If you were to mentally sort the contents of your makeup bag into the categories of products you use every day—the ones you save for special occasions and those you own but never use—lip liner would most likely fall in the latter category, right? But while lip pencils are widely seen as a gratuitous extra step, they're actually the key to creating the perfect pouty lip, according to celebrity makeup artists Ash Holm and Mary Phillips.
But it's no secret that liner is the trick to creating the illusion of fuller lips. In fact, using a lip pencil to overline your lips is a classic hack, dating back to in the '20s and seen again on runways (and on celebs everywhere) in the '90s. The technique is simply just hard to nail without looking dated. Thankfully, Ash and Mary both reveal their tricks for a modern take on the overdrawn lip.
Stick with a neutral tone.
Both artists suggest sticking to a matte neutral shade when softly cheating the line to keep the look natural and current. Ash says the key is to use a nude shade with the same undertones as your skin tone, that way the contrast of shades looks cohesive. For instance, if you have pink undertones, use a neutral shade with a slightly pink hue for your most flattering shade.
Start by shading in the corners.
Use a super sharp lip pencil (Mary says the pointier the pencil, the more precise your application will be) to begin shading the corners of your lips versus following the lip line exactly, Ash says. This not only contours them, but also softens the line making the hack a little less noticeable.
Don't go too far outside your lip line.
After you've shaded in the corners, trace along your lip line while gradually veering outside of your mouth's natural perimeter as you move toward the center of your top and bottom lips — but only slightly! Both Ash and Mary agree that following your natural shape (and not going too far outside the natural border) will look the most natural, while also effectively enhancing your pout. Mary says for her clients whose faces can carry a lot more makeup, she'll shade over the cupids bow rather than along it, but adds that this can be tricky to pull off. If it looks silly, you've probably pushed it a bit too far.
Blend out the edges.
Ash uses a lip brush, while Mary prefers to use the warmth of her finger to pat and melt the liner into the skin. But either way, the goal is the same: to blend the edge of the liner toward the inside of the lips to soften the line.
Fill in the center with lipstick.
Use a lipstick shade similar to the liner for a subtler effect, or opt for a slightly lighter lipstick to emphasize the line. To complete the look, Ash uses a brush to apply a matte lipstick on the center of the top and bottom lips, blending it out toward the perimeter of the mouth. She also loves using a matte or liquid lipstick for the finishing touch, because the matte textures make the pouty effect stand out more. Mary starts off the look with matte pencil liner as well, but prefers to use a product with a gel-like formula or something with a subtle sheen on the center of the pout for a more satin finish.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.