so if you haven’t yet tried them out for yourself, it’s definitely worth shelling out the $3.
- Available shades: Cherry Me, Coral Crave, My Pink, Pink Punch, Pink Quartz, Quenched
5. Best Splurge
These Ilia lip conditioners coat your lips in the prettiest, creamiest wash of color. These are a bit less sheer than the four picks above (think less juicy and more creamy), but the end result is still decidedly natural. They’re buildable, too: One coat and the color will be sheer, but two or three coats and it’ll start looking more like a traditional lipstick. Like all Ilia products, these award-winning lip conditioners are primarily made with naturally derived ingredients, including olive oil, cocoa butter, and sunflower seed oil, many of which are certified organic. These are gluten-free as well, in case that’s a priority to you.
- Available shades: Bang Bang, Europa, Forever, Little Sister, Nobody’s Baby, O Baby
6. Best Semi-Sheer Lipstick
Unlike most of the other products on this list, which are lip balms and lip conditioners, these are true lipsticks. So if you’re after full coverage with a semi-sheer effect, pick up a tube of Kiko Milano’s Glossy Dream Sheer Lipstick. Sold in nine bold and natural shades, these lipsticks coat your lips with noticeable, vivid color, but they have a glossy, light-reflecting finish that allows your natural lips to shine through. These, too, are nice and buildable; you can dab them on with your finger to keep things sheer, or apply them directly via the tube for a bolder, creamier look.
- Available shades: Coral 210, Dahlia 208, Poppy Red 207, Rose 202, Rosy Beige 201, Sangria, Vintage Rose 203, Warm Rose, Wine 205
You May Also Like
These Dewy Lip & Cheek Gels
If you love a monochromatic look, dab one of these Flower Beauty lip and cheek gels onto your...you guessed it, lips and cheeks (though these could work nicely in the creases of your eyes, too). The tinted gel sticks glide onto your skin so smoothly — on your cheeks, they’ll give you a dewy flush, and on your lips, they’ll make your pout look hydrated and glossy (but not gloopy or sticky). At just $10 each, these thick, long-lasting sticks are an amazing value, too.
- Available shades: Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry
These Chubby Sticks With A Moisturizing Core
These super-chubby sticks are formulated with a clear, moisturizing core (which is rich in vitamin E), so they basically double as a lip balm and lip color in one. These offer full coverage with a glossy finish — they’re not exactly sheer, though they come in several natural-looking shades, some of which lean more sheer than others (though you’ve got several bold reds, pinks, and Burgundies to choose from as well). As one Amazon reviewer summed up: “Was looking for something that had the ease of use like a chapstick but the color of a lipstick and this hits the mark!”
- Available shades: Almond Nude, Apricot Nude, Brandy Wine, Cherry Wood Creme, Electric Coral, Flamingo Pink, Melon Nude, Nectar Pink,