Winter Skin

Mother Pucker My Lips Are Chapped! 2016 Guide to Superior Lip Balms

best lip balms

Back by popular demand is the 2016 run down on the latest in breakthrough lip salve technology.  Kidding, there is no such thing, but there sure are hordes of new lip balms that have spawned from every corner of the skin care universe.  And who wants to miss out or be the last to know?  Not me, so I’ve waded through the lip balm sludge to bring you the Best Lip Balms of 2016.  

Before we dig in, a few tried and true road rules to keep your lips quenched:

  • 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.
  • Pots are questionable.  Technically you’re supposed to avoid the pots because dipping your finger in and out creates a petri dish for bacteria.  That said, rules are meant to be broken, especially since two of my favorites come in pots.  
  • 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.  No ,they’re not all natural for sure, but when you need to fix your lips you need ingredients that work fast.
  • 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 severely chapped lips although if you’re spending a lot of time outside it’s a must have.
  • Check your health.  Chapped lips can often be a sign of either a yeast infection (which can sometimes be silent), or deficiency in niacon, B12 and B6, especially if you see cracks on the side of your mouth. 


For the past 8 weeks, each day I wore one of the 15 different balms I tried for a 40 minute walk to work, stopping for coffee and intermittent sips of my water bottle.   I had the requisite holiday cold, several presentations (stress, talking, dehydration), cold sores (Abreva) and had a lot of airplane travel.

I included my hold out favorites from my 2013 Lip Balm Guide – namely Aquaphor and Amore Pacific – to see how they stacked up against the newbies for 2016.  Surprisingly, I fell out of love with the Blistex Moisture Melt because over time it seemed to dry out my lips (not surprising considering some of their ingredients).

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.  Bonus extra if they were all natural, paraben free and tasted nice.  Triple bonus points for affordability (although you’ll see some luxury brands this time) and sunscreen that doesn’t taste weird or dry my lips out.

Those waxy stick form balms on the other hand are worthless, but I’ve called out the tallest midgets best of the lot at the bottom in the spirit of leaving no stone unturned.  

Here are my test subjects, ranked in order from most favorite to least:

1. Aquaphor $4. If there’s one headline to this story, it’s that you should all stop reading now and just run out and buy Aquaphor.  It’s cheap as dirt and for the past few years continues to top the list for quenching moisture and healing.  But let’s be honest, it’s a little boring too, hence the rest of this list.


2. ReVive Intensite Lip Balm $60.  Not a typo.  The lip balm for the 1%, of which I am not.  And they’re not apologizing for it – no fancy claims, just that this is “luxurious” and is powered by some mystery ingredient referred to as “RES technology”, which I suspect may stand for “Ridiculously Expensive Shit”.  I wanted to hate it because no one should ever spend this amount on lip balm.  Skepticism aside, this stuff is a dream for your lips.  I’ll bet J Lo wears this.  It moisturizes on contact, absorbs right away and leaves a nice barrier that stayed on my lips for the duration of a red eye flight.    Obscenely expensive, but just brilliant as a lip quencher.  Besides, you saved money buying Aquaphor, right?  


3. Kaplan MD Lip 20 Balm $35  For about half the price of Revive, Kaplan has similar qualities – moisturizes on contact, penetrates and has good “stick” so you don’t have to reapply every few minutes.  Plus, it boasts peptides and hyaluronic filling spheres which claim to fill in your cracks so you’re lips are smooth and plump.  Not sure that happened to me, but my lips felt great and I love that they included an SPF 20 which I don’t taste or feel (sometimes they feel drying).  


4. Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Lip Treatment $35.  A favorite from my 2013 review, this has been in my bag ever since and for good reason.  it doesn’t have parabens and claims to “restore the natural moisture barrier” and “boost circulation to leave your pout with a rosy glow”.  I don’t recall the rosy glow, but I do love this stuff.  If you blindfolded me, this would feel like a cousin to Revive or Kaplan, I only wish they had sunscreen like Kaplan.


5. Bite Lip Mask, Agave $26.  Great emollient barrier, that really sticks and moisturizers. I like this before I go to bed or if I’m skiing (which is like never, but good to know I have a plan).  Those looking for more natural products will like that it doesn’t have petroleum or gluten.  Its got a nice smoothie concoction of ingredients too: organic agave nectar, jojoba oil, vanilla CO2 extract, and “triple the amount of antioxidant trans-resveratrol found in red wine”.  Yeah….


6. Lush Honey Trap $7.96.   My 12 year old son picked this out at Lush,  I thought, “meh”, but wound up loving it because of it’s sticky, matte and works hard to keep your lips soft.  Bonus that it’s preservative-free and tastes delicious.  Not only does it have a nice honey thing happening, it claims to have a “soothing oat infusion”.  I could just eat myself.


