Lip balm preference is extremely subjective. Do you like your balm in the form of a stick, a pot, or a tube? Do you prefer it gooey? Waxy? Cooling to the touch? Or is a wet blanket of gleaming gloss more to your liking? That said, what most good lip balms have in common are the ingredients. Shea butter is huge, of course, as is cocoa butter, and then there’s a long list of oils (coconut, olive, chamomile, argan, and so on). Below, we’ve rounded up 16 of our favorite balms with high-quality ingredients, with enough variety in texture, forms, and shape to satisfy just about everybody.
For the Minimalist
Clean ingredients like argan oil, chamomile oil, and shea butter combine to hydrate and nourish dry and cracked lips in this wide-mouthed balm. We love how simple it is, and we love its squat, Weebles-shaped form.
When Chic Matters Almost as Much as Clean
Sofia Coppola is a fan of this shea nut oil, olive oil, and beeswax concoction — and Cap Beauty and Goop have both given it high marks. Its variety of shades — from French Melon to Persimmon to the pale gold Fete — offers something for every skin tone, but it’s also available sans color.
If You Want More Than a Little Tint
If a lip balm and a lipstick had a baby, this cushiony formula would be it. Depositing a little more pigment than most tinted balms, its eight shades range from shimmery sand to a deep wine. Can’t decide what you want? Creator Gran also makes sheer versions where all you have to do is choose between cinnamon and peppermint flavors.
If Your Lips Are Sensitive
After years of seeing patients experience adverse reactions from drugstore ointments, Seattle dermatologist Heather Rogers created this occlusive salve. Made of castor seed oil, caster wax, and glycerin, it feels (and looks) like a petrolatum-free version of Vaseline.
The Super-Slippery One
Created by spa guru Susanne Kaufmann, this stick feels so slippery, it’s surprising that it doesn’t come in the form of a butter that you swipe out of a jar. Never fear — despite its soft outer layer, the formula (made of jojoba and castor seed oil and bees wax) is quite sturdy. It will not squish into mush or break off into your hands.
The One That Also Tints Cheeks
This new brand specializes in body, hair, and face oils made from indigenous Caribbean ingredients like Jamaican Black Castor Oil and West Indian blossoms. Its three tints are packed with cocoa butter and coconut oil.
If You Want to Soothe Your Lips and Your Mind
The formula contains not one modicum of tetrahydrocannabinol (a.k.a. THC), nor is it made from weed. But the hemp-derived CBD in this balm imparts a comforting sense of calm, and all three scents — cocoa, peppermint, and rose — are so good that you’ll probably want to take a deep whiff every time you apply it.
The One That’s Incredibly Rich
This balm — made mostly of coconut oil, avocado oil, bees wax, and shea butter — might be curiously grainy to the touch, but once it’s on your lips, they will feel as though a gentle cashmere blanket has just been draped over them.
For the Bourbon Lover
You don’t really have to be on an expedition to enjoy Lost Explorer’s rich, buttery balm. Loaded with prickly pear cactus and agave, it smells like Madagascar vanilla with a faint whiff of bourbon.
If You’re Obsessed With Candles
Beloved candle brand Nest took its top home fragrances and turned them into body care and lip balms. The smooth lipstick-shaped sticks come in four flavors, harnessed from natural fruit-derived sugars, and contain a formidable SPF 15.
The Slick One
Founder Francesco Clark took jasmine oil, the signature active ingredient from his skin-care line, and mixed in aloe, shea butter and jojoba. Vanilla scented, this softening rich salve imparts a shiny and slick coating to lips.
The One That Helps With Lip Lines
It probably takes at least a few weeks for the hyaluronic acid in this stick to actually diminish lip lines, but it certainly makes lips feel plumper the minute you swipe it on. Maybe it’s the tri-peptides working over time at boosting collagen production, or the violet leaf extract’s antiseptic properties providing that slight tingle. Comes in an untinted version, too.
If You Want Shimmer
At first glance, this looks like a standard lip balm with a sheer pink tone, but two elements in its formula —a glow-up oil base and a light-focusing oil — give it a little extra luster when applied to lips, sort of like what highlighter does to cheekbones.
If You Can’t Give Up Your Gloss
It comes in a tube, is applied with a wand, and makes lips look glossy — so you’d think it would be called a gloss and not a balm. But the shea and mango seed butters give it a distinctly smooth, whipped, non-lip-gloss feel. As a bonus, the sheer pale pink shade, called Hint Hint, works on every skin tone.
The Classic We Can’t Quit
There’s lots of reasons why this beeswax balm has stood the test of time. It instantly soothes lips with the mildest undercurrent of peppermint. It isn’t shiny, glossy, or waxy. And a $9 for four, it’s still the best deal in town. I have one in my car, one in my purse, one on my bedside table, and one in nearly every jacket I wear.
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