Mother Pucker, My Lips are Chapped! 12 Lip Balms to the Rescue
It was February 1986 and I was pressed against the rich Corinthian leather in the back of my parent’s Volare station wagon having a sloppy make-out session with Ned, a friend who suddenly had benefits. Beyond wondering if I was even into him, underscoring the painful awkwardness was his stubble and my dry, chapped lips.
“I can’t do this anymore” I said pushing him away, my fissure filled lips so sore they could barely form vowels.
Ned is a distant memory who works on a yacht and shuns Facebook, but my nasty chapped lips still creep up on me every winter, along with a few cold sores riding shotgun.
Luckily, there are solutions to effectively de-chap your lips. A few easy DIY road rules:
- Saliva is like paint thinner for your lips, so stop licking already. Did you know that your saliva has powerful acids that are designed to break down food? When saliva hits your lips, that same acid strips your lips of much needed lipids.
- Gently exfoliate your lips. My favorite DIY remedy is coconut oil mixed with brown sugar. Rub this over your lips for a few minutes and voilà you’re flake free.
- Cucumber. If your lips are really badly chapped, applying a few fresh slices for 10 minutes will bring immediate relief.
- No pots. Avoid balms that come in the pot because dipping your finger in and out creates a petri dish for bacteria.
- Look for ingredients that are occlusive and trap moisture in. I haven’t found a lip balm that has them all, but these are the ones that repeatedly show up on the best balms; petrolatum, shea butter, squalane, organic soybean oil, dimethicone, caster oil, safflower oil, hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, glycerin and microcrystalline.
- Avoid ingredients that can make chapped lips worse. Camphor, eucalyptus, menthol, alcohol or fragrant oils not only cause irritation, but can actually reinforce chapping. Another watch out is sunscreen which can be too drying for treating overly chapped lips although if you’re spending a lot of time outside it’s a must have.
My rigorous test standards were as follows: each day I wore a different balm for a 40 minute walk to work, stop for a café mocha and an elongated kiss with my husband, sans Corinthian leather. Bonus points: I did this in December so there was plenty of bad eating, excellent alcohol and I had a nasty cold.
The best balms were thick enough to coat, protect and stick on my lips, but at the same time penetrated to actually treat so my lips felt better even after the goo wore off. Here are my test subjects, ranked in order from most favorite to least:
1. Blistex Moisture Melt. SPF 15. $1.89 I never thought I would worship at the altar of Blistex, that mentholly white cream I remember from my childhood, but here I am. This stuff is phenomenal, striking the perfect balance between immediate relief and long term treatment. My lips are dramatically improved and there’s even a little SPF. Moisture Melt, I love you.
2. Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Lip Treatment $38. For the past two years this has been my go to balm and was skeptical that I would ever find anything to beat it, but the $38 price stings. Still, it’s constantly out of stock at Sephora for a reason. This stuff provides immediate relief, deeply moisturizes and stays on.
3. Neosporin Lip Health, Daily Hydration Therapy SPF 20. $4.99 Another drug store wonder, but I like this as a treatment rather than something you would wear to brace the elements because the formula is a little thin and seemingly evaporates faster than I needed it to. And while it’s got great SPF, it leaves a little bit of that SPF aftertaste that makes me gag.
4. Josie Moran High Shine Gloss $16. While positioned as a gloss, it works beautifully as a balm. Again, it was moisturizing upon application and made my lips feel better after it wore off. What I especially liked was the texture, taste and smell that reminded me of honey and stuck nicely to my lips. Bonus: the smug feel good quotient having bought something Josie Moran-ish.
5. Aquaphor $4.29. The classic. What I like about this is that its tasteless and provides a barrier against cold weather. It’s perfect for ordinary chapped lips, but for bad cases I would defer to the Neosporin or Blistex Moisture Melt.
6. Lip Smart $33. Big claims in this tiny tube, from ingredients that promise collagen production and increased cellular lifespan. I didn’t even know my lips needed that. Bottom line, this was a really nice treatment, but the thinner formula didn’t last on my lips for the duration of my walk and there was a slightly unpleasant taste. Still, my lips felt better hours after the balm wore off.
7. Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF25. $7.50. A great one for outdoor play because of it has a high SPF and really sticks. The only downside was that I didn’t feel it penetrated as deeply as Aquaphor. This one has now snuck its way into my son’s soccer duffel for those chilly spring outdoor games.
8. Soap and Glory Might Mouth. $22. A claimed lip plumper with peptides that gives a hint of pink and moisturizes at the same time. I didn’t notice my pucker getting any plumper, but I would reach for this for a day on the slopes because of it’s thick, waxy texture. A little too thick for my everyday climate, but still one I’ll keep in my balm rotation.
9. L’Occitane Moisturizing Lip Balm $10. A nice balm heavy on the shea butter which is a good thing. I wanted to like this more, but I felt like the waxiness of it didn’t penetrate deeply enough to treat my lips and there was a little bit of a fragrant aftertaste. Still, I’d be happy to find this in my winter coat pocket on a cold day.
10. Smith’s Rosebud Salve $6. A cult classic I don’t understand. It’s fine for average chapped lips or moisturizing lips off season, but for real treatment I felt like it wore off way too quickly.
11. Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 $7. I’m usually a fan of Kiehl’s, but this one falls slightly beneath the high bar I’ve come to accept from their products. There’s nothing bad about the product, but it doesn’t feel like it does anything beyond the time it’s on my lips, which is like 2 minutes.
12. By Terry Baume de Rose $55. The cost/value is the biggest reason this is at the bottom of my list and in fairness, I would say this is more of a pleasant gloss than a true lip treatment. By Terry’s Baume de Rose has a strong cult following that swears it’s the stuff soft, pillowy lip dreams are made of. Aside from the cache of whipping out the official lip balm of the fabulous people, I was turned off by the thinness of the formula, the lack of “treatment” my lips got and the powdery rose scent.
OK so tell me, have a missed anything? There are only so many days in the year to try lip balms so I’m sure you guys have a few secret lip weapons of you own.