BYRDIE: Nothing but respect for the triple-time videos of elaborate swooping eyeliner and six-step complexion makeup—they hypnotize me, too—but there’s truly nothing I’d rather stare at for three hours in bed every night than TikTok tutorials dedicated to the no-makeup makeup look. It’s a challenge (maybe just for me, anyway), especially come summer, but finding a minimalist look that manages to work with the sweat while looking effortless is priceless. So imagine my delight when I noticed my carefully-curated FYP was overrun with a trend called “Gym Lips.”
A sucker for everything that utilizes that little robo-voiceover sound (I actually fell for the balsamic vinegar Coke), I knew I’d be trying Gym Lips before the week’s end.
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What Are Gym Lips?
No, this is not a technique dedicated to recreating what your lips look like post-gym (as I originally thought). Coined by makeup artist Kelli Anne Sewell, the Gym Lips trend is the minimal lip look she likes to wear to the gym. Gym Lips require slightly overlining with a liner close to your natural lip color before filling them all in with that same pencil. Then, layer a nourishing lip treatment—ideally, one with a bit of gloss—over top for a lush, plumped effect that manages to look natural.
While Sewell’s creation was originally intended for the gym, it doesn’t have to be. Personally, I’m a) so sweaty it’s borderline comical and b) diametrically opposed to wasting my precious lip liner daily on the treadmill. Think of Gym Lips as your go-to lip look for anytime you want to look put together, but feel like a full-on color would be too much. Somehow, Errand Lips doesn’t have the same ring to it.
How to Do Gym Lips
“The key is to have a lip liner that’s your lip color,” Sewell says in her original TikTok, demonstrating her own application technique. Her overlining is incredibly subtle, barely skimming her lips’ natural borders for a believably plumped effect. Finding the perfect liner color for Gym Lips might just be the trickiest part of this entire operation.
You need an ultra-natural color, which requires some trial-and-error if you don’t already have one. Too light of a shade may wash you out, and too dark defeats the purpose of Gym Lips by looking like makeup. Search for a lip liner with a vast color library and opt for one that matches your lips’ undertones with plenty of glide and slip in the formula to avoid tugging that delicate skin. Fortunately, it’s much easier to find a lip treatment to top it with. Virtually every beauty brand has its own version of a clear, nourishing balm, making the hardest part deciding on a scent (if that’s your thing). You’ll definitely want to skip the tinted balms, though, as it’s key to let that natural lip liner color shine through.
On my first attempt at Gym Lips, it took quite a while to find the perfect shade. The lip liners in my stash seemed to only range from “distinctly ’90s” to “it’s not a phase, mom.” But eventually, I found a favorite from Kevyn Aucoin (coincidentally the same brand Sewell uses in her OG video, albeit a different shade) that fit the bill. As a lip treatment hoarder, those possibilities were endless. To keep the summer theme, I opted for Le Paradis’s unreal banana-scented lip balm—the best summer smell ever.
Upon starting to line, it was clear that I’d have to keep a pretty light hand with the pencil to keep the look on the (somewhat) natural side, and that went double for filling the lips in. It was important that they didn’t look too velvety, so dabbing some excess off with a napkin was crucial. Once the treatment was on, I saw why TikTok is so obsessed with Gym Lips. They’re the perfect just-casual-enough lip look for every possible summer scenario. Today alone, they’ll be Work Lips, Visiting The Storage Unit Lips, Laundy Lips, and Late Thursday Dinner Lips—I can’t get enough.