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My All-Time Favorite Lip Balms! (Plus Quick Tips on Choosing Balms and Lipbalm Layering)

I’m only listing 5 of my all-time favorites. And by all-time, I mean products I’ve been using for years. Not latest obsessions. And yes, it DOES work better if you know how to layer balms.

Choosing your Lip Balm

Disclaimer: I’m no chemist or dermatologist, so do remember that this is based on my experience as a fanatic balm-user. (I have insanely easy-to-chap lips so my lips are almost never bare.)

When choosing one for yourself, take note of whether the formula is “waxy” or “fatty”. Not all balms fall clearly into one category and individual preferences will also be different. Just remember that not all balms feel the same, and you need to see which side of the spectrum you prefer.

  1. Waxy balms - most solid stick balms and many pot balms tend to be higher in wax content. That’s the reason they are able to stay solid. This makes them very “occlusive” (water resistant), but not necessarily very moisturizing. If you have very parched lips, a waxy balm won’t do anything for you except sit on top of your dry skin. (Think of Maybelline Baby Lips, and MAC’s Pot Lip Conditioners.)
  2. Fatty/oily balms - some softer lip balms have a high lipid content and contain shea butters, cocoa butters, and other vegetable fats, which are able to replenish and plump your skin. Many of these come in tubes or pots and can feel very soothing on the lips, but they might also seem to “disappear” faster than waxy balms. (Think of Korres and Kiehl’s tube balms.)

If your lips are in pretty good condition and you just need a barrier protectant to prevent moisture loss, a waxy balm would work. If your lips are very dry and need replenishing, then a fatty balm would be better for you.

1. My Desert Island Lip Balm - Carmex Lip Balm

I feel like I’ve written about Carmex in every single “Favorite lip product” related post. This silky, minty balm comes in stick, pot, and tube form, and has been a staple of mine for almost 10 years now. I have a few lipbalms going at any one point in time, but there is ALWAYS a tube of Carmex around.

The tube form is a nice balance between waxy and fatty. The pot and sticks are waxier.

2. My “Comfort Balm” - Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector

This plush vanilla-scented balm smells like warm fresh-baked cookies and while it’s tinted a light creamy pink, it doesn’t really have any noticeable color on the lips.

This is another balm with a nice balance of fatty (shea and mango butter extracts) with a good amount of waxiness

3. The Balm with more Looks than Function - MAC Tinted Lip Conditioner

This comes in various colors and they all have that nice vanilla scent, but it’s a high-wax formula, so it’s not the most conditioning option around. (My little pot is from a limited edition collection a couple of years back, so it has a divine lavender + vanilla scent.)

If you want just a tint of color, this is a nice option, but if you have very chapped and parched lips, these pot balms won’t be great. They do sell a tube-balm, but I haven’t tried that personally!

4. Most Plush/Luxe Balm - Dior Lip Polish

This is the thickest, most cushiony lip treatment I have ever tried, though not the stickiest. When I had a bad bout of rashes all over my lips after reacting to a pot of Korres balm (it’s just too bad because I think the texture is fantastic) this was the ONLY thing that could go on thick enough to sooth my stinging lips and mask the horrible flaking.

This is conditioning AND thick and gel-like so it definitely protects the lips, but if you prefer a lightweight product you probably won’t like this.

It’s got a slightly perfume-y scent so that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the pink and peach colored versions and the fact that you can build it up to a dense lacquer-like shine and wear it like a lipgloss.

5. MVP - 100% Shea Butter (Unrefined if possible)

You can get bags of pure 100% African shea butter from health food stores or beauty supply stores like tkbtrading.com or coastalscents.com. If you can stand the smell, try the unrefined version. It contains a lot more antioxidants and is a great nourishing, non-comedogenic vegetable fat.

Shea butter is a pure fat, so it’s going to have a lower melting point. This makes it more emollient and easy to rub, chew, kiss off than most waxy balms.

A couple of products that are cult favorites but that my lips react negatively to (hence the lack of presence above):

  • Korres Lip Butters (fatty)
  • Burt’s Bees (waxy)

Balm layering

One trick I learnt from makeup artist Larry Yeo was that the best thing you can do when you need emergency relief on your lips or most regular balms just aren’t enough for you, is to LAYER.

  1. First apply a conditioning product that is very emollient, like shea or any buttery balm.
  2. Next apply a thin layer of waxy balm over it to just lock the conditioning balm in.

Plus a Latest Obsession!

Not quite old enough for me to list it among my favorites, but I really love Bliss’s Fabulips Instant Lip Plumper and Softening Lip Balm. I received both in a Fabulips gift-set from a bunch of ex-colleagues and totally love layering this orange-vanilla scented stick balm over the minty Instant Lip Plumper in the kit. The combination is very conditioning, not painful like other plumpers, and very delicious-smelling too.

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