Here are my favorites throughout the years.
In junior high, every self-respecting girl wore Bonne Bell Lip Smackers. I definitely tried the Hires Root Beer and Dr. Pepper, but my favorite was in a purple tube. It might have been Grape Crush (the poor kids who sat down wind of my lips). Oh, and back then the tubes were huge, not your average Chapstick-sized tube.
Chapstick. Yes, I wore this waxy "balm" in a stick for years, from my early teens right through college into my 20s. I tried the Cherry and Mint flavors, but I did not care for the synthetic fragrance/taste, and I always came back to the Original. I also liked its simple the black-and-white packaging. Back in the old days, I do not believe it contained sunscreen.
In my mid 20s, I switched to balm in a pot and I began using Carmex, even though it had the hideous message prominently displayed on the lid: FOR-COLD-SORES (not sure why they needed the hyphens). I loved how the camphor made my lips tingle, and my boyfriend said it made my mouth smell like chocolate. Back then the pot was thick white glass, and the lid was metal. I imagine it's all plastic these days.
In the mid 90s, I discovered Kiehl's Lip Balm #1. For the first time my lips were treated to something smooth, not sticky or waxy. It did have a weird, petroleum taste to it, but I liked how it made my lips feel. I used the balm in both the pot and tube, and although I tried the tubes that were tinted red, I could not stand their chemical taste.
My love affair with Kiehl's lasted around 6 years, and then my husband bought me a tin of the cutest lip balm I had ever seen, which he presented to me in its tiny tin: Badger Balm in Highland Mint. I have a thing for badgers (they're fierce!), and when he saw it at a little old-fashioned country store in the White Mountains (the really old kind with wood floors and a wood stove), he thought of me (because of badgers, not old wood).
Made with certified ingredients, including extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, castor bean oil, and extracts of aloe, rosehip, Seabuckthorn berry, and badger wee, this stuff is amazing. I use it on my lips, but it is also an excellent cuticle cream and does wonders for rough-winter elbows and heels. I have tins and tubes literally all over the house, at work, and in every handbag. And unlike many other scented/flavored balms, these smell heavenly.
I still use Badger Balm, but fickle me has a new love: Julie Hewett Camellia Lip Balm. For a balm, this is the most expensive ($16), but it comes in a black lipstick tube and looks a little more classy when I want to moisturize my lips midday. It is also one of the few higher-end lip products I have actually used up and repurchased. Upon application the Camellia balm has an almost oily, slick feel, but it quickly sinks in and smooths over any ridges in my lips, making a wonderful base for lipstick without any slipping (I don't apply it too close to the lip edges). In fact, I use this balm to sheer out some of my more pigmented lipsticks so I can wear them to work, where I often feel like my face is under the spotlight of 80% sunny windows and 20% fluorescent lights.