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Image / Style / Beauty

The definitive ranking of lip balms you need in your life

Not all lip balms are made equal. 


by Holly O'Neill
24th Mar 2021

Read time: 3 minutes

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I have been a beauty editor for a few years now, and I’ve picked up a few things along the way. Wear sunscreen every day. Don’t get bangs, get eyelash extensions. Do you really want to bleach your hair or do you actually want to sit down with a cup of tea and tell your best friend about what you’re going through? Professional shampoo and conditioner make your hair look good. There is a red lipstick for everyone. Expensive skincare doesn’t mean good skincare. And also, not all lip balms are created equal.

There are different categories of lip balm, you see.

The first tier of lip balms are your everyday lip balms. The one you always rely on when you feel the tingle of a dry mouth coming on, the one you always have a little stash of, the one that you lose all the time, the one that’s faded from being run through the washing machine. For me, this is Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream in any format. I lash this onto dry patches on my arms, on my eyebrows after they’ve been laminated, all over my face on a flight and I can always guarantee that my dryness will be sorted overnight. I can gobble up the lipstick bullet version in about two months.

The next tier is the one you think is your favourite. This is the one you carry around in your handbag, leave at your desk, take on holidays and sometimes dab on top of your lipstick. It’s usually in Instagrammable packaging and flavoured. For me, that’s Glossier Balm Dot Com, €12, in pretty much every flavour, please don’t make me pick just one. Right now I’m really into Original but I cheat on her a lot with Birthday Balm and Rose Balm. It lasts forever, and it’s got heavy-duty, waxy moisturisers like castor oil and beeswax, but it also leaves a pretty little sheer tint on your lips.

Next up, we have the really heavy-duty stuff, the no-faff, no-frills type of lip balm that doctors worked on in a lab. This tier of lip balm comes in unsexy, medicinal packaging. This is the one you buy in winter when your lips and cracked, chapped and flaky. This is what you buy when your mouth feels like it’s about to fall off. For me, that is both the Avène Cicalfate Restorative Lip Cream, €7 and Eucerin Acute Lip Balm Intensive Lip Care, €5.99. The packaging and price tells you all you need to know; these are the real deal. Lash Eucerin on and the skin’s natural barrier is regenerated with natural evening primrose oil (often used for treating eczema) plus the healing and anti-inflammatory Chinese liquorice root. Avène’s comes with anti-bacterial properties to repair and sucralfate to help the skin’s recovery process. After diligently applying both for 24 hours, your normal mouth is back.

The final boss of lip balm categories is the thick, mask-like lip balm. This is for those who want to smear on a heavy layer of lip balm at night and wake up to hydrated lips or those who want to apply their lip balm once in the morning and not think about their mouth again for the rest of the day. If you’re in the night masking group, you need Kiehl’s Buttermask For Lips Overnight Lip Treatment, €25. Leave a thick layer of this mask on overnight and wake up to a soft pout, thanks to fairly traded coconut oil and wild mango butter that work to reinforce the lip moisture barrier and nourish your lips while you sleep. It smells good enough to eat too. If you want the hard-working type of thick lip balm that you apply once and stay glossy and hydrated all day, you need Biologique Recherche’s Biokiss, €56.24. The little pot lasts forever, I’ve had mine a year, use it every night and you’d never know I’d made a dent in it. This does it all; fine lines on the lips? Vanished. Cracked lips or flaky bits? Disappeared. Overall dissatisfaction with the plumpness smoothness of your lips? Biokiss has nourishing and reconditioning lanolin and beeswax, plus antioxidant protection from vitamin E and rosemary oil extract, leaving you with glossy, supple, shiny lips that stay hydrated and protected all day long.

Photography by Glossier.