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MAC, Maybelline are best bets among lipstick brands

Choosing the right lipstick for you, more often than not, comes down to personal preference. Lipsticks vary greatly from one brand to another in several elements, including texture, color choice, depth of color and added ingredients. The lipsticks discussed here are a good starting place because they are well liked by many.

MAC Lipstick (*Est. $15) is chosen as the best lipstick more often than any other brand by consumers and experts alike. It was originally created as a professional product designed to stand up to the heat and light of photo shoots. MAC (which stands for Make-Up Art Cosmetics) Lipstick is one of the highest-rated lip products at both TotalBeauty.com and MakeupAlley.com, where users praise the line for offering unparalleled color choices and finishes. MAC Lipstick is available in seven finishes: Frost, Lustre, Satin, Amplified Crème, Cremesheen, Glaze and Matte. MAC's matte finishes, which have an opaque look without a lot of shine, are very popular even though they tend to be more drying than the others. Consumers, however, say that the long-lasting color is worth the sacrifice. Several users at MakeupAlley.com claim that applying lip balm first can make a big difference in the comfort level of these lipsticks.

Russian Red and Ruby Woo are both particularly popular shades in the matte line of MAC lipsticks. Russian Red (and MAC) became famous when pop star Madonna called it her favorite color back in the 1980s. Both are reds with blue undertones, which Julyne Derrick at About.com says can help camouflage yellowish teeth. Russian Red is a brighter red, while Ruby Woo has more of a pink tone that TotalBeauty.com editors say "anyone can wear." In addition to these popular hues, MAC offers 14 other matte shades and 146 shades in total -- although the company regularly adds new shades and has several limited edition options. MAC lipsticks are available in MAC stores, department stores and online, but you won't find them at discount stores.

MAC also offers a line of lipsticks and glosses called Viva Glam (which remains very popular among users); the entire purchase price of these products is donated to AIDS causes. MAC also accepts empty packaging for recycling; return six empties and you can receive a free lipstick.

If you prefer a sleeker look, Clinique Almost Lipstick (*Est. $15) comes in eight sheer shades that are pleasing on most skin tones. Black Honey remains the most popular shade. It is a deep, blackened raisin color that users say looks dark and daunting in the tube but it goes on sheer. Thousands of reviewers at MakeupAlley.com give the line high marks and say that the formula is very comfortable to wear -- the texture is somewhere between a gloss and a lipstick. The colors look natural with a hint of shine but many reviewers say that it doesn't last long and has to constantly be reapplied.

As for cheaper, more widely available drugstore brands, Maybelline New York Color Sensational Lipcolor (*Est. $6) earns high marks for being more affordable while still offering a wide variety of shades. Begoun says that the formula is "indulgently moist with a soft, cream finish." Most of the shades have a bit of shimmer and Begoun says that they layer well -- building from a more subtle tone to a rich color. They are prone to feathering, so a lip liner may be necessary if you have any lines around your lips. Users at MakeupAlley.com and TotalBeauty.com give Maybelline Color Sensational a high overall rating. Most are impressed with the vast color selection -- it comes in 48 shades -- and the creamy, semi-gloss finish. Several say that it wears well and long; it lasts for about three hours before needing a touch-up. Reviewers also like that the colors stay true, meaning that they look the same on your lips as they do in the tube. Some users say that the lipstick has a bad, rancid-like smell -- more noticeable after it has been opened for a few months. Begoun says that's typical of castor oil-based formulas but that it is perfectly safe to use.

Revlon Super Lustrous (*Est. $6) is another cream lipstick that gets high marks for its wide range of shades (72 at last count). Paula Begoun says, "If you can't find a color you like (in this line), perhaps lipstick just isn't for you." Furthermore, Begoun says the lipstick itself feels comfortable on the lips and has "better-than-average staying power." Reviewers at MakeupAlley.com give Revlon Super Lustrous a high overall rating. They praise the available colors and the affordable price but a few complain that it dries out their lips. Most lipsticks, even creamy ones, don't provide the same degree of moisture as a lip balm.

Experts say that lips need sun protection as much as the rest of your face does, and Clinique High Impact Lip Color SPF 15 (*Est. $15) does a good job of providing it. This cream lipstick includes zinc oxide as one of its sunscreen ingredients to provide broad-spectrum coverage. Paula Begoun says that it has a creamy texture that isn't too greasy or thick but points out that it won't maintain color for eight hours like it claims. Rona Berg, writing in her book, "Beauty, the New Basics," adds that most matte lipsticks, even those without an SPF rating, have enough opaque pigment to offer at least some sun protection.

Long-lasting lipsticks

If you can't stand constantly having to reapply lipstick, experts say that long-lasting formulas are for you. These liquid lip colors involve two steps: applying a liquid color stain and following up with a gloss coating. Reviewers across the board say that they really work, but that they can be especially drying. The clear gloss, however, can be reapplied as often as you like and makes the smudge-proof color much more comfortable. Most experts find that long-lasting lipsticks at the drugstore are just as effective as those from the department store.

CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Lip Color (*Est. $8) tops reviewers' charts for living up to its promises and lasting through virtually anything. Editors at Good Housekeeping magazine say that this lipstick stays put even through drinking and kissing, and is completely smudge-proof. The major caveat, however, is that it dries out the lips. Paula Begoun points out that reapplying the separate gloss frequently will ensure a more comfortable experience. Consumers at MakeupAlley.com and TotalBeauty.com either love it or hate it. Indeed, experts say that Outlast isn't for everybody, but if you need something that lasts and lasts, it is an affordable option. It is available in 41 shades.

If you like something with a more professional quality, Paula Begoun says that you can't go wrong with MAC Pro Longwear (*Est. $22). The lipstick tube is dual-sided with lip color at one end and a clear gloss at the other. Begoun claims that MAC "took a good thing and made it even better" because it glides on more smoothly and the topcoat feels better than competing products. Editors at TotalBeauty.com say the color holds up whether biting into fruit, sipping a hot beverage or kissing. Consumers at MakeupAlley.com are not quite as convinced. Reviewers there have mixed opinions, with several saying that the lip color is "gritty" and doesn't feel very comfortable. Most agree, however, that the lipstick lasts all day and must be removed with a special remover such as MAC's Cleanse Off Oil (*Est. $26) or a petroleum jelly. MAC Pro Longwear is available in eight shades.

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Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick Creme, Raisin Rage 630, 0.15-Ounce
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MAC Matte Lipstick - Russian Red
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CoverGirl Outlast All Day Lipcolor : Berry Sorbet - No. 554
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MAC Pro Longwear Lipcolour FOR KEEPS
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MAC CLEANSE OFF OIL - Cleanser
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Maybelline New York ColorSensational Lipcolor, Fuchsia Fever 140, 0.15 Ounce
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Clinique Almost Lipstick - Black Honey
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