7. Nuxe Reve de Miel $19. Back in 2012, the Internet freaked out when popular make-up artist vlogger Lisa Eldridge said it was one of her French drug store favorites.  And thus a cult darling was born, so imagine my delight when I found it hanging out at Duane Reade.  I have to say, it’s lovely, it quenches and it protects, even if it only occupies the #7 spot on the list.  Basically it’s a chic version of Lush Honey Trap in a classy jar that tells the world, you know what’s up.  


8. Kari Gran Lip Whip $15. A self proclaimed “eco-luxe” lip balm, on balance this does an excellent job of moisturizing your lips, much more than I expected from a product that’s so much better than I am natural.  It’s non-GMO, gluten free, organic, cruelty free and uses wild harvested ingredients (?).  Plus, it doesn’t have petroleum, parabens, sulfates or phthalates.   karigran

9. Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream Nourishing Lip Balm $21.  For years I’ve been a fan of the original 8 Hour Cream, an orangy, pungent petroleum jelly like substance used on burn victims, but it’s failed to translate as well into other products.  But here, they finally get it right and throw in an SPF 20 to boot without the aftertaste.


10. Avene Cold Cream Lip Cream $16.  Avene often hits it out of the park with it’s promise of simple, French skin care and I’ve wanted to embrace their Cold Cream line.  This lip balm does the trick and feels deliciously emollient upon application, but that’s where it stops in terms of benefits.  Not bad at all, but there are better options.avenecoldcreamlip

11. Supergoop Mint Infusion Lip Balm SPF 30 $9.50.  I’m a big fan of Supergoop! products, but like the hand cream, this lipbalm is great when you need an SPF, but the texture isn’t as smooth as the more highly rated products and there is a slight aftertaste.  The oil and the wax tend to separate a little too after a few months.  But, it has a nice barrier, is rich and emollient and would work great for those ski vacations I never take.  


12. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Lip Therapy $12.  A decent product with plenty of antioxidants that has a nice emollient feel, but similar to Supergoop!, the texture is a little weird, with the waxy base seeming to separate a bit from the oil.


13. Aesop Rosehip Seed Lip Cream $15. Ordinarily a great line, but their lip balm, er lip cream is weird and has a slightly bitter after taste.  Its departure from silicone and paraffin is deliberate and intended to behave like a lightweight moisturizer for lips.  But, I’m not convinced.   Reminds me of those old timey Blistiex tubes.  Not for the coldest of climates or truly chapped lips.


14. La Mer The Lip Balm $50.  It’s not terrible just because it’s second to last, it’s just not great for the price.  La Mer makes a kick ass face cream, but some of their other products can leave a little to be desired.  Plus, the eucalyptus oil makes it a tad more drying than it needs to mer balm

15. Hourglass No. 28 Lip Treatment $42  In a moment of weakness after a bad day last year, I found myself at Sephora post rationalizing this purchase with things like, “it’s the only lip balm I’ll ever need” and “the gold plated tip is soothing”.  Hourglass makes decent stuff, but I hate myself for succumbing to this silly lip treatment because the product dried out my lips thanks to the irritating fragrant oils, broke the bank and then the packaging fell apart.  Arghh.  Never again.  Nope. That is all.   


Lastly, there’s one product I’ve been dying to try but couldn’t get my hands on, Drunk Elephant’s Lippy ($22).  I wanted to mention it because it’s been getting rave reviews for it’s all natural ingredients and hydrating formula, so I didn’t want anyone to miss out.  I’ll up date once I’m able to try.


Lastly, for the waxy balms, they don’t hold a candle to the ointments mentioned about.   They’re fine for protection and can sometimes make a nice base for wearing a matte lipstick, but do little to heal or hydrate.  If you must balm, out of the ones I tried the best ones were Nuxe, Avene and Savannah Bee.


Best lip balms 2016




  • Reply
    January 26, 2016 at 8:13 PM

    Well I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who can not find drunk elephants lippy stuff. I have been everywhere and nothing! :(. I do use the jack black grapefruit lip balm, which I do like to use during the day but not for night time due to the SPF. Which is why I thought I would try the drunk elephant lippy. Oh well, I guess I might splurge on one of your other suggestions. I will get back to you and let you know. Thanks

  • Reply
    January 26, 2016 at 10:16 PM

    thank you for this, becca! i’ve been on the hunt to find good replacements for my favorite aveeno lip balm which was discontinued a while back. aquaphor is amazing indeed. i’m curious, do you use their actual “lip repair” product or just the straight-up multipurpose stuff (the photo looks like the latter…)? thanks again!

    • Reply
      January 29, 2016 at 7:47 AM

      Thanks for calling that out – I used the plain old Aquaphor. Oddly enough, I don’t love the specific lip stuff and I think this is because they often have SPF in it which leaves a terrible aftertaste in their formula.

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