not a professional. just crazy

My Favorite Under-$10 Lipsticks

Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

When I fall in love with a lipstick, I’m always tempted to buy duplicates so that I’ll have one on me at all times. In an ideal world, I’d have my favorite lipstick in my bathroom, one in my work tote, and one in my tiny night-out baguette purse — that way, I can easily throw on my perfect shade for a quick pick-me-up when needed. But the truth is a lot of my go-to lipsticks are a little too expensive to casually stock up on — Charlotte Tilbury’s “Very Victoria,” for example (which, I might add, is the perfect pink-brown shade for every day), costs about $30. The price is justifiable as a onetime indulgence but feels pretty excessive when you’re checking out with three.

However, if there’s one thing I know from my years writing about beauty, it’s that products don’t have to be expensive in order to be excellent. And so my hunt for the best wallet-friendly lipsticks began. After many weeks sleuthing around drugstore makeup aisles, asking followers on Instagram, and testing a ridiculous amount of lip products, I was able to find five incredible lipsticks — from a shiny, smudgy balm to a bright-red matte — all of which are under $10. That way, if you fall head over heels, you can buy another for your purse without breaking the bank.

A Blotted Matte

As soon as I tried these matte blotted lipsticks from ColourPop, I found myself reaching for them on the daily. If you’re a fan of the smudgy, effortless lipstick look (think Glossier Gen G or Ohii Lip Smudge), chances are you’ll love these creamy, sheer lipsticks just as much as I do. The formula is super-buttery and comfortable, so you won’t get that powdery, dehydrated feeling that some matte lipsticks leave behind, but it still manages to give off the perfectly lived-in, smudgy effect. These are lightly buildable, so one swipe is ultrasheer, while four give you a more intense (but definitely still casual and low-maintenance ) look. My favorite shade is “Shook,” a bright magenta that is absolutely perfect for summer.

A Balmy Shine

These lipsticks were recommended to me by someone on Instagram, and I’ve been obsessed since the moment I tried one. Interestingly, Elf’s Sheer Slick lipsticks are not quite as … sheer as I expected them to be — they do give off quite a bit of pigment in one single swipe. However, they’re extremely glossy and balmy (I suspect this has to do with the meadowfoam-seed oil and vitamin E in the formula) and are still pretty low fuss; you won’t need to touch up the edges after you apply it, and you could probably throw it on without looking in the mirror. This is a great lipstick to have in your purse at all times, as it’s shiny and undemanding enough to throw on before a lunch meeting but pigmented enough to wear to a dinner or drinks with friends. My favorite shades are “Jam or Jelly,” a pink berry shade, and “Wild Peach,” a brown-pink shade.

A Bold Matte

Another heavy hitter from ColourPop, which I’m starting to think may be my very favorite affordable-makeup brand. Anyway, this velvety bright-red lipstick, “Trust Me,” is the perfect blue-red shade for nights out or when you want to dress up your jeans and T-shirt before dinner. It’s not necessarily transferproof — I wouldn’t compare it to my Fenty Beauty Stunna Lip Paint in “Uncensored,” which truly doesn’t budge — but I’m particularly fond of this lipstick because, despite it’s true matte finish, it isn’t the slightest bit drying on the lips. And the applicator is more of a pencil than a standard bullet lipstick, which makes it incredibly easy to apply — and as everyone knows, half the battle with red lipstick is putting it on properly.

A Balmy Stain

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Really? You’re including the lip balms we all used in high school on your favorite lipstick roundup? But I’m telling you: I bought one of these on a whim a few months ago and couldn’t believe how well this lip balm–meets–lip tint held up against my other pricey lip-stain products. Since it’s a Burt’s Bees chapstick, first and foremost it’s genuinely hydrating on the lips — you could apply this on your driest, most cracked lips and it’ll help moisturize them. But the tint itself is lovelier than I recalled: It gives off a shiny, soft pigment — a sort of your-lips-but-better effect — that is subtle enough for every day but pigmented enough to bring your makeup look together as a finishing touch. I love all of this balm’s shades, but my favorites are “Rose” (a pink shade), “Sweet Violet” (a berryish shade), and “Red Dahlia” (a dark-red shade.)

A Charlotte Tilbury Dupe

As I said before, my favorite Charlotte Tilbury lipstick is the brown-pink “Very Victoria,” but a close runner-up is the brand’s “Pillow Talk,” a slightly more pink-rosy shade that is one of the brand’s most beloved products. I’d read online somewhere that Flower Beauty’s “Spiced Petal” was a great dupe, and while I wouldn’t say it’s identical, if you like a dusty-rose, spicy-pink shade, this is a great affordable alternative. This lipstick is not as matte as Charlotte Tilbury’s — I’d say it’s more of a soft, cream finish — but it’s an excellent purse staple, as you can tap it onto your lips for a soft, dusty-rose tint and build it up for the perfect neutral evening lip.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

My Favorite Under-$10 Lipsticks