With so many options on the market, in terms of texture, scent, and formula, it can be hard to find the exact right one for you. Maybe you want something superthick that you can almost use like a moisturising mask, or perhaps you’re just after something that’s easy to reapply on the go, or maybe you want your lip balm to be tinted or glossy and double as makeup.
We asked seven cool women, from a makeup artist to a celebrity facialist to a tech founder to share their favourite lip balms with us. Read on for their recommendations on everything from the best vegan lip balm and the best super-hydrating lip balm.
The best overall lip balm
Two of our experts said their holy grail balm is the Fresh Sugar Lip Balm SPF 15. Diana Tsui, editorial director at the Infatuation, said that, in her book, it beats everything from Aquaphor to La Mer. “I have perpetually chapped lips, and I’ve tried so many different balms, but every time I find myself going back to the Fresh Sugar Lip Balm SPF 15. I’ve been using this lip balm for well over a decade (on and off) and I can say it’s by far the best,” said Tsui, also citing the stick application as a big plus. “Even pre-pandemic it felt unsanitary [to use a pot], no matter what fancy label or brand was slapped onto it. Instead, I like the idea of a tube, one that I can unscrew and recap, between uses,” she explained.
In terms of formula, Tsui said it was just right: neither too thin nor too sticky, and it leaves a moisturising coat on her lips that protects against dry patches. “While you can tempt me with a fancy French brand or Instagram-friendly tube, I wind up coming back to Fresh, time and time again,” added Tsui. It’s also a favourite of makeup artist Mona Leanne, although she plumps for the tinted version. “It’s got a lovely texture, and the pink sheen is really gentle and pretty. They also make one with a rosy scent, and I find that really cheering. It’s a great mood boost,” explained Leanne, also adding that the pink tone is great for a really natural makeup look or to add a quick bit of colour to the face.
The best drugstore lip balm
Burt’s Bees is the balm of choice for two of our experts. Jihan Thompson, who founded the hair-care app Swivel, said the Original Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm is always her go-to. “I’ve been using it for as long as I can remember and whenever I try to switch to a trendier one or a different texture, my lips are never happy and never feel as moisturised. At this point, I think my lips are just conditioned to love the Burt’s Bees. It’s not too thick but thick enough for all seasons. I just keep refilling, tube after tube after tube,” said Thompson, adding that she skillfully rotates one tube through all of her bags, but loves that if she can’t find it or runs out, it’s a simple drugstore buy. “For the germaphobe in me, I swear by a stick balm, so I can reapply on the go even if I can’t wash my hands first. I never have any other lip balms in rotation. Once you find one that works, it’s just really hard to quit,” added Thompson.
Burt’s Bees is also the pick of Jules Miller, who founded The Nue Co, although she prefers the Lip Shine option. “The first time I used this it was simply out of necessity – I was about to get on a plane and my lips were so chapped. It was a bit of an emergency situation! But now, after having used hundreds of different brands, this is my favourite,” explained Miller. “It smells like strawberries, which I love, and the glossy effect stays on for about 20 minutes, and what you’re left with is hydrating but not sticky.” While Miller said it has “significantly” improved the condition of her lips, it’s the fun colour that keeps her coming back: “There’s something to be said about a simple lip balm with a girly, pinky shine – it’s an instant confidence lift.”
The best glossy lip balm
If you’d rather have a balm that doubles up as makeup, celebrity facialist Shani Darden said Chanel Rouge Coco Gloss in ‘Icing’ is a perfect sweet spot between the two. “I like a balm that’s super-hydrating and glossy, so generally a thicker one, but it can’t be sticky! I think the first time I tried this was as a gift, but I have repurchased many, many times since. It makes my lips really glossy and plump, without feeling gloopy,” said Darden. She also said she always buys two at a time for fear of running out, and always has two at home and another one or two in her bag. “It’s the perfect amount of hydrating gloss. I can’t get enough.”
The best heavy-duty lip balm
For seriously chapped lips, Mona Leanne said she’d always suggest Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream. “If models come into a shoot and their lips are really dry, I always put Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream on before I do anything else. It goes on really thick and quite glossy, but by the time I’m done with their face I can either wipe any excess off or it’ll have been absorbed, and then their lips are always so plump and smooth,” she said, also adding that the formula is versatile, and it doubles (and triples!) up and a hydrator for dry cuticles, as well as being a natural-looking highlight for the skin. Something of a cult classic, the formula has been unchanged since its development in the 1930s, with vitamin E acting as the main hydrator.
The best vegan lip balm
Starface and PLUS co-founder Julie Schott has some rules for the perfect balm: “The ideal lip balm smoothes and plumps without calling too much attention to itself. Reapplication should be quick and easy. It shouldn’t be sticky, glossy, or taste of anything.” The one that fits the bill? L.A. brand DedCool’s Balm Stick, which is vegan and unisex. “I’ve amassed a collection of DedCool Balm Sticks that live across my desk, car, purse, and bedside table,” said Schott. She also noted that, thanks to the scent selection that spans everything from Cannabis and Rose Water to Vanilla Bean and Watermelon, they’re “equal parts grown-up and nostalgic, like mature Lip Smackers.”
The best priming lip balm
Lipstick application, especially that of matte lipstick, calls for perfectly hydrated lips. However, some balms can make the lips a little too greasy for proper pigment purchase. According to brow technician Sophia (who goes by Sophia Brows on Instagram), YSL Top Secrets Lip Perfector is the perfect all-rounder. “It’s amazing, because you can apply a really thick coat and leave it on overnight, or use it just after exfoliating your lips to make them supersoft, or just put on a lighter coat day-to-day and still get the benefits,” said Sophia. “Before applying lipstick, I put a coat on then and tissue off the excess after a few minutes. Lipstick just glides on afterwards, and I love the squeezy tube application, it makes applying it really quick and easy.”
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