The 30-Second Review

The best lip balm should provide long-lasting moisture without containing potential irritants. After talking to dermatologists and digging into scientific studies, we narrowed in on 25 balms with simple ingredients that include moisturizers (like beeswax) or barrier agents (like petrolatum) and little to nothing else. Then we tested each one to see which felt the smoothest, had the least scent, and offered some sheen without being glossy.

177
Contenders
3
Top Picks
Best Overall

The simplest formula of all 25 we hand-tested: just four organic ingredients, barely any scent, and effects that last all day. ($3)

Runner-Up

John Masters Organics Lip Calm
With a creamy application that testers described as “luxurious,” this formula has a more pronounced citrus scent and sheen than Badger’s. ($17 on Amazon, though we found it for $6 in stores)

Best with SPF

For summertime or days at the beach, Vanicream applies more like a sunscreen than a traditional lip balm — plus, it’s SPF 30 and waterproof. ($5)

  • January 12, 2018 - We’ve updated this review to include a clearer methodology and updated information regarding potential irritants. Keep an eye out for further testing and additional picks in the coming months.

The Best Lip Balm

Lighter Group Shot of Lip Balm

Our top pick, Badger Classic Lip Balm Unscented, boasts the simplest formula of any we tested, and its “just-applied” feeling lasted more than four hours in our tests — as long as any of the more complicated formulas we tried. It uses only four natural (and organic!) ingredients, which means there are fewer possible allergens for the sensitive skin on and around your lips. We also liked that it’s about as neutral as possible: There’s barely any scent or shine, making it suitable for any user.

If your skin isn’t particularly sensitive to fragrance, we loved John Masters Organics Lip Calm. You’ll pay more than you would for Badger, and it’s packed with twice the number of ingredients, but it feels like a product straight out of a spa: rich, wet, and delicately citrus-scented. Its 10 organic oils infused with beeswax also proved to be long-lasting, and it’s surprisingly not too glossy for how slick it feels when applying.

Going to be in the sun? Most people forget to protect the lips when applying sunscreen for the day, so a lip balm with SPF is crucial. Our pick is Vanicream Lip Protectant, a balm that includes broad spectrum SPF 30 from a mix of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Even better: It’s water resistant up to 80 minutes. Hello, beach.

Our Picks for the Best Lip Balm

Best Overall

Badger Classic Lip Balm UnscentedA great basic balm with mass appeal: little shine, virtually no scent, and long-lasting moisture.

With a mere four ingredients — extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, castor oil, and a very small amount of rosemary, which acts as a preservative — Badger Classic Lip Balm Unscented seems made for Lio’s “nothing extraneous” rule. It has a smooth, silky texture and hardly any scent; If anything, it’s a little bit herbal due to the rosemary. It slips on super sheer, glowing slightly in bright light but far from shiny or glossy.

Lightened Close-up of Badger Lip Balm

After applying, it has a barely-there feel. Your lips feel slick when you rub them together, but other than that, the sensation is weightless and tasteless. Even better, that weightless-yet-moisturized sensation lasted upward of four hours during our testing, and even once it wore off, we didn’t feel the need to reapply. This balm isn’t one you’ll need to keep reaching for throughout the day.

Before and After of Badger Lip Balm

It’s worth noting that the formula will only moisturize your lips — it doesn’t include any sun protection, so you'll need to reach for something with SPF for those days at the beach.

But at $3 for a 0.15 oz tube, it’s drugstore cheap and 100 percent organic and gluten-free. And its neutral profile makes it suitable for almost any user, regardless of taste or scent preference.

Runner-Up

John Masters Organics Lip CalmTen organic oils make for a balm with a delicate scent and luxuriously smooth feel.

Upon application, John Masters Organics Lip Calm feels like an intense dose of hydration. It touts 10 ingredients to Badger’s four (and at six bucks a pop at most retailers, costs twice as much), though they’re all oils except the beeswax: olive, sunflower, jojoba, flax seed, borage, rosehip, tangerine peel, lemon peel, and lime. The latter half of that list is what gives this formula its light citrus scent.

Lightened Close-up John Masters Organics lip balm

It comes in an identical twist-up tube as Badger, but wipes on rich, thick, and slippery — you’ll feel its presence much more. It’s more noticeable on the nose, too: You might pick up a slight whiff of citrus up to an hour or two after using it, but it’s mild enough not to interfere with eating or drinking. Still, if you are sensitive to fragrance, you’re better off going with Badger.

