We all have those items that you always seem to lose or just constantly need more of no matter how many you buy. For many people, that item is lip balm. Most of us can attest to having a few rolling around in the bottom of our bags, and who doesn’t have at least two hanging out in their desk drawers? So unless you magically keep track of your teeny-tiny tube of lip balm wherever you go, chances are you’re looking to buy more. To help you navigate which to buy, we put together a list of some very hydrating (and mostly very cheap) options recommended by makeup artists, a dermatologist, and Strategist staffers who are very passionate about their balms.
What we’re looking for
All lip balms hydrate, but not all lip balms use the same ingredients to do this. We’ve noted the standout ingredients in each formula whether it’s powered by an old-fashioned emollient like petroleum or packed with extra skin benefits like shea butter or vitamin E.
As mentioned above, most of our lip balms skew on the affordable side, but in case price is a consideration, we’ve noted how much you’re getting in a tube and the cost per ounce.
Best overall lip balm
$9 for 4
Ingredients: Beeswax, vitamin E, peppermint oil | Price: 0.6 ounces (Approx. $3/ounce)
Burt’s Bees is a long-loved classic and comes recommended by both Strategist staffers and celebrities (Michael Strahan swears by it for TV-ready lips). It has all the trappings of a solid lip balm: deeply hydrating ingredients (beeswax and fruit extracts), affordable, and widely available. “These are super-moisturizing, gliding onto your lips but never too sticky, and actually very sheer,” says Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla, who picks up a pack of four whenever she takes a trip to the drugstore. Said four-pack will run you about $9, so you don’t have to worry if you leave one of the tiny yellow tubes behind. There’s an abundance of flavors to choose from. Pardilla is partial to the mango scent, which is derived from fruit extracts. Its scented without adding color to the lips, which she says is a bonus: “Sometimes you just want the natural shade of your pout.” Strategist writer Emma Wartzman likes the original honey scent, which she describes as “subtly sweet in the nicest way” and which “works without needing to be reapplied super-often.”
Best lip balm for sensitive skin
Ingredients: Petroleum | Price: 0.25 ounces (Approx. $8/ounce)
Vaseline is another classic option and can be used for just about anything from moisturizing lips to adding a bit of shine to eyelids. It contains just one ingredient: petroleum jelly, an incredibly effective occlusive that locks in moisture and provides nearly instant relief to ultradry chapped lips and skin. Severe allergies to petroleum jelly are fairly rare, making it a good option for anyone with sensitive skin. Pardilla is a longtime fan. “This is what you use when your lips are bone dry, chapped, and ready to bleed,” she says. Wartzman is also a regular user and likes to use it to moisturize other areas such as her cuticles and elbows.
Best lip balm for Accutane users
now 8% off
Ingredients: Petroleum, mineral oil, ceresin, lanolin, glycerin, bisabolol | Price: 0.25 ounces (Approx. $1.40/ounce)
One of the hallmarks of Accutane is unbearably dry lips because the acne-eliminating medication works by decreasing the size of oil glands in the skin. Makeup artist Kasey Spickard, who has been on the medication multiple times, can attest to the effectiveness of Aquaphor in treating Accutane-dried lips: “It’s simple and stands the test of time to hydrate and soothe lips,” he says. Aquaphor is an occlusive and contains petroleum jelly alongside a bunch of other ingredients such as mineral oil, ceresin, lanolin, glycerin, and bisabolol, an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also good for non-Accutane users. I am a longtime fan — it’s been my go-to since 2015, and despite trying a whole host of other lip balms, it’s the only one I come back to time and time again. I have it in just about every size from the tiny half-ounce tube to the larger squeeze bottle. I keep a few around the house at all times and apply it to my lips regularly. It’s softening without being greasy and provides immediate relief. It also doubles as a colorless highlighter. When Rio Viera-Newton asked an array of cool people about the best beauty products under $10, Maddie Biallis, the manager of new product and collaborations at Alex Mill, named Aquaphor, which she says gives skin a “perfect glisten-y high-shine effect.”
Best lip mask for very dry lips
now 8% off
Ingredients: Vitamin C | Price: 0.7 ounces (Approx. $31/ounce)
The Laneige lip mask has reached cult status thanks to its thick, gloopy texture and sweet berry scent. It sort of wraps your lips in a deeply moisturizing film that sinks in and seemingly repairs them overnight. It contains vitamin C and other antioxidants along with hyaluronic acid, which gives lips that hydrated, plump look. Even though it’s meant to be used as a reparative nighttime treatment, many people (myself included) have ignored the instructions and worn it all day long. Storm Reid is a fan, using it as both a balm and a lip gloss. “It keeps my lips super-moisturized but also has a high-shine gloss and adds a little plumpness to my lips,” she says. Strategist writer Erin Schwartz applies it nightly, and though they aren’t thrilled with the mask’s stickiness, they wear it anyway because “the formula is just that good.”
Best less expensive lip mask for very dry lips
Ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil | Price: 0.7 ounces (Approx. $26/ounce)
For a more affordable alternative to the lip sleeping mask, makeup artist Karol Rodriguez recommends the Ulta Lip Sleeping Mask, which is about half the price. It moisturizes using shea butter and coconut oil, a combination that Rodriguez says is “not sticky at all.” They like to use it on clients, especially ones with particularly dry lips, noting that its heavy texture really moisturizes.
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