By Sara Morrow

The Best Lip Balms

The best lip balm provides long-lasting moisture without potential irritants. After talking to dermatologists and digging into scientific studies, we narrowed in on balms with simple ingredients and tested each one to see which felt the smoothest, had the least scent, and offered some sheen without being glossy.

The 4 Best Lip Balms

Badger Classic Lip Balm

Best
Basic Balm

Badger Classic Lip Balm Unscented

Badger
A great basic balm with little shine, no scent, and long-lasting moisture
Pros
Just the basics
Weightless but long-lasting
Great price
Cons
No SPF

Why we chose it

Just the basics

With a mere four ingredients — extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, castor oil, and a very small amount of rosemary — Badger Classic Lip Balm Unscented seems made for Professor 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.

Weightless but long lasting

After applying, it has a barely-there feel. There’s a slight slickness when first rubbing your lips together, but other than that, it’s weightless and tasteless. Even better, that weightless-yet-moisturized sensation lasted about four hours during our testing — and even once it wore off, we didn’t feel the need to reapply. You won't need to keep reaching for this lip balm throughout the day.

Great price

At $3 for a 0.15 oz tube, Badger is 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.

Points to consider

No SPF

One thing to remember about this and other lip balms is that they don’t generally contain SPF. It’s easy to forget about your lips when you go out in the sun, but don’t — the skin on your lips can burn just as easily as the rest of your face. If you’re planning a day at the beach, or even a sunny winter afternoon on the ski slopes, be sure to wear a lip balm that contains SPF, like Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer, to protect the fragile skin on your lips.

Smith’s Rosebud Salve

Best for
Sensitive Skin

Smith's Rosebud Salve

Smith's
Just four ingredients, no potential irritants, and a delicate hint of rose
Pros
Simple, irritant-free ingredients
No mess, no sheen
Light, pleasant scent
Cons
Fragrance

Why we chose it

Simple, irritant-free ingredients

Smith’s Rosebud lip balm has super simple ingredients while offering a gentle hint of natural rose. Like Badger, it only has four ingredients. Unlike Badger, it’s free of beeswax and vitamin E. Instead, it moisturizes with petrolatum, cottonseed oil, essential oils, and botanicals.

No mess, no sheen

Though it resembles lip gloss, with its jelly texture and slippery application, it makes no mess, and we saw no sign of sheen after it absorbed. It’s also far easier to get out of the tube than similarly-shaped applicators like that of La Roche-Posay, which whittled out a bit of balm only after we used our entire palm to squeeze.

Light, pleasant scent

Smith’s salve was also the only sensitive skin option to have a tolerable scent. Others smelled artificial, like Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, which reminded us of childhood classic Lip Smackers’ Chocolate Dipped Banana flavor. On the flip side, some smelled too natural, like the stinky honey scent of Dr. Dan’s. Two flavors of Smith’s made it to our testing: the original Rosebud and the Minted Rose. Neither is very potent, and any scent or flavor is undetectable within a few minutes of application.

Points to consider

Fragrance

Yes, we know: the light fragrance is one of the reasons we chose this product. But for some, even a little scent is too much. If you're in that group, check out our runner-up below.

Vaseline Lip Therapy Original

Runner-Up for
Sensitive Skin

Vaseline Lip Therapy Original

Vaseline
As simple as it gets, and free of all irritants
Pros
Pure and simple
Inexpensive
Several formats
Cons
Tub can be messy

Why we chose it

Pure and simple

Not a fan of rose or mint? Vaseline Lip Therapy is as neutral and irritant-free as it gets. Pure petroleum jelly is the go-to lip balm for many, and for good reason: It’s an impenetrable occlusive that seals in moisture, and it has virtually no history of irritation (which is why it’s used on babies to treat diaper rash). If you like the way it feels on your lips, have at it.

Inexpensive

You won’t break the bank with Vaseline. Although none of our top picks came in at a particularly high price point, Vaseline is classic (it’s been around since the 1850s) and simple, and will cost you less than five dollars for a small tub.

Several formats

Vaseline comes in tin, tube, or tub form — full of pure, surgical-grade petroleum jelly that will create a slick seal over your lips. The squeeze tube, labeled for “Advanced Healing,” is mixed with a little bit of neutral flavor. But dipping into a tub of Vaseline will give you the same results, with a bit less convenience.

Points to consider

Tub can be messy

Although it is nice to have different packaging options to choose from, keep in mind that with tub or tin, you’ll be dipping your finger into the product and rubbing it on your lips. For some people, that can be a deal-breaker: If your hands are dirty, you risk contaminating the product, and you also have to find a tissue to dry off your finger. The tube costs slightly more per ounce, but may be worth it if these seem like issues you would rather not deal with.

