Lip Balm

Wednesday, 23 July 2008 | Tags:

As some of the most delicate and sensitive skin on your body, your lips require protection from the elements just as much as your face does. We find out what to look for in lip balms and test out a few options to keep our lips from chapping.

The Basics

  • Lips actually lack melanin, the pigment that helps block UV rays, so a product with sunscreen is a must.

    • Use a minimum of SPF 15.

    • If you’re outdoors a lot, use at least SPF 30.

    • If you’re on the mountain or on the water, use the highest SPF you can find (45+).

  • Most lip balms include wax and paraffin, which form a barrier to the elements but don’t actually moisturize.

  • Emollients like plant oils (almond or castor oil) or petrolatum are the main moisturizers in lip balms and should be at the top of the ingredients list.

  • If you have chapped lips, look for balms with antiseptic to help keep bacteria away.

  • There are a few main formula types to choose from, and there can be significant price differences among them. All of them claim to seal in moisture and form a protective barrier:

    • Waxy formulas act as a barrier against the elements, though don’t necessarily provide moisture.

    • Flavoured formulas are usually oil or petrolatum based, but the yummy flavours can have you licking your lips way to often.

    • Medicated formulas claim to help heal cold sores and chapped lips.

    • Natural formulas, often available from health food stores, use all natural ingredients to keep your lips moist.

    • Emollient Formulas are petroleum or oil-based products.

Other Considerations

  • Balms with added vitamins may not be worth the extra money because there is probably not enough ingredient to make a difference.

  • Balms with phenol added work primarily as pain killers to help prevent infection, but it can also be a source of irritation.

Be Aware

  • Ingredients like peppermint, camphor and menthol are actually irritants and can dry the skin. If your lips tingle, it’s not a good thing.


We tested 6 brands of lip balm during a long trip around North America to find out which moisturized and protected best.

Our test products: .  
  • Chapstick (waxy formula, stick applicator): $1.69/4.2g
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Body Shop Passion Berry (flavoured, pot format): $4.95/10mL
. .
  • Carmex (medicated, pot format): $2.49/7.5g
. . Carmex Drugstore.com
  • Burt’s Beeswax (natural, stick applicator): $3.99/8g
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Vaseline Lip Therapy SPF 15(emollient, stick/tube application) $1.99/10g
. . Drugstore.com
  • Kiehl’s (emollient, stick/tube application): $9.00/14g
. .

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)


Moisture Test

  • Overall we preferred the stick forms rather than the pot forms for easiest application. You don’t always have clean fingers to use for applying lip balm, which is important for bacteria-prevention if you have chapped lips.

  • The Carmex and Burt’s Beeswax both had ingredients that stung our lips, which we didn’t like.

  • Burt’s Beeswax and Chapstick were thick and stayed on longer.

  • Kiehl’s and the Vaseline products felt the same, even though there’s a big price difference. They both went on thinly and needed to be reapplied often.


We didn’t pick a top choice because lip balm is a very personal thing. If you suffer from chapped lips, you’ll want something with deep moisture. If your lips aren’t chapped but need protection, a simple balm with a sunscreen will do the trick. Take advantage of any samples that may be available from the cosmetic counter so that you can try before you buy.


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