John Masters - Megan for Lip Balm

The consistency is also thicker and the sensation “wetter” than many of the 25 balms we tested, which might be irritating to some; it felt so slick we assumed it would look more like a lip gloss than a lip balm. It is more shiny than Badger, falling short of that perfect glow, but only if you look closely. Like Badger, though, Lip Calm is long-lasting — our testers never craved reapplication, even hours later — and doesn’t have any SPF.

Best with SPF

Vanicream Lip ProtectantThis balm boasts broad spectrum SPF 30 from a mix of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — and is water resistant to boot.

Whether your everyday lip balm should contain SPF is a hotly contested question among dermatologists: On the one hand, if you’re sitting inside all day, your lips don’t require sunscreen, which can dry your lips out. On the other hand, most of us tend to forget about the lips entirely when it comes to sun protection. Even if you don’t apply it on a daily basis, a lip balm for those beach outings is a wise investment.

Lightened Close-up of Vanicream lip balm

For days out in the sun, the $5 Vanicream Lip Protectant is our pick. It uses 15 percent zinc oxide, alongside a bit of titanium oxide, for a broad spectrum SPF of 30. Combine that with its first active ingredient, dimethicone — an occlusive agent that keeps moisture from evaporating from your lips — and you’ve got a formula that is equally focused on protection and moisture.

Before and After of Vanicream Lip Balm

Vanicream’s application process, while not unpleasant, is its biggest drawback from classic lip balms like Badger. Vanicream is virtually scentless and comes in an ointment tube you squeeze, as opposed to twisting up. Upon application, you’ll find the biggest difference from the moisture-focused balms like Badger and John Master: It feels more like rubbing on a sunscreen than a traditional lip balm and lacks that intense hydrating feeling. It also takes a few more swipes of the angled applicator to blend in the balm’s white-purple tint — a color resulting from the zinc and titanium dioxide.

That said, once it’s completely rubbed in, it has the least shine and slip of all our top picks; you might forget you’re wearing anything at all. What’s more, it’s water-resistant up to 80 minutes, meaning it’s perfect for an afternoon out on the water.

Another to Consider

Before and After of Vaseline Lip Balm

Vaseline Lip Therapy Advanced Healing is, along with Vanicream, one of the only balms that made it through into our testing pool that doesn’t contain beeswax. If you’re sensitive to propolis and don’t need the added SPF of Vanicream, this squeezable tube of pure, surgical-grade petroleum jelly (mixed with a little bit of neutral flavor) will create a slick seal over your lips to trap in moisture. Don’t care about the flavor or the squeeze tube? Dipping into a tub of Vaseline will give you the same results, with a bit less convenience.

Did You Know?

There’s another reason to go flavorless.

Kiss My Face flew through all of our initial cuts with solid ingredient lists containing moisturizing powerhouses like beeswax, coconut oil, and aloe. In the end, its flavors (Cranberry Orange, Sliced Peach, Ginger Mango) knocked it out of the running, initially because we thought they were too strong to appeal to everyone.

As it turns out, even if you love everything ginger mango, you’re better off skipping lip balms that may encourage you to lick your lips. Not only does saliva dry your lips out, but Ploch says the act can also cause what’s called “lip-lickers dermatitis,” an eczema-like rash around the lips.

It’s possible to become addicted to lip balm.

Well, sort of. “There is something to the psychological addiction to lip balm,” explains Dr. Lio. “I myself have been stuck in a rut before, where if I didn’t have my lip balm on me, my lips would feel dry and uncomfortable!”

We’re not talking a chemical dependence, or even the Great Carmex Conspiracy, an urban legend from the ‘90s that claimed that Carmex was full of tiny shards of glass to make users more dependent on it. But it is possible to compulsively use your balm — even when your lips don’t necessarily need extra moisture. Much of that lies in the power of suggestion. The same way reading about lice will make your head itchy, we’re betting if you’ve made it this far into our review, you’ll have already reached for some ChapStick.

To guard against overuse (which may actually make your lips drier in the long run), Lio recommends letting the body regulate itself whenever possible. Eating a balanced diet and staying well-hydrated keeps skin (including your lips) moisturized. Using a humidifier to combat dry indoor air, especially in winter, can help you break your dependency as well.

If you’re in an endless loop of chapped lips and reapplication, consider switching to a balm with a completely different ingredient profile. If a certain ingredient is causing inflammation or irritation (which, we’ve discovered, can be pretty much anything) it may lead you to use your lip balm more, which causes more irritation, and voila: lip balm addiction.

The Best Lip Balm: Summed Up