The gradient lips first hit the beauty scene in Korea several years ago, but since then it has gained momentum not just in other parts of Asia but also the West.
The gradient lip trend has evolved in the last few years; the 2021 gradient lip look is more subtle, instead of the obvious two-toned look that was popular a few years ago. This look may appear like a lot of work, but in this tutorial, we aim to show you the fast and easy way to achieve a Korean gradient lip look that even lipstick beginners can catch up with. Ace this tutorial and you’ll be able to sport perfect gradient lips throughout 2021!
How to do gradient lips (standard, dewy style)
The OG Korean gradient lips look is dewy, so that it has a juicy I-just-sucked-on-a-lolly appearance. The good thing about the standard gradient lips look (compared to a matte gradient lip look) is that it’s easier to apply, because lip glosses and lip stains are easier to blend out.
We picked up some of these gradient lip tips from YouTuber Nara from Korea that we thought were super useful and we’d love to share them with you.
Step 1: Apply concealer on your lips
Applying concealer on your lips help get rid of obvious lip lines or wrinkles while preparing a uniform canvas for you to work on later. It also helps make sure your darker lip colour show up better.
The best part about using a concealer is also that you don’t have to find out which two colours blend well together – your concealer is supposed to go well with your natural skin tone, and should be flattering no matter what the darker colour you’ve chosen for your gradient lip look.
Step 2: Apply your favourite lip colour and build up the intensity slowly
To create a dewy gradient lip look, use a lip gloss or lip tint, which gives a glossy effect and is also easy to blend.
Using a dotting motion, apply the lip product in the centre of your lips, close to your mouth. You can start with just a small amount of product and build it up slowly.
Next, gently dab your lips together to smudge the colour. Take note not to smudge it all over your lips but to use a gentle open-and-close motion to achieve the subtle gradient that gradient lips are known for.
Then, go in with more product if you want a more intense look and repeat step 2.2 until you achieve the intensity you want.
Step 3: Blend it out
Finally, blend out the colours so you can achieve a natural-looking gradient. You can use your finger or a cotton swab. (We prefer using our fingers so that we won’t be removing too much product and reduce the intensity we intended.)
And then, you’re done – enjoy your dewy gradient lips!
How to do gradient lips (matte style)
The matte gradient lip look is a variation of the Korean gradient lips that has gained popularity over time. This is well-loved by those who prefer matte lips or those who find matte gradient lips more budge-proof, so they don’t have to touch up as often.
Step 1: Apply a matte nude lip colour
Instead of using a concealer, use a nude lipstick in matte finish instead. This will complement the matte look better.
Extra tip (see step 1.2): To create a natural-looking gradient lip look, smudge the nude lipstick out along the lip line so it isn’t obvious where the lip outline starts. You can do so using your finger, a cotton swab or a lip brush.
Step 2: Apply a darker lip shade
Apply a darker lip shade in matte finish in the centre of your lips, close to your mouth. Build the intensity till you’re happy with the look.
Tip: if you find that your lipstick bullet is too thick and it’s hard to make sure the shade is only covering half of your lips (especially if your lips are thin), consider doing this step using a lip brush instead.
Step 3: Blend it out
Just like Step 3 in creating the dewy gradient lip look, blend out the lip colours. Use a open-and-close motion to dab your lips together (similarly, avoid smudging the colours all over your lips). You can also use a cotton swab or your finger to blend out the colour so that you create a natural-looking gradient.
More tips to help you create natural-looking gradient lips
1. Exfoliate your lips for a perfect canvas for gradient lips
Is it really necessary to exfoliate your lips? The answer is probably yes, unless you are blessed with naturally moisturised lips that never get flakey. Gradient lips are intended to exude a sense of “juiciness” so having smooth and soft lips can help accentuate this look. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to exfoliate them every day. Twice a week is the maximum frequency usually recommended.
Exfoliating your lips will help to get rid of the dead skin cells and make your lips smoother and softer for better lipstick application. Some lip exfoliators also have other beneficial properties such as vitamins and anti-oxidants.
If you are a DIY kind of person, go for an all-natural lip scrub which can be easily made with sugar and coconut oil.
When exfoliating your lips, rub the lip exfoliator gently on your lips in a circular motion for about 15 seconds. Always remember to do it gently to prevent excessively breaking down the skin on your lips, which can lead to lip bleeding and scabs.
2. Apply lip balm for a smoother-looking gradient lips
Now that we have gotten rid of the dead skin on our lips, it is time to replenish the loss of moisture from our lips.
You can look out for lip balms that contain ingredients such as shea butter and olive oil which helps to nourish and regenerate healthy cells on your lips. Stay away from those that contain menthol or other such ingredients that give a “cooling” sensation, which may dry out your lips further.
Do your lip exfoliation and apply your lip balm first thing before you do the rest of your skincare and makeup, so that you can give the lip balm some time to soak in to your lips. When it’s time to apply your lip colour, simply blot it off with a piece of tissue paper. Your lips will be a lot smoother and it’ll be easier to achieve that coveted gradient lips!
3. Always start with a little product and slowly build it up
It’s always easier to build up the intensity of your gradient lips rather than try to remove it later.
For the first step (whether you’re using a concealer or a matte lipstick), beginners to gradient lips may want to apply some product on the back of your hand first and then use your finger to slowly tap the product over your lips. While you’ll take more time to create the look, it ensures that you make fewer mistakes and create a more natural-looking gradient.
4. Choose a flattering colour that suits your skin tone
This may sound very obvious but it’s something that we often forget.
The gradient lip look is very eye-catching, which means that attention will be placed on your lips if you wear it out. As such, you’d want to make sure that your lips stand out in the right way.
To find the lip colour that suits you the best, you need to first understand what undertones you have.
Want to know if you’re a warm or cool undertone? Here are ways to find out:
Vein test: Go under natural light and look at the inside of your wrist. If your veins look more green, you have warm skin undertone, but if they look more blue, then it means you have a cool skin undertone.
Jewellery test: Those with warm skin undertone tend to look better in gold jewellery, whereas those with cool skin undertone will look better in silver.
Those with warmer undertones should go for warm red and orange hues. On the other hand, those who have cooler undertones would look best with lip colours that have blue or purple hues.
Using this method to choose the right lipstick to use for your gradient lips look (or any lip look, really) instead of simply going for what looked good on your favourite Korean celebrity will make sure that you own the lip look and make it flattering for yourself.
5. Make sure you maintain it well
Now that you’ve created the perfect gradient lips, here’s a tip to help you maintain it well throughout the day.
A common mistake that can ruin you gradient lips is when you rub your lips against each other or when you are wiping your lips with a tissue. If you have to put your lips together, for instance, to blend out lip balm, open and close your lips gently instead of moving them in a left-to-right motion. Similarly, use a dabbing motion if you have to clean up with a tissue, so that you won’t be ruining your gradient lip look.
Remember to also bring along the lipstick that you’ve used so you can touch up throughout the day.
Prefer to watch a video? Here’s the tutorial by Nara from Korea that we love: