Chapped, dry lips fall into the category of a fashion don’t—dry flaking lips are distracting to others, so not kissable, and should be avoided at all costs. Here’s the good news: A results-oriented solution can be had very inexpensively (or not, the choice is yours).
A quick glance at our list might confirm what you’ve already suspected—that most balms use the same basic ingredients (beeswax, shea butter, and various oils) in different proportions and variations, so the bottom-line deciding factors are individual preference as to feel, smell, taste, and price. That said, your reviewer is partial to items in tubes, preferably tubes whose designs include an applicator, meaning no balm residue on fingers. Balm residue is only acceptable if it’s clear and not shimmery, so it can be moisturized into cuticles. Your reviewer also abhors anything that smells sickly sweet (like vanilla, caramel, or cocoa), preferring mint scents (added breath-freshening bonus) and anything that makes her lips tingle. However, she has tried to put these biases aside and to judge as fairly as possible.
Bach Original Flower Remedies Rescue Balm
Key ingredients: Cherry plum, crab apple, clematis, impatiens, rock rose and star of Bethlehem
Big kiss: It’s made from homeopathically prepared ingredients, and is recommended for use on irritated skin in general, not just lips. Very light, feels weightless, and has almost no discernable scent.
Room to improve: Very solid, you really have to dig in the jar to get any out.
Malin + Goetz Lip Moisturizer
Key ingredients: Bisabolol, from the chamomile plant, helps healing, good anti-irritant, and anti-inflammatory
Big kiss: Super-moist, seems to absorb into the lips and stay there.
Room to improve: Wish the tube had a built-in applicator.
Revolution Organics Lip Balm
Key ingredients: Organic palm oil, organic shea butter, organic beeswax, organic olive oil, organic cocoa butter, and organic apricot oil
Big kiss: The tube was designed as applicator.
Room to improve: Goes on like a sloppy oil slick, has an odd smell.
John Masters Organics Lip Balm
Key ingredients: Organic sunflower and olive oil base
Big kiss: Goes on moist, nice subtle scent, non-drying.
Room to improve: None. Pretty perfect as is, especially considering the price.
Pangea Organics Lipcare
($12 , www.pangeaorganics.com)
Key ingredients: Tamanu Oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, hempseed oil
Big kiss: Very moisturizing, nice scent (we tested the Pyrenees Lavender with Cardamom).
Room to improve: None. A favorite of the bunch.
Aubrey Organics, Treat ‘Em Right Lip Balm
Key ingredients: Beeswax, coconut oil, virgin olive oil, jojoba seed oil, hemp seed oil
Big kiss: One of the best all-around products tested; it felt great, flavors are natural and not overpowering, and the price is right.
Room to improve: None.
Avalon Organics Vitamin C Soothing lip balm
Key ingredients: Magnesium ascorbal phosphate (a form of vitamin C), vitamin E, organic coconut, jojoba, and apricot kernel oils, aloe
Big kiss: It is truly soothing, moist, and has a light citrus scent.
Room to improve: Nothing, great as is.
Badger USDA Certified Organic Lip Balm Stick
Key ingredients: Organic extra-virgin olive oil, golden yellow beeswax, castor oil, aloe-vera extract
Big kiss: Feels great after initial oiliness; many flavors to choose from.
Room to improve: Goes on a bit oily, but dissipates.
Burt’s Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil
Key ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, beeswax, coconut oil, pomegranate oil
Big kiss: Nice berry scent, very moist in one swipe, can’t beat the price.
Room to improve: None.
Cargo Planet Love 100% Natural Origin Lip Balm
Key ingredients: Certified organic cocoa butter, sunflower seed oil, beeswax, and grapefruit extract
Big kiss: Love that it’s designed like a lipstick—both the holder and the shape of the balm itself—feels fantastic and has recyclable packaging.
Room to improve: Takes a few swipes over the lips to feel like you’ve got any on; a bit pricey.
Key ingredients: Shea butter, mango butter, aloe, vitamin E, avocado
Big kiss: Developed for “musicians with lips.” Non-waxy, just-moist-enough and non-drying.
Room to improve: This tester is a musician with lips, but said product did not affect my piano playing skills.
Clark’s Botanicals Ultra Rich Lip Balm
Key ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil, aloe leaf extract, jojoba esters
Big kiss: Feels good, tastes great, but the story behind the products—of a doctor father who with his son worked to develop this line after the son’s crippling spinal cord injury—won me over.
Room to improve: It’s a bit oily, and it’s pricey.
Coco-Zen Chocolate Lip Balm
Key ingredients: Coconut cream, extra-virgin olive oil, and Fair Trade chocolate
Big kiss: It really does smell (but unfortunately, does not taste) like chocolate; moist but not oily.
Room to improve: Container design isn’t great, it’s too small and the top often slides off. Makes this tester crave sugar.
Dr. Dobbs Lip Balm
Key ingredients: Beeswax, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, rosemary extract
Big kiss: Goes on super-moist but not oily and stays that way for a long time. The peppermint version is very tingly and the price is very right.
Room to improve: None. A favorite of the bunch.
Dr. Hauschka Lip Care Stick
Key ingredients: Jojoba wax, castor seed oil, shea butter
Big kiss: Creamy and silky in one swipe, light scent, lasts.
Room to improve: Wish it were less expensive, but still love it.
Ecolips Gold with Eco Clip
Key ingredients: Aloe vera, certified organic beeswax, jojoba oil, soybean oil, calendula oil, and hempseed oil.
Big kiss: Fantastic product, great packaging (some models come with carbiner clips), many flavor and tint options.
Room to improve: Some of the scents (anything berry or vanilla) are too sugary sweet. Stick to the basics.
Erbaviva Organic Baby Lip and Cheek Balm
Key ingredients: Shea butter, beeswax, sunflower seed oil, jojoba seed oil, lavender flower oil
Big kiss: Who cares if it’s for babies? It smells like light lavender, feels creamy, you can use it all over your body, and you get a lot of balm for the money.
Room to improve: The tube is too big to put in a pocket.
JK7 Luxurious Skin Care, Patchouli/Ylang Lip Balm
($28, www.sullivanestate.com for retail outlets)
Key ingredients: Cocoa seed butter, safflower seed oil, jojoba seed oil, beeswax, shea butter oil
Big kiss: The only jar-based balm we tested that wasn’t a chore to apply. It’s a bit mealy, but it’s also really fresh and you don’t need much to feel moist. A favorite, except the price.
Room to improve: The price is ridiculous.
Juice Beauty Organic Lip Moisturizer
Key ingredients: Organic cocoa butter, organic castor seed oil
Big Kiss: Very moist but not oily, applicator built into design, recyclable packaging.
Room to improve: It has no synthetic fragrances but oddly smells a little fake citrusy à la Jolly Rancher.
Jurlique Love Balm
Key ingredients: A “proprietary” biodynamic blend of botanicals (including chamomile, calendula, and marshmallow), and others like bisabolol, soybean, jojoba, and shea butter
Big kiss: Feels too light to do anything, but is surprisingly moist. Very slim tin means it can slip unnoticed into the tightest pant pocket.
Room to improve: Like many products in tubes or tins, it can be hard to get any on your finger.
Korres Lip Butter
Key ingredients: Shea butter, rice wax
Big kiss: It’s tinted, goes on moist, smells great with many flavors to choose from, and the packaging is recyclable.
Room to improve: It’s tinted and comes in a jar so the leftovers on your finger are obvious; packaging is excessive.
Plum Botanicals Kisu Lip Balm
Key ingredients: Shea butter, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, beeswax
Big kiss: Created by a botanist who supports agricultural co-ops.
Room to improve: The Neroli scent is strong and very distracting. If you don’t like Neroli, you won’t like this.
Post Ranch Spa Natural Lip Care
Key ingredients: Beeswax, palm christi oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba oil
Big kiss: Moist but not too oily, two flavors to choose from, makes a good cuticle cream.
Room to improve: None.
RMS Beauty Lip & Skin Balm Simply Vanilla
Key ingredients: Coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, cocoa seed butter, jojoba seed oil
Big kiss: Made in the U.S.A., many certified organic ingredients, slim jar design means it will fit anywhere.
Room to improve: Sickly sweet scent, too solid, making it hard to get out of the jar and on to your finger. The price is ridiculous.
She Essential Beauty
Key ingredients: Chinese pearl/zhen zhu, frankicense/ru xiang and myrrh/mo yao, all used for centuries in Chinese medicine to help heal dried, cracked skin and generate new skin
Big kiss: Love that this light, non-oily, and tingly balm was developed by two women who are acupuncturists and Chinese herbalists.
Room to improve: A bit hard to get on your finger.
Key ingredients: Coconut oil, olive fruit oil, beeswax, jojoba seed oil, shea butter, Vitamin E
Big kiss: Super-creamy on first swipe, nice slim tube design, recyclable packaging printed with vegetable-based ink.
Room to improve: Not much except scents (the açai flavor has fake sweet scent, pomegranate doesn’t smell like anything), but there are other good scents (honeydew, mint) to choose from. A favorite for the price.
Stig’s Lips NYC
Key ingredients: Sweet almond oil, beeswax (or candilla wax for vegans), vitamin E oil, and other essential oils (lavender, peppermint)
Big kiss: Love that they’re made in small batches in someone’s home in the East Village. Great flavors, nice slim tin design.
Room to improve: None. A favorite of the lot.
Suki Lip Repair Butter
Key ingredients: Organic jojoba oil, natural non-GMO vitamin E, organic chamomile extract, organic calendula
Big kiss: It’s the closest to monogrammed lip balm this writer will ever get. And it smells nice.
Room to improve: Very hard, have to press and apply repeatedly to feel like you’ve got anything on your lips, and once you do it feels a bit waxy and dry.
Yu-Be Lip Therapy
Key ingredients: Soybean oil, beeswax, shea butter, sweet almond oil, camphor
Big kiss: Goes on creamy, and it lasts. Room to improve: Medicinal scent, although it does help clear the sinuses.