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer with Sunscreen

Best with
SPF

Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 15

Neutrogena
Broad spectrum SPF 15 from octinoxate and oxybenzone
Pros
Formula focused on protection
Velvety smooth
Cons
Can cause irritation
Hard to find

Why we chose it

Formula focused on protection

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 them 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.

For days out in the sun, the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer is our pick. It uses 7.5 percent octinoxate, alongside a bit of oxybenzone, for a broad-spectrum SPF of 15. Combine that with castorseed oil and beeswax, and you’ve got a formula that is equally focused on protection and moisture.

Velvety smooth

This product goes on velvety smooth, without leaving a greasy residue and without a high gloss that might make some avoid it. “It is not sticky or waxy and leaves a very smooth comfortable feeling on my lips,” said one user. “I recommend this product to everyone I know.”

Points to consider

Can cause irritation

Be aware: While octinoxate and oxybenzone are both approved by the FDA, they have been known to cause irritation in sunscreens. If you have particularly sensitive skin, we’d recommend doing a spot test to ensure it doesn’t cause any issues.

Hard to find

Although this product is readily available at Amazon as well as at the manufacturer’s website, users report that it is nearly impossible to find in retail stores. We suggest you stock up if you’re planning a trip that will have you out in the sun.

Guide to Lip Balms

How to find the right lip balm for you

Take a look at your surroundings

Chapped lips have as much to do with where you are as they do with your skin condition. If you spend considerable time in a windowless, dry office (especially in winter when the heat is on), for example, you may want to consider a lip balm with extra emollients. But it’s a good idea to glance at the ingredient list of any lip balm you’re purchasing — the fewer ingredients, the better, especially if you’re using your lip balm a lot. And if you are, check out our FAQs below for some thoughts on lip balm overuse.

Assess your lips

You know your lips better than anyone. Are you prone to dry, cracked Saraha-Desert-like lips or just some occasional tightness in the corners? Do you find yourself re-applying your current lip balm every 15 minutes? 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.

Consider packaging

Unlike some health and beauty aids, lip balm comes in a variety of containers. Tubes, sticks, and tubs can all hold your precious balm, and your own personal preference rules here. Tubs often contain a bit more of the product, but you may also have some waste, as you have to lift it out with your finger or an applicator. Touching your finger to your mouth increases the risk of spreading germs or infection, so if you like tubs and are prone to cold sores, you may want to consider using small disposable applicators—even cotton swabs will work in a pinch.

Lip Balms FAQ

Can I use too much lip balm?

“There is something to the psychological addiction to lip balm,” explains Peter Lio, assistant professor of clinical dermatology at Northwestern University. “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!”

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.

Can lip balm go bad?

Like all cosmetics, the ingredients in lip balm can break down over time, and companies like Chapstik recommend that you toss your lip balm after a year. If you’re not sure how old your lip balm is, take a whiff and see if it smells “off.” Lip balms with sun-protecting ingredients are especially prone to deteriorating, and older lip balm can simply dry out, making it harder to apply.

Why can’t I just use lotion on my lips?

The skin on your lips is different from the skin on the rest of your face. The outer layer of your skin, called the stratum corneum, is extremely thin on the lips, causing moisture to evaporate much more quickly than it does elsewhere. The result: cracked, dry, or flaky lips that need more protection than just about any other place on your body. Using lotion on your lips won’t hurt them, but you’ll find that it doesn’t help much, either, and you’ll soon be craving a thicker, more protective product.

Should I apply lip balm before or after lipstick?

Before. For one thing, it will go on more easily, without smearing, and will give your lipstick a smooth surface on which to adhere. For another, you want the extra protection offered by a lip balm right next to your lips, where it will do the most good. Lipstick isn’t formulated to protect and soothe lips like lip balm is.

The Best Lip Balms: Summed Up

Badger Classic Lip Balm Unscented
Smith's Rosebud Salve
Vaseline Lip Therapy Original
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 15
Best Basic Balm
Best for Sensitive Skin
Runner-Up for Sensitive Skin
Best with SPF
Cost/single item
$2.99
$7.27
$4.96
$4.65
New weight of product
0.15 ounce
0.5 ounce
0.25 ounce
0.15 ounce
Cost per ounce
$19.93
$14.54
$19.84
$31.00
Cruelty Free
Sun protection

More Skin Care Reviews

We want you to look and feel your best, and we’ve done the leg work to prove it. Check out some of our other skin care reviews to find out what our experts say are the best of the best:

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