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What’s not to love about a matte lip? It’s bold without being too flashy; polished without being too formal. It works just as well for a casual night at the movies as it does for an appearance at the Oscars (should you be so lucky). The one complaint people have about matte lipstick? It dehydrates and can look flaky by the end of the day. The good news? With a tried-and-true regimen, you can solve those problems in no time. Cue the red carpet (if only).

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1. Exfoliate with a Lip Scrub

To prevent dry lips later, exfoliate now. Use a gentle scrub to remove dead skin cells, leaving lips smooth and fresh. A scrub like E.L.F.’s Lip Exfoliator in Mint Maniac is perfect because it not only tenderly sloughs off dry skin but also nourishes with avocado, jojoba and grape oils. Plus, it infuses lips with vitamin E and shea butter—two ingredients necessary for maintaining soft lips over time. This first step is probably the most crucial because you never know how dry your lips are until you feel them after a good scrub.

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2. Hydrate with a Lip Mask

Lip masks deeply penetrate the skin to deliver multiple benefits in one sitting. According to cosmetic dermatologist Leslie Baumann, M.D., lips have only three or four cellular layers of skin (whereas the rest of the body is covered in roughly 15 layers) and they don’t organically produce sebum (a natural source of moisture). Therefore, lips are much more susceptible to UV damage and general wear and tear than the rest of your body. A product like Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Lip Mask effectively preps lips for makeup because it hydrates and defines lips in just a few minutes.  

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3. Apply a Lip Primer

A lip primer’s job is to turn lips into a sleek canvas, ready for any gloss, lipstick or pencil that may touch it. Since the perfect matte lip requires evenly distributed color, a primer will be your best friend. This NYX Professional Makeup Lip Primer ensures the color your matte lipstick tube advertises is the same color that shows up on your lips.  

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4. Define Lips with Liner

We’re almost there! Using lip liner before applying matte lipstick helps you stay within the lines for a well-defined pout. Ideally, the pencil is matte too. Since red is always in season, we’re partial to Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl. Go for a liner color identical to or slightly darker than your matte lipstick. 

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5. Mattify with your Favorite Lipstick

Once you’ve scrubbed, hydrated, primed and lined, your lips are finally ready for lipstick.Nothing makes an impression quite like a sultry red, so something akin to Nars Semi Matte Lipstick in Jungle Red is pretty much a slam dunk. PSA: Do not apply multiple layers. This can have a flaking effect and dry out lips, giving them a wrinkled or parched look even if you’ve scrubbed and primed. Swipe the color slowly across your lips. Touch up any slight breaches beyond your liner border with a cotton swab (micellar water and makeup-removing wipes will come in handy). Blot, and you’re good to go.

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